Channel 4: ‘The Bible: A History’
Last Sunday evening, 24th January 2010, Channel 4 launched its new series of seven attractively produced documentaries on the Bible, each hosted by a well-known public figure. Howard Jacobson, the best-selling Jewish novelist and humourist, tackled the awesome subject of ‘Creation’ for the pilot show – truly the foundation for all that’s to follow – and rightly so. The result must have left most viewers confirmed in their suspicions that this foundation is a pretty shaky one, for if Genesis is telling us lies how can we trust the other sixty-five books of the Bible? When does God start telling us the truth?
Back in September 2009, I was invited to participate in this programme by preaching a sermon on Genesis 1 at Westminster Chapel, then being interviewed for 90 minutes by Howard Jacobson. Both would be filmed as material to be included in this hot debate about creation. Howard wanted to find out how ‘fundamentalist’ creationists explain and defend the theology of Genesis. Most ‘fundamentalists’ usually appear not much ‘fun’, slightly ‘dumb’, and occasionally ‘mental’ to me, but I was willing to take the risk and participate.
I found Howard Jacobson to be charming, witty and incisive in his questions. A Mancunian Jew who drifted away from the faith of his fathers and lived a secular lifestyle, he now hovers indecisively somewhere between wistful longings and strong scepticism on the God-question. This was reflected in the whole tenor of the programme.
Howard’s personal uncertainties, speculations, poetic imagination and eagerness to glean abstract insights and mythical morsels from his guests was plain. His witnesses were as diverse as A.C. Grayling and Mary Midgley, comic Dara Ó Briain, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Israeli thinkers and archaeologists, and theistic evolutionists like John Polkinghorne. Even The God Delusion polemicist Richard Dawkins appeared, but Howard’s contempt for Dawkins was evident from the grainy old footage he showed of his nemesis in a full tirade against God and religion! The overall presentation was fair but unsatisfying. As one blogger remarked, ‘Howard Jacobson spent the next three quarters of an hour showing his dislike of people of conviction and his desire for an almost fantasy world where things could be both true and untrue, and where you could reject the creation story and believe it at the same time.’ Sad but true.
Biblical creationists like myself were given a voice, but not really permitted to present their case. My 90 minute interview and careful overview of the ‘In the beginning…’ historical narrative of Genesis 1, was honed down to 3 or 4 sound-bites. That’s television I suppose, but it’s not serious argument. Most of the evidence for the defense ended up on the cutting-room floor. Sometimes, not even God is allowed to get a word in edgeways.
Jacobson seemed more comfortable and at home in the poetry and mythology of speculative ideas, and more eager to accept inaccurate archaeological conclusions or the speculations of liberal theologians in their cavalier de-bunking of scripture, than he was prepared to pursue substantial theological accuracy, careful historical study, and scientific facts.
Science and religion don’t meet in his thinking. But can such a strange idea be right if ‘All truth is God’s truth’, as philosopher Arthur Holmes affirms? Biblical faith is meant to be founded on historical facts, or else it’s a probably a lie (see I Corinthians 15:12-20). Jacobson’s confusion on this matter is a great pity, since no subject is more important a priori to our thinking than God and the Bible’s teaching on his creation and control of all things. Alone among all alternative worldviews, this perspective offers us satisfying and reliable answers to all of life’s most important questions: Who are we? What are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? How will it all end? How long have we got?
But then, from ancient Greek thinkers to post-modern sceptics, mankind has always pursued the secret agenda of making a bid for autonomy from God by denying his existence in a self-imposed wilful blindness that refuses to see the truth of his ‘eternal power and divinity’ which is ‘clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse’ (Romans 1:18-25).
Harvard biologist, Richard Lewontin, candidly admitted the paucity of scientific evidence for Darwinist macro evolution, whilst simultaneously revealing his real moral and spiritual reasons for still embracing, in blind faith, its unproven speculations, ‘We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’
Philip Johnson, retired Professor of Law at Berkeley, in his book Reason in the Balance comments on the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 1:20-23, ‘What these words mean plainly is that those who turn away from God towards naturalistic philosophy give up their minds in the process and end up endorsing sophisticated nonsense and nature worship.’
Let’s give credit for creation where credit is due.
Please click here if you would like to hear the sermon, ‘Now a Word from Our Creator’, preached for this programme.