Guest writer and United Methodist clergyman disagrees with “The Clergy Letter”
by Rev. Dale R. Shunk, Pennsylvania
September 15, 2008
I want it to be known that I am very displeased that my United Methodist denomination adopted Dr. Michael Zimmerman’s “The Clergy Letter,” which endorses evolution as compatible with the teachings of Scripture, at our General Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas, last May. The content of the Clergy Letter was added to a petition entitled “God’s Creation and the Church.” While I am in favor of celebrating God’s wonderful creation, protecting it, and seeking out alternate resources of energy, I cannot endorse Dr. Zimmerman’s letter.
In many ways my denomination has embraced the secular culture of North America, and this endorsement of evolution is one example of it. I was also very disappointed and taken aback by the arrogance of what is called “The Clergy Letter Project.” As a Bible-believing Christian, I can’t agree with the premise of his letter which states, “We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests” and that “Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth.” I am shocked that Dr. Zimmerman calls me ignorant because I hold to a different worldview (I believe in rigorous scientific research, which just so happens to uphold the biblical creation model of origins as stated in Genesis 1 and 2), for he states that biblical creationists “deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.”
If Dr. Zimmerman and others really want to pursue full scientific research and the truth about origins, then they should not be alienating people by calling them such things but encouraging them to pursue every path of discovery and thought. Instead he is creating a situation where people like me who have moved from a theistic evolutionist worldview to a young-earth creationist worldview over the last 30 years will become marginalized. Does not Dr. Zimmerman have his mind open to the major scientific discoveries in biology related to the complexity of the human cell, as well as to the mapping of the DNA that shows intelligent design? Plus there are other scientific fields that support a biblical model rather than an evolutionary one.
Dr. Zimmerman may have received some notoriety after his ideas were endorsed by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in May, but I do not believe that his Clergy Letter truly represents most United Methodists who are Bible-believers. There is a growing movement of thoughtful evangelicals within the United Methodist Church who are fed up with the theological liberalism of our leaders and are speaking up. These clergy and laity are loyal to our Wesleyan doctrines and church polity and hold to our historic orthodox doctrine and scriptural holiness.
We all would do well to hold on to the changeless eternal Word of God and not put our faith in scientific principles that change constantly when a better theory arises. At the end of the day, the reality is a difference of faith and worldview.
I believe that God created the universe in six solar days as stated in Genesis 1 and supported by Exodus 20: 8–11. To say that the stories of creation, Noah’s Flood, etc. are poetic (non-historic)—and therefore the only way to convey biblical truths to ancient peoples so that they would understand these accounts—is not acceptable. This would indicate that God was giving the prophets a spirit of falsehood to convey truth. The ancient biblical patriarchs would not tolerate telling stories under the pretext of being true, only to learn later that they were false. God is not a God of falsehood. He gave the prophets His anointing to tell the truth in order to convey to us His invisible attributes of power and divinity.
I say to Dr. Michael Zimmerman: you are conveying false teachings by trying to insert human and fallible extra-biblical material into the Christian faith when it is not needed. To say that the model of Darwinian evolution is an established fact is wrong. A growing number of scientists are abandoning evolution for the biblical creation model instead because it better explains the evidence in the world around us. More and more scientific discoveries are revealing how inadequate the model of evolution really is. Ultimately, the naturalism of evolution does not belong—nor is it compatible—with the plain teaching of Scripture related to creation and the origin of life on earth.