Cliff's Edge

Cliff Goldstein

is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His next book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity has just been released by Pacific Press.

​Creation and Compromise

How readily Christians compromise their faith, especially when it comes to origins, the doctrine upon which their faith rests. After Jesus’ first advent, Christians sold out the sign of God as Creator, the seventh-day Sabbath, for the pagan day of the sun. Now, before His second coming, many Christians have replaced the biblical teaching of a six-day creation for billions of years of natural selection and random mutation. And if we thought the arguments for Sundaykeeping were spurious, listen to how the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne incorporates evolution into the creation account.

“It has been,” he writes, “an important emphasis in much recent theological thought about creation to acknowledge that by bringing the world into existence God has self-limited divine power by allowing the other truly to be itself. . . . The gift of Love must be the gift of freedom, the gift of a degree of letting-be, and this can be expected to be true of all creatures to the extent that is appropriate to their proper character. It is in the nature of dense snow fields that they will sometimes slip with the destructive force of an avalanche. It is the nature of lions that they will seek their prey. It is the nature of cells that they will mutate, sometimes producing new forms of life, sometimes grievous disabilities, sometimes cancers. It is the nature of humankind that sometimes people will act with selfless generosity but sometimes with murderous selfishness . . . . They are the necessary cost of a creation given by its Creator the freedom to be itself.”1

Yes, humans were made in the image of God Himself, with the freedom to grow and develop their power and character. But Polkinghorne extends this freedom to what? Snow, lions, and cells (and, I guess, everything else animate and inanimate), all part of allowing each “truly to be itself”? Thus, a cell, given this freedom, will sometimes become cancer and kill an infant, just as snow, also given this freedom, will sometimes become an avalanche that crushes snowboarders. Far from being aberrations, or the result of the Fall, this suffering is the “necessary cost” of how God created our world.

“First must come the old creation,” Polkinghorne continues, “existing at some distance from the veiled presence of its Creator so that creatures have the freedom to be themselves and to make themselves, without being overwhelmed by the naked presence of infinite Reality. That world is an evolving world in which the death of one generation is the necessary cost of the new life of the next.”2

How a cell or snow or a lion might be “overwhelmed by the naked presence of infinite Reality,” Polkinghorne doesn’t say. What he does say is that these entities have been given the freedom “to make themselves,” even if this process means “the death of one generation” for the life of the next.

How does someone as smart as Polkinghorne, a mathematical physicist turned Anglican priest, accept a concept of creation so antithetical to Scripture? It’s easy. In the same way Christians centuries ago adopted Sundaykeeping: compromise. Though Polkinghorne is probably a fine Christian, he, along with so many others, compromising with the culture (this time under the powerful name of “science”), has accepted as true a teaching that opposes the biblical creation account in every way. Therefore, he has no choice but to jerry-rig this anti-biblical belief into the Bible.

The result? Snow and cells and lions (and, I assume, rocks, fish, and daffodils), being spared the “naked presence of infinite Reality,” are given the freedom to “make themselves,” even if it means killing, maiming, and crushing other parts of a creation that, in the Bible, God deemed in the beginning “very good”(Gen. 1:31).

The first angel’s message is a call to “worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev. 14:7).However, with the symbol of that creation (the seventh-day Sabbath) and the creation account itself both usurped, it’s no wonder that much of the Christian world will worship “the beast and its image” (verse 9) instead.

How could they not?


  1. John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998).
  2. John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in the Quest for Truth (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2011).
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