July 26, 2020

An Errant Journey

“Men will endeavor to explain from natural causes the work of creation, which God has never revealed.”1

The subtitle alone of James Hayward’s book Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Holy Writ: A Boy-Turned-Scientist Journeys From Fundamentalism to Faith2 reveals his claim that fundamentalists—you know, we intellectual hillbillies who believe that God created our world and life on it in six literal days (Gen. 1, 2), and that Adam and Eve were sinless beings who, through disobedience, brought sin and death (Gen. 3; Rom. 5), and that there was a global, not local, flood (Gen. 6-8, 2 Peter 2:5)—we don’t exhibit the kind of real faith that he, having progressed beyond fundamentalism, now does.

Having been raised in a conservative Adventist home, and being a strong believer in Creation as taught by the church, Hayward finally saw “the light.” Though often fair in his depictions of the church, he isn’t always,  writing, for instance, that for conservative Adventists the Bible is “a divine acrostic that could be read forward, backward, diagonally, and every other possible way.” With the exception of the occasional wackadoodle, I have never met any Adventist, even the most conservative, who believes as he wrote. To level this charge against a church that all but officially teaches “thought inspiration,” as opposed to “verbal inspiration,” is painfully disingenuous.

Besides recounting scientific evidence that, he claims, forced him to accept billions of years for life to develop and no universal flood, he also challenges design arguments, such as Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity.” This is the idea that certain complicated biological structures could not function unless all the parts were in place and working at once, which sure seems to point to intelligent design.

Yet one of Hayward’s arguments was so strange that I had to read it again and again just to make sure that I understood it. Behe cites the complicated structure and function of cilia, which allow single-celled organisms to move, as irreducibly complex. Here is Hayward’s response: “But as cell biologists know, there are many different types of cilia, some with considerably fewer parts and different arrangements than the common, more complicated, type described by Behe. What’s more, all these forms, whether simple or complex, work just fine. Consequently, Behe’s claim that the complex cilium he described as irreversibly complex is false—there are much simpler ways to make a functional cilium, ways that abound in nature.” Huh? It’s like saying that because a Volkswagen Beetle is less complicated than a Bugatti, the Bugatti could not be irreducibly complex. Unless I’m missing something, this “rebuttal” has nothing to do with the argument. (Also, I wonder just how “simple” his “simple” cilia really are.)

To interpret the Bible in a way that makes death anything but an intruder and an enemy, as opposed to a necessity, isn’t to reinterpret the Bible but to trash it.

Also, Hayward challenges Behe’s claims of irreducible complexity for amazingly complex functions such as the Krebs Cycle for human blood-clotting, arguing that biochemists have shown how these could have been “cobbled together from existing, component parts,” because, he assures readers, “natural process is surprisingly ‘adept’ at accomplishing amazing feats of organization.” Now, were these biochemists one day objectively, and with no preconceptions, just studying blood-clotting and the Krebs Cycle when, suddenly, eureka: Wow, these processes just came together naturally? Or, instead, was their assurance that these complex functions had “been cobbled together from existing, component parts” the result of these scientists having already, and dogmatically, accepted that life had “been cobbled together from existing, component parts”? Might they have actually read into those processes what they had already believed?

But don’t creationists do the same? Agreed. Let’s look at that notion, however, through a thought experiment. Google “blood-clotting mechanism diagram,” then imagine that you are a rational intelligent being from another planet who has never heard of Yahweh, the Bible, or natural selection. You are then shown that diagram and asked, “Do you think it was designed, planned, or just ‘cobbled together’ by natural unconscious processes?” The answer is obvious. Creationists read design into creation because it’s obviously designed; evolutionists, in contrast, have to come up with their myths, garbed in the language and presuppositions of science (so they don’t sound like myths) in an attempt to explain away the obvious.

“I grew up,” Hayward continues, “hearing the Bible referred to as ‘God’s Word.’ I now understand that the Bible consists of writings by people who, like me, were searching for meaning and a better understanding of reality and the sacred. They were dedicated—chroniclers, poets, narrators, philosophers, preachers, prophets, raconteurs—with a compulsion to share their understanding, their art, their philosophy, their warnings, their stories, and their relationship with God, in whatever way they conceived of the divine.”

Instead of being God’s “Word,” the Bible is really human words masquerading as God’s (see 2 Tim. 3:16). However radical that position, Hayward had no choice but to take it. As a book claiming a six-day creation, a world originally without death, and a universal flood—three claims that, he says, science has proven wrong—what else could the Bible be but the work of primitive human beings who, sharing their views of the world, unfortunately got those views wrong.

Based on his acceptance of evolution, for instance, Hayward has to look at death, not as an evil, or an intruder, but as a necessity. “It is normal to feel sad when loved ones pass away,” he writes, “but an understanding of ecology and the necessity of death may help us cope with these losses in a more positive manner. It is only through my death that space and resources become available for my children and grandchildren. Providing them with space and resources is a good—and necessary—thing to do.”

What, then, about Scripture’s negativity regarding death, such as Paul’s words that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26)?3 That’s easy: it was this first-century Jew sharing his own views, his own philosophy, his own understanding of reality (wrong, as it turns out). It certainly wasn’t God speaking eternal truth through him, as Paul often claimed (Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1).

Nevertheless, Hayward professes such reverence for the Bible that “I still make sure the Bible sits atop of any stack of books.” Wow! (I’m surprised he didn’t say next that he never uses the Lord’s name in vain, either.)

I do, however, appreciate his honesty (though retired) about him no longer regarding the Bible as God’s Word. It’s a refreshing change from the usual Seventh-day Darwinian claptrap about the Bible being God’s Word, but that we just have to interpret it correctly, blah, blah, blah. To interpret the Bible in a way, for instance, that makes death anything but an intruder and an enemy, as opposed to a necessity, isn’t to reinterpret the Bible but to trash it. When it comes to Creation, the Flood, and death, the Bible, Hayward says (again with an honesty lacking among his fellow travelers), is just flat-out wrong.

Unfortunately, that’s where James Hayward’s journey from “fundamentalism to faith” has taken him. Where else?

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Chri
, is available from Pacific Press.

1Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy (Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1870), vol. 1. p. 89.

2Resource Publications, An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

3Bible texts are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright ã 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.