I wanted to start this off with Kirk Cameron’s “pitch” on evolution and Christianity but I’m not about to plunk down 60 dollars for the video upgrade until I know if anyone’s reading. So I’ll just link the thing and you can go watch it there. You probably should since I’ll be referencing it at some point. Let me just say that Kirk Cameron seems like a nice guy and a good Christian. I’ve always admired his attempts to influence the direction of Growing Pains and make it more family friendly. But, I think he has made a mistake. During the late 80’s and early 90’s Cameron was something of a hearthrob. He had some influence within the culture- the secular culture. You could imagine a gushing teen girl scrawling: Mrs. Kirk Cameron, Michelle Cameron, Mrs. Michelle Cameron, in the margins of her notebook. And you could imagine her thinking, “well, if Kirk Cameron’s a Christian, it can’t be all bad”.
But, you can’t imagine her thinking that after his much publicized dust-ups with cast members who weren’t quite Godly enough for him. You can’t imagine her thinking it after he all-but disappeared from public life following Growing Pains and was written off as one of those “loonies” . He turned people away and, perhaps more importantly, he took himself out of the conversation. He started making purely Christian movies and started a ministry which, I’m sure, is nice in its way but… he was… right… there. He’d infiltrated the enemy’s camp and, rather than undermine it from within, he was content to rally his own troops for the slaughter. This is craziness. This is suicidal. Yet, this seems to go on in virtually every remaining redoubt of die-hard Christianity. The modern Christian has an almost fantastical attachment to dying more honorably.
Which brings me back to the video. Kirk Cameron hates evolution. Darwin is atheism’s “God” therefore he must be something like the Christian Devil. Cameron is prepared to see Christianity die on this hill. He’s prepared, I suspect, to see Christianity die on any hill. There’s no strategic sense at all. Each is absolutely vital. Each is the Charge of the Light Brigade, into the Valley of Death. But, I think that evolution is the wrong hill to die on, honorably or not, and that this kind of defense is the wrong posture for the modern Christian. I think that virtually every major Christian thinker and writer, in the beginning half of the 20th century, understood those two truths. Of evolution Chesterton said:
Evolution is a good example of that modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism. If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly — especially if, like the Christian God, He were outside time. But if it means anything more, it means that there is no such thing as an ape to change, and no such thing as a man for him to change into. It means that there is no such thing as a thing.
That’s from Orthodoxy. In The Everlasting Man he went further:
Man is not merely an evolution but rather a revolution. That he has a backbone or other parts upon a similar pattern to birds and fishes is an obvious fact, whatever be the meaning of the fact. But if we attempt to regard him, as it were, as a quadruped standing on his hind legs, we shall find what follows more fantastic and subversive than if he were standing on his head.
To Chesterton, it was the essence of man that mattered- how he got here, yes, but also why we should have expected him to get here at all and what a remarkable thing it was. What a remarkable thing it still is. I’m not here to argue for Intelligent Design nor go on a Charles Johnson crusade against “Creationists”. I don’t think anything of importance, theologically, hangs on the debate. But, I will argue that modern Christians are largely fighting the wrong battles, in the wrong way, and on the wrong territory. For readabiity and suspense I’ll leave off now. Stop by later to discover what battles we should be fighting, how we ought to fight them, and why Chesterton’s subtle intuitions still matter. Kirk Cameron will make another cameo.