The great divide between secularists and evangelical Christians is growing, not shrinking. This divide determines many, if not most, of our national controversies. Debates over education, abortion, environmentalism, homosexuality and a host of other issues are really debates about the origin — and thus the meaning — of human life.
On this very basic issue, our worldviews — those of evangelical Christians and secularists — are fundamentally and completely incompatible. It is no wonder each side of this divide has a hard time understanding, and few on either side look very carefully at the real thought processes of their counterparts.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Ph.D., is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is affliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. He hosts a daily radio program and maintains a blog.
Secularists start with a basic commitment to a naturalistic universe. Humans are thus an evolved species who must find some way to organize themselves into meaningful units, limit their behavior, direct their energies, and pass the world on to the next generation.
Evangelical Christians, on the other hand, are committed to a supernatural worldview, which starts with the purposeful creation of the universe by God. Human beings are a special creation of God, made in His own image, and are granted important privileges, responsibilities and gifts that are to be used to God's glory.
According to the book of Genesis, the creation of human beings represents the crowning act of God in creation. Genesis 2:7 says, God "formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Human beings are not accidents, nor are we mere animals living among other animals, for human beings alone are made in God's image.
The theory of evolution argues that human beings — along with all other living creatures — are simply the product of a blind, naturalistic process of evolutionary development. Thus, humans are distinct from other animals only in terms of brain size or other capacities. By definition, evolution has no room for the concept of the image of God, for evolutionary theory has no room for God at all.
This is the most basic issue that divides naturalistic science from the rest of us. For over 100 years, the dominant scientific establishment has been moving toward an enforced orthodoxy of naturalism, materialism and secularism. According to this worldview, the universe is a closed box that can be understood only on its own terms. Everything inside the box can be explained only by other matter and processes within the same box. The box itself is explained as a cosmic accident, and naturalistic science allows no place for a designer or a design in the entire cosmos.
Of course, the evolutionists remain frustrated that the vast majority of Americans simply will not buy this theory. Even though they are not credentialed scientists, most Americans have a fairly good grasp of reality. As they observe the world, they are unable to accept an explanatory theory that says that everything — from human beings to the starry heavens above — just "happened" and came to exist without any design whatsoever.
Perhaps that is because most people recognize that there is something special — something unique — about human life. Human beings are set apart from other creatures and are the only self-conscious creatures.
A dog may dig a hole, but he never sits back to ponder the meaning of the hole. Birds fly through the air, but they have no spiritual consciousness of why God made them to do so. Fish swim across oceans, but they never write books about the experience. The entire animal kingdom declares the glory of God — but the animals are unaware of this great fact.
Human beings, as the only creatures made in God's image, are made to know God.
Moreover, evolutionary theory stands at the base of moral relativism and the rejection of traditional morality. If human beings are not made in the image of God, and if the entire cosmos is nothing more than a freakish accident, morality is nothing but a mirage, and human beings — cosmic accidents that we are — are free to negotiate whatever moral arrangement seems best to us at any given time. Human life has no inherent dignity, morality has no objective basis, and we are alone in the universe to eat, drink and be merry before our bones join the fossil record and we pass from existence.
Worldview commitments are truly foundational. What we believe about creation — and especially about the origin of human beings — determines a host of other beliefs on issues ranging from the meaning of life to the grounding of morality.
The Christian doctrine of creation sets the stage for a comprehensive Christian view of life and human dignity. Without the doctrine of creation, Christianity is only one more artifact of an evolutionary process. The Christian affirmation represents the most significant intellectual challenge to evolutionary naturalism.