Responding Biblically to a Tolerant World

It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.
Adrian Rogers

Key point: The church must repent of its worldly approach to tolerance and consistently exercise genuine love.

In a sermon he preached on February 28, 1999, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, long time pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, placed a spotlight on the one virtue that modern society upholds and seeks to demand of everyone—tolerance. Dr. Kennedy explained that the tolerance society now champions isn’t the same kind of tolerance Americans have practiced throughout the country’s history.

D. James Kennedy / D. James Kennedy Ministries
  • While tolerance used to mean exercising respect by putting up with a person or group with whom one disagreed, it now means
  • accepting and affirming all views as equal in value and as equally true. Moreover, it now means affirming all lifestyles as equally valid.

As we soon will see, the former definition of tolerance can be called negative tolerance, since it preserves differing or opposing opinions. The latter, more modern definition, can be called positive tolerance. Under positive tolerance, to fail to endorse the perspective of someone with whom we disagree is to be intolerant and bigoted.

But there’s a problem. The very people who advocate positive tolerance aren’t really tolerant of all views. In particular, they have a huge problem with the beliefs of biblical Christianity. Why? Because the tenets of biblical Christianity are absolute.

The very people who advocate positive tolerance are not really tolerant of all views. In particular, they have a huge problem with the beliefs of biblical Christianity. Why? Because the tenets of biblical Christianity are absolute.

In 1991, a very insightful Chuck Colson said,

A belief in tolerance is about as close as America comes to a national creed today. All lifestyles are equal. No one has the right to criticize. It’s the philosophy of the talk show hosts: Oprah, Donahue, Geraldo—keep an open mind, never judge anyone.

There is only one thing that is not tolerated—–and that is, people who are intolerant themselves, or rather, people who are labeled as intolerant. People with moral and religious convictions. These people are considered bigots.

How We Got Here—And Where “Here” Is

Returning to Dr. Kennedy’s sermon, we note that the new tolerance is a byproduct of the postmodern era. As Dr. Kennedy explained [minor edits made for clarity],

Postmodernism [the beginning of which is marked by the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989] says that rationalism has failed. The modernist said, “Faith has failed. We must be rational.” The postmodernist has said “Reason has failed. We must resort to feeling.”

How often do you hear people say, “Well I feel that so-and-so. I feel that Washington, D.C. is the capital of this country”? I don’t feel that. I think it. But it’s always not “I think” but “I feel.” The only important thing is how they feel. And we have even invented a new civil right. And that is the civil right for my feelings not to be hurt.…

We cannot have anybody’s feelings hurt. And part of postmodernism is this universal individual. We don’t have countries, we don’t have anything except the individual. There’s no human race, there’s just the individual and his feelings, and they must not be offended.…

And so we have gone from a democracy, a government by the people—of the people, by the people, and for the people—to a government by the sovereign individual. Or should I say, more accurately, the sovereign individual’s feelings? And that brings us to the fact that there are not even any universal truths of any kind for people, and whatever truths we have are simply societal constructs that each community or society or nation has created and these do not apply beyond the borders of that culture.

This is why I have repeatedly said that tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society. When you have an immoral society that has blatantly, proudly violated all of the commandments of God, there’s one last virtue they insist upon—tolerance for their immorality. And they will not have you condemning what they have done as being wrong. And they’ve created a whole world construct in which it’s not, and in which they are no longer the criminal or the villain or the evil person, but you are. And so they call evil good and good evil (see Isaiah 5:20).

Tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society.
—D. James Kennedy—

Charles Darwin

Also operative in this progression of ideas in history was the arrival of Darwinism on the world stage. Darwinism eliminated the “need” for God and absolute truth. The human individual became the measure or all things.

Even if you’ve been unfamiliar with the terms modernism and postmodernism, surely you’ve seen evidence of the grip of the new tolerance on American culture. Note carefully how accurate Dr. Kennedy is when he says that a new civil right has been established—the right not to have one’s feelings hurt, or we might call it the right not to be offended.

The new tolerance has ushered in a new civil right—the right not to be offended.
—D. James Kennedy—

The Biblical Response

Unfortunately, the new tolerance also has found its way into the church. One of the “Eight Menacing Trends in the American Evangelical Church” today is that “the church has equated loving people with not offending them.” Other trends on the list provide evidence as well.

Josh McDowell

How should followers of Jesus Christ live out their faith when the new tolerance confronts them from every side? Josh McDowell, a Christian apologist and an insightful analyst of cultural trends, provides the answer in a presentation he gave well over a decade ago1 to the staff of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ).

Like Chuck Colson and D. James Kennedy, Josh expressed insights in his presentation that were ahead of the times.

Listen carefully to the following series of sound bites from Josh’s presentation. While you can listen here, you’ll be able to follow Josh’s progression of thought much more easily on this page, where a complete text of this 3½-minute compilation, along with the audio, is available.

  • Josh defines negative tolerance.
  • Josh defines positive tolerance.
  • Josh illustrates the difference between the two.
  • Josh points to the biblical response to a culture demanding positive tolerance.
  • Josh cites the importance of balancing truth and love.
  • Josh emphasizes that loving people will be costly.
  • Josh shows how genuine love relates directly to absolute truth and principles of right and wrong.

These insights are piercing. They also are sobering. They call on the church to repent of its soft approach to truth and to love authentically. This means exercising love by demonstrating compassion and by declaring truth—but we as Christians cannot do these things if we abandon a high view of God’s authority and the reliability of the Scriptures.

Francis Schaeffer was another Christian leader who read the culture clearly and accurately. In 1984 he wrote that easy Christianity is a thing of the past, and that

Francis Schaeffer

only a strong view of Scripture is sufficient to withstand the pressure of an all-pervasive culture built upon relativism and relativistic thinking.…Without a strong commitment to God’s absolutes, the early church could never have remained faithful in the face of the constant Roman harassment and persecution [it received]. And our situation today is remarkably similar as our own legal, moral, and social structure is based on an increasingly anti-Christian, secularist consensus.

Christian thinker and apologist Jonathan Morrow is dead on when he says, “Our culture desperately needs to hit the reset button when it comes to larger conversation about truth and tolerance.” For this to happen, the church must act as did the early Christians. If we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ, we no longer can continue to accommodate the culture by refusing to uphold the truth for fear of offending people.

Why? Because refusing to uphold the truth represents a failure to exercise genuine love!


Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.


1Josh McDowell, “Tolerating the Intolerable,” Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, aired on March 21 and March 22, 2013. I strongly encourage you to listen to both programs in their entirety. Mr. McDowell’s presentation had aired earlier on Focus on the Family. A CD copy of the Focus on the Family broadcast indicates that the program “last aired in October of 2002.” Josh’s website is

Mr. McDowell’s talk © 2018 Josh McDowell Ministry. All rights reserved. No part of these Materials may be changed in any way or reproduced in any form without written permission from Josh McDowell Ministry, 2001 West Plano Parkway, Suite 2400, Plano, TX 75075. +1 972 907 1000. Used by Permission.

2Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, (Westchester, Illinois: 1984), 48-49.


A portion of this article is based on the content of “Discernment Needed, Part 2: Eight Menacing Trends in the American Evangelical Church,” which was originally published May 28, 2015.

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 4

The Foundation and Benefits of Absolute Truth
True Liberty Is Grounded in a Recognition of Absolute Truth

There are three points of doctrine the belief of which forms the foundation of all morality. The first is the existence of God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments. Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve either of these three articles of faith and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark. The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy.
John Quincy Adams

[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. Here therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.
Samuel Adams, pictured above in John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence

Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.
Ronald Reagan

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

A Jewish rabbi bound on a plane for Israel soon discovered he was seated next to one of the leaders of Israel’s socialist labor movement. After the plane became airborne, a student of the rabbi who was seated several rows behind him approached him and offered him his slippers. “Here are your slippers, sir,” he said, “You’ll feel more comfortable in them, since your feet swell terribly on the plane.” A short time later the same young man came forward again and offered the rabbi several sandwiches. “Your wife fixed these for your lunch, sir. We know you’ll like them much better than the food the airline will offer.”

These were not isolated incidents, but a pattern; the student returned on numerous occasions to check on the rabbi, to offer him something to make his flight more pleasant, or to serve him in some other way. All of this made quite an impression on the socialist leader, who finally turned to his seatmate and said, “Wow! I’m so impressed with your son! I have four grown sons, and never in all my life have they offered to serve me as your son has waited on you. Why is he so attentive to you?”

“I have to be honest with you,” said the rabbi. “This young man is not my son but my student. His service, as good as it is, is nothing compared to the assistance my own son would give me if he were here.

“The reason the members of the next generation, including members of our own families, treat us as they do is quite simple. All of them are living according to the ideas and principles we’ve taught them. You decided some time ago to tell them that you—and they—descended from apes, and this is what you taught them. They know intuitively this means that you are one generation closer to being a monkey than they are, so it’s only natural that they would expect you to serve them. I, on the other hand, have taught my children and students that we have been created by God Himself. They understand this puts me one generation closer to the Source of Ultimate Truth, and they treat me in accord with this understanding. We reap what we sow.”1

Of course, just as the socialist leader’s belief in evolution does not prove God doesn’t exist, neither does the rabbi’s belief in divine creation prove that He does. What our story does demonstrate is that a belief in God is conducive to civil behavior, and ultimately to a civil society. It also sets the stage for us to see that true freedom can exist only in a society grounded in virtue. Without virtue, freedom unravels into chaos, which leads to bigger government and, finally, to tyranny.

Consider the positive virtues inherent in the rabbi’s perspective. A belief in being created by God helps a person to cultivate a variety of noble qualities in his or her life, including these.

  1. Generosity
  2. Gratitude
  3. Selflessness
  4. Humility
  5. A sense of responsibility
  6. A sense of accountability
  7. Respect for others
  8. Respect for one’s elders
  9. Respect for one’s peers, grounded in the truth that all of human life is valuable because God creates it in His image

And to think—we got all this just from considering the implications of the rabbi’s observations on the plane!

Yet there’s more. While selfishness and pursuit of personal pleasure tend to foster distrust and tension in relationships, the virtues listed above promote numerous priceless benefits, including stronger and more fulfilling relationships and a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness.

On a societal level as well, virtues establish and maintain order and stability. A virtuous people exercise a positive self-restraint that makes true freedom in society possible. The other side of the coin is that without virtue, self-restraint is non-existent as well. Without self-restraint, chaos, then tyranny, inevitably follow.

Virtue, let us not forget, flourishes in the soil of a belief in God and an awareness of one’s accountability to Him. A belief in absolute truth also is a part of this mix. To be accountable to God means to understand that He holds us to a high and unchanging standard—His. If this make you feel straight-jacketed and unfairly confined, think of a train, which has been designed and built to travel along railroad tracks. The train constructed neither itself nor the tracks. Human beings built both of these for a purpose. The train accomplishes its purpose when it runs on the tracks that fit its design.

In like manner, God designed people for a purpose that ultimately can be fulfilled only when they are aware of their accountability to Him. Yes, this is confining in some ways, but it is liberating in many more.

The rabbi is right. So are the statesmen we’ve quoted at the top. And so is Founding Father Fisher Ames, who said, “The happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend on piety, religion, and morality.”

Let us do all we can to help our society rediscover and re-implement this principle. Once again, absolute truth is far more liberating than confining when we cooperate with it. Why? Because it is part of the uncompromising, unyielding, unbending, real world in which we live. Reality isn’t mean, it just is. Because it is what it is, it will hit you in the face if you try to defy it.

Part 5 is available here.


Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

1Rabbi Daniel Lapin, America’s Real War: An Orthodox Rabbi Insists that Judeo-Christian Values Are Vital for Our Nation’s Survival, (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1999), 51-52.


The Place to Which Evolution Leads, Part 2

The Horrible Place to Which Society’s Belief in
Evolution Eventually Leads
Part 2: The Bitter Fruit

The root of the problem of most of the great ills that have afflicted society and do afflict it today are caused by the teaching of evolution. It has been called “The Big Lie.” It has deceived hundreds of millions of people and has probably brought about more deaths than any other view in the history of the world.
—D. James Kennedy1

I’ll grant that to begin with evolution was just a theory…but it evolved into a fact a long time ago!
—schoolteacher to her students in an op-ed cartoon by Wayne Stayskal2

Part 1 is available here.

“How can I know right from wrong?” Alan kept asking himself. “Do right and wrong even exist at all? And if they do, how can I be sure that they do?” Alan Wilson almost felt ridiculous asking himself these questions. His classmates and friends at the university didn’t seem to be asking them at all, and they appeared to be perfectly happy. Yet Alan saw many of them making choices that he’d heard for many years were wrong and should be avoided. He was a first year college student who had left the shelter of home to face the winds of “new” ideas that a “higher education” offered. Those winds had blown against much of what he’d been taught since birth.

Before leaving home, Alan had imagined himself standing up for his faith, letting friends and professors alike know that he was a Christian. Now he wondered how he could have been so naïve as to imagine that “coming out” as a Christian would be easy. It was incredibly difficult—so difficult, in fact, that he had to admit that now he was a closet Christian, at best.

At the root of Alan’s struggles was a single idea that ate at his heart and dogged his mind. His roommate had voiced it, and it reverberated inside Alan’s head even now. “Hey, Alan! Get real! How can anybody say that any action or lifestyle choice is wrong? Oh, sure, people can say that, but their words represent only their opinions, not objective truth!”

Weren’t the differences between right and wrong clear, understandable, and knowable? Weren’t they black and white inherently rather than gray? Now Alan wondered if he’d been gullible to believe these things. Had he been wrong? Had his parents, his pastor, his church, his Bible, and even his God also been wrong?

Making his way home after that first semester, Alan looked forward to sharing his struggles with the new pastor at his home church. Matt Thomas had become the pastor of Lakeside Community Church while Alan was away at school, and his parents had developed a deep appreciation for him in a very short time. “When you get back home,” Alan’s dad had said, “talk with Pastor Matt. I think he can help you grapple with your questions.” Matt’s sermons certainly had helped Alan’s parents understand better how the Bible speaks to every issue in life, and they found themselves wishing Alan could have heard this kind of preaching before he had left home. They knew his faith had been shaken to the core, and now their son needed to regain some stability. Matt’s office, they hoped and prayed, would be the place that would happen.

Alan reflected on his first semester at the university. While he’d befriended a good many students, he saw many of them making choices and living lives that troubled him deep down. They were great people in so many ways, but Alan knew that in many situations they acted without restraint, following their base instincts and drives. His friends told him they weren’t sinning, just having fun. “If they aren’t sinning,” Alan thought, “then sin isn’t real, and if sin isn’t real, then why should I worry about it at all? Something that doesn’t exist can’t have any consequences!”

Even though he didn’t yet realize it, Alan was witnessing the results of years of indoctrination. The theory of evolution had left its mark everywhere on campus. In other words, evolution’s practical implications abounded. For years, the young men and women now enrolled as students at the university had been told they had descended from animals. Should it really have been a surprise, then, when they acted like animals, pursuing “fun” and exercising no discipline or restraint? This element is perhaps even more obvious in society at large, a reality we will highlight shortly.

Matt welcomed Alan into his office and listened intently. When Alan was through, the pastor began by advising him to make sure that in assessing his situation he didn’t see issues simply in bits and pieces. “In other words,” Matt said, “the conflict you’re experiencing isn’t merely a clash of differing perspectives on a lot of separate things like homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, cohabitation, or whatever. You’re witnessing a clash of two very different belief systems. Sometimes we call a belief system a worldview. It’s the lens through which a person sees life and reaches conclusions about it. On one side is a worldview that assumes God doesn’t exist, and on the other is the one your upbringing has encouraged you to embrace. That one assumes God is—that He does exist, is personal, and will hold people accountable for how they live.

Matt continued, “It’s important to remember that a worldview can’t be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Worldviews require faith. Someone may think they are really throwing their weight around when they ask you how anyone can be certain a particular lifestyle choice or action is wrong, but on what authority does he base his conclusion that no one can speak with such certainty? His belief that that no objective standard of right and wrong exists rests on his assumption that God doesn’t exist—or at least on his adherence to a belief system that assumes God’s nonexistence. Sure, he may say he believes in God, but think about it—the God in which he believes permits people to do whatever they feel like doing. That doesn’t sound like much of a God, does it?” Alan nodded, indicating to Matt that what he was saying made a great deal of sense. Matt added, “Evolutionists may claim that evolution is pure science and that all objections to it are totally religious and therefore invalid—but many of them cling to their belief in Darwinism with religious fervor. Just as theism is a religious belief, so is atheism.”

Matt went on to point out that those who say they don’t believe in right and wrong actually don’t live that way. They may say absolute truth doesn’t exist, but if someone steals from them, they will be the first ones to appeal to a standard, and on the basis of that standard, object. “All people,” said Matt, “appeal to various values and standards, even if they never realize they are doing so. Innately, each person has a standard of fairness he or she is quick to advocate.”

“There’s something more,” Matt said. “Let me ask you a question. Why is it wrong to lie?”

“Well,” Alan said thoughtfully, “for a long time I would have said lying is wrong because God says it’s wrong. He revealed it in the Bible. That’s still the right answer, right?”

“That’s really not why, Alan.” Matt replied. “Certainly we know lying is wrong because we have God’s written revelation, but it runs a lot deeper than that. God didn’t sit on His throne in heaven one day and arbitrarily decide some actions were right and others were wrong. Lying is wrong because God is a God of truth. In fact, He is truth. Ultimately, it’s God’s character that establishes right and wrong—and what He says also reflects His character.

“Here are some additional examples. Adultery and premarital sex are wrong because God is faithful, and murder is wrong because God is life. Framing it in positive terms, we could say that keeping sex in marriage, affirming and working to preserve life, and telling the truth are right actions because they are consistent with who God is—His faithfulness, His being the author of life, and His being the embodiment of truth.”

“The divine standard, therefore, is a standard—it’s actually the standard—by which all actions and lifestyles can be judged. In judging these, we’re not violating Matthew 7:1, which says, ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’ Jesus was talking in that verse about being judgmental, not about determining right from wrong. The divine standard isn’t one God has set; it’s the standard of who He is. When habits and actions reflect His character, we can say authoritatively that they are right. If they cloud, mar, or misrepresent God’s character, then they are wrong. Knowing these as well as other things God tells us in His Word about right and wrong, we can speak authoritatively about them. No, we can’t prove what we say beyond a shadow of a doubt, but having a solid basis for our conclusions, we can speak beyond a reasonable doubt.”3

Worldviews Matter

Alan’s visit with Pastor Matt really opened his eyes. In the weeks and months that followed, Alan came to recognize that various news stories were showcasing violent manifestations of a belief (however unconscious) in Darwin’s theory. Remember, evolution is more than a theory; it’s also a philosophy that encourages, by it’s very nature, a lack of personal restraint. Riots and vandalism in Baltimore and in other places are prime examples.4,5,6 This is not to minimize legitimate questions about law enforcement procedures or about incidents in which confrontations with the law have resulted, tragically, in loss of life. In the aftermaths of these incidents, however, it is clear that growing number of innocent people have suffered at the hands of opportunists who have been following selfish, raw, and primitive urges. From a moral perspective (a position that affirms absolute truth), this cannot be justified, but that didn’t stop one journalist from attempting to defend it.7 Some have even used the protests to intentionally incite violence and unrest.8 Certainly all of this makes it even more difficult for law enforcement officers to do their jobs.9

And what about the removal sexual restraints? Sexual immorality always has been a reality, but Alan learned societal restraints on sex began to fall in the 1960s. The initial thrills masked problems then, but today these have given way to huge, widespread problems. We see rampant promiscuity fueled by easy access to contraceptives and abortion on demand. Affirmation of homosexuality, the redefinition of marriage, and the transgender movement are components as well. Those who advocate moral guidelines often are labeled the bad guys, simply because they advocate boundaries to help channel sexual behavior in constructive and purposeful directions.10 The secular/evolutionary worldview can point to no such boundary, so anything—literally anything—goes.11,12,13,14,15

Alan saw another connection as well. The environmentalist movement that was so prominent at the university also rested on the foundation of evolution. If all life, including human, animal, and plant life, came into being as a result of natural, impersonal, random forces, then why not worship nature? Alan came to realize that on this philosophical foundation, human beings can’t possess any qualities that make them unique or special in a positive sense.16,17 Instead, people are viewed as problematic because of, among other things, their actions and their shear numbers.18 Furthermore, attempts are made to humanize animals, upholding them as persons.19,20,21 Even trees are seen as victims of humanity, since people “kill” them to produce resources like paper and other wood products.22 Christians, of all people, should be good stewards of the environment.23,24,25 However, believers also must refute numerous lies fostered by the environmental movement, including lies about overpopulation, the climate, and the best ways to help the poor.26,27,28,29

Equipped with an understanding of worldviews and continuing to study, Alan later would come to see that evolution not only has contemporary manifestations, but also can be held responsible for practices performed decades ago that we now recognize as evil. Eugenics, which sought to improve the human race through selective breeding as well as forced sterilization in numerous instances in the United States, can be traced to evolution.30,31 Philosophically, the Holocaust also rests on evolutionary thought:32,33 “The Supreme Court…was wrong when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in Buck v. Bell,34 ‘three generations of imbeciles are enough,’ thus upholding Virginia’s eugenics law that permitted forced sterilization. Shamefully, that decision was cited during the Nuremburg trials to support the Nazi eugenic holocaust.”35  The Nazi book burning pictured at the top was a precursor to this attempt at genocide.

Changing Directions

Much more could be said about the wretched place to which evolution leads, but the evidence Alan gathered is quite convincing. A U-turn is in order! Society must be encouraged to embrace the Christian worldview. This is so not just because of the devastation resulting from widespread belief in evolutionary theory, but also because Darwinism simply isn’t true. Actually, the devastation has come because Darwinism isn’t true, and scientific evidence against it continues to mount.36 While most people who embrace evolutionary thought probably won’t be open to hearing about the gospel or the Christian worldview right off the bat, they can be encouraged to study Darwinism thoroughly, including it’s weaknesses. When they do, they find cracks and holes. Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist and former atheist, observes,

Is Darwinism true? I walked away from my formal education convinced it was. As my spiritual journey began taking me into the realm of science, however, I started having an increasingly uneasy feeling.…

The more I investigated the issue, the more I saw how I had glossed over significant nuances in a rush to judgment…When I examined the matter thoroughly, I began to question whether the sweeping conclusions of Darwinists are really justified by the hard scientific facts.…

This is not, I soon discovered, a case of religion versus science; rather, this is an issue of science versus science. More and more biologists, biochemists, and other researchers—not just Christians—have raised serious objections to evolutionary theory in recent years, claiming that its broad inferences are sometimes based on flimsy incomplete, or flawed data.

In other words, what looks at first blush like an airtight scientific case for evolution begins to unravel upon closer examination. New discoveries during the past thirty years have prompted an increasing number of scientists to contradict Darwin by concluding that there was an Intelligent Designer behind the creation and development of life.37

Did you just see it on the side of the road America has been traveling for decades? It’s a sign indicating U-turns are allowed—and even recommended. Won’t you join Alan and Pastor Matt in pointing out the sign to others and recommending the superior way?


For further reading:

The Effect of Darwinism on Morality and Christianity

McDowell, Josh, and Bob Hostetler. Beyond Belief to Convictions: What you need to know to help youth stand strong in the face of today’s culture. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2008).


Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


1Jerry Newcombe, compiler, The Wit and Wisdom of D. James Kennedy, (Fort Lauderdale, FL: Truth in Action Ministries, 2013), 53.

2Wayne Stayskal, “Till Euthanasia Do You Part?”: Cartoons by Wayne Stayskal, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993).

3adapted from Adult Leader Guide, KJV Family Bible Study, Spring 2005, (Nashville: LifeWay Christian Resources, 2004), 125-126.
































35; original link:


37Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 90.




The Place to Which Evolution Leads, Part 1

The Horrible Place to Which Society’s Belief in Evolution Eventually Leads
Part 1: The Foundation Is Laid

The Christian must be ready to separate genuine science from philosophy. Evolution, as it is typically presented in textbooks and museums, confuses the two, presenting as “science,” what is actually naturalistic philosophy.…Let’s be clear on the distinction between empirical science and philosophy, and then let’s answer science with science and philosophy with philosophy.
—Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey1

Of all the trials that have been famous and notable throughout history, the Scopes Trial likely has had the most far-reaching influence on American thought and culture. A Publisher’s Note for an online report about the trial says, “It is unlike any case ever tried, and we believe [it] has an interest that will hold long after the individuals involved shall have passed away.”2 In fact, the Scopes Trial has been called “The Trial of the Century.”3,4,5

Named for Dayton teacher John Thomas Scopes, the trial took place during eight days of proceedings beginning Friday, July 10, 1925, and ending on Tuesday, July 21.6 Scopes was tried for violating the Butler Act, which had been adopted by the Tennessee Legislature and signed into law earlier the same year.7 The Butler Act stated

That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the Story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.8

George Rappleyea, a Dayton resident, wanted to challenge the law. Even though he went to church, not all of his reasons for opposing it were amiable to the Christian faith.9 For one thing, he believed theory of evolution. For another, he knew that a trial in Dayton would put Dayton on the map and generate revenue for the small town. 10,11,12 Rappleyea talked the ACLU into supporting the idea, and he and some other businessmen enlisted John T. Scopes, a football coach at the high school who at times substituted for the regular biology teacher, to become the plan’s central figure.13 Actually, Scopes didn’t remember teaching evolution to students, but the organizers couldn’t allow that to thwart what they had in mind. Here was a teacher who at least had been given an opportunity to violate the law and who now was willing to participate in the scheme.14

The trial, which pitted Clarance Darrow, a famous agnostic lawyer, against William Jennings Bryan, a devout Christian and a three-time Democrat candidate for president, drew worldwide attention. Bryan served as an assistant prosecutor, but Darrow was Scopes’ chief defense attorney.15 Darrow did not want Scopes to testify because, if he had, it might have been discovered that Scopes hadn’t even been present at school on the day specified in the indictment.16 Instead, he wanted various experts on the theory of evolution to give testimony, but Judge John T. Raulston ruled they couldn’t be called as witnesses.17 On the seventh day of the trial—Monday, July 2018,19—Darrow amazed everyone by calling William Jennings Bryan to the stand. Court was being held outside that day because of concern the courtroom floor might collapse under the weight of so many spectators. The oppressive heat was a factor pushing the proceedings outside as well20—and perhaps this was symbolic, because the drama couldn’t have been hotter or more riveting. Darrow sought to corner Bryan and throw him off track with rapid-fire questions about the Bible and the creation account in Genesis. Contrary to one of the many myths promoted by the 1955 play Inherit the Wind and its many movie versions—the 1960 film in particular is erroneously believed by many to be factual docudrama of the trial—Bryan held his own:

The trial record discloses that Bryan handled himself well and when put on the stand unexpectedly by Darrow, defined terms carefully, stuck to the facts, made distinctions between literal and figurative language when interpreting the Bible, and questioned the reliability of scientific evidence when it contradicted the Bible. Some scientific experts at the trial referred to such “evidence” of evolution as the Piltdown man (now dismissed as a hoax).21


Rhea County Courthouse, Dayton, Tennessee

The jury found Scopes guilty of violating the Butler Act, and he was fined $100.00. This was the outcome for which Darrow had hoped.22 On a side note, contrary to another myth popularized by Inherit the Wind, Bryan wasn’t trying to harm John Scopes. Uncomfortable with the law’s provision that educators would be personally fined if found guilty, Bryan magnanimously offered to pay Scopes’ fine himself.23

Much as been written about Darrow’s questioning of Bryan, but here I would like to highlight the questioning of two young men on Day 4, Wednesday, July 15.24,25 The prosecution called 14-year-old Howard Morgan and then called 17-year-old Harry Shelton, both students at Central High where Scopes taught, to testify.

First, Howard Morgan took the stand. This was the son of Luke Morgan, a banker and the man hosting Darrow in Dayton.26,27

Morgan testified that Professor Scopes taught him from a textbook titled General Science by Lewis Elhuff, which said that “a little germ of one cell organism formed, and this organism kept evolving until it got to be a pretty good sized animal, and then came to be a land animal, and it kept on evolving, and from this was man.”

The boy admitted, though, that he couldn’t find anything about evolution in the book and didn’t remember what mammals were. On cross-examination Darrow gently questioned Morgan further about what he remembered of the course Scopes had taught him. At that moment Morgan couldn’t remember much of anything except the organism evolving into man. The student’s testimony strongly supported later claims that he and his classmates who were called to testify were coached. What fourteen-year-old boy would otherwise remember such a specific scientific detail, and none other, two and a half months into summer vacation?28

Darrow’s last question to young Morgan was about John Scopes’ teaching: “It has not hurt you any, has it?” Amid the laughter from spectators in the courtroom, Morgan answered, “No, sir.”29,30

Harry Shelton then took the stand and testified that Mr. Scopes had led a review in his biology class and taught that “all forms of life begin with the cell.”31 When Darrow had an opportunity to cross-examine him, this exchange took place:

Q—How old are you?
Q—Prof. Scopes said that all forms of life came from a single cell, didn’t he?
A—Yes, sir.
Q—Did anybody ever tell you before?
A—No, sir.
Q—That is all you remember that he told you about biology, wasn’t it?
A—Yes, sir.
Q—Are you a church member?
Q—Are you a church member?
A—Yes, sir.
Q—Do you still belong?
A—Yes, sir.
Q—You didn’t leave church when he told you all forms of life began with a single cell?
A—No, sir.
Mr. Darrow—That is all.32

We see from these exchanges that Clarence Darrow was a master manipulator. Asking rhetorical questions with an element of humor, he conveyed the idea no sane person ever could think it harmful to be taught the theory of evolution. Specifically, had the teaching of evolution, if indeed it had occurred just three months prior, somehow been detrimental to young Howard Morgan? Of course, all anyone would have to do is ask him, and of course he’d say no, which he did. Moreover, if Harry Shelton hadn’t left the church after being told just twelve weeks earlier that “all forms of life begin with a single cell,” the concepts and principles of Darwin’s theory were—and are—totally harmless. Being taught these ideas would never lead anyone away from the church!

Really? Fast forward in time several decades for mounting evidence to the contrary! One reason young adults are leaving church is that they perceive it as being anti-science: “Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.”33 Yes, part of this is the church’s fault, for it has failed completely to talk about the scientific evidence supporting the biblical record. This has been a huge mistake. Ken Ham and Britt Beemer write,

Effectively, the Church basically hands over the history of the universe to the secular educational institutions, and concentrates on the spiritual and moral aspects of Christianity. The church actually disconnects the Bible from the real world. The children (and everyone else, through Sunday school lessons, youth studies, etc.) in the churches are really taught that in church, one doesn’t deal with geology, biology, and so on—that is for school. In church, we talk about Jesus—we deal with doctrines and we study moral and spiritual matters—but anything pertaining to understanding geology, biology, astronomy, anthropology, and so forth is left for school.34

Returning to Clarence Darrow, we should state clearly that any assurances from Darrow that Darwinism never will lure people away from church should be met with skepticism. Darrow was neither a Christian nor a promoter of biblical morality and ethics. In fact, a little less than a year before the Scopes Trial, Darrow used his persuasive courtroom skills to save two young men, murderers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, from execution by the state of Illinois. Both were from wealthy Chicago families, both were extremely intelligent, and both were fascinated with crime. Leopold became intrigued by Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of supermen (Übermenschen), exceptional persons with unusual abilities and brilliant minds that supposedly freed them from the constraints under which everyone else lived. Thinking he was one such man, Leopold believed he was exempt from the law. He persuaded his friend Richard Loeb that he, too, was this kind of individual as well.35

Desiring to commit the perfect crime, the two young men enticed Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old, into a car. There Loeb used a chisel to murder Franks. They dumped his naked body in a culvert near Wolf Lake in Hammond, Indiana, approximately 25 miles from Chicago. It was called the crime of the century.36 Evidence of the pair’s guilt was enormous, but their attorney, Clarence Darrow, delivered a passionate plea that the state spare their lives. Writes William Bennett: Darrow

argued for a “deterministic” view of the universe. “Nature is strong and she is pitiless.” Nature works in mysterious ways over which we have little control, he contended. He made a case for life imprisonment as being even harsher punishment than hanging—“In all the endless road you tread, there’s nothing but the night.” In pleading for the lives of the two killers, Darrow passionately cried out: “If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, and more considerate than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry I have lived so long!” Many in the courtroom, including the presiding judge, wept openly as Darrow finished his appeal.37

The point here is not so much that Darrow argued for his clients’ lives to be spared but that he used flawed philosophical arguments in doing so. His courtroom pleas in 1924 were reminiscent of statements he’d made 22 years earlier in a speech to a group of prisoners. Portraying criminals as helpless victims, Darrow declared,

[T]here is no such thing as a crime as the word is generally understood.…I do not believe that people are in jail because they deserve to be. They are in jail simply because they cannot avoid it on account of circumstances which are entirely beyond their control and for which they are in no way responsible.38

Here’s the point that we must not miss: Everything Darrow said is entirely consistent with Darwinian evolutionary theory. Darwinism, which states that random chance gave rise to life and to higher life forms from lower life forms, eliminates the need for God. Without God, people are material beings only; they have no souls.

Everything Darrow said is entirely consistent with Darwinian evolutionary theory. Darwinism, which states that random chance gave rise to life and to higher life forms from lower life forms, eliminates the need for God. Without God, people are material beings only; they have no souls. No substantive basis exists for rejecting anything!

In his novel The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky astutely observed, “If there is no immortality of the soul, there can be no virtue and therefore everything is permissible.”39 This is the ugly place to which a society that believes in Darwinian evolution eventually arrives. If God doesn’t exist, then all we have in this life is all there is, so we may as well make the most of it while we’re here. Without God, right and wrong don’t exist, either, so no one is bound by any moral constraints; instead, everyone is left to follow his or her own base appetites.40

So, equipped with this philosophical background, we need to ask, What are some of the practical ramifications of a widespread, long-term belief in Darwinian evolution? We’ll explore this question in next week’s post.

Part 2 is available here.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


1Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999), 55.













14Marvin Olasky and John Perry, Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 13-15.












26Olasky and Perry, 89-90.


28Olasky and Perry, 90.

29Olasky and Perry.


31Olasky and Perry.

32Foote, Fred (2012-01-16). The Complete Scopes Trial Transcript (Kindle Locations 5527-5540). Kindle Edition.


34Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit church and What You Can Do to Stop It, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 78.



37William J. Bennett, America: The Last Best Hope, Volume II: From a World at War to the Triumph of Freedom, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 73.

38Clarence Darrow, quoted in Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999), 181.

39quoted in Jim Nelson Black, The Death of Evolution: Restoring Faith and Wonder in a World of Doubt, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 88.

40Jim Nelson Black.