Mars Hill Forum #107: The Power of “Only Genesis” at Columbia University

John C. Rankin (March 1. 2006)

This past Monday evening I addressed a panel discussion on “The Politics of Intelligent Design” at Columbia University in New York City. Though not an official Mars Hill Forum which I sponsor, it met all the criteria wonderfully. So I listed it on my website as (Mars Hill Forum #107).

There were three Darwinian evolutionists — Dr. Joel Cracaft, Curator, Division of Vertebrate Zoology/Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History; Dr. Barbara Forrest, co-author of “Creationism’s Trojan Horse;” and Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education. And me representing a biblical worldview.

The Darwinian evolutionists went first, then I followed. I organized my thoughts around the outline of “Only Genesis” [click here]. [For my prepared remarks are linked and other report, click here and click here].

I have had many wonderful responses so far — most delightfully were two of the panelists, and the Chairman of the Department of Astronomy at Columbia, who was in attendance.

In response to a question from the audience, I said that I was free to be convinced that there is no God if the evidence were in place. This is the liberty we have in Christ, for all truth is God’s truth, and we fear no questions or knowledge, especially from skeptics.

The Chairman of the Department of Astronomy approached me after the event, and said he could prove scientifically that there was no Creator before the beginning of the universe. I said I would be delighted to meet with him, and let him make his case. He agreed. [But, is it turned out, he never followed through though I emailed him several times.]

Then, in talking with Dr. Cracraft at some length, he said he was grateful for my straightforward honesty in putting my theological agenda on the table up front. This is the power of “Only Genesis” and “First the Gospel, Then Politics…” He and his colleagues critique certain “intelligent design creationists” for seeking to keep their religious views out of the spotlight. Dr. Cracaft also complimented the intellectual “sophistication” of my presentation, and found it refreshing.

Dr. Cracraft also liked my references to sheer wonder at the universe as a child, having experienced the same, and he liked my reference to Flash Gordon (those who know this reference date themselves). We plan to have lunch someday and continue the conversation.

The ten positive assumptions of Only Genesis, including the fact that Genesis 1-2 is the only origin text in history that provides the basis for science and the scientific method, was well received by the audience. It was a simple outline of sustained intellectual truth claims, the ethical content of which none opposed. This is the “Good News” that starts in the Bible and nowhere else.

Finally, Nick Matzke and I talked in detail afterward, and are communicating on various subjects of mutual interest. Here is the key: Whereas I like the intellectual content of the words Intelligent Design, its political overtones make it a poisonous word in communicating with Darwinian

evolutionists. So I now use the language of “Common Design” in contrast to the language of Darwinian “Common Descent.” Nick Matzke believes that Common Descent is a testable and coherent theory, and that Common Design is not. I will take him up on this challenge.

The goal of the Gospel in the midst of such cultural debates is not to win an argument for its own sake, but is to communicate across the chasm and win relationships. I am delighted with what happened at Columbia.