If ever a visit was providentially ordered then it was that of Roger Oakland. As you will know from the leaflet enclosure with our March newsletter Roger was here from 10-24 March and during that time he delivered 21 talks. The feedback has been positive and encouraging as the following extract from one email will demonstrate.
Dear Mr Andrews
Just a short email to say how much I was blessed with the visit of Roger Oakland to the WORD Bible class last Saturday night. It was good to learn more about creation and to watch out for false teaching that can happen so easily…Thanks again and keep up the good work
Now why did I describe Roger’s visit as ‘providentially ordered’. Well whilst he was here a storm broke in England over the teaching of creation in a school in England. Eric Waugh first alerted me to it when I tuned in to Radio Ulster’s lunchtime ‘open-line’ programme called ‘Talkback’ on Monday 18 March and heard his report on the issue. This former TV ‘Industrial Correspondent’ and I believe lay-Methodist person ended his report by saying that those Christians who promote creation as being factual according to the Genesis account ‘do God a disservice’. I phoned the Radio station and told them of the presence of Roger in the Province and they were keen for Roger to come down next day to the Radio station to be interviewed by the programme anchorman, David Dunseith. This is a man who has in times past interviewed myself on a number of occasions and he is certainly not sympathetic to the Evangelical Christian point of view. Whilst I was waiting with Roger for him to go into the studio another man in the waiting room introduced himself to us as Tom McKee, secretary of a large teacher’s union. It turned out that he was also to be a party to Roger’s interview. Apparently the Radio station was going to focus exclusively on the English school situation rather than on the general topic of creation. Mr McKee asked if Roger had read a report in The Independent newspaper [19 March] – the heading to this article read
Creationsim in schools ‘leads to more bigotry’
and when we said ‘no’ he handed over an extra copy of the article which Roger was able to read before going to be interviewed. Only God could have ordered this advance preparation for Roger. Mr Dunseith sought to proceed along the lines of presenting creation as part of the ‘religious education’ curriculum but Roger took the line that those who believe in creation were simply asking for a fair hearing in the science class. He pointed out that evolution has to be believed every bit as much ‘by faith’ as has creation and therefore both beliefs concerning origins should equally be examined and tested in the science setting. Roger told how the former Soviet Union had for the past decade allowed this, for they had come to recognise that during the 70 years of communism, they had by the exclusive and unquestioned promotion of evolution been indoctrinating people rather than educating them. Mr McKee found this approach by Roger quite acceptable and so a very sane discussion took place. Mr Dunseith however could not leave it at that and so near the end of the interview he challenged Roger about his association with “Take Heed” claiming twice on air that “Take Heed” had sent him a lot of what he referred to as ‘bumph’ which in his view was amongst other things ‘anti-Catholic’. Roger kept his cool despite this provocation and stated that he had been invited to speak publicly on creation and nothing else. I contacted the producer of the programme and asked for a correction to be aired informing listeners that “Take Heed” had not sent the ‘bumph’ material referred to by Mr Dunseith and that in fact it had been downloaded by a programme researcher who had been directed to our web site for the express purpose of obtaining advance information on Roger Oakland. I also pointed out that the articles were not ‘anti-Catholic’ but ‘anti-Catholicism’. The producer claimed they were one and the same – they are not. [So-called loyalists who murder people because they are Roman Catholic are ‘anti-Catholic’ but to challenge Roman Catholic beliefs as we do is simply to be ‘anti-Catholicism’.] Very reluctantly the producer eventually agreed to a ‘correction’ being broadcast and we also agreed what should be said. The ‘correction’ went out on Thursday 21 March and of course it was not as we had agreed [they crucially omitted that we had directed them to the web site in order to obtain background information on Roger].
Returning to the controversy in England the various newspaper articles formed an integral part of Roger’s presentations and served to show that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” [Ephesians 6:12]. The school at the heart of the controversy is Emmanuel College in Gateshead. In The Independent newspaper report given to Roger by Mr McKee we read ‘Last week scientists, philosophers and church leaders condemned Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead for promoting creationism – the theory based on the biblical description of how God made the world in six days’.
Yes, the list of critics included ‘church leaders’. An article in The Observer [17 March] included the following ‘Historians of science note how quickly the Late Victorian Christian public accepted evolution’ Dr Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford said on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day ‘It is therefore quite extraordinary that 140 years later, after so much evidence has accumulated, a school in Gateshead is opposing evolutionary theory on alleged biblical grounds. Do some people really think that the worldwide scientific community is engaged in a massive conspiracy to hoodwink the rest of us’?
The ‘National Secular Society’ weighed in with this comment from their Executive Director, Keith Porteous, recorded in The Independent ‘Creationism is anti-science and it is an abuse of children’s burgeoning intellect to teach them it is as credible as evolution’. The author of The Independent article [Sarah Cassidy] added ‘Senior staff have delivered a series of lectures giving teachers tips on how to encourage students to question the theory of evolution’.
In The Daily Telegraph [18 March] there was an article written by Richard Dawkins FRS described as ‘Oxford’s Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science’. The heading for the article was as follows
Young Earth Creationsts teach bad science and worse religion
Mr Dawkins proceeded to categorise people on this issue into 3 groups.
‘1. Young Earth Creationists. They believe the world is only thousands of years old based on a literal reading of Genesis (or the Koran or whatever is their holy book)
2. Old Earth Theists. Theirs is a broad church, embracing the great majority of educated religious people. They believe in a Divine Creator but they read their creation myth allegorically rather than literally and accept that the world is billions of years old…Many think evolution was God’s ingenious way of accomplishing his creation
3. Atheists and Agnostics’.
Commenting on these groups Mr Dawkins wrote ‘Within the broad middle group you’ll find the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Oxford (who gave an admirable Thought for the Day on the subject) and I would guess most of the bishops and clergy of the Roman and Anglican churches…I count myself in the third group…On the Gateshead issue, scientists and theologians bishops and atheists stand shoulder to shoulder…With hindsight it might have been better if those of us in Group Three had kept our big mouths shut and left it to the bishops. They have more to lose than we have and are less vulnerable to prejudiced and perverse misunderstanding.
In stark contrast to these aggressive, attacking articles was an article written by Melanie Phillips in The Daily Mail [15 March]. She wrote ‘This row should cause intense concern to anyone who cares about liberal values and freedom of thought in our schools. For this is a direct attempt by secularists to teach only what they deem to be an approved set of beliefs [as happened in the former Soviet Union]…The attack on Emmanuel reveals an alarming intolerance…There are proposals from some science teachers that creationism might be included for discussion in science classes but no decision has yet been taken. What is wrong with any of that? It is all well within the requirements of the National Curriculum. It is said that taxpayers’ money should not be spent on teaching creationism because that runs contrary to scientific fact. But evolution is not a fact. It is a theory with holes in it…Evolution…does not explain human self-consciousness …altruism…how existence began. Scientists such as Dawkins say such questions are unanswerable and therefore should not be asked. But this attitude is not only the height of arrogance…it…helps explain why so many of our young people are unable to think for themselves…It helps explain why when anyone dares challenge this scientism-based consensus, they are ridiculed, abused and all but run out of town…religion has become the great unmentionable in our society. In intellectual, political or media circles, a religious handle is enough to label one as a bigot or fruitcake. Instead secularism now arrogantly presents itself as if it were a religion. It is this overweening and ugly liberalism that is now putting an excellent school on the rack.
Let me remind you again of the heading of The Independent article
Creationsim in schools ‘leads to more bigotry’
I would venture to suggest the heading is correct when one reads the critical comments of those opposed to any expression of Creationsim.
In the wake of Roger Oakland’s visit we have the following
materials by Roger available for purchase from “Take Heed”.
‘Creation v Evolution’ – Price £2.50
‘Let There Be Light’ [Roger’s testimony] – Price £5.50
‘The Evidence For Creation’ – Price £5.50
All prices include p&p
Cecil Andrews – “Take Heed” Ministries – 26 March 2002