St. Helen’s Preaching Matters: Charlie Skrine on celebrity preachers

We’re following a new video series from St. Helen’s Bishopsgate designed specifically to ‘equip, encourage and inspire those who teach God’s word.’

Today we take a look at what Charlie Skrine has to say about celebrity preachers

How has this helped you as you teach God’s word?

Sex and sexuality – background on the move to redefine marriage (part 1)

Marriage is under attack in the UK. It has been humanity’s default mode of handling sexuality since the dawn of time. Whether or not it was accompanied by public ceremonies or religious rites, heterosexual marriage has been normative. Polygamy, by far the commonest alternative arrangement, has been the habit of only a few.

Such bonding is quite remarkable. Imagine what life would be like without it. If we treated sexual partners like holiday vacations, rarely returning to the same place twice, men would never know how many children they have or who they are. Women would be given the entire responsibility of bringing them up and providing for them. A moment’s thought shows how logical and inevitable heterosexual marriage is.

So the family unit has always been the basic building block of society. Alternative community arrangements have occurred, but few are enduring and have rarely found wide appeal.

Illicit sexual momentum

Jesus talked about the dynamic process that occurs in extra-marital sex. The moment desire is inflamed by lustful looking, adultery is already taking place in the imagination. Using robust imagery, he warns that it is better to be blind than to allow your eyes to lead you to hell.

Our eyes then lead on to flirting to establish a relationship. The process inevitably leads to touching… holding hands, but later holding glands. Jesus therefore warns that if your hand causes you to sin, you would do better to chop it off! These dramatic metaphors highlight the significance of limiting what we see and controlling what we touch, if we are not to get caught up in a dynamic process that leads first to adultery and then to divorce (Matthew 5.27-31).

This process gains momentum. It might be painful to refuse the smile of a pretty girl who gives you a welcoming look, but it is a lot less painful than to end a relationship that has progressed to fondling. Sexual ‘chemistry’ between two people is very subtle and difficult to analyse. Looking at a previous sexual partner triggers memories — and exciting ones at that. Familiar mannerisms are almost certainly communicated. There may well be a pleasant aroma, a subtle scent that we may not even be conscious of. Once sexual bonding, in all its subtle complexity, has already been established, it is very quickly reactivated.

The same mechanisms make it so difficult for people in an adulterous relationship to break free from it. If they still meet the same person in their community, for instance, forgotten desires are quickly re-awakened.

Jesus anyway implies that it is far better to control our behaviour at the level of desire, than to allow our eyes and our hands to draw us further into iniquity.


Homosexuality highlights the differences between male and female arousal patterns. Men are easily aroused. The sight or even suggestion of bare flesh sets the male pulse racing. Women also can be aroused visually, but nothing like as rapidly. Generally speaking, women need ‘wooing’. They tend to want a relationship rather than an orgasm. They are aroused when a potential partner takes an interest in them, asks them questions and listens sympathetically to their answers. Sexual arousal builds gradually as intimacy increases.

It follows that sexual relationships between two men or two women are very different things from heterosexual relationships. Women are looking for trusting and exclusive relationships. Many women turn to lesbian relationships because of former traumatic and abusive relationships with men. They are looking for loving tenderness and have given up on thinking that a man can provide it for them.

Men on the other hand are often looking for orgasms rather than relationships. Homosexual men have an enormous capacity for promiscuity. Visits to a ‘gay’ club or a weekend away at a ‘gay’ house-party may include multiple sexual encounters, with people whose names they do not know and whose faces they would never recognise. I have had male patients admitting to 50-100 such encounters over a weekend. Women never seem to do that.

Women are far more likely to establish stable and lasting relationships. Some men also achieve this, but the relationship is rarely exclusive. Two men living together for years might share a mortgage and enjoy good companionship with mutual care and affection, but on Saturday nights they may go to two different gay clubs and experience numerous sexual partnerships. Generally, their relationships are much less stable and they suffer many emotional disappointments. Ironically, the majority of male homosexuals are not looking for exclusive, same-sex marriage for themselves.

Clearly there are very different health outcomes between these two groups, related to their different risks of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. These in turn given them significantly different life expectancies.

Those calling for homosexual marriage usually justify the change in definition on the basis of equal rights. Politicians may feel there are votes to be won, but more often they will be concerned to bring stability to unstable relationships.

However, to redefine marriage would raise enormous problems for Christians. It would mean that society presents young people with two apparently equally valid and satisfactory types of marriage. This would leave them to sort out which they would choose to go for!

No doubt they would be encouraged to experiment to find out what their orientation really is. Many adolescents admit to experiencing an ambiguity, feeling, at least for a while, the pull in both directions.

When you do an experiment in the laboratory, you are — to a significant degree anyway — a detached observer. When you personally experiment sexually you are the major part of the experiment and can expect to be affected and changed by it.

Opening Pandora’s box

When people experiment sexually, they will awaken new desires. The Greek myth about Pandora’s box was that she was ordered not to open it. But curiosity got the better of her. When she eventually opened the box, all manner of evils were set loose. The only thing that would not come out of the box was hope. Similarly, sexual experiments can release destructive desires that stay with you. Once you have been sensitised to a particular lust, you may never be able to be desensitised to it. The desires and memories will live with you, be easily re-awakened and may always provoke you.

Most dramatically, this is demonstrated if sexual desires for children are aroused. Most of us, mercifully, have no insight at all as to why children might be sexually attractive. However, we would be well advised not to let our imaginations wander in order to find out. Once people have been aroused by children, they are destined to continue to look upon children sexually. Paedophiles are notoriously difficult to treat.

Other desires may be more socially acceptable, but if you allow yourself to journey down the line from thought to gaze, from gaze to touch and from touch to overt sexual activity, you may well plough a furrow that you keep entering. You cannot expunge it from your brain. The memory and the reflex responses stay with you. This is why the majority of homosexuals are actually bisexual. They are aroused by their own sex and by the opposite sex. It is a small minority of homosexuals who say they have never had heterosexual desires.

A patient told me that in his teenage years he never experienced any homosexual desires. He married early and had two children. Aged 23 years, his friendly barber asked why he seemed so fed up. He told him his marriage was on the rocks. The barber explained that he was going away for the weekend and invited him to join him.

He claimed that at this stage he had no idea the barber was gay or was inviting him on a gay weekend house-party. When he got there, it seems that he put up no resistance. He found homosexual acts were wonderful. He said, ‘It was like turning a switch’. He claimed that he had never had a heterosexual desire since.

I don’t know how typical this story is, but I have heard of others, who said that the awakening of new desires was like turning a switch, some of whom struggled in vain to turn it off again. Such experiments result anyway in indelible memories, which trigger desires. Even those who have brought their problems to Christ and experienced his forgiveness still have to live with the memories and temptations.

Furthermore, such experiments, by their very nature, imply that there are no boundaries. No ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’ apply. All choices are assumed to be equally valid. All you need to do is follow your fantasies and use your imagination.

Dr. Peter May served on the General Synod of the Church of England from 1985 to 2010 and was Chair of the UCCF Trust Board from 2003 to 2010. He is a retired GP. His full talk on this issue can be heard online at

A second article by Peter will appear, God willing, next month.

(This article was first published in the August 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057)

What’s coming up in the November issue of EN

A few highlights to look forward to in the November issue of EN! It’s scheduled to arrive from the printers on Friday (October 26). Of course you can always e-mail as well if you’d like a complimentary copy or if you’d like to subscribe!

What do you think of me? Why do I care? (book review)

Answers to the big questions of life
By Edward T. Welch
New Growth Press. 160 pages. £8.31
ISBN 978 1 935 273 868

Other people control us far more than we think. Where there is constant pressure either to fit in with the crowd or to stand out from the crowd, we are controlled by the crowd and this is the heart of peer pressure. How does the gospel bring hope?

Ed Welch has developed the insights of his earlier book, When People are Big and God is Small, and shows us how our answers to three key questions will reveal the idol in our hearts — that which in fact controls our behaviour. When, as Christians, we ask, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Who is God?’ and ‘Who are you?’, we know what the ‘right’ answers should be.

In practice we replace trust in the goodness of God with something else, and this is what really guides our behaviour: it may be the desire to be liked or the need to be in control. ‘What would you say you love the most? Follow the track of your emotions — your happiness, sadness, hopelessness, despair, and anger — then you will find what you love’ (p.44).

The great news is that God knows this and still loves us. It is this gospel which can give us the strength to displace the idols and rightly worship the Lord. When we do this we find that ‘version 2.0’ of ourselves is secure enough in God’s love to give love to others. When we learn to walk humbly before the Lord we find that the skill transfers to our relationships with other people (p.135).

This is an excellent book, and deserves to be widely read by all ages, including the 18-25s for whom it is intended.

Ed Moll, 
senior minister, St. George’s Church Wembdon, Bridgwater, Somerset; no longer young; still Reformed; apparently contented

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

How are we educating the next generation?

Parents should train their children in accordance with God’s word.

In particular it places the responsibility on fathers: ‘Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6.4). This training is to be ongoing: ‘These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’ (Deuteronomy 6.4-7).

A vital question

In response to these biblical commands some Christian parents have chosen to home educate their children. Today there is an increasing amount of Christian curricular material available to support them. Home educating families meet together sometimes to participate in activities and events.

However, the majority of Christian parents in the UK choose to send their children to school. The question for them is: How is my children’s school helping me to fulfil my God-given responsibility to train them in the ways of the Lord?

It is a vital question since most children will spend a total of around 18,000 hours in school (30 hours per week, 40 weeks per year for up to 15 years).

Influences on children

Let’s consider three important influences on children who are brought up in Christian families: home, school and church.

Christian parents should be teaching their children the same biblical truths at home as they hear at church. Imagine a two-stranded cord to represent this.

But what are your children being taught at school? Imagine the red cord representing the influence of your children’s school. Does your children’s school pull against your home and church?

Secular schools promote the mind of man as supreme and man’s good and development as the goal of education. Christian parents must work hard to remedy this secular teaching their children are receiving. Otherwise there is a danger of everything unravelling.

A different type of school

Consider a school where God is supreme and his word is central to all areas of curriculum and practice, where the goal of education is the glory of God. A Christian school supports Christian parents in teaching about God and the world from a biblical perspective. For children from a Christian family the school’s teaching strengthens that of the home and church: ‘A cord of three strands is not quickly broken’ (Ecclesiastes 4.12).

Most Christian schools also welcome children from non-Christian families so these pupils also have the wonderful privilege of a ChristÐcentred education.

So what does a Christian school look like?

* It teaches children God’s word and depends on the work of the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in their lives.
* It teaches a curriculum based on God’s work in his world: his perfect creation, the effects of man’s fall into sin, the results of Christ’s redemption and the future return of Christ as saviour and judge.
* It employs Christian teachers, in the same way as a church would only have Christians teaching in Sunday school.
* It trains children to think and question, it challenges them to compare secular thinking with biblical principles: ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (Romans 12.2).
* It welcomes children from both Christian and non-Christian families.
* It encourages parents to participate fully in the life of the school.

Opportunity and opposition

We should be grateful to God that in the past Christians have been at the forefront of education in the UK; churches set up schools and some of these remain faithful to biblical truth today. However, in the last century the majority of schools have fallen into secular control. Thankfully there are still some opportunities today to develop schools with a Christian ethos, such as through the ‘Free Schools’ movement.

During the last 40 years churches and groups of parents have set up independent Christian schools. There are now about 100 such schools around the UK. To maintain their freedom to teach a curriculum based on biblical truth, these schools do not accept government funding.

Consequently they usually charge fees which are generally kept as low as possible to ensure that any parent who wants their children to attend can afford them. Sacrifices are made by parents and teachers, who often work for much lower wages than they could earn in a secular school.

Research has shown that the great majority of teenage pupils in Christian schools profess a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Boys express the same kind of faith and level of faith as girls and the older teenagers are as clearly Christian as those who are younger. These results contrast starkly with other studies which have all shown a sharp decline in religious belief through teenage years and that boys are less ‘religious’ than girls. Early results from ongoing research projects indicate that many, possibly almost all, of the former pupils from these new Christian schools retain their Christian faith as they move on in life.1

The battle is fierce and schools which proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of all are often under attack. It is not surprising that humanists and secularists are opposed to these schools, since their agenda is to secure a totally secular education system. Much prayer is needed for the preservation and growth of Christian schools.

Personal experience

I taught for 20 years in secular schools and was involved with running Christian Unions, taking assemblies and setting up a prayer group for parents and teachers. However, I began to question myself: ‘How does my Christian faith affect the way I teach?’ I started to use some of the Charis materials2 which opened my eyes to the opportunity to bring biblical truth into my maths lessons.

Once my appetite was whetted, I wanted more freedom to proclaim the whole truth of God. This led me to Emmanuel Christian School in Oxford where I worked for ten years, the last six of which I was the Head Teacher. What a wonderful privilege it was to declare the wonders of our Lord Jesus Christ to children from both Christian and non-Christian homes and to see them responding to these truths.

For the last two years I have taught in secular schools while I have been working to set up Trinity Christian School in Reading.3 Initially, this school will cater for children aged 5-7, but will aim in the future to develop into a full primary and secondary school. We are praying that the Lord will take us successfully through the registration process and provide a teacher and enough pupils and finance so that we can open this September.

Future for Christian schools

There are Christian schools all across the UK which aim to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.4 Many of these schools are thriving and need more space, whereas others struggle to keep going. All of these schools depend on the Lord for his provision.

However, compared with many countries around the world the UK lags behind in Christian schooling, we need more such schools! As we see Christian freedoms being eroded in our country, we wonder how much longer we will be able to run Christian schools which teach the whole counsel of God.

Whether you agree with my approach or not, please pray that the Lord will protect and prosper these schools which aim to ‘Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it’ (Proverbs 22.7).


1. Sylvia G. Baker (2010), ‘An Investigation of the new Independent Christian Schools: what kind of citizens are they producing?’, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Warwick.
2. See
3. See
4. See and

Jean Dandy

This article was first published in the September 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

Crossing the culture from Rachel Thorpe: A vogue for Vincent

Vincent Van Gogh is now a solid fixture in our cultural vocabulary.

I need only mention sunflowers or a bandaged ear to conjure up his life and legacy. Shunned during his lifetime, by the 20th century he had been declared one of the greatest painters to have lived. The publication of his complete illustrated letters in late 2009 thrust him back into vogue and this summer there have been novels, exhibitions, news stories and even a special episode of Dr. Who dedicated to the master painter.

The most substantial tribute was the BBC docudrama entitled Vincent Van Gogh: Painted with Words. Taking its inspiration directly from the letters, it merged biography, art history and drama to create a sympathetic portrait of a genius. Vincent, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, appeared to be overwhelmed by mental problems that both invigorated and hindered his artistic vision.

The programme considered Vincent’s preoccupations with faith and suffering, subjects that were intertwined in his imagination. He wrote to his brother Theo in 1878: ‘It always strikes me as very peculiar, that whenever we see the image of indescribable and unutterable desolation […] the thought of God comes into our minds’.

Vincent’s father was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, and soon Vincent was keen to follow in his footsteps. He began fanatically studying the Bible and, in 1876, he preached his first sermon. It was entitled ‘I am a stranger on earth’ (Psalm 119.19, NIV) and its theme was evidence of his growing disillusionment with middle class culture.

Vincent felt his isolation from society keenly. Fearing himself unsuitable for inclusion in a civilised community, Vincent found solace in the Scriptures. They seemed to tell him that his supposed vulgarity could be an integral part of his calling. However, he was not to become a simple clergyman. After a stint as a missionary it became clear that he needed another way to communicate and it was painting that proved to be the vital outlet.

The power to create

When painting natural landscapes, Vincent claimed to experience a transcendent spiritual power. In 1882, he wrote: ‘I cannot understand why everybody does not see it and feel it; nature or God does it for everyone who has eyes and ears and a heart to understand’. Here we see the beginning of a slippage between love of the creator and love of the creation. As nature began to operate as replacement religion for Vincent, he retreated from institutionalised Christianity. Taking an interest in Eastern art and spirituality he began to urgently connect himself and his work with the natural world.

In September 1888, he finally declared: ‘I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, suffering as I am, do without something which is greater than I am, which is my life, the power to create’. Imbuing his own artistic endeavours with divine importance, Vincent seemed to be cutting himself free of Christianity altogether. However, later in the same month he conceded: ‘That does not prevent me from having terrible need of — shall I say the word? — religion. Then I go out at night and paint the stars’.

The results of these nocturnal outbursts were images like ‘The Starry Night’, which is perhaps one of Van Gogh’s most recognisable paintings: the glowing moon and stars, the gloomy but peaceful stability of the church steeple, the dark foreboding of the trees, the tumbling sky. The interplay between institutionalised religion and a transcendent experience of nature also has its corollary in the painting: the overall effect is balanced and controlled rather than chaotic, but the brush strokes are jagged, wild and forceful, the colours intense and vivid.

Centuries after it was painted it still captivates the crowds. Recently, I was jostling my way through the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and people were swarming in front of ‘The Starry Night’, eagerly snapping photos. The camera flashes illuminated the sea of darkened faces with bursts of light, and the group became, for a moment, a mirror of the work that they were contemplating.

Rachel Thorpe writes the ‘Crossing the culture’ column for EN. More of her articles can be found at

This article was first published in the October 2011 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

Is the biblical Adam a scientifically valid concept?

Adam of Genesis 1-5 is basic to much biblical teaching. The Genesis account makes it plain that we are all descended from this one man.

This is reiterated by Paul, who says that we are all descended from Adam (Acts 17.26; cf. 1 Corinthians 15.45; Genesis 3.20). Of course, continuing with the biblical record, we are all descended from Noah too. Paul also uses Adam’s existence as a base for various theological arguments, especially in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5. His arguments for the historicity of Adam are powerful and make it difficult to deny as he links Adam’s actions to those of our Lord Jesus. In accordance with these teachings, evangelicals have traditionally believed that Adam and Eve were directly created by God and are the historical parents of the entire human race.

Creationists are known to take these principles seriously, but Dr. Denis Alexander, who opposes the creationist approach, also recognises the historicity of Adam and seeks to compare his historical occurrence to the evolutionary timescale. He sees Adam and Eve as a couple among Homo sapiens types in whom God planted his image. Of course, Dr. Alexander does appear to dispute that all modern humans have descended from Adam.

Source of authority

How we argue our case will be dependent on our primary source of authority. For evangelicals, the Bible has been our foundational guide and has traditionally been understood to speak of the special creation of the man, Adam, and his woman, Eve, from whom we all descended. Others, especially non-Christians, use scientific thinking as their authority. ‘Science’ is the current consensus of the thinking of leading scientists. We have to acknowledge that we scientists can get things wrong and often have to change our theories or models of explanation. For all of us, our interpretation will be within our own paradigm, especially that of the ultimate authority.

Is Adam historical?

So, where is the problem that we are addressing? There has been a growing momentum, especially in the US, among evangelicals that Adam was not historical after all. This is highlighted on the BioLogos website which has a strongly theistic evolutionary approach to the interpretation of Scripture. Its founder, Francis Collins, a world leader in human genome research, does claim to be an evangelical who believes the Bible is a trustworthy document, but he re-writes our interpretation of its opening chapters. A theological response to the BioLogos argument has been presented by Prof. A.B. Caneday (Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 15.1 (2011): 26-59, available on the internet).


What are the arguments for a scientifically acceptable understanding against the historical Adam as portrayed in the Bible? They seem to centre on two things: the genetics of man compared with the chimpanzee and the population genomics based on a historical interpretation of the Genesis claim.

Collins says that claims that Adam and Eve were the first couple from whom all are descended does not fit the scientific evidence. This is not a statement saying that there is an apparent discrepancy between current genetic understandings and biblical teaching which needs to be researched, but it is a blatant dismissal of the clear claims of Scripture. That is a serious situation and needs a thorough study. Creationist research in the field of genetics is in its infancy (not surprisingly as the whole field is developing rapidly) and there is a challenge to creationists to research in this discipline. However, we can make some significant responses pending more research.

A key argument, which has been circulating for a number of years, is that the human genome and the chimpanzee genome have at least a 95% commonality. (The term ‘genome’ refers to the whole genetic content of a cell.) Furthermore, the genome contains a substantial quantity of so-called pseudogenes, which evolutionists claim to be ancient genes that are no longer active and again have similar structures in same relative positions and with identical mutations indicating that humans and chimpanzees have come from a common primate ancestor. This, in turn, requires a belief that the common ancestor existed some five million years ago.

Population genomics argument

Studies in the genetic diversity among modern humans have included attempts to identify how long ago modern Homo sapiens originated from supposed earlier Homo species. Current estimates place this at around 150,000-200,000 years. In this approach, it would seem that there were a small group of hominids at that time and from whom we have developed. Estimates put the group size at several thousand. Dennis Venema says that the human population ‘was definitely never as small as two’.

The researchers state quite adamantly that a literal interpretation of the Bible couple cannot be true. Interestingly, the Bible account is not represented correctly in their arguments. Yes, Adam and Eve were the created pair from whom we are descended, but there was a ‘bottleneck’ at the Flood of Noah and his family, from whom, again, we are all derived. The number of descendents of Adam at the time of Noah has been estimated as several millions. The Flood wiped out most of these and so the ‘bottleneck’ reduces the population to a mere eight souls. That family had three daughters-in-law, who presumably carried a diversity of genetic information in addition to that of Noah and his sons. Another biblical event that needs to be considered is the Babel event, at which a large local population was dispersed from Shinar at God’s command. In considering these events, those of us who hold to the biblical account as historical have to review the genetic data in the light of the population sizes of those times as against the argument of those who consider the biblical account inadequate.

Early work on this biological concept proposed, for example, that it was possible to consider a ‘mitochondrial Eve’, as she was nicknamed. The mitochondria are the energy-producing structures in the cell and are passed on through the female line only. A study of the variation in modern women can be extrapolated back to a possible original source. She was nicknamed after the biblical Eve, but, as just indicated, in biblical terms she would probably have been one of Noah’s daughters-in-law.

The figure of 150,000 years also presumes that we know reasonably accurately the rate of genetic diversification, but that is not the case either. In fact, the estimate is based, in part at least, on the assumption of a common ancestor to humans and chimpanzees around 5-7 million years ago. It seems that this is an area which creationist research needs to explore from the aspect of the biblical data.
Genetic diversity

But, let’s go back to that supposed human-chimp genetic similarity. It is generally assumed that our whole nature (at least physically, though some consider other issues such as social and moral aspects too) can be traced to genetic variations. It is generally recognised that variable traits between humans can be related to genetic variations — for example, eye colour, straight vs. curly hair, etc. But these variations always result in human beings! Furthermore, the genetic differences or similarities between man and the chimpanzees are insufficient to explain our differences: in communication, mathematics, music, art and worship, to name a few of those things that make us human and distinct from the animals. We are more than genes.

Steve Jones (Professor of Genetics, University College, London) is no friend of creationists, but he has spoken out strongly against the assumptions about genetic similarity. ‘The fact that humans and chimps share 98.8% of their DNA is fairly amazing, but it still does not explain the nature of differences between humans and chimps. You have to bear in mind that humans and mushrooms share 60% of their DNA’ (cited in The Times Higher Educational Supplement, September 10 1999).

It is also apparent that our genes control metabolic processes, and any genetic damage (‘mutations’) in these genes can result in, for example, disease and disability. But, again, we are still human and not chimpanzees or other primates. Many of the metabolic processes in apes and mankind are similar and so we would expect a Designer to use the same genes for their control.

Overstated claims

But, how similar are these genomes? Other research suggests that some of these claims are overstated. It is often assumed that similar genes in different biological families have corresponding functions. 40 years ago, Sir Gavin de Beer (in Homology: an unsolved problem, Oxford University Press, 1971) pointed out that similar structures are often produced from dissimilar genes, and similar genes produce dissimilar structures. More recent work by Watanabe et al. confirms that the extent of genetic similarity is exaggerated. For example, 83% of the 231 genes on the chimpanzee chromosome 22 produce different amino acid sequences (and so different proteins) to the human counterpart. Also, only 4.8% of the human Y chromosome could be matched to the chimpanzee sequences.

More recently, David C. Page et al. have studied this chromosome in more detail and comment: ‘By comparing the [Y chromosomes] of the two species we show that they differ radically in sequence structure and gene content, indicating rapid evolution during the past six million years’. They conclude that 30% of the chimpanzee chromosome lacks alignment with the human analogue. Of course, these two examples are only a part of the whole genome and detailed studies of the rest are necessary as well, but these examples do show a significant differentiation.

Embarrassing pseudogenes

Over recent decades, as genetic research has advanced, it was apparent that large portions of our genome did not hold the code for the production of proteins as was assumed to be the function of the genome. These chunks of DNA (the chemical shorthand for genetic information) were considered to be evolutionary rubbish inherited from our non-human ancestors and were called ‘junk DNA’. Recent years have revealed that this name is inappropriate as it has been found that this genetic material does have an extensive variety of functions. Most geneticists now avoid using the term, preferring ‘non-protein-coding DNA’. This topic has been well covered by Jonathan Wells (The Myth of Junk DNA, Discovery Institute Press, Seattle, 2011).

However, one persistent part of this argument concerns the material known as ‘pseudogenes’ (that is ‘false genes’). Jerry Coyne, a non-Christian evolutionist, says that these are ‘dead genes’ and expected on an evolutionary argument. They are seen as relics of good genes that have mutated to uselessness. So, Douglas Futuyma says that they are ‘hard to reconcile with beneficent intelligent design’ and Richard Dawkins says that they are ‘embarrassing creationists’!


But a study of the scientific literature gives a different perspective (see Geoffrey Barnard in chapter 10 of Should Christians Embrace Evolution? Biblical and scientific responses, edited by Prof. Norman C. Nevin, Professor of Medical Genetics; IVP, Nottingham, 2009). One example of a useful pseudogene is PTEN1, which has a ‘decoy’ function. It diverts other active chemicals away from the gene PTEN and so becomes a part of a tumour suppression system. Back in 2003, Balakiev and Ayala suggested the importance of pseudogenes in gene expression, regulation and so on.

Dawkins says that, because pseudogenes have no function, they are never transcribed or translated in the genetic system. This is clearly not true. This attitude illustrates the danger of allowing our ignorance of a function to define our scientific model and explanation.

Beyond DNA

There is another aspect of biological activity which seems to be overlooked by those who discuss the concept of a possible biological relationship between apes and men. Let us remind ourselves of a basic fact. When an egg is fertilised by male sperm, genetic information from each of the parents is selected for the new creature. But, this affects only the nucleus of the cell. The egg is more than a nucleus. We have already seen that the cell contains the mitochondrion which originates solely in the female’s egg. Relatively little work seems to have been done to determine what influences the rest of the egg has on the outcome. The egg has been passed from generation to generation from the time of Eve. Similarly, the egg of the female chimpanzee originates from the created animal of that kind.

Body plan

Several decades ago, the British creationist Dr. Arthur Jones spoke on ‘cortical inheritance’ with the proposal that the overall body plan is programmed into that and that the nuclear genetic information gives the variations we have noted. (Arthur’s presentations are available on YouTube.) This was work that was originally reported in the 1950s.

The cell membrane and cytoplasmic structure (the contents of the cell around the nucleus) are critical to the physical structure. The genes give variety within that structure, but they need the structure to direct their effects.

This work has recently been given a higher profile with the publication of The Mysterious Epigenome: What lies beyond DNA by Woodward and Gills (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 2012). A staggering conclusion is that there are around 210 different versions of the epigenome required to produce our variety of cells. Now there’s a massive research programme to challenge the wonders of the Human Genome Project!

Historical events

The fundamental biblical challenge to this argument about the historicity of Adam was outlined at the beginning of this article. As one theologian expressed it, ‘Can the Bible’s theology be true if the historical events on which the theology is based are false?’ Nowhere in the later biblical books are the events of Genesis 1-3 challenged or ‘down-graded’. There are plenty of occasions where our God could have corrected man’s understanding if the recorded events were less that historical. Our Lord Jesus never hesitated to correct his contemporaries if they misinterpreted the Scriptures. It is a serious charge (that this author has heard) that our Lord was merely a ‘man of his time’.

Scripture and science

Much more can be said illustrating the depth of our concern at the way Scripture is handled because of current scientific theory. We have seen that the scientific approach is not necessarily as ‘foolproof’ as it might appear and we have introduced a challenge to scientists with, for example, a creationist approach to take up this challenge and research in depth.

One of the disturbing aspects of this work is the way a number of outstanding evangelical theologians with no scientific training themselves are doing theological somersaults to try and accommodate even the tentative findings of scientists. We love these men and our scientific brothers in Christ, but we plead that they would trust that God means what he says.

Dr. John Peet

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

Dear Abdullah (book review): 8 questions Muslim people ask about Christianity

Eight questions Muslim people ask about Christianity
By Robert Scott
IVP. 160 pages. £7.99
ISBN 978 1 844 745 289

Isn’t it lovely that we can talk to people about our faith today? Not many are interested in talking about faith in Christ. But many Muslims are interested in talking to Christians about the faith they have in Allah. They have many different questions, which need to be answered. Are the members of our churches prepared to answer those questions?

Robert Scott in his book very wisely answers the ‘eight questions which Muslims ask’ us while we stand at the book table or distribute leaflets, or speak at work. And how important it is for a Christian to explain about the Trinity and the things that are of importance for the sake of the gospel! We must answer these questions in a manner which is ‘gentle’ and with ‘respect’ (1 Peter 3.15).

This book opens our minds to ‘click’ and hang in with Muslims. We must be ready to explain why ‘sins forgiven’ is only in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that we are all born with a sinful nature (Romans 5.12-21) and that the entire human race is affected. By contrast, sin in Islam is only considered a ‘mistake’ of Adam with no ‘consequence’ for anyone else, according to Qur’an 53.38-41.

It is so important to explain that our good works or rituals will never ever save us. Although they are important as a sign of our salvation, they can never be enough to help us reach heaven. It is Christ’s blood shed on the cross that cleanses us from every stain. It is though him alone that we are saved. Salvation is though the death of our Lord and not by our good works.

In our friendship we must be prepared to answer the questions which Robert Scott rightly mentions. He helps us to work through this from ‘Creation’ to the ‘Assurance’ and a ‘hope’ that we have in Jesus Christ our Lord. Many Muslims have no assurance and no hope of heaven. This book is a helpful guide to get into the mind and hearts of a Muslim and to help us be prepared biblically in answering their questions.

Evangelicals Now

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

Understanding the new society

The riots in a number of cities last summer shocked us all. There were banner headlines about the ‘end of an era’, a constant barrage of grim forebodings from the media, endless political argument and social confrontation. But all this has left us not so much keyed-up to new resolve, as indifferent and only wanting to be left alone to get on with our own lives.

Can we do just that — any of us? We have heard about how we must or must not shape our future society. We have heard a good deal less about how our society has been shaping us. Perhaps if leading politicians had understood this a little better, they would not over recent months have assumed that the people they were addressing are just the same in attitudes as those of even a decade ago. They are not. Attitudes have changed rapidly and radically; and we need urgently to look now at some of the pressures that have thrust in upon us.

Slum clearance

I know this personally. I worked and lived in the midst of the social revolution of a working-class slum clearance area being transformed into high-rise concrete tower blocks in a major inner city development project which took place in the 1960s. This set in motion social pressures out of which a new kind of society emerged.

When the bulldozers moved in they did more than tear down streets and reduce whole neighbourhoods to mud and rubble; they also swept away a way of life. The unhealthy living conditions were no more, and the modern 18-storey blocks were equipped with all mod cons. That was the plus side, but what of the minuses? The big picture windows were lovely — but when you looked out of them you could only see people as ants far below. Front doors opened on to bare corridors. When the kids played out, you did not know where they got to. The old sheds and gardens had gone.

Now in these places, if you are old and living alone, no one knows what is happening to you. You may not even know who your next door neighbour is. Housing estates contain a hotchpotch of strangers from different backgrounds and different races. There is little sense of community life. Everyone is a stranger — united only in the problems they face.

Materialism and meaning

The first obvious pressures today are materialism and a materialistic outlook, pre-eminent in our national and social life? What we have got, what others have got, what we can get, how we can get it and at the least cost! You judge and are judged solely by what you have got, not how you got it.

But there is a debit side to it. There is, for instance, the loss of meaningfulness in life, so characteristic of our new society, and responsible for many of its social problems. For the old meanings — traditions, standards and values as well as belief in the ultimate authority of God and his laws — have been swept away and in the name of permissiveness we are left with meaninglessness. For when you take away an ultimate standard and authority, what ultimate meaning is left in anything?

We see the miserable effects of this malaise working out among our inner cities. Some young couples have luxury homes, but there is boredom, loneliness and a sense of futility. There are queues of women in the doctors’ surgeries waiting for anti-depressants. Playgroups for children have to put up with mothers too, because they cannot bear the tedium of being on their own. Social services multiply their workers but the problems arising from meaninglessness continue to multiply among all age groups. The old, sitting alone watching the world go by on their TVs, feel their lives hold no meaning for anyone any more — not even for themselves. All the values they were brought up with and based their lives upon are now being rejected.

Growing into lethargy

And the kids, growing up in this climate of meaninglessness, understandably grow into lethargy. Nothing seems worth making an effort to attain — except money, and even that can be got easily if you know how. Why go to school? Truancy is a major problem in the cities. Why work hard or aim high? Why bother being honest or telling the truth? Why not smash and vandalise? At least it alleviates the boredom of living.

Inevitably tied up with this is the loss of identity in our society. Who are you anymore? You travel more, see and hear more, but many no longer have the sense of belonging in a community or to families as they did. Older folk are put in homes. Fathers or mothers go off with new partners, leaving the rest of the family, or introducing new ‘mums’ or ‘dads’ to confused children. Many, indeed, do not know who of the various adults in a household they belong to. Homelessness among youth is in fact causing grave concern at the present time. And add to all this the numbers of children in care because their parents cannot or will not assume responsibility for them. Is there any wonder that insecurity abounds among the youth of our society, or that they tend to gang together for protection in an alien world?

Loss of responsibility

There is another loss, very characteristic of this emergent society. It is a loss of responsibility. It is quite possible to allow the state to take over responsibility for keeping you, rather than working for a living, and other members of the family, and even neighbours. Instead of going in to see if your elderly neighbour is all right, you leave it to the welfare. And it is surely a symptom of the times that little consideration is given to people as having feelings and minds and wills of their own. You simply use them to gratify yourself in some way or regard them as a number or a mere statistic.

Lastly, there is the loss of integrity. In a society that lacks meaning, there is no encouragement to be consistent and reliable in what you do or say. You may let yourself and others down as much as you like. For what you do is all according to how you feel. There is no need to stand firm, for there is nothing firm in life to stand on — everything is a sliding scale. In fact, having first thrown out an ultimate meaning in life, our new society is fast causing us to lose purposeful meaning in our own personal lives. And that is surely just another way of saying that the pressures of our new society are dehumanising and deadly to true human development.

Nothing new

These deadly pressures — loss of meaningfulness and identity, responsibility and integrity — are not suddenly a new phenomenon in our society. They have long been at work. What is new is the extent to which old standards and values have not just been set aside, but have been totally denied as existing at all, and so our new society is left with no other basis than a great void of ultimate nothingness. This is indeed a tragic dimension, and from it the most urgent of our problems stem. We see the process with terrible clarity in those areas where people are most cut off from the old undergirding standards, but the sombre truth is that these hungry people are in every social grouping.

But we thank God that Jesus said, ‘Come unto me all you that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11.28) and ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14.6). It is him that our society needs.

This experience is shared by Elizabeth Braund, who for many years has run Shallowford Farm to help inner London city children.