Cover Story

Courtly Combatant

"Courtly Combatant" Continued...

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 2003," Dec. 13, 2003

Instead of fighting on, it would be easy for Phil Johnson to ease into a comfortable retirement-but he has a story to tell and a passion to tell it, and neither physical condition nor barbs from evolutionists are keeping him from the task. He has become the leader of a growing movement to expose Darwin and his followers as naked emperors whose presumptions wither in the light of unprejudiced inquiry. He keeps going for the joy of demolishing a bad argument, and because the answer to whether God created the world affects everything else.

"It's a great error Christian leaders and intellectual leaders have made to think the origin of life just one of those things scientists and professors argue about," Mr. Johnson says. "The fundamental question is whether God is real or imaginary. The entire way of thinking that underlies Darwinian evolution assumes that God is out of the picture as any kind of a real entity." He points out that "it is a very short step from Darwinism in science to the kind of liberal theology we find in many of our seminaries that treats the resurrection as a faith event-something that didn't happen but was imagined by the disciples-and assumes that morality is something human beings may change from time to time as it's convenient to change it."

Resistance from some Christians to Intelligent Design has been one of Mr. Johnson's biggest surprises and greatest disappointments. He expected many scientists to attack him because their careers depend on Darwinism: "The more frustrating thing has been the Christian leaders and pastors, especially Christian college and seminary professors. The problem is not just convincing them that the theory is wrong, but that it makes a difference. What's at stake isn't just the first chapter of Genesis, but the whole Bible from beginning to end, and whether or not nature really is all there is."

Taking Christian morality out of the culture is the logical consequence of the acceptance of Darwinism. That has led to no-fault divorce, legalized abortion, a pro-homosexuality agenda, and all the other tragedies of Darwinist moral relativism. If creation is random and purposeless, all truth is relative and God is rightly "relegated to the Never-never Land of Zeus and Santa Claus." Mr. Johnson explains, "Once God is culturally determined to be imaginary, then God's morality loses its foundation and withers away. It may stay standing for a historical moment without a foundation until the winds of change blow hard enough to knock it over, like [a cartoon character] staying suspended for an instant after he runs off the cliff. We're at the end of that period now."

In some ways it seems like Christians are continuing to lose ground in the public forum and, a lifetime after the Scopes trial, still haven't been successful at establishing their position in the intellectual world-but maybe that's because of the pridefulness of those who think themselves wise. Mr. Johnson says, "Sometimes a problem is simple rather than complex, and this is a simple problem. It has a simple answer that turns on one issue: Are Christians talking about something real or something imaginary?"

He continues, "When we speak of God, Jesus, the resurrection, are we speaking of things that really happened or the things that occur only in a mythical land called religious belief? If the God of the Bible really is our creator, cares about us and what we do, then our culture has made a terrible mistake in turning away from this God because we haven't just changed a religious belief, we have repudiated reality."

Phillip Johnson has made it his mission to correct that mistake and the wrong-headed thinking that led to it. He speaks all over the country, heads the Wedge (an organization dedicated to promoting the Intelligent Design theory), and produces a flurry of internet correspondence. He is also a Daniel who befriends the lions, treats them with courtliness, annihilates them on the intellectual battlefield, humbly yet effectively neutralizes their desperate ad hominem attacks, then invites them out to dinner-preferably Indian.

And he does not give up. At the end of an interview just before Thanksgiving, he volunteered that his next speaking engagement, an hour's flight away in Los Angeles, would be his first trip since the stroke without his wife along. No doubt he would walk through the airport unrecognized, his sparkling eyes shaded by a rumpled and professorial hat. Then on to the auditorium, back into the lions' den of his own accord where, smiling and without ever raising his voice, he would once more show that life is more than time plus chance, because in the beginning there was the Word.

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