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Fighting Over Furniture and Faith

America’s evolution-creation controversy is like a lawsuit over a probate estate. The evolutionists are “contesting the will” of the founding fathers of modern science, but so far they are only winning the estate’s furniture—as an example from Puritan New England will illustrate.

Inside the competitive arena of biblical creation apologetics, this outcome might appear to be a loss for the creationists—but it actually isn’t, according to biblical standards. Why? Because real “winning” is defined by God’s values, not by man’s. Therefore, biblical apologetics must prioritize honoring God and His truth much more than achieving victory in man’s political games. This axiological principle relies on 1 Peter 3:15. In other words, sanctifying the Lord God comes first and “winning a case” with inquirers comes second, as was noted in a previous article:

Apologetics is more about honoring God than winning an argument. Scripturally speaking, the main purpose of apologetics is not to “win a case” like a litigator, because the “jury” may be hopelessly corrupt or distracted. Rather, apologetics is primarily a science for honoring the Lord by carefully studying and then accurately communicating His revealed truth (biblical, scientific, historical, etc.), especially those truths that are questioned or opposed or misrepresented, ultimately trusting God to accomplish His good with the truths communicated.1

With that reminder, consider the parallel between New England’s Puritan churches and the politics of America’s scientific community.

Contesting the Will of the Founding Fathers of Puritan New England

A review of the probate court records of the Puritan settlers can provide interesting insights into the lives of those brave pioneers. Some of the Puritan settlers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, for example, came to these shores with valuable property items, such as silverware and pewter vessels, weapons, tools, clothing, various kinds of family heirlooms, and (of course) personal copies of the Geneva Bible—the Holy Bible in their common English tongue.

However, their legacies were not limited to physical possessions. The Puritans, like their Pilgrim counterparts in Plymouth, came with a profound faith in Jesus Christ and unwavering trust in the Holy Bible as God’s authoritative Word, intangible treasures that they shared as a legacy for future posterity.

Thus, when the first generation of Puritan colonists departed this earthly life, they left an inheritance of two kinds: physical possessions and intangible faith. Some of their successors took the possessions, but ignored the faith. Conversely, some people became heirs to the Puritans’ biblical faith, yet received little or nothing of the Puritans’ physical effects.

This “probate estate” scenario, with the partitioning and distribution of Puritan legacies, is also illustrated in the histories of some Puritan churches. All too often, within a few generations the Puritan-established congregations strayed from the spiritual legacy of their founders, drifting away from biblical basics such as the Bible’s teaching that God is a Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

After a Puritan congregation acquired a number of anti-Trinitarian congregants (i.e., “Unitarians”), that congregation would experience an internal crisis of identity. This led to a theological showdown, formally executed by a congregational vote. A typical outcome would be a church split. The biblical Trinitarian minority, who lost the church vote, would withdraw from the Unitarian majority and start a new Trinitarian church somewhere down the road. When these church “divorces” occurred, the Trinitarians would remark, “They kept the furniture, but we kept the faith.”2

Contesting the Will of the Founding Fathers of Modern Science

Like the turbulent tourney over who got what of the Puritans’ legacy, the founders of modern science left a legacy that has two separate groups of heirs. Although it is “beyond genuine dispute” (to use the federal evidence standard of Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 56) that the ranks of these founders were overwhelmingly dominated by Bible-revering Christians,3 the legacies of those godly science pioneers have been partitioned and distributed into two very different categories of heirs, some of whom are creationists and others evolutionists. (The latter group is a mixed bag of theistic evolutionists, like BioLogos founder Francis Collins, and atheistic evolutionists, like Richard Dawkins).

Thus, the pioneering discoveries and analytical legacies of the founding fathers of modern science—Sir Isaac Newton, Johann Kepler, John Ray, Robert Boyle, William Herschel, Michael Faraday, Jedidiah Morse, Matthew Maury, Lord Kelvin, Conrad Gessner, Alexander Graham Bell, George Washington Carver, etc.—have been “inherited” by scientists as diametrically distinct as evolutionist Linus Pauling (the biochemist who championed Vitamin C) and biblical creationist Raymond Damadian (the M.D./engineer who invented the medical MRI).

Consider how modern scientists have partitioned the scientific legacy of these founding fathers: Who kept the furniture? Who kept the faith? Who got the better inheritance? For the most part, the evolutionists have inherited the sociopolitical “furniture” of the scientific community.

But the tactics used to do so have involved an unreasonably high price—ideological commitment to a “primordial soup” mythology, comparable to the high price that Esau once paid for a bowl of real soup. (To get this food, Esau traded away the Messianic-line birthright. This was an intangible inheritance of immeasurable worth, but Scripture says he “despised” it.4)

Like Esau, evolutionists have traded away the biblical faith of the founding fathers of modern science, keeping only the sociopolitical furniture and furnishings. Colleges founded by biblical creationists (such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) are now wholly owned and operated by evolutionists. Meanwhile, biblical creationists routinely find themselves out-voted, ostracized, and ousted from the institutions and opportunities established by the founders of modern science.

ICR’s recent litigation in Texas illustrates how even privately funded higher education can be politically stymied—even by outsiders—if educators dare to express a biblical creation viewpoint through a science education degree program. This disinheritance of privately funded science education programs is something new. (Unlike prior court battles involving creationist viewpoints in contexts involving public funding, there is no Establishment Clause excuse for censuring private education that offers graduate education from a creationist viewpoint.) A federal judge in Austin ruled that such government-imposed viewpoint discrimination is allowed because teaching a genuinely theistic view of natural science was deemed (he opined) to be “religion,” not “science.” 5

Consequently, despite ICR’s expert witness affidavits (by ICR science experts such as Dr. John Morris, Dr. Steven Austin, Dr. Randy Guliuzza, Dr. Charles McCombs, Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, Dr. Patricia Nason, Professor Frank Sherwin, etc.), plus evidence that real-world scientists are sometimes ICR-affiliated biblical creationists (such as Dr. Raymond Damadian), the federal judge ignored these evidences as “irrelevant,” thereby bypassing the usual evaluation process that occurs with an evidentiary trial on the merits. ICR’s lawsuit put “the system” on trial regarding academic freedom. That system could have tolerated a creationist viewpoint in private education, but it chose to do otherwise.

So, ICR has lost the legal right to offer its viewpoint-distinctive creationist teachings in a Master of Science in Science Educationprogram, while ICR may (and now does) offer its viewpoint-distinctive creationist teachings through its Master of Christian Education in Biblical Education and Apologetics program, which is now in its second year.6

Despite losing some valuable “property” in the litigation, ICR has (by God’s grace) stood its spiritual ground, refused to compromise with old-earth mythology, and has kept the faith.

And, as noted above, 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us that biblical apologetics is much more about sanctifying the Lord God than merely winning an argument (or a lawsuit), because faithfulness before God is worth much more.


  1. Johnson, J. J. S. 2010. Understanding Effective Biblical Apologetics. Acts & Facts. 39 (4): 8-9, quoting and explaining 1 Peter 3:15.
  2. See, e.g., First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of Scituate, Massachusetts, established in 1634. This Puritan-founded church’s website describes historic furniture it contains and reports that its Trinitarian-versus-Unitarian split occurred on April 29, 1825, with the splitting faction becoming the First Trinitarian Church of Scituate later that year. “Conflicts between the orthodox and liberal factors became intense….This time the departing members of the congregation stayed close at hand, removing themselves around the corner to establish the First Trinitarian Church of Scituate in 1825. As one wag put it, ‘the Trinitarians kept the faith, while the Unitarians kept the furniture.’” Our History, posted on firstparishscituate.org, accessed October 14, 2010.
  3. See Morris, H. M. 1988. Men of Science, Men of God: Great Scientists Who Believed the Bible. Green Forest, AR: Master Books. See also Dao, C. 2009. Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him: Great Scientists Who Honored the Creator. Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research.
  4. Genesis 25:34. Note that Hebrews 12:16 describes Esau’s temporal values as “profane.”
  5. Institute for Creation for Research Graduate School v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2010 WL 2522529 (W.D. Tex.—Austin 2010) (erroneous naming of plaintiff in the original). Revealingly, the legal phrase “academic freedom” was never used anywhere within the judge’s 39-page ruling.
  6. For more information about ICR’s School of Biblical Apologetics, visit www.icr.edu/soba.

* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2010. Fighting Over Furniture and Faith. Acts & Facts. 39 (12): 8-9.

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