posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. This week's excerpt is from a "My Own Personal Holdfast," a sermon first published in 1889 but originally preached in the Metropolitan Tabernacle at some undetermined time within the prior decade or so.
Evolutionists consider their theory: "If we can just prop it up, it'll be good as new again."
Here's some background on Spurgeon's argument below. In 1890, William Platt Ball published Heredity and Evolution.; Are the Effects of Use and Disuse Inherited? An Examination of the View Held by [Herbert] Spencer and [Charles] Darwin. Ball was himself an evolutionist, but he (along with others in the same vein) departed from Darwinand even more so from Herbert Spenceron the question of whether and how our parents' and ancestors' behavior influences the characteristics we inherit from them. Will the offspring of a hardworking man who uses his muscles inherit any benefits from his working out? Or if the tails of Cocker Spaniels are clipped for enough years so that generation after generation of dogs never use their tails, will a breed of naturally tailless Spaniels eventually result through the evolutionary process?
Spencer, for one, seemed to think so. He pointed to giraffes as proof of the "use and disuse" theory, claiming giraffes could never have evolved such long necks unless their tendency to stretch ever higher had some effect toward actually lengthening the necks of their offspring across many generations. Thus Spencer (and evolutionists who followed him) argued, evolution is a hopeful doctrine for the future of humanity. It suggests that humanity will eventually get better if we act better. That was the standard evolutionary doctrine of salvation through the 1870s or so.
The actual progeny of that brand of humanistic optimism, however, was a whole new species of evolutionists, including William Ball. They pointed out a stubborn fact: the laws of genetics mitigate against our inheriting the effects of our parents' behavior through any kind of purely biological process. As an illustration, Ball pointed out that Jewish men have practiced circumcision from time immemorial, and Jewish infants are nevertheless still always born with fully intact foreskins. Ball insisted that evolutionary changes needed to be explainable by some more scientific means than the theory of use and disuse. He wasn't sure how animals evolved fantastic traits, but he insisted the process could not be explained by the use-and-disuse theory; that was simply unscientific.
Those who held the older evolutionary opinions employed human morality as a counter-example. The use-and-disuse theory is the only way to account for human guilt in the evolutionary paradigm, they insisted. They pointed to the immoral proclivities so evident in human behavior as undeniable proof that we have inherited behavioral influences from our animal ancestors. Suddenly some of the same modernists who had long scoffed at the idea of original sin were now acknowledging the ubiquitous manifestations of original sin in order to prop up their now-outmoded evolutionary theories.
That debate was raging when Spurgeon preached this sermon, and it explains the setting in which these comments were made. Spurgeon seems to indicate that he expected the theory of evolution itself to be debunked and replaced by some other fallacy in a very short time. If so, he would be disappointed by the tenacity of that theory today. In the most important respect, however, Spurgeon was exactly right: evolutionists have never found a stable, tenable theory to explain the most fundamental difficulty of their system: how did ordered information get programmed into the genetic code in the first place, and why are there zero observable instances of positive mutations in which additional information is added to a species' genetic code by some "natural" process? In their quest for answers to that question, evolutionists keep changing their story, and the textbooks still have to be completely rewritten every three years or so. Spurgeon observed this trend more than 130 years ago.
And for good measure, he threw in a rebuke aimed at the trendy, emerging, modernist church leaders of his day who aped the style of secular scientists and philosophers by shifting their opinions every three years or so to suit the times. Don't miss that part in the closing paragraph of this excerpt.
he history of philosophy is in brief the history of fools. All the sets of philosophers that have yet lived have been more successful in contradicting those that came before them than in anything else.
It is well when the children of Ammon and Moab stand up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir utterly to slay and destroy them; the enemies of God are good at the business of destroying each other. Within a few years [today's] evolutionists will be cut in pieces by some new dreamers. The reigning philosophers of the present period have in them so much of the vitality of madness that they will be a perpetual subject of contempt; and I venture to prophesy that, before my head shall lie in the grave, there will hardly be a notable man left who will not have washed his hands of the present theory.
That which is taught to-day for a certainty by savants will soon have been so disproved as to be trodden down as the mire in the streets. The Lord's truth liveth and reigneth, but man's inventions are but for an hour. I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but as I have lived to see marvellous changes in the dogmas of philosophy, I expect to see still more.
See how they have shifted. They used to tell us that the natural depravity of our race was a myththey scouted the idea that we were born in sin, and declared with mimic sentiment that every dear babe was perfect. Now what do they tell us? Why, that if we do not inherit the original sin of Adam, or any other foregoing man; yet we have upon us the hereditary results of the transgressions of the primeval oysters, or other creatures, from which we have ascended or descended. We bear in our bodies, if not in our souls, the effects of all the tricks of the monkeys whose future was entailed upon us by evolution.
This nonsense is to be received by learned societies with patience, and accepted by us with reverence, while the simple statements of Holy Writ are regarded as mythical or incredible. I only mention this folly for the sake of showing that the opponents of the Word of God constantly shift their positions, like quicksands at a river's mouth; but they are equally dangerous, whatever position they occupy. In the announcement of heredity philosophical thought has deprived itself of all power to object to the Biblical doctrine of original sin. This is of no consequence to us, who care nothing for their objections; but it ought to be some sort of hint to them.
According to modern thinkers, what is true on Monday may be false on Tuesday; and what is certain on Wednesday it may be our duty to doubt on a Thursday, and so on, world without end. Every change of the moon sees a change in the teaching of the new theology. A good stout hypothesis in the old times served a man for a hobbyhorse for twenty years; but nowadays their sorry jades hardly last twenty months. Said I not well that the smallest promise of God is worth more than all that ever has been taught, or ever shall be taught, by skeptical philosophers and speculative theologians? Let God be true, but every man a liar. Whatever may be the truth in science, God is true, and on his promise we build our confidence. We will distrust the witness of all men and angels, but we cannot, we dare not, distrust the Lord.