Some recent discussions have prompted me to ask this question in my own life: is it okay, as Christians and creationists, to read evolutionist material? While I believe most people in this forum would probably affirm that, there are no doubt many who would be highly offended at the idea. Why would we, as Christians, ever fill our heads with athiestic garbage?
"Ah," the other side would assert, "how can we know their arguments if we don't read them for ourselves?"
"But," comes the retort, "we are to set aside all things ungodly."
So now we are at an impasse; each side has a remarkably clear argument, on the surface, at least. Yet when we dig into the Scriptures, the answer becomes a little less clear, while at the same time becoming very well-defined. Another impasse? Perhaps. Let's see what God has to say on the subject.
The church in the city of Corinth was facing a dilemma. As a bustling trade town with two harbors, it had every cultural comfort imaginable - including a large number of temples to various gods and goddesses. As such, there was almost always a sacrifice being carried out to some idol or another. The meat from these sacrifices was then brought to the market where it would be sold to the citizens of the city. Many of these citizens, of course, were believers, and a debate had broken out amongst them: is it okay to eat meat that had been sacrificed to a false god?
If we faced the same dilemmas today, what would our arguments be? Would we be afraid of supporting the false religion financially? Would we be more afraid of not feeding our families? Would we be worried that our support would turn into worship? Would we buy the ground beef, make our hamburgers, and go on with life because we realize that food is just food? The debate could go on indefinitely, couldn't it? Thankfully, the church at Corinth - and we today - have an answer from Paul on the issue.
In I Corinthians 8, he writes:
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth . . . yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live" (4-6).
His first point is this: these idols are powerless and worthless, for they represent lies. They are not real gods, and therefore the sacrifices are not real sacrifices. For the sake of argument, Paul continues, even if they represent truth and there are other gods, Jesus Christ is still Lord over even them. In other words, even if there are other "gods" out there, Paul says, they are still, in comparison to Christ, powerless and worthless. What is he getting at? Don't worry about what the meat was used for, because its purpose is nothing but a sham anyway.
Then he concedes his next point: "But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do" (7-8). Some believers, Paul argues, are still tempted into sin by something that is ultimately worthless and is, frankly, neutral.
This leads him to his final point: "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you . . . eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge" (9-11). What's he saying? If your actions - which are not inherently bad - are causing someone else to sin, then your actions have now become bad. "Neutrality" has become "problem."
Evolutionary propaganda is, ultimately, based on lies. It is worthless and, compared to Christ, powerless. Utimately it will be exposed for what it is: a sham. Therefore reading it is not inherently a problem, provided we're discerning enough to understand that it is a lie (this is what the NIV translates as "knowledge" in this passage). In fact, the argument that we need it in order to better defend our faith is, admittedly, sound - I cannot argue against Richard Dawkins' book if I have no idea what he actually wrote.
However, I must be very careful when I live my life according to this precept. If, by reading Dawkins, or Darwin, or Hawking, or any of the other popular evolutionists out there, I have caused someone with a "weaker conscience" to stumble, then I better make sure they are either growing in the faith as a result (i.e., learning discernment), or I need to give up the action. As Paul writes: "If what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall" (13).
Even good actions, if they lead to sin, become bad actions. So, does the Bible tell us it's okay to read evolutionist material, or does it forbid it? That is the "less clear" part I mentioned earlier. What it does say, however, is extremely well-defined: if your actions are causing yourself or those around you to sin, then they need to go. I cannot tell you what actions those are, or when they may become a problem; that is between you and Christ, just as I must let Christ dictate to me, as well. That, ultimately, is the heartbeat of what grace truly is: the freedom (8:9; 9:1) to live as He intends.