An Historic 1965 Response to the Reader's Digest Editorial Staff
The Reader’s Digest
Pleasantville, NY 10570
On October 14, 1965, I wrote you in protest to Mr. J. D. Ratcliff’s pro-evolution article, “How Man Began,” which appeared in the October issue of The Reader’s Digest. I now have before me your reply of October 22. While I appreciate your response, I am disappointed in that you gave no attention to the contents of my letter, but were content to send me a “form letter.” I was especially anxious to have your answer to the question: “Would you be willing to carry an article in the Digest, written by scientist of unquestioned qualifications, in opposition to the theory of evolution?” I would still like to have your answer to this question.
Actually, your response letter tends to be as destructive of the Bible and the Bible claims as does Mr. Ratcliff’s article. This is regrettable indeed, for your letter—with obvious editorial endorsement—shows an attitude toward the Bible which is completely contradictory to the Bible claims for itself. And, this editorial attitude undoubtedly has influence upon the selection of material.
You state: “Going no further back in time than the date generally accepted as the start of the Christian era, it is worthwhile to contemplate for a moment how little was known then about the world itself, much less the universe.”
It should be pointed out that—according to Bible teaching—the “Christian era” began upon Pentecost of Acts 2, in AD 33—approximately two thousand years ago. The Old Testament story—from Genesis to Pentecost of Acts 2—is the story of God’s preparation for the “Christian era.” From Adam to Pentecost was approximately four thousand years. But, what about the time factor between the original creation and Adam? The Bible passes over this in complete silence, and makes specific references to “in the beginning.” And, no man can go farther back than “the beginning.” I am often told: “The Bible says the earth is six thousand years old.” Where does it so state? Where is the passage which so teaches? The Bible shows that from Adam to the present has been approximately six thousand years, but it does not specify the time from the creation to Adam. It does, however, begin with the original creation “in the beginning.”
Further, in your statement you assume that the Bible writers were dependent upon and wrote according to their own knowledge. This, too, is a grave error. The Bible claims for itself that its writers were not dependent upon their own knowledge, but that “. . . holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The Bible claims that God miraculously revealed His will to certain ones who in turn spake it and recorded it “. . . not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:10-13).
You further state: “Most of our knowledge of natural forces, of the human body and its growth, of chemistry, physics, anthropology, astronomy, and other sciences has developed during the intervening centuries. In biblical times such knowledge was either limited to what could be learned from direct observation (sometimes distorted by the handing on of information from generation to generation) or was non-existent.”
Again, you make the mistake of assuming that the Bible writers were dependent upon their own knowledge. This view is in complete contradiction to the Bible teaching, and shows that you have no conception of nor appreciation for the Bible’s own claims with regard to its inspiration.
Your statement clearly implies that the proper governing factor and standard of conduct in life is human knowledge. This view has dangerous consequences and is completely contrary to the Bible. The Bible teaches that we are obligated to be governed by the Bible—regardless of human knowledge. Such is the teaching of such passages as 2 Corinthians 5:7; Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3. If we are to governed by human knowledge as obtained through the various “sciences,” then every man becomes his own standard, and in which case there is no proper standard. According to Bible teaching we are obligated to acquire knowledge, and to use it to the glory of God—but always in recognition of the fact that the Bible is the divine standard of conduct.
You state: “In the light of the vast increase in the sum total of human knowledge, it would seem folly to accept as final truth regarding the origin and development of life on this planet a poetic account set down more than two thousand years ago.”
Again we say your statement shows that you have conception whatever of the Bible teaching regarding its own inspiration. Again you assume that the standard of conduct is “human knowledge.” Who said the account was poetic? But, if so—does poetry minimize or nullify truth? Does poetry rule out miraculous inspiration? You clearly imply that if a biblical poetic account should be contrary to “human knowledge” that it would be “folly” to accept the teaching involved in that poetic account. Obviously, therefore, you would hold: if the Bible record or teaching (whether poetic or otherwise) is in conflict with “human knowledge” that it would be “folly” to accept the Bible record! Hence, we say again that your letter tends to be more destructive than Mr. Ratcliff’s article. Perhaps we should recall Paul’s statement: “. . . hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? . . . the world through its wisdom knew not God . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).
You state further: “Scientists, students and others concerned to arrive at truth as illuminated by modern scientific knowledge have, increasingly, found it impossible to accept in a literal sense the biblical account as it is given in the book of Genesis.”
Again you imply that “scientific knowledge” is to be elevated above Bible teaching. Do you recognize that many scientists of unquestioned qualification do accept (and increasingly so) the Genesis record exactly as it is written? Do you recognize that in many instances that which was accepted in science yesterday is not accepted in science today? Science is growing, but the Bible is full grown! It should be stressed, however, that there is no conflict between true science and true Bible teaching—the same God is the author of both. There is nothing any man knows which he can prove that he knows which is contrary to true Bible teachings.
You say: “This does not mean they have discarded their faith in God. . . .” What, then, does it mean? How can one claim to believe in the God of the Bible while denying His word? What God said in Genesis is either true or false—there is no middle ground. If it is false, then the Bible is not the Bible. To accept the God of the Bible is to accept the Bible; to reject the Bible is to reject the God of the Bible.
You further state: “There is in fact no basic conflict between the evolutionists and the fundamentalists when it comes to their underlying religious belief.” Just how you came up with such a statement I am at a loss to understand. The very fact of this exchange of letters means conflict. I accept the Bible as it reads—the evolutionist does not. I believe that God “created” man in His own image—the evolutionist does not. Certainly, there is conflict.
Again we implore: Please use the Digest as an influence for good—not to tear down matters sacred and divine and eternal.
Roy Deaver (1922-2007) was a longtime associate of Dr. Thomas B. Warren. Warren often described Roy Deaver as the best Bible scholar he knew. Roy Deaver once described Thomas B. Warren as "the greatest thinking machine I have ever known" (Church Cooperation and Orphan Homes 8). Deaver served as moderator for Dr. Warren’s debate with Professor Wallace Matson in 1978 and also his debate with Professor Joe E. Barnhart in 1980.