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A Review of HOPE TV’s Series on Origins

On May 4-8, the Seventh-day Adventist satellite network HOPE TV ran a live series attacking evolutionary theory and promoting a literal reading of Genesis. It was broadcast live from Tennessee as one of several evangelism events that are building toward a huge reaping televised evangelistic campaign—Prophecies Decoded—beginning this fall. The main speaker for that event—also called Net 11—Ron Clouzet, who teaches evangelism at the seminary, was joined by the Geoscience Research Institute’s Tim Standish for this HOPE series, In the Beginning: Making Sense of the Creation/Evolution Debate. Apparently it was originally to be titled The Greatest Show on Earth until they changed the title at the request of the copyright holders of that phrase. 

That’s not the only setback thus far. Reading Clouzet’s official blog for the evangelistic series reveals much of the stresses and frustrations that accompany these evangelistic efforts. He is responsible for raising thousands of dollars, pumping out promotional packets for church members to “prepare the field,” speaking at various churches, writing “sharing books,” and preparing sermons that will win souls. Into this mix, Couzet had to present spiritual and scientific truths on live TV that touched on the origins of humanity. Admitting the last time he took a class in science was in high school, decades ago, he writes:

My point is that I’m in trouble trying to prepare for a series of nationwide lectures on TV about creation and evolution. It’s like going to school once again, except this time I just love it. Cosmology, biology, geology, physics, what fascinating subjects they all are! Even though there are years of learning to process in just weeks, I wouldn’t trade it for anything–except the assurance Tim (Standish, my co-presenter) and I will be ready. I’ve been reading fascinating books, and some not-so-easy textbooks. I’ve been watching magnificent DVDs such as the ones put out by Illustra Media. I recognize that I’d better let Tim, a molecular biologist researching at the Geoscience Research Institute, talk the science, but I can’t wait to pitch in.

This research into evolutionary theory and the meaning of Genesis was presented live over five days in early May.

Watching this series was a painful experience. For starters, the production values were abysmal—the audience never learned the name of the man who introduced the participants each evening and the camera work could only be rated “inexperienced amateur.” Neither speaker appeared comfortable with their almost extemporaneous, tag team presentation of information. Timothy Standish babbled excitedly about the wonders of nature, and Ron Clouzet’s presentations were a jumble of theological and scientific references. He spoke when only a biblical worldview could satisfactorily establish what really happened.

Darwin was quoted often. His words revealed him to be very aware of the problems his evolutionary theory presented to the scientific community. He did not speculate about the origin of life, and only published The Origin of the Species after years of consulting with the leading scientific minds of his day. But Darwin’s honest reflections and carefully worded letters were used by the speakers to diminish his credibility.

Revealing an often outdated understanding of contemporary scientific theory and often prioritizing a patriarchal view of God, each evening featured topics with titles like, Father God or Mother Earth: The Problem of Evil and a Loving God or Genes and Genies: What We Know and What We Don’t.

Here are some statements from the presentations:

  • God’s creative power is revealed in nature because most natural things are “happy and cooperating”.
  • Herbivores are “good” animals and remain pretty much as God created them.
  • Sin turned some animals into “bad” animals like carnivores—a picture of a serrated shark tooth flashes on the screen.
  • “Rational people are unsettled by violence in the natural world.”
  • Darwin was influenced by Milton’s deistic tendencies in Paradise Lost.
  • “No one can find out God from beginning to end.”
  • “Darwin wrote about a God he didn’t understand.”
  • A disclaimer from Standish: “We are not archeologists, physicists, or geologists.”
  • “You’ve all seen the Discovery Channel.”

While Darwin was demonized, there was little actual scripture-based science to substitute for his theories of natural selection. Perhaps the live audience lost some interest as well. According to Clouzet’s post-event reflections on his blog:

We probably should hold back before live audiences the fact this is on TV or Internet; it’s too easy to stay home the next night. Outreach continues to be hard to do, perhaps increasingly so, in Adventist churches. Most members simply do not reach out to others. In general, we are a seriously Laodicean church exempted only by a very small minority of faithful members whose lives belie Jesus is first in their lives.

Apparently it was the church members’ fault for not bringing more people to hear the seminary’s leading evangelistic educator and the General Conference’s expert on science make sense out of genes and genies.

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