I first heard of the Rev. Adrian Bailey and his book “Why Darwin Matters to Christians” in February 2012. At the time I was working with a ministry called Creation Research and because of this a local Christian emailed me to say that the Shropshire media was advertising a book-signing session by “a vicar from near Oswestry who had written a book explaining how evolution and creation can be explained together”. The book-signing event was to take place on the morning of Friday 24th in Shrewsbury Market Hall, and my contact encouraged me to turn up and “take some action”.
The internet enabled me to find out a little more about the author and his book. Adrian Bailey is the Priest in Charge at All Saints Church, Hengoed with Gobowen and he is one of the chaplains at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry. I cannot remember if his book was listed at the time on the website of YouCaxton a self-publishing company, through which Adrian had produced it.
Given the information I had to hand at that stage, I decided not to take up the third-party invitation to turn up on the day. However, towards the end of the same year Adrian and his book were brought to my attention again. Friends who live near Bishops Castle in South Shropshire had been informed about a lecture which he was giving in the town. This was to take place in the YouCaxton office on the evening of Tuesday, January 8th 2013 and had the title “Can Christianity survive Darwin?”. Now this event was different from a book signing; Adrian would be explaining his views and hopefully there would be an opportunity for questions afterwards. We therefore decided to take up our friends’ invitation to go along with them to the lecture.
The YouCaxton office is an unusual setting for such an event – it is a converted butcher’s shop! About twenty people crowded into the space available. The subsequent question time would reveal that those attending possessed a wide range of world-views and a variety of spiritualities. Few it seemed would identify themselves as Christians. Adrian’s presentation was not the most dynamic. He is certainly deeply affected by the cruelty of the natural world, making several references to the misnomer of the “rural idyll”. His knowledge of the scientific issues used to support evolution was at best superficial – though this is typical of many who are fans of Darwin. Adrian’s theology was equally timid, but it contained one idea I had not come across before. This was that God had no alternative but to use evolution. (I look at this claim later in my review.) The question time was lively, though I suspect the evening as a whole left many confused as to exactly what Adrian’s take-home message was.
After the presentation ended, I waited for an opportunity to speak privately with Adrian. After introducing myself, I asked if he would be interested in debating me on the theme of his book. I said there was no need for him to give me an immediate answer, but asked him to get back to me when he had given it some thought. I provided him with the address of my website so he could find out more about me, should he wish to, before making up his mind. After a week I emailed to remind him of our conversation and Adrian replied to say that in principle he would be willing to participate in a debate. However from then on the process of planning and arranging the debate became very slow indeed. (I detail this process here.) At the start of July (2013) Adrian informed me that he was no longer willing to debate me. I had told him previously that I had offered him a debate so that he could defend the thesis of his book and that should he not be willing to do this, I would have to critique it in some other way. This website is my alternative method of examining the arguments found therein.
Overview of the book
“Why Darwin Matters to Christians” is not available from most bookshops. It has to be ordered directly from Adrian or from Amazon in either paper or Kindle versions. Adrian’s style is not obtuse, but neither does it make it easy to engage with his thinking. He favours cross-referencing other parts of his own book, mistakenly assuming that just because he has “discussed” a matter elsewhere, he has established it as a fact which his readers will not question further. Unfortunately, he does not go into any depth when seeking to establish his arguments and this means that he relies on his own opinions rather than on properly developed arguments. He obviously thinks this approach is persuasive, but I suspect that many who favour blending Darwinism into Christianity as he does will find the way he handles his subject somewhat lacking. Those like myself who have a confidence that the God of the Bible is who He says He is and who believe that the Biblical testimony of a divine six-day creation was accomplished through Jesus, the Word of God, will also be dissatisfied by the quality of arguments.
When Jesus was questioned by a group of Sadducees who sought to justify their scepticism by a hypothetical question about a seven-times widow and the resurrection, He pointed out that their mistaken reasoning arose because they did not know “the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mt. 22:29 & Mk. 12:24). These twin safeguards continued to be vital if today we are to know God and understand His ways, but so many critics of the Scriptures lead themselves into error because like the Sadducees they fail to engage with the God who seeks to redeem them and with the testimony to His faithfulness, mercy and grace that the Holy Spirit first inspired and has now preserved for our benefit. Many of Adrian’s arguments reveal that his knowledge of the Scriptures tends to the superficial and that sadly he does not know the power of the God he is so critical of, even though he is seemingly writing in His defence.
A crucial factor which has shaped Adrian’s belief, and therefore the content of this book, seems to be his rejection of a conversion he says he had in his youth. In the last chapter (p.73) he describes the gospel he accepted at the time. It is only fair to quote this in full, “God created a good Earth, but we spoiled it through sin. This offends God who is perfectly good. But Jesus died on the cross to spare me the punishment I deserve. If I accept that, repent and follow him, it means I can go to heaven instead of hell.” I suspect that many evangelicals will consider that this is a reasonable summary of the gospel which has been preached by many over the years. However, it is not the gospel which was preached by Jesus, and I will explain later why this is so. It seems that Adrian’s rejection of this alternative gospel combined with his realisation of the horrors to be found in the natural world, be it in tropical jungle or the average English garden, caused him to pursue a particular line of reasoning to the point where he now either rejects or seriously questions every major Biblical teaching except that “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived, died and rose for us” (p.7). Not only does he deny a creation as described in Genesis and elsewhere, but he is also unsure what exactly is meant by the virgin birth, and categorically states that a physical return of Christ “is highly unlikely” (p.56).
Adrian replaces the truths he rejects with a story which is very different. His god is governed by the laws of nature. The act of creating the universe therefore must include the evolutionary process which Adrian sees as being driven by the violence of natural selection. This presents a moral dilemma for Adrian – how could a good god even think of using a process which involved so much cruelty to bring about mankind? To be fair, Adrian spots some of the pitfalls which other Christian Darwinists gloss over when they claim that “God used evolution”. His solution is to see that Christ’s incarnation “extricated God from moral criticism for life’s cruelty and waste, and it shows there is a good side to his nature after all” (p.48). This Jesus however inherited a mind formed through millions of years of the need to survive, therefore His mission was not to redeem mankind from sin and death, but to show us that it is possible to overcome through our own efforts the nastier aspects of being the product of millions of years of evolution. The goal from Adrian’s perspective is not to be restored to fellowship with this god – for he has a lot to apologise for – but a slight hope that if some can overcome the negatives of having been designed by natural selection, then for a brief period (before the universe destroys itself) this earth might be transformed into a better place to live. However, it seems that Adrian does not abandon completely the idea of an afterlife, for the final chapter concludes with this statement, “And though that transformation can only ever go so far, there remains a hope that one day God will make amends for all that is lacking in this life in a wonderful life to come.” (p.74)
Should you read the book?
If you are looking for something which will build you up “in the most holy faith” which was “once for all delivered to the saints” as Jude asserted (v.20 & 3), then choose a different book. If on the other hand you want to see where trying to re-interpret the Scriptures in the light of popular science as it is known gets you, then this is a book for you. Most evangelical theistic evolutionists (those who argue that God used evolution over millions of years) play down the way in which the rejection of the early chapters of Genesis as an historical record radically affects the gospel. Adrian is much more honest than they are and in fact criticises some of their views in the book. Actually, I suggest that “Why Darwin Matters to Christians” should be required reading for every theistic evolutionist because Adrian does at least try to answer the knotty questions that reading the Bible through Darwin’s world-view throws up. In so doing, he unquestionably demonstrates that accepting Darwin not only leads a person to reject Moses, but also to believe in a different Jesus (John 5:46-47 & 2 Cor. 11:3-4).
I take a more detailed look at Adrian’s arguments on the other pages of this site. I don’t seek to go through every page point by point – that would be tedious – but I do try to look at all of his main arguments. Please take the time to read what I have written and to think through which one of us is being honest about God.
You can navigate through the pages by using the contents list on the left.