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Saturday, 12 May 2018

An Academic Conflict at Oxford.

As one born of the Baby Boom generation (ie, born between the years 1946-1964) I was taken back by the news of three suicides committed by students at Bristol University, each within a short proximity of each other. According to one source, in 2015, 134 university students took their own lives* whilst another source gives 146 for the year 2016.** Therefore I would not be too surprised if the stats topped 150 for 2017.

And they weren't even the Millennials as we know them, as their agreed birth years were between 1980-1994, but more likely from Generation Z, who were born from 1995 onward. As I tried to work out in my mind why on earth there is such a high rate of mental disorder among students. It was then my wife Alex immediately gave the answer which eluded me - finance.

Of course, why didn't I think of that? With University courses costing around £9,000 a year, a debt of  £27,000 for a three year course does not bode well for the peace of mind every student would wish for. Instead, such a debt would hang over his head for a good spell of his lifetime. Such a situation for an individual is a vivid contrast with a student from the Baby Boomer generation, the one I was born into. Very few would have entered University in the first place. Those who did would have been a student at either Oxford or Cambridge, and then be given a grant from the Government - an income to live on during studies which had no need to be paid back.

Back then, to graduate and to hold a degree was really worth something. He was virtually a god, with any employer scrambling to have such a person, normally a male back then, on their staff roll. A doctor's authority was looked upon as on equal footing as the Gospel itself. And there is no other such vivid demonstration of this than in my schooldays. It was at the boys changing room for P.E., in the gym or for Games at the sports pitch. If a pupil fails to bring his kit, then the punishment was between one to five strokes of the slipper across the buttocks administered by the master, depending on the age of the boy. But if the student hands over a letter written by his GP, then the master would honour the pupil's abstinence from the lesson with a degree of reverence. Indeed, during the sixties, a GP was apparently credited with divine attributes, at least that how it seemed to the rest of us. By mentioning of holding a degree, this would bring out all the ooh's and the aah's, especially from the females. And that I do know. I actually saw this happening in my former church during the seventies.

And so this reverence for knowledge, and the universal desire to possess such knowledge, must be high on the minds of our present-day students who, contrary to the Baby-boomer graduates, I have found to be the targets of vitriol whenever some administration failure occurs, especially in the area of information technology. It is quite a vivid contrast to my day as school leavers. If an adolescent left school without any qualifications, he usually ended up as a dogsbody at a factory, workshop, garage, or anywhere where manual labour was held as a permanent vocation. This sort of thing was not uncommon. Yet I hardly heard of any cases of mental illness, let alone suicide among us younger set. Instead, we took everything in our stride, including scoldings and vitriol, which I, for one, saw more as character-building rather than mentally and emotionally destructive.

Therefore little surprise on why I found our present student's mental disorder statistics difficult to grasp. My wife had a sharper sense of discernment. I was still in the 1960's train of thinking. Putting it all together, I could not help but see for myself why having such level of knowledge can be contrary to Biblical faith. Of course, I'm referring to the age-old conflict between Divine Creation and Uniformitarian Geology.  

Just this morning I attended an annual men's conference at a local church (not my home church). The theme for this year was whether we as believers have the courage to take risks for the glory of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Later in the session we all split into small groups. It was during one of these small-group discussion and prayer when I felt God speak to me. I was made aware of this by God by means of a feeling of relief and joy over the revelation. I am to stand up for the truthfulness of Divine Creation as opposed to Uniformitarian Geology and Darwinism, which is believed in and accepted as scientific fact, not only by the secular world but by many Christians as well. God would not allow me to compromise. There's never been a "halfway house" with me when it comes to accepting Theistic Evolution. I either had to accept a literal 6 x 24-hour creation day, recorded in Scripture, or accept Darwinism in its purest form of secular standing. I resolve always to accept exactly what the Bible teaches.

And that may cause conflict. And my conviction did bring clashes, especially against my own father, who was a devout evolutionist. He was even too embarrassed to admit to others that he had a son who actually believe in this kid's story of Creation and the Flood. And in the factory where I worked, to believe in this raised issues for discussion with my colleagues on the shop floor, and apathy among those who were working in the office. Yet the idea of Divine Creation is very important to me. And very important to every Christian believer alive with us.

It was a gorgeously warm and sunny Bank Holiday Monday when my wife Alex and I, along with my PhD holder and Creationist friend Andrew, all made a trip to Oxford to visit the University Museum of Natural History. Considerably smaller than the sister museum in London where we had recently visited, but actually more educating in the true spirit of Oxford, I allowed Andrew to take care of Alex in her wheelchair, whilst I paid special attention to a row of cabinets on one side of the gallery.

University Museum of Natural History, Oxford.

These cabinets each housed a selection of fossils, and arranged in chronological order, from Cambrian to Cretaceous - at the most, about 475,000,000 years apart in geologic age. Unfortunately, I only took photos of the Jurassic cabinet and the Cretaceous cabinet, the two periods being next to each other on the geologic time scale, but one collection of marine fossils going back to the maximum of 201,000,000 years. The other cabinet holding the more recent Cretaceous marine fossils dating between 66,000,000 and 145,000,000 years of geologic age. Therefore, any observer would accept the vast age difference of these rocks simply because it tells him on the title label at the upper corner of each cabinet. Nearby was a display of a fair sized limestone slab, probably 18" x 12" 46 cm x 30 cm which was overlaid with scaled fish, similar to carp, if that wasn't carp. Unfortunately, I did not record or snap a picture of this particular display, and because of that, I did have plans to return to Oxford on my own to fulfil this purpose before writing this blog, had Alex been happy with the proposal!

But the point is, that anyone studying these displays would have walked away convinced of the evidence for Uniformitarian Geology and Darwinism - simply by observing the labels displayed at each cabinet. But nearly all these fossil-bearing rocks look remarkably similar, as if all these marine organisms were entombed and preserved all at the same time. All these, along with the fish on the slab.

Which presented quite an anomaly. Because whenever fish die, it hardly ever settles on the seafloor. Instead it becomes food for the scavengers. This together with the food chain, it's very seldom for a fish to die a natural death. The vast majority becomes prey for the high population of predators. But here we see fish entombed en-masse in stone, as if all perished at once and immediately preserved. And it looks as if this applied to all the fossilised organism on display, regardless of age. Basically they all looked the same, as if all died and were preserved at just one occasion. And there's supposed to have been up to 475,000,000 years in age difference between them!

Display cabinet containing fossils from the Jurassic Period.

Fossils from the Cretaceous Period, all taken May 2018.

And that is why believing in Creation and the Deluge, I think, is so vital for the Christian faith and to every believer. Because if fossilisation was meant to preserve a record of Evolution, that means one of two ideas: 

1. That Adam and Eve had never existed, but we are all evolved from primates, as secular Darwinism insists. And if our first parents had never existed, then neither the Fall had taken place and death is merely a natural phenomenon, both for human and animal alike. If death plays an essential role in the process of Natural Selection and Evolutionary process, then sin has no part except as a biological quirk developing late in the process, and therefore totally eliminates the need for an Atonement.

2. Adam and Eve existed, but each had a father and mother, all mortal. This, I believe, is a central tenet for Theistic Evolution. The problem is: Were Adam's parents human or sub-human? Or Eve's parents? If they were fully human, did they remain immortal, even after the Fall? But if they were sub-human, then how apelike did they look? And if mortal, then death was already at work in the world before the Fall, therefore making non-effect the Atonement of Christ.

Indeed, there are more questions than answers. But just by departing from the literal truth presented in the Scriptures resulting in such devastating theological concepts, including the study of Christology. But it is the denial of the truthfulness of Holy Scripture which leaves the academic community with little to go by except to make great efforts to prove that these rocks are much older than what Holy Scripture allows, and to pass this on to the rest of us.

Knowledge in itself is a wonderful quality to have, a very wonderful quality. Indeed, mental illness and even suicide is out of a potential failure to acquire this quality, and then to face the extortionate debt to pay afterwards. Little wonder many present-day students are suffering from excess stress. And I believe even my friend Andrew might have felt concern as I delved into these fossil cabinets. Concern that I may be "converted" from being a Creationist to becoming an Evolutionist, and with a possibility of heading down the road towards atheism. All by reading labels with a growing conviction that these scientists might have been right after all.
*The Guardian Newspaper, 2 September, 2017.
**The BBC.


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