As Peter predicts in 2 Peter 3, the scoffers in the last days–our days–will ask this question, among others. Though they may not ask it directly, their worldview includes the premise that the return of Christ is a ludicrous notion. (Remember, scoffers have an agenda–to live as they please without God holding them accountable for anything.) So to acknowledge Jesus is returning requires that they acknowledge He is alive–or He couldn’t return, right? To admit He is alive would be to admit He rose from the dead, which would mean He is who He said He is–eternal God in human flesh.
And that would ruin everything.
But scoffers go beyond ridiculing the return of Christ, Peter tells us in verse 4. They also claim that “…all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (As we’ll see, they don’t actually believe in creation, but this was the only reference point Peter had when he wrote these words.)
This is a stunning prophecy. Peter was not a scientist, but he foretold one of the most pivotal shifts in how the scientific community views the known universe. Here’s what one ready source, About.com, says concerning what has come to be called the theory of uniformitarianism:
In the mid-seventeenth century, biblical scholar and Archbishop James Ussher determined that the earth had been created in the year 4004 BCE. Just over a century later James Hutton, known as the father of geology, suggested that the earth was much older and that processes occurring in the present were the same processes that had operated in the past, and would be the processes that operate in the future.
This concept became known as uniformitarianism and can be summarized by the phrase “the present is the key to the past.” It was a direct rejection of the prevalent theory of the time, catastrophism, which held that only violent disasters could modify the surface of the earth. Today, we hold uniformitarianism to be true and know that great disasters such as earthquakes, asteroids, volcanoes, and floods are part of the regular cycle of the earth.
“We find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.” (James Hutton, 1785)
British scholar Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875) popularized this theory in his important work, Principles of Geology, which was first published in 1830. In it he postulated that the present represents the cumulative effect of small changes over very long periods of time. Interestingly enough, one of the sites Lyell visited while formulating his ideas was the famous “fossil cliffs” at Joggins, Nova Scotia, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of Lyell’s disciples was Charles Darwin, the son of an Anglican clergyman. He studied medicine at Cambridge but then decided to pursue his passion as a naturalist. Darwin’s embracing of Lyell’s uniformitarian model and his abandonment of whatever belief in God he may have once had were two of the most significant choices in his life. He is deemed to be one of the most influential scientists in history, and for good reason. He died an avowed atheist, and his theory of evolution by the “law” of natural selection, though it is now being questioned by many in the scientific community, has shaped modern thought perhaps more than any other single concept. Not only has it transformed public education in the West, but the ideologies–and their horrific implications–of men like Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler were also forged on the anvil of Darwinian evolution.
Marx’s 1873 German edition of Das Kapital contained the dedication, “In deep appreciation – for Charles Darwin”. In a letter to his friend Ferdinand Lassalle, written in 1861, Marx wrote, “Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle…Despite all shortcomings, it is here that, for the first time, ‘teleology’ [the philosophical acknowledgement of final causes] in natural science is not only dealt a mortal blow but its rational meaning is empirically explained.” (emphasis mine)
In his biography of Adolf Hitler, Ian Kershaw makes frequent references to Hitler’s belief in “Social Darwinism”. To me, it is more than coincidental that Darwin, in Chapter 6 of his Descent of Man (1871) would write:
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised (sic) races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world…”
In Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler, we read, “The names and writings of five historical figures emerge again and again in researching the historical antecedents of the Nazi movement in Germany–Malthus, Darwin, Nietzsche, Gobineau and Chamberlain…An examination of their writings yields some surprising clues to the Hitler enigma and the Nazi shame. One by one their ideologies have contributed to the mosaic of hate that Hitler and his accomplices embraced as a social and political philosophy. They were truly catalysts in a chemistry of hate.” (p. 9)
And no wonder. These authors go on to say, “Darwin’s own words reveal the perilous implications of expanding biological Darwinism to embrace Social Darwinism:
‘With the savages, the weak in body are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised (sic) men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised (sic) society propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly-directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.’
Later Darwin wrote a letter to William Graham, a professor of Jurisprudence in Belfast: “Looking at the world at not so very distant date, what endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilised (sic) races throughout the world.’ ” (p.14)
And Peter whispers, “I told you so.”