From evolution to creation: My difficult journey
"Your mother is going to hell where she will be tormented forever and ever."
That's what I heard over and over again from my Catholic teacher about my Lutheran mother, who was dying of cancer. How can a God of love punish a faithful mother like mine? If there is a God, I hate Him. By age 10, I was a confirmed atheist.
I majored in zoology at the University of Cape Town , where evolution was championed. My professors included brilliant men whose work on the evolution of human skulls found a place in museums around the world. A fullfledged atheist, I went on to earn my doctorate and begin a career as a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University. My whole life revolved around evolution. I taught evolution. I based my research on evolution. For me, God did not exist.
During a lecture, a young girl confronted me: "What you say, Dr. Veith, is a lie. God created the heaven and the earth in six days." I exploded, tearing into her until she began to cry. Students were impressed with my ability to disprove creation.
Life was complete. A wonderful wife, a beautiful baby boy, and a prestigious career. God was the last thing on my mind until the night my son became deathly ill. Nothing that the doctors did was making a difference. In desperation, I turned to God as my last option. I went back to my church-the Catholic Church-to petition God's mercy. My son was saved. And out of obligation more than anything else, I began to attend mass on and off.
I asked a priest one day about evolution and creation. He said, "Everyone knows we exist through evolution." Wonderful! I can hold on to both evolution and God.
Then one day I met a carpenter who was to remodel our kitchen and who would later change my life around. In a casual introduction of himself he said, "I walk with the Lord."
"You walk with the Lord-I just want a kitchen. Is that OK?"
He said, "OK" handing me a pamphlet, which I stuck in a drawer.
Gradually, several things in the Catholic Church began to trouble me. Why do they say the same prayers and celebrate the same rituals over and over? Does the priest really have power to change the bread and wine into the true body of Christ? As I sat alone in a pew near the back one day, I was drawn to the little red light that blinked on a box, meaning the host or wafer was inside. They have God locked up in that box. I prayed "Where are You, God? I don't know You, but if You truly exist, You must show me."
Hurrying home, I pulled out the pamphlet the carpenter had given me. In three columns, it displayed three versions of the Ten Commandments: the biblical, the Lutheran, and the Catholic. Using a catechism and a Bible, I began a comparative study. The commandments did not match! Puzzled, I reached for the carpenter's phone number. That was the beginning of a long series of Bible studies. My confusion worsened when the carpenter began the topic of the Sabbath. "How can you keep a commandment that says the Lord created the heavens, the earth, and the sea in only six days?"
During that same time, my secretary handed me a pile of documents against the Sabbath and Seventh-day Adventists. I gave the material to my wife. "You go through this," I said. "Maybe there's a way out for us." While I grappled with Creation, she struggled with the Sabbath. Completing the material, my wife said, "This has convinced me the Sabbath is right." A document against the Sabbath proved to her that the Sabbath message was indeed true.
The risk of accepting Creation
This was a major problem for me. I could not keep holy a day that represented a six-day creation week. I still believed that it took at least six billion years. Struggling over my dilemma, I prayed, "God, if You exist and there is something wrong with what I believe, show me." Our university had the largest evolution-based library in the Southern Hemisphere. A study of a particular book there got me thinking. An older edition of the book talked about a major problem with cetaceans or whales because they appeared suddenly in the fossil record fully formed. However, a newer edition said that cetaceans have an ancient origin evolving from one to another. I went through similar evolutionary models. While older editions admitted to unresolved difficulties, newer versions never admitted to a problem. The more books I compared, the more discrepancies I found. I began a list of them, checking the meaning of Hebrew and Greek words, verifying historical facts, and examining biblical prophecies. At the end of it all, I saw no way out! I told my family, "We're going to keep the Sabbath and start attending the Seventh-day Adventist Church ."
While keeping the Sabbath, I continued to teach evolution. In my heart I knew I had to make a change when I was asked to lead a postgraduate discussion on evolution. Should I stand up for what I now believed?
At the discussion, I lectured on the whole gene system, highlighting every problem and emphatically ending with the statement-"Evolution is not possible!" There was a moment of silence, then all hell broke loose. One colleague turned blood red and started screaming at me. A special meeting followed where it was voted that the basis for all teaching must be evolution. My life was worthless in terms of scientific credibility. I turned in my resignation.
No smooth ride, but promises abound
We sold our house and bought a wheat and dairy farm, using all our money as well as a large bank loan. We planted wheat, and it grew so high that farmers from the entire district came to look. They said, "A university man like you must know something we don't." It's because we're walking with the Lord. I figured, Now that we are Christians, everything will go just great. I was soon to learn that being a Christian doesn't guarantee a smooth ride.
Life was wonderful until a huge flock of birds flew in, and ignoring all the farms around, made our wheat their home. They ate and ate until there was nothing left. To make things worse, both our cars were lost in major accidents. All I had was more debt than my farm was worth. At the same time, the economy of South Africa plummeted. God, how can you do this to me? I have no way to support myself. My scientific credibility is gone. I can't go back to my old job. I'm finished.
We wrote down all the promises we could find in the Bible and prayed, "Lord, these promises are for us. Please don't leave us without money or food. May Your will be done."
The phone rang the next morning. It was the university "We have a teacher taking emergency leave for one year. Will you fill in?"
"You know I will not teach evolution," I responded firmly.
"Just stick to science. We're in a jam and need a replacement."
"Great. When do I start?"
"In about three months." In three months we would probably starve to death.
Twenty minutes later, the phone rang again. It was the university. Because of some trouble with committees and paperwork, they needed me to start in three days!
We had just three days to find a caretaker for the farm and move to the university. Again, we simply took it to the Lord. "Lord, we don't have money to hire someone to take care of the farm. Please help us find a way out of our problem." Almost immediately there was a young couple at the door. "We lost our job on a farm because we refused to work on the Sabbath. We are looking for a place to live." God worked miracle after miracle to supply every need. We even found a place to live where we didn't have to pay rent until the end of the month.
A few weeks after I began teaching, I was invited to join a Bible science tour led by Dr. Ariel Roth of the Geoscience Research Institute at Loma Linda , California . I really wanted to go, to see more evidence to confirm my belief in the biblical account of the Flood and Creation, but I couldn't take six weeks off from a new job! Then riots broke out everywhere, my country was in chaos, and the university was closed for six weeks. The timing was perfect. I went on the Geoscience tour and began developing my own series of lectures on Creation.
By the time my one-year contract with the university was over, there were several permanent teaching vacancies. I was considered for one. "Veith is too controversial. He has strange ideas," many said. Yet here I am, head of the zoology department in a secular university. I teach Creation. It seems impossible. But it happened because God wanted me here. And He can keep me here for as long as He desires. When this door closes, He will find something better for me.
Walter Veith is chairman of the Department of Zoology, University of the Western Cape , South Africa . His website: http:// www.amazingdiscoveries.org