What you are about to read is a parable about creation, design, atheism, and the absurdity of Darwinian Evolution.
An Amazing Talent
Jennifer Szczyrbak is a dear, sweet sister in Christ who, in my estimation, is an amazing talent. She is a sculptor, painter, photographer, and blogger. Jennifer makes her home and has her studio in Minnesota and the shorelines of the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” provides a most unusual palette for her work.
Driftwood “is wood that has been washed onto a shore or beach of a sea, lake, or river by the action of winds, tides or waves. In some waterfront areas, driftwood is a major nuisance. However, the driftwood provides shelter and food for birds, fish, and other aquatic species as it floats in the ocean.”
To my friend Jennifer, driftwood isn’t a “major nuisance.” It is a major inspiration. I am blessed to have a piece of Jennifer’s art on my wall.
The title image for this article is a picture (used with permission) of Jennifer standing behind one of her recent creations–a majestic moose head made entirely of driftwood. Not only did I smile when I saw the picture (Jennifer posted it on Facebook), but it reminded me of an illustration I have often used to show the absurdity of Darwinian Evolution.
I remember open-air preaching one evening at the North Hollywood Metro Station when I saw a young lady walking out of the subway station. Under her arm was a large painting. I asked her if she had painted the painting. She stopped walking and said she did. I complimented her on her talent and then asked her a question. Others stopped to listen, with several people subsequently hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With that, allow me to tell you a parable, a fictitious story to illustrate an important biblical truth.
The Driftwood Moose Head and the Atheist Art Collector
Jennifer had just made the finishing touches to her most recent work of art–a massive moose head made of driftwood weighing in at more than 100 pounds. Her research began in the Spring with work beginning in August. It took her almost four months to sculpt the driftwood moose head. The finished work of art was now displayed prominently in her studio, surrounded by smaller but equally beautiful driftwood pieces.
Customers and browsers made their way in and out of the studio–everyone complimentary of the art.
The Atheist Art Collector
About midday, a man entered the studio. Like others, he briefly looked at various pieces of driftwood art, never spending more than a moment or two in front of any object. When he came to the driftwood sculpture of the moose head, he stopped. For several moments he silently stared at it. Then, upon closer inspection, while slowly walking around the work of art, with a hushed tone, he exclaimed, “Magnificent!”
Worship and Thanks
Jennifer watched at a discreet distance, smiling. Yes, she was always pleased when someone showed seemingly genuine appreciation for her art. But her smile went much deeper than that. Hearing the man whisper the word “magnificent” about the moose head, Jennifer silently worshiped the God who gave her the talent to sculpt the moose head. More than that–she thanked God. She thanked the Creator of all things–the Maker of heaven and earth and driftwood–for saving her and giving her a new heart that knew to give Him the glory and not take any for herself.
Noticing that Jennifer was watching him, the art collector stepped away from the driftwood moose head and walked toward her.
“Do you work here?” he asked.
“Yes; in fact, this is my studio,” Jennifer replied.
“Hmm,” the art collector grunted.
“What you see in the studio is my artwork,” Jennifer explained.
The art collector seemed to ignore Jennifer’s last statement.
“May I ask,” the art collector inquired, leaning forward, “Where did you find it?”
“Find what?” Jennifer asked, a bit confused.
“The pile of driftwood that looks remarkably like a moose’s head. Where did you find it?” He asked.
She noticed, however, the man wasn’t laughing along with her. In fact, he furrowed his brow as if offended at the response to his inquiry.
Jennifer, always polite, quickly covered her mouth to hide her mouth while her smile diminished. Collecting herself, she replied, “I’m sorry, sir. Your question struck me as funny. I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking.”
“It’s quite simple,” the art collector said. “I would like to know how you came to possess that very large and interesting collection of driftwood.”
“Well, I gathered the pieces from the shorelines of several different lakes in the area,” Jennifer explained. “As I collected the driftwood, I formulated a plan, which included a great deal of research into moose. I studied photos of moose. I studied written works that described the size of moose, as well as the size, structure, and purpose of their antlers. Once I completed the research, I began the work of constructing the moose head. I started the build in August and just finished a couple of days ago. It was a labor of…”
“Wait just a minute!” The art collector interrupted. “Are you telling me you made the moose head?”
Jennifer was taken aback by the retort. She was also becoming a little nervous. She was now alone in her studio with a man who was asking odd questions and was now visibly upset.
“I’m sorry, sir. Maybe I don’t understand what you’re asking,” Jennifer replied, trying to diffuse the situation while trying to hide her growing uneasiness.
“Again, my question isn’t a difficult one. I just want to know where you found that pile of driftwood over there,” he said, turning to point to the moose head. “It must weigh at least 100 pounds. And frankly, I’ve never seen a random collection of driftwood look so much like a moose’s head. The chances of something like that happening must be incalculable, but yet here it is! Right in front of me!”
Offense or Pity?
There was no denying it, now. While articulate, obviously intelligent, and well-kempt, Jennifer could not help but think the man in front of her was suffering from some sort of delusional episode. She wasn’t sure what to do. Should she ask him to leave? Should she continue to talk to the man and help him see his way through the episode? Take offense or pity the man were two options. Jennifer opted for the latter–pity the man and continue talking to him.
“Forgive me. I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Jennifer, umm, the artist,” Jennifer said, giving a not-so-subtle reminder. “And yours?” Jennifer asked with an extended hand, hoping to reset the conversation.
Completing the handshake, the art collector said, “Oh; well. My name is Tom. Most people refer to me as an art collector. But that’s not really who I am or what I do. I simply collect objects that interest me.” Leaning forward and lowering his voice to a whisper, Tom continued. “You see; there’s no such thing as art. Art implies design. Art implies the existence of artists.”
It was Jennifer’s turn to interrupt.
“You’re serious,” She said. And she said it, not as a question, but as a statement of fact.
“Yes. Absolutely. I’m serious,” Tom replied with confident insistence. “I’m an atheist and a naturalist. I believe something exploded out of nothing and became everything. I love nature–the randomness of it all. How things chaotically existing are able to function amazes me.
“And, unlike most of my counterparts,” Tom continued, “I try to live consistently within my worldview. It is very difficult. To be honest, I find it next to impossible. But, I’ve worked very hard for many years to convince myself that artists don’t exist. Therefore, there is no such thing as art.”
Tom paused for several moments as if he was trying to convince himself of what he just said. The look of confidence left his face. It was obvious to Jennifer that he wasn’t doing a good job of it, but she wasn’t sure yet how to respond.
“Jennifer, I can’t believe in artists and artwork because I don’t believe in a Creator and creation,” he explained, seeming to beg Jennifer to empathize with him. “I mean you no disrespect, but I don’t believe you made the moose head. I believe it just exists.”
Sympathy, not Empathy
“Tom, whether you believe I sculpted that moose’s head out of driftwood or not, you know that someone built it,” Jennifer said. “I am the sculptor. And it was a labor of love. I picked up every piece of driftwood you see in that moose’s head. Excuse me for a moment.”
Jennifer hurried to a back room and soon returned with a cardboard tube. Standing in front of Tom, she opened the tube and removed her drawings–the plans for the moose head sculpture. She directed Tom to follow her to a nearby table where she unrolled the plans.
“Tom, these are my drawings. These are the plans I made before beginning the work of piecing together the driftwood moose head,” Jennifer explained.
Tom wanted empathy. He wanted Jennifer to join him in his self-deception. He wanted her to validate his delusion. Jennifer, a Christian, could not show Tom empathy. That would not be loving. Instead, she followed in the footsteps of her Master, Jesus Christ, and showed Tom compassion. She told him the truth.
A Worldview Built on Sand
“I see what you’re trying to do,” Tom declared with the sound of defeat in his voice. “Others have tried.”
“Years ago I read a book by Richard Dawkins. I memorized an excerpt from that book. Dawkins wrote: ‘In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.’
“I believe that,” Tom continued. “So, it makes sense to me that if there is no Creator and thus no creation, there can be no artists and thus no artwork. Your moose head over there just happened. I don’t know how long it took to happen. But it’s nothing more than the result of time, chance, matter, and random chemical reactions purposelessly and meaninglessly colliding to form a pile of driftwood that just happens to look like a moose’s head.”
“Tom, what’s more important–what you believe or whether or not what you believe is true?” Jennifer asked.
“What I believe,” Tom replied without hesitation.
An Empty Bank Account
“Really?” She said, replying with doubt in her voice. “Let’s say you decide to buy my moose head sculpture. You agree to pay $10,000 for it.”
“You want $10,000?” Tom exclaimed.
“That’s not important right now,” Jennifer said. “Stay with me.
“You realize you left your checkbook at home. So, you head to your bank to make a withdrawal believing there is more than $10,000 in your checking account.
“You hand the teller the completed withdrawal slip. The teller brings up your account information on the screen. The obligatory smile soon leaves her face. ‘Sir; I’m sorry. But you only have $38.50 in your checking account,” the teller says. There’s no clerical error. In reality, you only have $38.50 in your account.
“You argue with the teller saying that you believe you have more than $1,000,000 in your account. So, certainly, you can withdraw $10,000 of that. You continue to argue with the teller to the point that she pushes a little button under the counter to call the police because she thinks you’re trying to rob her.
“Tom, does it matter that you believe you have more than $1,000,000 in your account?” Jennifer asked.
“No.” There was no emotion on Tom’s face. He knew where Jennifer was going and he had already given up the fight.
“That’s right. It doesn’t matter what you believe about your account. What matters is what is true about your account. Tom, you know that that 100-pound driftwood moose head didn’t happen by chance. It didn’t organize itself over time. You know it’s not the result of random, meaningless, purposeless, chemical processes.
“Tom, you know that someone (and in this case, me) built that moose head. It screams design, intelligence, purpose, and meaning. In the same way, Tom, you know God exists. You simply suppress that truth by your unrighteousness. In your attempt to replace the God you know exists with the false god of atheism you have, in effect, rendered yourself a fool. That is not a judgment against your intelligence, Tom. It is a moral judgment. It’s a judgment against your worldview–a worldview to which you are inconsistently and arbitrarily committed,” Jennifer explained. The Bible says:
‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.'”
“How do you know!” Tom barked with sarcasm in his voice. “Are you a scientist? No. You’re an artist!”
“No, Tom; I’m not a scientist. I’m an artist. Again, Tom, our disagreement isn’t an intellectual one. It’s a moral one. You know God exists the same way I do. The difference between us isn’t the number of points between our GPAs or our IQ tests. The difference between us Tom is that I submit to and worship the God we know and you hate Him.
“I can’t hate someone that doesn’t exist,” Tom said.
“You agree with me?”
Jennifer let Tom enjoy the moment.
“I agree, Tom, that you wouldn’t hate someone or something that didn’t exist. To do so would be delusional. That’s why you don’t hate Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. You know none of them exist. But your denial of reality, your acceptance of absurdity, and your lack of any universal moral standard don’t point to a lack of intelligence. It all points to a hatred for the God you know–the God who created you in His image–the God who gave you a conscience, the understanding of right and wrong, and the ability to reason.
Tom opened his mouth to speak, but just as quickly closed it. And that’s what truth–God’s truth does to a man.
“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20).
“Tom, I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know,” Jennifer offered.
Tom lowered and nodded his head at the same time.
Jennifer could have left Tom like that. After all, the man came into her studio and basically called her a liar by suggesting she didn’t make the sculpture of a moose’s head. She crushed his worldview and declared the glory of God in creation. But Jennifer couldn’t leave him there with his worldview nothing more than a muddy puddle at his feet. She couldn’t leave him there because Jennifer is a Christian.
Hope for the Art Collector
“Tom, it’s a very humbling thing to come to terms with the reality that you’ve been living in rebellion against God. But I’ve got good news for you. While God is opposed to the proud, He gives grace to the humble. A broken and contrite heart God will not turn away.
“God sees pride as evil, Tom, because it is contrary to who He is. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, humbled Himself to take on human flesh and then humbled Himself even further when He sacrificed His life in the most humiliating way—death on the cross. What awaits prideful people? What comes after pride? Destruction (Prov. 16:18)–God’s judgment of sin, the punishment for which is an eternity in hell. Your only hope, Tom, is to turn from your sinful pride, turn toward God and, by faith alone, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ—truly God and truly man, yet without sin, voluntarily shed his innocent blood and died on the cross, taking upon Himself the punishment you rightly deserve for your sins against God. Three days later, He forever defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave. Yes, God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Humble yourself, Tom. Repent and believe the gospel, today, while God has given you time,” Jennifer explained.
“Well, you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about,” Tom said. “Thank you for your time.” Tom shook Jeniffer’s hand, turned, and headed for the door.
He opened the door and paused. He turned and looked at Jennifer and then looked at the moose’s head.
“What are you asking for the moose head?” Tom asked.
“You’re still interested even though it didn’t just drift onto shore?” Jennifer asked with a smile.
“Don’t gloat,” Tom answered. He was smiling, too. “I think I’m going to buy it. Something tells me I’m going to remember this visit to your studio.”
Jennifer thought about it for a moment.
“Tom, you can have it–my gift to you. I can make another one. I am an artist, after all. Let it be a reminder to you of the free gift of eternal life offered to you today.”
Again, the story you just read is a parable. While Jennifer is a real person, Tom is not. Tom is representative of the absurdity of an atheistic worldview. While the story is filled with biblical truth, it is not representative of any actual interaction Jennifer has had with any of her clients.
Leave a Reply