The Jesus Fish, The Darwin Salamander, and a Truth Something-or-Another


Originally posted on on June 16, 2007.

As I pulled into work the other day, I maneuvered my vehicle into a parking spot immediately behind a vehicle exhibiting the Darwin salamander.  Or at least I think it’s a salamander.  It’s like a fish with legs, except that fish don’t have legs.  I heard of some prehistoric fish that they think may have had legs and is the argument for how animals went from sea to land, so maybe it’s supposed to be that thing.  Anyway, what it is supposed to actually portray is irrelevant, but it’s the kind of random stuff that keeps me up at night.

But as I looked at this little $3 item that someone chose to slap on their car, I started contemplating this whole competition we’ve engaged in.  There is an unsettling aspect to it that I don’t think really struck me before.

It used to be that people put the fish symbol on their car as a testament to their Christianity.  It’s a traditional symbol that was used as kind of a code back in times when there was extreme persecution of Christians.  One way of identifying someone as a Christian was a subtle little fish symbol.  I would be lying if I said I knew the complete history and all the details, but that’s the general idea, as I understand it.   Now, regardless of how accurate the whole story about this is, let’s fast-forward to present times.  The fish symbol once again gained popularity among Christians as a subtle bumper sticker.  It’s pretty harmless.  It’s not an in-your-face bumper sticker or a crucifix or anything overly blatant.  It’s a fish.  To the person in the car, it’s simply a statement of faith and belief.

Now, what struck me is that this little item is used to profess faith in our God, Jesus Christ.  It was not intended as some larger argument about the details of theological thought.  It does not testify, necessarily, to one’s personal views on Creationism, Evolution, or Intelligent Design, or anything of the sort.  It doesn’t even really provide information on Christian denomination.   It merely says “Fish = Christian.”

And so, the unsettling part of the whole Darwin Salamander is not whether it’s a fish with legs or a lizard or a turtle.  It’s that the item on the car is a direct rebuff of the Jesus fish.  Think about it…  the fish professes a faith in God.  The person in the car with the Darwin tag has openly professed a replacement of Jesus with Darwin, or at the very least, evolution (or science).  Jesus is gone.  Jesus is unnecessary.  Christians are worshipping the wrong thing.  Darwin/Evolution/Science is the new god, the new faith.

Now, personally, I can actually reconcile a belief in Evolution with being a Christian, so long as the belief is that Evolution occurs through God’s will and plan – that God chose to institute an immortal soul into man at some point.   That the Creation story, while not literal, is nonetheless completely true in what it teaches regarding God as Creator.  Now, I don’t actually believe that Evolution is true as it is professed by many proponents.  But my reasoning is based on critical observation, reasoning, and my understanding of the science. I see a lot of holes, have questions that are unable to be answered, and add a dose of common sense.  If, however, it were proven without a reasonable doubt that man has an acestor in a paramecium, my faith does not rest on my skepticism of evolutionary theory, and thus would not be shaken by this conclusion.   I am wary, however, of the attitude of many who are proponents of Darwinian thought when they somehow suggest that proof of Evolution disproves God as Creator.  It does nothing of the sort.  Should Evolution be proven, all it tells us is how we got to the point we are, and one can easily argue that God is infinitely imaginitive in the way He manages His creation. 

That explanation is somewhat of an aside, to briefly summarize my own musings on the subject of Evolution and put my other thoughts in a bit of context.   Back to the main point:  Those who stick the Darwin Salamander on their vehicle, whether conscious of it or not, have just put another god before the true God.  It is entirely possible that many just think it’s funny, or some even profess to be a Christian that believes in Evolution.  The problem is, the fish is not actually a statement on Evolution.  It is a statement of faith.  As such, the salamander also displays a deeper meaning, be it purposeful or not.

As if that isn’t bad enough, Christians then forgot the purpose of placing a fish emblem on a vehicle and decided to fire the next shot in the bumper-sticker war. Enter the “Truth” whale or big fish, or something.   I’ll admit that the first time I saw that, I was kind of amused.  But upon further reflection, I’m not a fan of this.  All it does is detract from the original intent of the Jesus fish by getting drawn into a petty back-of-an-auto-stickie-thing debate.  I mean, do we really think we’ll convert anyone by putting that on our car?  Oh, it may make us feel clever, as if we just showed all those atheist folk who’s boss, but in the end it’s hard to believe that this has ever served a positive purpose.  The other thing is that you then get caught up in looking like you’re trying to suppress scientific thought, lending credence to the idea that anyone with a fish on their car is a strict fundamentalist Creationist.  Stick with the normal Jesus fish, if you ask me, and instead of going tit-for-tat with the sticky thingies, just pray for those who may not know what they are actually saying when they trumpet Darwin in the place of Christ.

I don’t actually have a fish.  I have nothing against it.  I’m just not one to plunk things on my car.  I think the only bumper sticker I’ve ever put on my car is a small Packers bumper sticker.  That was on a car I got rid of 11 years ago.  I loved that car.  I had a bumper sticker on another vehicle that came with it and I never took off.  That minivan cost me a lot of money.

Maybe I should have had a Jesus fish…

6 responses »

  1. Original comment from digital diatribes:
    Twenty Five Year Old Woman | |

    I just posted a blog about this very thing. Last week I was behind a car that had a fish on the back that looked just like the Christian fish but it had Darwin written in it. I’ve seen many fishes with Jesus written in them. To see the exact same fish with Darwin’s name in it made me feel like this was trying to show that Jesus and Darwin are equals or something which, I feel, is absolutely ridiculous.

    From The Jesus Fish, The Darwin Salamander, and a Truth Something-or-Another, 2008/09/30 at 5:53 PM

  2. I agree that the whole “fish symbol wars” thing is very petty. Ridiculous.

    What is equally ridiculous, however, is the idea that the evolution/creationism debate is even a debate any more. If you want to look at it in these terms, God left us an extremely accurate history of how life developed on the planet, literally “written in stone.”

    Dig down to the lowest/oldest level of fossils in the world and what do you find? Micro-organisms in the form of fossils. Then up a little higher, to a more recent level of fossils, and we come upon the Cambrian explosion, with more complex sea creatures in vast numbers, etc. etc. etc.

    To say someone “believes” in evolution is like saying someone believes in the solar system. It just is. Does the simple fact of the extensive fossil record change because it doesn’t concide with an ancient tribal creation story? The same sort of argument happened with Galileo and the Church, when this scientist had the audacity to report a simple fact that he discovered about the solar system we live in. Aren’t you glad the Church no longer has the power to persecute scientists who report their discoveries to the world? I know I am.

    • You’re oversimplifying matters significantly. Going from microorganisms to the vast differentiation of species that we have today is not as easily explained as you’d like to present it.

      I say this not to get into a huge debate on evolution versus creationism. I am not opposed to the scientific explanation of evolution, at least in many ways, as a matter of faith. I can accept that God had a plan and design in mind for our planet, and an evolutionary process may very well be the method in which He chose to bring life forward. On the other hand, as a true believer in God’s ultimate power and authority, I humbly have to accept a potentially very simplistic view as a possible explanation, as well. That falls into the “God can do anything, and who am I to say otherwise” department.

      Now, I may determine that through research and study and trust of certain scientific minds that I have a pretty good idea of how God did what He did. And I may even think it’s quite obvious. But what I really don’t understand is why people care so much about whether they are right about it or wrong about it. I don’t understand why many, many evolutionists use the theory or evidence as some sort of avenue towards a disbelief in God, when it really doesn’t suggest anything of the sort. More than anything, this atheistic attitude is probably what hinders the Christian acceptance of Evolution as much as anything. I may be able to differentiate the two and look at Evolution on its own merits absent the false theological presumptions put forth by otherwise brilliant scientists, but it does admittedly make it much more difficult to do. Also, nothing suggested by such scientists have ever come seriously close to explaining the very origin of the life that eventually and supposedly became us.

      For my ultimate salvation, the scientific means by which I got here is irrelevant. Whether I assume my original forefather was a mound of dust that became man when God breathed on him, or whether that’s an allegory that explained the spiritual truth that God gave man a soul at some precise time in the evolutionary process is irrelevant to my salvation. What is relevant to my salvation is that I accept Creation as God’s handiwork. Whether a 7 day, near-instantaneous Creation or a billiion-year process of evolution, God did it. He planned it. He made it.

      That’s the important issue. Too often, both sides become dogmatic about something they just don’t need to be dogmatic about, and it creates more harm and division than it does good.

  3. Yeah see thing is, jesus IS unnecessary. Not that Darwin is the new god, cause there are no gods. But just as the lil sushi fish is someone is expressing themselves, the same is true with the Darwin symbols.

    And with evolution, well the thing is I could just as easily say Zeus did it, the leprechauns did it, the talking gingerbread boy on the run did it. If you believe in a literal read of the bible, god made man and woman from dust (or woman from man’s rib depending or what version you read) and not through a series of gradual changes from animal origins. You can’t cherry pick if you want to take the bible literally.

  4. “And so, the unsettling part of the whole Darwin Salamander is not whether it’s a fish with legs or a lizard or a turtle. It’s that the item on the car is a direct rebuff of the Jesus fish. Think about it… the fish professes a faith in God. The person in the car with the Darwin tag has openly professed a replacement of Jesus with Darwin, or at the very least, evolution (or science). Jesus is gone. Jesus is unnecessary. Christians are worshipping the wrong thing. Darwin/Evolution/Science is the new god, the new faith.”

    You have it 100% wrong here. The Darwin symbol is not a replacement of Jesus with Darwin at all. It is merely a statement as to the origin of life on earth. The scientific study shows that evolutionary process occurs in nature. It gives us the tools to analyze and understand speciation, or the process by which new species arise in nature. Concepts of evolution and God are not mutally incompatible…they may both exist and be believed at the same time.

    • A) I completely agree that a belief in evolution need not be incompatible with a belief in God. I did not say that someone who believes in evolution has replaced Christ with Darwin.
      B) Darwinism cannot be a statement as to the origin of life on earth, since Darwin himself never reconciled that. Nobody, as of yet, has offered more than a primordial ooze of random proteins as an explanation. Some have attempted to say that bacteria came on rocks from outer space, but even that does not speak to the origin of those bacteria.
      C) You miss my point. The Jesus Fish is NOT a statement about creation. It’s a simple prfession of faith. It says “I’m a Christian. Jesus is my God.” It hails back to early century Christianity where symbols (including a fish) was used to let other Christians know that you were a likeminded follower of Christ. They couldn’t be public about it without becoming a martyr (which many decided to do). Given this premise, replacing the Jesus Fish with a Darwin lizard is a purposeful poke in the eye to Christians, and either erroneously takes the argument to a “Christian = Creationist and I’ll make fun of them” message, or it blatantly puts Darwin in the place of God. In either case, it’s an affront.

      I’m not wrong.

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