The Danish minister for higher education, Esben Lunde Larsen, has been under fire throughout the past week for having told journalists that he believes God created the world.
Larsen holds a PhD in theology and has not been bashful about the fact that he believes in God, which critics argue make him an unfit choice for his position.
The minister, who hails from Denmark’s ‘Bible belt’ in Ringkøbing, has also said that he believes the universe was created by God and that, accordingly, so was humankind.
“I believe that God is behind it, but how he did it [created humankind, ed.] is something I have not considered, and there isn’t anyone who can give a theological explanation – or anything similar – for how it happened,” Larsen told Jyllands-Posten.
Some days later he elaborated upon the rather cryptic answer in an interview with public broadcaster DR, saying that he simply didn’t know enough to take a stance on the subject of evolution.
“Humanity was created through a long process of development. I am not a natural scientist, so I cannot explain if it is molecules that turn into apes, which subsequently turn into humans,” Larsen said.
Larsen has also said that he does not feel that creationism and the Big Bang theory are necessarily at odds with one another.
“I think that God is behind the creation of most things in this world, and how that came about, well, the Bible offers one explanation and natural science another. That is not what matters to me. What matters is that the world came to be, and I, as a believer, think that there is a God behind it,” he told Jyllands-Posten.
Larsen’s statements have been received with criticism from the academic community in particular, who worry that his faith may influence government policy in education and research.
“We wouldn’t complain if he had become minister of anything else [than higher education and research, ed.]. But when he demonstrates such an incredible ignorance and a portrayal of the world that can so easily be debunked by basic school curriculum, one has to protest,” argued religious historians Jens-André Herbener and Mikael Rothstein in a Politiken opinion column.
Larsen himself believes the criticism is unwarranted, and even dangerous for critics to point out that a minister of higher education is not allowed to believe in God.
“There may be a reason why we are all here, and that is where theology provides a narrative. That’s not science – that’s an area of faith,” Larsen told DR.
“It is dangerous to violate freedom of religion in Denmark,” he added.