Review: Evolution, Scripture, and Science

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Evolution, Scripture, and ScienceB. B. Warfield (Edited by Mark A. Noll & David N. Livingstone). Eugene, Wipf & Stock, 2019 (originally published in 2000).

Summary: A collection of the writings of B.B. Warfield consisting of lectures, articles, and reviews showing his engagement with evolutionary writers and his conviction that scripture and science need not be in conflict.

B. B. Warfield (1851-1921) was know as a staunch advocate of the inspiration, infallibility, and authority of the Bible, and as a “Princeton theologian,” trained by Charles Hodge. What is lesser known was that he closely followed the scientific literature of his day concerning the developing theory of evolution and did not see that evolution and scripture inherently in conflict.

Mark Noll and David N. Livingstone have collected the writings of Warfield on the subject of evolutionary science. This includes lectures, articles, and excerpts from Warfield’s own writings as well as numerous reviews of articles and books by various writers on the subject. There are several things that impress me about Warfield:

  1. He both affirms the truthfulness of the Genesis accounts but is open to interpretations that do not insist on literal days, or use genealogical records to date when Adam was created.
  2. He insists on ex nihilo creation of the stuff of the cosmos, allows for providentially guided development, but insists on the creation of the human soul.
  3. His views develop over the course of his life. At one point, while allowing for evolutionary development under God’s providence, he advocated mediate creation. Later, after studying Calvin, he abandoned the idea of mediate creation and allowed for development and speciation.
  4. At the same time, he was willing to both affirm and critique various aspects of the writers of his day. His big issues were not evolution per se, but rather evolutionism that denied God’s providential involvement and the idea of randomness that denied teleology, the evidence of purpose in the development of life.
  5. He is, if anything more challenging in his remarks on theological writers when they deviate from orthodoxy than with science writers.
  6. He is unwilling to accept the fact/value dichotomy. He insists that theology and biology are both sciences, both are concerned with facts. Theology cannot be relegated to the subjective world of faith and emotion.

The editors provide an excellent essay on Warfield as a “conservative evolutionist.” Also each of the works are preceded by a brief summary.

It is sad that Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology shaped the public conception about Christianity’s response to evolutionary theory and science more generally, one sadly that even many Christians have adopted. Warfield called White’s work “special pleading,” projecting present controversies into a past when Christians were on the forefront of science and saw their investigations as giving glory to God, studying his revelation in the books of scripture and nature. It is sad that Warfield’s ideas did not gain greater currency in the culture and in the church.

At very least, this collection suggests that thoughtful Christians with a high view of scripture need not be at war with science. The state of evolutionary theory is far advanced from the time of Warfield and the discussions concern discarded aspects of the theory. Nevertheless, the model of respectful engagement, a theologian abreast with scientific research, a foundation of conviction with an openness to grow all commend Warfield as a model for those who would engage discussions between scripture and science. Wipf & Stock is to be commended for re-printing this work and keeping it in circulation.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Friend of Science, Friend of Faith

friend of science friend of faith

Friend of Science, Friend of FaithGregg Davidson. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019.

Summary:  Shows how we can trust both the witness of scripture and the findings of science as we consider God’s works.

Gregg Davidson begins this account with a story I’ve sadly observed in too many college settings. A students has been raised with a particular interpretation of the Bible’s account of beginnings and all sorts of “answers” to the challenge of evolution. Then she discovers that the real evidence for evolution far more extensive, and that the supposed “objections” to evolution were groundless in light of the actual evidence. A well meaning youth minister brings by a book defending a literal, “plain sense” reading of Genesis, but the student finds it riddled with inconsistencies, misconceptions and false assertions. Forced to choose between science and the interpretation of scripture presented her as true and authoritative, she walked away from her faith, her Bible ending up in a landfill.

Davidson is saddened by this because he is convinced that most of the science versus faith conflicts are needless battles. He proposes three important questions where science and the Bible seem in conflict:

  1. Does the infallibility of Scripture rest on a literal interpretation of the verses in question?
  2. Does the science conflict with the intended message of scripture?
  3. Is the science credible? (p.23).

What Davidson does is illustrate, first with the historic case of heliocentrism, and then in much more depth in the accounts of origins how Genesis may give a true, but not literalistic account of origins that would have “rung true” for it original hearers and readers who would have been baffled by the concordist efforts to reconcile a literal reading with observed evidence. He then shows that in fact science does not clash with the intended meaning of scripture that affirms a universe that emerged ex nihilo, life that arose from the earth, and humans from the dust of the ground, and the evidence of a massive flood in the known world of the Bible.

Having contended for the trustworthiness of biblical accounts, and that read in terms of their intended message, they needn’t conflict with science, Davidson, a geologist by training, turns to the question of the credibility of the science of beginnings, summarizing in wonderful detail both cosmological origins, and the geology and origins of life on earth. He shows the problems the evidence poses for flood geology. He also addresses the objection raised by many of the lack of transitional forms, demonstrating that while this was true at one point, we now have great evidence for these forms in the fossil record showing transitions from dinosaurs to birds, reptiles to mammals, mammals to marine whales, and the origins of human life.

One of the most challenging portions of this book for those who advocate “creation science” is how Davidson exposes the rhetorical moves used to advance this cause: false dichotomies, the twisting of terms, the misapplication of scientific principles like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the misleading ways of telling half a story, the use of distractions, the cherry-picking of quotations, and outright wrong and often outdated information. Some do this from sincere conviction, and I appreciate Davidson’s graciousness with those who do not agree, and his commitment to Christian charity and fellowship with those who differ. But he also challenges others who uphold a particular mode of creation at the expense of truth. The cause of truth and righteousness is never advanced by falsehoods. Their efforts are also misdirected. They become creation evangelists, rather than what Davidson would hope for, people with particular beliefs of what is true who can acknowledge those who read Genesis differently and then say, “so what do you think about Jesus?”

He discusses the intelligent design movement, and the difficulty of arguing for the activity of God in the places evidencing design not yet explicable by science. He confirmed what I’ve long felt that the things we do understand argue as much for the Creator as what we do not, and that to put our emphasis on the inexplicables is to worship a shrinking God, rather than a God, the grandeur of whose work only grows as we understand more of it.

Gregg Davidson represents a growing number of Christians in science who are convinced both of the inspiration and authority of the Bible and the credibility of the results of scientific research. As his title suggests, he is an advocate for a better conversation, a better relationship between science and faith, a friendly rather than adversarial relationship. In this book he makes a strong case from both scripture and science that this is possible, and that adversarial approaches, whether by Christians, or by atheists like Richard Dawkins, are needless, wrong headed, and harmful.

There are people on both sides of the “battle” who have built personal followings and empires that are sustained by the perpetuation of this battle. I frankly hope that Davidson’s book contributes to the opening of the eyes of many to recognize that “the emperor(s) have no clothes,” that they should no longer be heeded, and that former enemies might become friends–friends both of science and faith.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Faith and Science at Notre Dame

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Faith and Science at Notre DameJohn P. Slattery. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2019..

Summary: A study of the life of Catholic priest and science professor at Notre Dame, and his clash with the Vatican over his writing on evolution.

Many of us are far more familiar with the clashes between fundamentalists and scientists over evolution beginning with the Scopes trial and continuing to the present day. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, even as this conflict was developing in fundamentalist circles, there was a parallel conflict within the Roman Catholic Church.

One of those on whom the conflict centered was Fr. John Zahm, a Catholic priest from Ohio, educated at Notre Dame, ordained to the priesthood and recruited to teach chemistry and physics at Notre Dame. Highly esteemed, he was named a vice president of the university, speaking widely representing the university, and publishing works ranging from Sound and Music to Evolution and Dogma, an outgrowth of popular lectures on “Science and Revealed Religion.” He was granted a pontifical doctorate, a recognition of his distinguished accomplishments.

His contention throughout was that an embrace of evolutionary theory, if not joined to metaphysical naturalism, need not be seen in conflict with either the biblical account of origins or of God as creator. Zahm went so far as conceding the descent of human beings from the apes, while affirming the divinely bestowed soul that made humans distinct.

And then came the notice from the Congregation of the Index that he was to submit and retract his work and that his publication would be publicly censured. Even as this is unfolding he was appointed provincial of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, vigorously advocating for Notre Dame and for a grand vision for the university.

Friends advocated for the reversal of these efforts but were only partially successful. Zahm agreed to retract French and Italian translations of his work and no longer teach on evolution. Sadly, this spelled the end to a promising career in Caholic higher education. He lost re-election as provincial, and never taught or occupied an administrative post again at Notre Dame. He continued to research, write, and travel, including accompanying Teddy Roosevelt on one of his expeditions.

John P. Slattery’s new book recounts Zahm’s biography and explores the dynamics that set up the clash between Zahm and the Church. He attributes to the very different intellectual cultures that formed Zahm and those in the Congregation of the Index, and particularly Fr. Otto Zardetti. For Zahm, the influences, while reflecting traditional theological formation, centered in his training as a scientist in the empirical tradition spanning the tradition from Francis Bacon to Charles Darwin. He drew on a tradition in reading the Church Fathers from Augustine through Aquinas that did not set faith against observational study of the physical world.

Father Otto Zardetti and key figures like the Jesuit Kleutgen, in the Congregation of the Index, were shaped by a Neo-Scholasticism that arose as a response to modernism that advocated for a return to an Aristotelian approach to science that reached conclusions about the world from first principles rather than empirical observation. The Congregation promulgated the Syllabus of Errors and laid the basis for the doctrine of papal infallibilty.

Slattery draws upon archives of both Fr. Zahm’s work and the Vatican to analyze the clash in which Fr. Zahm found himself caught up. He also includes translations of the Syllabus of Errors and Zardetti’s correspondence. In doing so, he helps us understand how such a distinguished scholar and university leader ended up sidelined as the Church wrestled with its response to modernism and scientific advances. Much like the fundamentalists, they engaged in a form of intellectual retreat rather than the intellectual engagement advocated by Zahm. Unlike the fundamentalists, they used ecclesiastical power to suppress a line of scientific inquiry, and sadly, the career of Fr. John Zahm.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Guest Review: Finding Ourselves After Darwin

Findng Ourselves After Darwin

Finding Ourselves After DarwinStanley P. Rosenberg ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018.

Summary: This book presents and discusses multiple approaches to thinking about the image of God, original sin, and the problem of evil in light of biological evolution.

This collection of essays is one result of a research project at Oxford University which “assembled scholarship presenting different approaches and methods and insights, introducing a variety of models that may be considered . . .” (p. 8). The individual authors are primarily theologians and biblical scholars, some with a science background.

As the title implies, biological evolution is presupposed, and the issue is how to think about the image of God, original sin, and the problem of evil in the light of biological evolution. The book is divided into three parts, one for each topic. Each part includes a brief introduction, a discussion of the questions, challenges, and concerns for the topic, several essays offering different approaches, and a conclusion and further reading list.

Part 1 deals with why the image of God is important in the theology-evolutionary science dialogue. It begins with a discussion of what constitutes human distinctiveness. After four essays offering different views of the image of God in the light of recent developments in evolutionary science, Michael Burdett concludes by suggesting that “it is entirely possible that each of these models could be combined in interesting ways such that hybrid models could be constructed that rely on aspects from each one outlined here.” (p. 109)

Part 2 deals with original sin. The opening essay by Gijsbert van den Brink suggests that biological evolution does not require a radical abandonment of the doctrine of original sin, but rather a recontextualization within an evolutionary framework. After essays on Augustinian, Irenaean, federal headship, and cultural approaches, Christopher M. Hays presents a compelling account of the ways in which evolutionary theory aids our understanding of the universality of sin without appealing to an Adamic fall. In his conclusion, Benno van den Toren suggests that “Insights from different theories might well be combined for a new theological synthesis to arise out of this fermentation process. (p. 206)

Part 3 deals with the problem of evil by presenting a variety of approaches. Essayists discuss Augustinian, Irenaeasn, fall-of-the-angels, free process, only way, and non-identity theodicy and how they relate to evolution. The concluding essay by Michael Lloyd suggests that, despite their differences, the contributors to this part seem to believe the following: (1) the current state of evolutionary biology and modern genetics leaves plenty of room in which to do theodicy, (2) the seriousness of the problem of evil in relation to the evolutionary processes, (3) this volume falls far short of a full theodical narrative, and (4) their positions still have challenges to face and work to do.

The three Further Reading lists, the 26-page Bibliography, and the numerous informative footnotes provide a wealth of opportunities to pursue specific topics of personal interest.

It would help to have some familiarity with the issues before tackling this book, but it does succeed in bringing together multiple approaches to dealing with the image of God, original sin, and the problem of evil in light of evolution. I can recommend it to anyone interested in this topic. Three other helpful essay collections on the same topic are “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation”, “Theology After Darwin,” and “Darwin, Creation and the Fall.”

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This guest review was contributed by Paul Bruggink, a retired technical specialist whose review interest is in the area of science and faith.

Review: Confronting Old Testament Controversies

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Confronting Old Testament Controversies: Pressing Questions About Evolution, Sexuality, History, and ViolenceTremper Longman III. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019.

Summary: With a commitment both to the authority of the Bible, and pastoral concern for readers, the author addresses controversial questions about origins, historicity, violence, and sexuality.

This work took a certain amount of courage to write. I suspect there will be a number who read it who applaud what the author says in some places and vehemently disagree elsewhere. Throughout, the author seeks to offer a reading of scripture, particularly the Old Testament that engages the text as a whole and seeks to listen to its overarching  message, that engages scholarship, including scholars, some friends, with whom the author disagrees, and seeks to exercise pastoral care, even for readers who may disagree.

The four issues the author addresses are the controversy of how we read the creation accounts of scripture in light of evolution; whether we can trust that the exodus and Canaanite conquest are historical events, despite claims that they did not happen; how we should think about the claims of divine violence in scripture; and what the Bible teaches about same-sex relations and the pastoral implications of this teaching. My brief summaries of the author’s responses to these controversy should not substitute for a careful reading of his responses, especially if one thinks one differs with the author.

  • On evolution, he both argues against “wooden reading that would lead us to think that it was the intention of the biblical author to provide us with a straightforward description of the how of creation” and equally against those who would deny “a historic fall and concept of original sin.” He contends that the Bible is interested in the who and why of creation while science addresses the how.
  • On history, he affirms the historical reality as well as the theological import of the exodus and conquest narratives.
  • On violence, he believes that attempts to claim God didn’t hurt anyone or that seek to minimize the harm, do not do justice to the biblical text, which, consistent with the New Testament portrays a God who fights against, and finally defeats evil. He actually suggests that the violence of the Old Testament, first against the nations, and later against Israel herself, stand as forewarnings of God’s final judgment.
  • On sexuality, he affirms the historic view of the church affirming sexual intimacy within the boundaries of a marriage between a man and a woman. He thoughtfully deals with key texts and alternative readings. While he holds to what is now called a “traditional” view, he contends he speaks only to the church here and that there are implications of the Bible’s teaching about sexuality that challenge every believer. He opposes crusades against same-sex marriage or the withholding of business services to LGBT persons offered to others.

What I most admired are the gracious ways in which Longman engages and charitably differs with scholars, including one who was a former student, and another who is a close friend. I affirm the ways he shows pastoral concern without compromising theological integrity, modeling a belief that love and truth, story and principle need not be at odds. Finally, I appreciate the thoughtful, nuanced yet concise, responses to four controversies, each of which have been the subjects of multiple complete books. What each have in common are that they represent shifts from historic understanding, arising both from scholarship and other cultural forces. Longman offers a thoughtful restatement of the biblical teaching that weighs the counter arguments and finds them inadequate to justify abandoning historic understandings shared by most of the church through most of its history.

The work serves as a good starting place for someone who wants to read a well-stated “conservative” view (although some conservatives and some evolutionists alike would be unhappy with Longman on evolution) on the four controversies addressed by this book. The documentation points people to the full range of scholarship on each of the questions. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter may help both with personal reflection and group discussion. Most of all, the work models a spirit in desperate need of recovery, that can both speak unequivocally about one’s convictions yet shows charities toward one’s opponents.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

Guest Review: Laying Down Arms to Heal the Creation-Evolution Divide

Laying Dowh

Laying Down Arms to Heal the Creation Evolution DivideGary N. Fugle (foreword Darrell R. Falk).  Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2015.

Summary:  Christians can be comfortable with the revelations of both Scripture and scientific study

This book is based on the author’s personal experiences as a Christian who taught biological evolution at the college level for 30 years. He writes with the authority of someone who has dealt with creation-evolution issues regularly throughout his career. Throughout the book he emphasizes and gives his reasons for his Christian faith. His goal is for Christians to be comfortable with the revelations of both Scripture and scientific study.

The author is an evolutionary creationist and points out numerous problems with young-earth creationism and the intelligent design movement. He is “enthusiastically interested in a dialogue among individuals who are softened to the possibility of reconciliation in which the powerful message of Christian faith and the fascinating scientific understanding of evolution are integrated together.” (p. 8)

In his introductory Part I, the author suggests that “the voices of six-day, young-earth creationists and intelligent design (ID) advocates have not been widely suppressed or ignored by mainstream scientists; rather, they have been evaluated and deemed incomparable and incompatible with the scientific validity and value of evolutionary theory.” (p. 14)

He also suggests that “one of the changes that will bring healing and an end to the creation-evolution wars is an understanding within the Christian church that most scientists are simply pursuing their professions and are not the enemy of biblical Christian faith.” (p. 14)

In Part II the author discusses real issues for Christians: how did God go about his creative activities, which comes first-the Bible or science, and presuppositions on both sides. It also includes the obligatory brief history of young-earth creationism. He suggests that as believers in a sovereign God of creation, Christians should fully expect that nature and the Bible will complement and inform one another, which does not elevate the former over the latter, but can, and should, be elevated above any person’s interpretation of the Bible if there are major conflicts between the two.

In Part III, he discusses the collision of ideas, in which he argues for the separation of science and religion in our public education system, and notes that Christians are as wrong as scientists in their attacks on each other. Along the way he briefly discusses miracles, divine action, and the problems that the intelligent design movement has caused. He discusses how ID has no explanatory power, as opposed to biological evolution, which has an abundance of it.

Part IV is a survey of a sample of the evidence for biological evolution and illustrations of its explanatory power. The author has two goals in this part: (1) to communicate an understanding of the biological foundation behind evolutionary theory, and (2) “to continue to express how someone may accept that the biological world is both the product of evolutionary processes and the intended creation of a sovereign God.”

He accomplishes this by presenting example of homologous structures, vestigial structures, embryology, the fossil record, biogeography, possible mechanisms of evolutionary modification, and various aspects of molecular genetics, within which he emphasizes that molecular data has been found to be consistent with evolutionary predictions and makes little sense if God specialty created various organisms.

In Part V the author discusses reading the Bible with evolution in mind. He begins with a brief discussion of biblical interpretation, emphasizing that the book of Genesis was written for the ancient Israelites. He discusses creation over six days, the framework interpretation, and John Walton’s cosmic temple interpretation. He also argues that the biblical flood was not a global flood.

He clearly agrees that suffering and death entered the world long before the actions of Adam and Eve, and admits that the “Fall” of humanity through the actions of Adam and Eve is the most critical challenge from evolutionary biology for many Christians. While acknowledging that some Christians understand the Fall as a metaphor for our inherent human condition, he focuses on the difficulties with reading the Fall as a metaphor.

In his final chapter, the author discusses how to move forward, including a rejection of unjustified propositions on both sides, particularly metaphysical naturalism and strict young-earth creationism. He suggests that scientists could show more respect for belief systems and Christians could “incorporate legitimate scientific discoveries into a reasoned God-centered worldview.”

The author recommends this book for Christians who wonder how biological evolution can be accepted along with a Christian worldview and for non-Christians who don’t understand how a personal Christian faith can be embraced along with evolutionary ideas. I would also highly recommend it for anyone who wants a refresher course in biological evolution and its theological implications. The author did not intend this book for staunch proponents of young-earth creationism who hold unswervingly to their position or for committed atheists.

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This guest review was contributed by Paul Bruggink, a retired technical specialist whose review interest is in the area of science and faith.

Guest Review: Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?

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Old-Earth or Evolutionary Creation? Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogosEdited by Kenneth Keathley, J. B. Stump, and Joe Aguirre. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2017.

Summary:  Dialogue between BioLogos (evolutionary creation) and Reasons to Believe (old-earth creationism), moderated by Southern Baptist Convention seminary professors.

This book is the result of a series of meetings between representatives of BioLogos, advocates of evolutionary creation, and Reasons to Believe (RTB), advocates of old-earth creation.

I liked the structure of this book. Each chapter begins with an introduction and questions by a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) moderator, followed by responses from a representative of each organization. Then there is a redirect by the moderator with specific follow-up questions for each respondent, followed by their responses and a conclusion by the chapter moderator.

Topics covered include biblical interpretation and authority, the range of viable positions concerning Adam and Eve, natural evil, divine action, the scientific method, biological evolution, the geological evidence, the fossil evidence, the biological evidence, and the anthropological evidence.

The purpose of the book is to “help lay readers identify science-faith issues, comprehend what the two organizations stand for, understand the nature of their dialogue and what the two organizations hope to achieve through it, and appreciate how they and the church at large can benefit from the conversation.” (p. 6)

BioLogos is committed to the following core doctrines: (1) Humans are created “in the image of God,” with a special relationship to God and a role to play in God’s creation, (2) All humans who have ever lived have sinned by rebelling against God’s revealed will, and (3) God has dealt with sin through Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return. (p. 50)

Within that commitment, BioLogos suggests four potentially viable scenarios for interpreting Genesis 2-3 that could be consistent with both biological evolution and their core doctrines. In response, Ken Samples of RTB concisely states the traditional case for a historical Adam and Eve as the progenitors of all humanity. RTB’s objections to the creation of mankind via biological evolution focus on both the theological difficulties and the biological evidence.

Loren Haarsma of BioLogos presents a good discussion of the interaction of science and biblical interpretation, including the observation that, “BioLogos does not believe that science trumps theology or biblical interpretation, but we do believe that theology and biblical interpretation can draw useful insights from scientific discoveries.” (p. 50)

Darrel Falk of BioLogos points out that “many of us who subscribe to evolutionary creation do believe in a historical Adam and Eve. It is important to emphasize that mainstream science does not imply that Adam and Eve did not exist, just that they could not have been the only two progenitors of the human race.” (p. 136)

The most interesting chapters are the two where BioLogos and RTB disagree the most, namely interpreting the evidence for biological evolution (Chap. 7) and interpreting the anthropological evidence for the uniqueness of humans (Chap. 11).

The brief final chapter (“What is the Next Step?”) has a very promising title but contains very little meat to chew on.

It is no surprise that the SBC moderators tend to side with the RTB position whenever it differs from the BioLogos position. It is also no surprise that I tend to side with the BioLogos position. RTB is very good in the area of cosmological evolution but leaves a bit to be desired in the area of biological evolution. Fazale Rana, the VP of research for RTB, demonstrates in the book that there are a number of things that he doesn’t accept about biological evolution, including the Cambrian explosion and convergence in evolution. Perhaps this explains why RTB has such a problem with biological evolution.

This book provides the clearest-yet description of the positions of these two organizations as well as a clarification of their differences. I can recommend it to Christians who want to learn more about the intersection of biological evolution and Christian theology.

This guest review was contributed by Paul Bruggink, a retired technical specialist whose review interest is in the area of science and faith. This is his fourth review on Bob on Books.

Guest Review: Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

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Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent DesignJ.B. Stump ed., Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, Deborah Haarsma, Stephen C. Meyer, contributors. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017.

Summary: A snapshot of the current origins debate in America.

The stated goal of this Four Views book is “for it to be an accurate snapshot of the origins conversation in America right now.” In my opinion, it succeeds.

The format consists of essays by Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis), Hugh Ross (Reasons to Believe), Deborah Haarsma (BioLogos), and Stephen C. Meyer (Discovery Institute). Following each essay are responses by the other three authors and a rejoinder by the essay author.

The essay authors were asked to describe their position on origins, discuss the most persuasive argument for and biggest challenges to their position, their sources of evidence for their position, and how important it is to have a correct view of origins.

Ken Ham defends Young-Earth Creationism against all of the old-earth views. He states that “Scripture must control our interpretation of the scientific evidence and our critique of evolutionary, naturalistic interpretations” (p. 31) and that “the issue of the age of the earth for Christians comes down one of authority. Who is the ultimate authority, God or man, or what is the final authority, God’s Word or man’s word?” (p. 34) He neglects to mention that Scripture also needs to be interpreted, and that his interpretation is only one of many possible interpretations of Genesis 1-11. He claims that “all old-earth scientists ignore (or worse, twist) God’s eyewitness testimony in Genesis in their efforts to interpret the physical evidence from events of the past” (p. 212).

Ken Ham then goes on to state that “The scientific evidence confirming the literal truth [i.e., his interpretation] of Genesis 1-11 is overwhelming and increasing with time as a result of the research of both evolutionists and creationists” (p. 31). That statement is blatantly false and totally opposite of reality.

As part of his discussion of biological evolution, Ken Ham offers two cut-off quotations from Ernst Mayr’s book “What Evolution Is” (pp. 33 & 157) that appear to support his position until you look up the rest of the quotations.

Finally, in his rejoinder, Ken Ham offers a challenge: “Unless we are persuaded from the Scriptures that we are wrong, we will not recant our teaching and defense of young-earth creation, which historically is the biblically orthodox faith of the church” (p. 70). Christian old-earth and evolutionary creationists need to take him up on that challenge.

Next, Hugh Ross’s essay on old earth (day-age, progressive) creationism defends a moderate concordist (seeking harmony between nature and Scripture) approach to the interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and what he calls “constructive integration, which he describes as anticipating “a straight-forward, harmonious integration of Scripture’s book with nature’s record.” His approach centers on a testable creation model “providing multiple scientific evidences . . . for God’s direct involvement in nature” (p. 78). For instance, he suggests that genetics studies will eventually show that the current human population descended from two humans.

As an astronomer, Hugh Ross’s strength has always been in the area of cosmological evolution. His essay, however, focuses more on biological evolution. He describes what he perceives as biblical and scientific challenges to biological evolution, such as the Avalon and Cambrian explosions and perceived evidences of God’s interventions. He also suggests that evolutionary convergence fits well with a common design perspective, which would appear to indicate that he is unfamiliar with the work of paleontologist Simon Conway Morris on convergence within biological evolution.

In the end, he believes that “Nothing less than active, repeated interventions by a supernatural Creator could ensure that just-right kinds of life at just-right population levels living in just-right habitats would replace the extinct species at just-right times to keep Earth’s atmospheric chemistry and surface temperatures optimal for life throughout the past 3.8 billion years.” (p. 91). This sounds like a “God of the Gaps” argument.

In her essay, Deborah Haarsma provides an excellent 30-page description of the evolutionary creation view of origins. She first discusses the geological and astronomical evidence for the vast age of the universe and the earth. She then briefly discusses how evolution works, including the fossil, embryo, and genetic evidence for evolution, and the various mechanisms of evolution. She then makes the case for human evolution and current options for viewing a historical Adam and Eve, about which BioLogos takes no specific position.

Haarsma then goes on to the theological issues around biological evolution, including what it means for man being made in the image of God, original sin, death before the fall, and natural evil. She concludes that evolutionary creation is a faithful option for Christians.

In his essay on the intelligent design view, Stephen Meyer presents a brief history of the classic design argument and the case for Intelligent Design. He states that intelligent design is an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origin and development. His basic claim is that intelligence is the only known cause of specified information, and that therefore an Intelligent Designer is the best explanation for the origin and evolution of life. The majority of his essay seeks to make his case. He makes no effort to tie his message to the creation accounts in the Bible.

Throughout the book, areas of agreement among the views were mentioned, and there were pleas for unity and suggestions for how to achieve it. Interesting insights in the essays and responses were too numerous to mention here.

Basically, Haarsma and Ham did a good job of addressing the issues and connecting with the reader; Meyer and Ross not so much.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone, Christian or non-Christian, interested in the origins debate among Christians.

This guest review was contributed by Paul Bruggink, a retired technical specialist whose review interest is in the area of science and faith.

Review: Is There Purpose in Biology?

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Is There Purpose in Biology?Denis Alexander. Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2018.

Summary: An exploration of the idea purpose in biology, the association of purposelessness with the randomness and chance of evolution and whether this is warranted, and how a Christian perspective may both be consistent with what may be observed, and how Christian theology may deal with questions of pain and suffering in evolutionary processes.

One of the common conclusions advanced with the support of evolutionary theory is that there is no inherent purpose evident in the natural world. Much of this is predicated on a process in which life arises through chance and randomness, and that any apparent purpose is illusory.

Denis Alexander, a researcher in biochemistry and Emeritus Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, argues in this book that this is not necessarily a warranted conclusion. First, though he is careful to distinguish between Purpose and purpose. He will not be trying to show evidence of metaphysical Purpose in biology, but that the processes of evolution do evidence purpose in the sense that outcomes were not strictly random, either at a genetic or macro level, but are constrained in certain directions consistent with “purpose.”

Chapter 1 begins with a survey of the use of the language of Purpose and purpose in biology through history from the Greeks up through the beginnings of science, and the subsequent denial of purpose as the theory of evolution became established. Then chapters 2 through 4 get “into the weeds” of evolutionary science.

Chapter 2 argues that the direction of evolution toward increasing complexity over time may be reflective of purpose and also that body size and plan is subject to “allometric scaling” and cannot simply occur in any form or size. Convergence where different species in different lines under similar conditions evolve similar structures, is another example of this. Chapter 3 observes that similar constraints exist at the molecular level. Chapter 4 then looks at the genetic level, and the idea of random mutations. It turns out that mutations are not purely random but seem to occur at particular places on chromosomes. Likewise, forces of natural selection are not random, but also constrain outcomes in certain directions. These chapters are fairly technical, but offer a good glimpse of the current state of the discussions in evolutionary biology, as opposed to popular caricatures.

In chapter 5, Alexander shifts to theological discussion. He recognizes that in practice, people do introduce discussions of Purpose that reflect their worldviews. What he does is articulate an understanding of “top down” creation at work through evolutionary processes–not in the “gaps” but throughout, a version of theistic evolution. A significant aspect of this has to do with his belief in God’s “immanence” in creation, working in and through evolutionary processes.

Chapter 6 concludes the discussion by dealing with one of the problems of his proposal. To argue that God is involved “immanently” in evolutionary processes makes God in some ways responsible for the pain and suffering implicit for both animal and human species facing natural selection, or dying because of mutations leading to genetic defects or cancer. Alexander dismisses responses of “fallen creation” or attributions of suffering to sin, arguing for a kind of “freedom” in evolutionary processes that necessarily includes pain–that God no more compels creation than he does human beings.

I suspect there is material here in every chapter that someone will take exception to, including the basic theistic evolutionary position Alexander takes. Those who dismiss theism will reject Alexander’s case for purpose. Others will struggle with his theodicy. Some would argue that you can see not only purpose but Purpose in biological science in itself. I would contend that the strength of Alexander’s argument is that it is neither dismissive of evolutionary science nor of a God engaged with creation working out God’s purposes. He shows how the two are at least consonant with each other. He chooses a “messy” explanation to the problem of pain that leaves room for mystery rather than pat answers. For those not interested in an oppositional approach to evolution and creation, Alexander’s work offers a way, or at least hints of a way forward.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: What is Man?

What is man

What is Man?Edgar Andrews. Nashville: Elm Hill, 2018.

Summary: An exploration of the answers different worldviews come up with to the question of what it means to be human, making the case for a Christian view of humans descended from a historical Adam who was created in God’s image, through whom sin entered the human race in the fall, and for the redemption of all who believe through the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

The question of who we are, and our place on Earth and in the cosmos, is perhaps one of the most important questions that we face. The author of this work, Edgar Andrews, an emeritus professor of Materials Science, looks at three of the possible answers on offer today–that we are evolved from the family of Apes, that we (or our predecessors) arrived here from an alien world, or that we were created by God, descended from a historic Adam.

The book consists of three parts. The first considers our place in the cosmos, and perhaps did we come from somewhere else? He considers the origins of the cosmos, and whether it is possible for the cosmos to be self-generating and he describes the search for extra-terrestrial life and the absence of any substantive finding, albeit many worlds have been identified that may be candidates for such life. He lays out a form of the “fine-tuned universe” argument advanced by Sir Martin Rees, and the counter explanations of multiverse theories. All of this suggests at very least that our existence in the cosmos may be a fairly singular event begging explanation.

The second part of the book explores man and the biosphere, that is, evolutionary explanations for our origins. He raises a number of questions about our descent from the apes in terms of the distinctiveness as opposed to the commonality of our respective genomes and he contends that paleontology has very little conclusive to tell us about our forebears. Finally, in one of the more fascinating chapters of the book, he discusses the challenging question of how human consciousness is to be explained. Using the analogy of a house, he discusses materialist, epiphenomenalist, and dualist explanations and contends that humans were created with material bodies and a nonmaterial, self-aware mind.

In part three, Andrews considers the biblical account of what it means to be human. Beginning with a discussion of worldview, and how we know what is real, he contends that the Biblical account warrants belief as being consistent with our understanding of ourselves and the cosmos, has made accurate predictions of future events, passes tests of historical accuracy, and leads people into transformative experiences of God through faith in Christ. The remainder of the book then unpacks this Biblical world view of a sovereign and immanent creator God, human sin, accountability, and the person and work of Christ. He argues for a historic Adamic couple from whom we are all descended, against other explanations of our progenitors, and what it means for us to be in the image of God distinguished as creatures of soul and spirit, language and logic, creativity and competence, and law and love. The book then concludes with two chapters on Christ as the second Adam and the evidences for Christ’s resurrection, and the implications of this truth for our salvation and eternal destiny.

Andrews writes about fairly technical scientific material in clear, and sometimes witty, language, using readily understood analogies. I find it a bit puzzling that he at times uses scientific arguments (the Big Bang and Fine-Tuning) to advance his argument and then turns around and is utterly skeptical and questioning about anything to do with the evolution of human beings. I would have liked to see more engagement with scientists like Francis Collins, who not only see God’s design in the human genome, but also do not see evolution as antithetical to the creative work of God, or even a historic Adam.

Rather than attacking evolution, I think it would have been more helpful to attack the underlying worldview of evolutionism, a worldview that assumes there is nothing more or other than the material world, and that only what may be confirmed empirically is real or true (of course this statement itself cannot be confirmed by such means!). Such assumptions not only preclude the activity of God in creating but also in sustaining the world. There are many who study evolution who see the hand of God at work, as they do in other “natural” processes. Andrews seems to suggest they have to choose between their science and their faith.

Nevertheless, this book addresses an important question, and eloquently describes the human dignity we enjoy as creatures in the image of God, and the wonder of Christ’s redemptive work, and the joyful destiny of those who partake of his redemptive work and the power of the resurrection in salvation, Christ’s living rule over his people, and the certainty of his return. Christian teachers and apologists will find this helpful–particularly, I think the discussions about fine-tuning, and about human consciousness as well as his delineation of what it means to say we exist in “the image of God.”

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.