Friday, July 14, 2017

Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation, ed. Kenneth Keathley, et al.

Among scientific topics, perhaps none is more contentious than the question of the origins of the universe and the emergence of life.  We know about Christians who believe the world was created in literal 24 hour days a few thousand years ago.  But there are also Bible-believing Christians who believe a variety of other theories about origins.  In Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos, scientists and theologians from two organizations, Reasons to Believe (RTB) and BioLogos, and scholars from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, debate and discuss their perspectives and beliefs.

The first thing to say about this book is that it's refreshing to see a congenial, enlightening conversation among Christians with such differing viewpoints.  While they share the same faith in Jesus, their disagreements on certain points about the natural world differ, sometimes greatly.  Yet neither group came across as disparaging or belittling their intellectual foils.

The two organizations, BioLogos and Reasons to Believe, vary in their goals and beliefs about the origins of life.  The scientists of BioLogos embrace the evolutionary model that dominates mainstream science, while embracing biblical theism.  They insist that "the science of evolution does not require an atheistic worldview." RTB's mission is "to develop and proclaim a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive." The creationism they champion is not a young earth six 24 hour day creationism; they hold to an old earth creationism.

In each chapter scholars from the two groups discuss a particular topic, moderated by a Southwestern Seminary scholar.  Covering topics such as Adam and Eve, evil in the world, biological evolution, geology and fossils, and anthropology, the chapters wrestle with the contrasting perspectives of the two groups.

As an interested layperson, I felt like I had jumped in with both feet into material that I had little understanding of.  Don't get me wrong; the book is definitely accessible to the layperson.  But readers will have to be more motivated than I was to really understand and appreciate the nuances of the arguments.

What I did come to understand and appreciate is the commitment both of these groups have to reconciling historic Christianity to scientific inquiry.  It's so easy for people to say science and religion are irreconcilable.  These writers would argue otherwise, in fact proclaiming, in different ways, that scripture and the natural world do not contradict one another.  RTB especially sees science as an evangelistic tool.

Any scientist or scientific-minded layperson who is convinced that their conclusions about origins are irrefutable should pick up this book.  Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation should be read with humility and an open mind.  While the question of what actually occurred in the first moments of creation may never be settled in our mortal lives, here is what I think this book can settle: Some reasonable scientists believe that the biblical account of creation is an actual account, and they can provide a scientific basis for their conclusions.  Some committed Christians believe that evolutionary models best describe the origins and development of life, and they do not believe this contradicts their belief in the Bible.  The reality is that both of these groups represent Christians who hold to historical theological perspectives, and scientists who practice accepted scientific inquiry.  One can't simultaneously agree with everything each group says, but this book will help you understand them.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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