Saturday, June 18, 2011

Should Christians Embrace Evolution? ed. by Norman C. Nevin

Essays by thirteen theologians and scientists.
Wayne Grudem, in his forward says this book “persuasively argues that Christians cannot accept modern evolutionary theory without also compromising essential teachings of the Bible.” At stake, says Grudem, is the truthfulness of the first three chapters of the Bible, the uniqueness of human beings, belief in the special creation of Adam and Eve in the image of God, the parallel of Adam's sin and Christ's sacrifice, the goodness of God's original creation, and the current situation as a result of the fall.
There has been an increased push in the scientific community to discredit anyone who does not believe in Darwinian evolution. Christian groups are bending to the pressure and are accepting Darwin's ideas. Some have tried to form a theological model that will fit Darwinism, succumbing to concept that Christians must embrace evolution or be labeled as opposed to science.
Not so, say the authors in this book. They hold the conviction that science and faith are not in opposition. The theologians are convinced of the authority of the Scriptures. The scientists are committed to rigorous science but are dissatisfied with the arbitrary conclusions and failure to follow the evidence.
Alistair Donald reviews the historical context of the relationship between evolution and the church. He then covers the theological and practical implications of accepting evolution.
Alistair McKitterick addresses the language of Genesis. It must be read in it historical and literary context. Assuming it is to be read from a Babylonian historical context will likely yield misreading the author's intention. “The language of Genesis is...historical, chronological, and intentional.”
Michael Reeves argues that “it is biblically and theologically necessary for Christians to believe in Adam as first, a historical person who second, fathered the entire human race.” Paul's theology in Romans and 1 Corinthians requires it.
Greg Haslam argues that the Darwinian account of the origins of man, with its assertion of universal death and suffering, cannot be squared with the Bible. He notes the many references in the NT to the Genesis story and the difficulties they provide in any attempt to mythologize Genesis 1-3. “If God didn't say what he meant in Genesis, why would we trust him anywhere else?”
David Anderson argues that attempts to join Darwinian evolution with the Bible makes Gnostic errors (the tendency to replace historical facts with philosophical ideas). He concludes, “...theistic evolution , when it turns its attention to matters of redemption and the new creation, is a comprehensively Gnostic scheme.”
Andrew Sibley addresses the elevation of science to the place of religious scientism (elevating knowledge in science above knowledge in theology and philosophy). He answers the accusation that God is a deceiver (creating with apparent age). He notes the fallibility of science and how quickly scientific ideas can be overturned. “Scripture and science must be held in a proper relationship that respects the integrity of God's word... When there appears to be a contradiction, theistic scientists cannot simply allegorize Scripture at will, as new data are likely to force a reinterpretation of the science in the future.”
R. T. Kendall says believing God created the universe is a matter of faith. He says, “I suspect that the most common tool used by Satan today in his attack on historic Christianity is the theory of evolution.” Each generation of Christians is challenged with a stigma of belief. “The stigma of our generation,” he says, “is to believe God's account of creation without the empirical evidence.” “We must be willing to be unvindicated and laughed at...”
Steve Fuller investigates the biblical basis of modern science. We live in a culture where “'science' is reserved for the most authoritative form of knowledge in society...”  Close examination of scientific evidence adds more weight to the arguments for intelligent design than for Darwinian evolution.
Norman Nevin writes about the interpretation of scientific evidence, first, homologous features. “There is now evidence that often homologies are not based on common inherited genes or embryological pathways. The underlying mechanism(s) for homologies remains uncertain.” He also looks at the nature of the fossil record. He notes the lack of transitional fossils. He concludes, “One hundred and fifty years on since the publication of On the Origin of Species, the fossil record does not support the theory of evolution.”
Geoff Barnard investigates the genetic evidence of common ancestry of humans with apes. He concludes the wide variety of chromosomal variations dictate against a common ancestry.
Andy McIntosh explores thermodynamics and information. Thermodynamics “shows that new biological machinery cannot simply arise by mutations.”  Merely adding energy to existing machines will not result in new ones. Intelligence is needed. Information in living systems, McIntosh says, is where neo-Darwinists are at their weakest.
Geoff Barnard notes that recent books claim genomic evidence proves common descent. Some may find his investigation into this claim a bit technical (transposons, pseudogenes, Alu sequences). He concludes that Denis Alexander's arguments “are quite fallacious.”
John Walton says there is no place for natural selection in explanations for the origin of life. Random chemical combining just will not produce the necessary amino acids. (The chance is one in 10 to the 190 power.) “In fact, it has been shown that if the entire resources of the universe had been devoted to making proteins at the fastest possible rate since the putative Big Bang the chance of formation of even one functional protein would still be negligible.” He says, “All reputable scientists who have studied the problem,” concur "that life did not originate by random chemical reactions in a prebiotic soup."
Phil Hills and Norman Nevin write the concluding chapter. They offer a resounding “no” to the question of whether Christians should embrace evolution. They remind readers of the inconsistent theology of theistic evolutionists, the uncertainty of science, the limits of science, the pressure for scientists to go along with accepted concepts, and the often biased interpretation of scientific evidence. They note, “with so little evidence to support biology's evolutionary doctrine,” why would any Christian want to revise their theology to believe in it?
Why indeed.

This book is not for the casual reader but rather the Christian who is willing to grapple with their own belief and understanding of the origin of man. It is aimed at Christians who accept theistic evolution as a way to believe the Bible and in evolution. The authors have soundly argued that adopting theistic evolution leads to positions contrary to the Bible. Much of the writing is in specific answer to Denis Alexander's book, Creation or Evolution: Do We Have a Choice?

Most of the arguments presented in this book are not technical. A review of current biology, say at the high school level, may help the reader understand the discussions on genetics, mRNA, etc. All of the articles are well footnoted.  Originally published in England, some American readers may not be familiar with the contributors.  A section at the beginning of the book identifies each one.

I received an egalley from P & R Publishing for the purpose of this review.

P & R Publishing, 192 pages.

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