What I’ve Been Reading (3)–Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe

Over the past few weeks I have reviewed books that survey various views concerning evolution, creation, and the proper way to interpret Genesis.  Beginning with this post, I intend to start reviewing books that advocate a particular position.  I’ve chosen these books, not on the basis of my agreement with them, but because I believe they make significant contributions to the creation/evolution debate.  Some that we will look at argue for young-earth creationism, some for old-earth creationism, others for evolutionary creationism, and still others for Darwinism.  In addition, I plan to review a book or two that were written by atheists who hold to evolution, even though they will concede that the evidence does not support the Darwinian hypothesis.  Today I want to bring to your attention Kurt Wise’s Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe.

 Though Ken Ham commands more notoriety among the general public, Kurt Wise is arguably the most prestigious living advocate of young-earth creationism, at least within the scientific community.  Wise, who directs Truett-McConnell’s Creation Research Center, received his PhD in paleontology at Harvard University; under the tutelage of none other than the eminent evolutionary biologist, Stephen Jay Gould.  Wise displays more care in his approach to the empirical evidences than have some young-earth proponents in the past, and he is more cautious in his claims (with a few exceptions we’ll note below).  Wise also acknowledges the strength of arguments for an ancient universe (58, 70, 99), and that at present the scientific evidence for a young earth is not compelling (68). Still, with a presuppositionalism that borders on fideism, Wise contends passionately for a literal, seven-day creation that occurred approximately 6,000 years ago.

Wise contends that God has made the evidence for creation intentionally ambiguous so as to make faith necessary for having a relationship with Him.  And even though one looking at the empirical evidence alone might come to the conclusion the cosmos must be very ancient, this is not because God deliberately intended to deceive.  Rather, because God created the world fully functional, the universe necessarily has an appearance of age.  Wise uses Jesus’ miracle of turning the water into wine to make his point.  A participant at the marriage at Cana would naturally assume that the wine he was drinking was years old.  But he would have been mistaken: the wine had been created that very day.  The miracle gave the wine the appearance of age.  Wise argues that God’s miraculous activity of creating the world in seven days similarly gives the universe its ancient appearance.  Not all will be convinced that Wise’s argument from analogy holds.  

Wise offers a number of speculations that are sure to raise eyebrows.  Take, for example, his explanation of why, if dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, no fossil remains of the two species have been found together.  Wise conjectures that they may have lived in opposite parts of the world (174).  He also suggests that coal fields were produced by floating continents (171) and that the ice age lasted only a few decades or a few centuries at most (215-16).  Noah’s flood was not only world-wide, but it also impacted the moon, the planets, and perhaps the entire universe (206). I suspect these arguments will impress only the already convinced.  Faith, Form, and Time provides an accessible explanation of current young-earth thinking.  Those interested in the creation/evolution debate need this book.

This post is cross-posted to www.theologyforthechurch.com

What I’ve Been Reading(2)–The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation

Last week I reviewed a book, The Evolution Controversy, which surveys the various positions concerning the scientific evidence. This week I want to bring to your attention The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, a book that covers the biblical evidence, specifically the creation account of Genesis 1-2.  Evangelicals in general, and Southern Baptists in particular, are biblicists; and as such we hold the Bible to be the final authority in all matters of faith and practice.  So for us the proper interpretation of the creation narrative is of paramount importance.  The Genesis Debate focuses solely on interpreting Genesis 1-2 without addressing corollary matters (such as the empirical evidences for and the extent of Noah’s flood, or attempts to reconcile Genesis with the latest views within biology, geology, or astronomy).

Ligon Duncan and David Hall present the 24-hour view, Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer argue for the Day-Age view, and Lee Irons and Meredith Kline offer the Framework view.  The labels are fairly self-explanatory.  Duncan and Hall make the case for understanding the seven days of creation as seven literal, 24-hour days.  Ross and Archer contend the seven days represent sequential eons of divine creative activity.  And Irons and Kline argue that Moses used the seven-day framework as a literary device, intending more to establish a proper understanding of God’s sovereign relationship with creation than attempting to explain any details about how God actually created.  After each respective position is presented, advocates of the other views respond, and the presenters give a reply to the respondants.  This arrangement allows for give and take about the crucial points of difference.

Limiting the debate to just three positions was probably necessary for a format of this type, but the limitation is, well, a limitation. The book provides no discussion of other significant approaches such as C. John Collin’s Analogical Day approach, John Sailhamer’s Promised Land perspective, or the various Cosmic Temple views as argued by Greg Beale or John Walton.  The editors explain that they believe the positions they chose are the most popular; and that are probably correct.  But the Cosmic Temple view, rightly or wrongly, seems to be picking up support among a notable number of Old Testament scholars.

Passions run high concerning the proper way to interpret Genesis, and The Genesis Debate illustrates this.  At times the arguments are pointed; the discussion less than civil–they mix it up.  Fortunately, more light is generated than mere heat.  The authors, for the most part, stay focused on the interpretive issues relating to the text, and this is the book’s greatest strength.  For understanding the hermeneutical issues involved in interpreting Genesis 1-2, I recommend The Genesis Debate highly.

This post is cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

What I’ve Been Reading(1) – The Evolution Controversy: A Survey of Competing Theories

If you type the word “evolution” in the Amazon.com search line, it offers over 61,000 books.  A similar search for books on “creation” yields over 31,000 results.  The creation/evolution controversy is an overwhelmingly large subject, and the debate shows no signs of diminishing.  A couple of years ago, Mark Rooker and I were silly enough to agree to write a book about the subject and we have been struggling ever since to produce something that is at the same time both comprehensive and readable.  I intend for the next few weeks and months to highlight books that I have found helpful in my studies, and to call this series “What I’ve Been Reading.”  Some of the books promote a particular creationist or evolutionary perspective, while others, like the one highlighted today, provide an overview of a variety of positions.  One of the best books for acquainting oneself with the debate is Thomas Fowler and Daniel Kuebler’s The Evolution Controversy: A Survey of Competing Theories. 

Fowler, an engineer, and Kuebler, a biologist, break down the positions into four major schools of thought: neo-Darwinian, creationist, intelligent design, and what they call meta-Darwinism.  They provide an overview of each school.  Neo-Darwinism (the view that evolution is true, and can be explained entirely in terms of natural section) is still the majority position among those involved with the natural sciences.  Creationism (more specifically, young earth creationism) enjoys strong support at a popular level but has little or no backing in the academy.  Intelligent design, which accepts the notion of an ancient earth, has substantially more support among scientists but has recently encountered stiff opposition.  Meta-Darwinism represents a growing number of scientists who still accept evolution but realize that the standard neo-Darwinian model simply doesn’t explain the evidence.

The Evolution Controversy is written with remarkable clarity.  Rather than argue a particular position, their intent is to provide information. Fowler and Kuebler explain the nuances and differences in terms and concepts that often confuse even those in the field. They give a brief survey of the history of evolutionary thought, provide review of the evidence (i.e., issues such as the fossil record and genetics), and discuss the flashpoints of dispute.

Rarely do authors attempt to be as even-handed as do Fowler and Kuebler; and for the most part they succeed.  They explain the arguments for each position along with a corresponding set of objections.  The strengths and weaknesses of each model are presented fairly.  Both men are scientists, so not surprisingly the book deals only with empirical evidence.  They provide no discussion of the creation account in Genesis.  However, if you are looking for an accessible presentation of the technical issues regarding the creation/evolution debate, then The Evolution Controversy is an excellent place to begin.