Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Book Review: Three Views on Creation and Evolution

Three Views on Creation and Evolution is another in Zondervan's excellent Counterpoints series (I've several of them on my shelves although only reviewed one other on this blog on remarriage and divorce).

It's the closest to a debate format that I've found in print. Advocates state their position and then the others each have a turn to respond to the points made. This book was slightly different in that after the three positions were stated, four other writers were invited to respond to each chapter from a different viewpoint and two further writers summarised the debate at the end, giving a total 10 contributors!

Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds spoke up for Young Earth Creationism, Robert Newman for Progressive (or old earth) creationism and Howard Van Till for The Fully Gifted Creation (or theistic evolution) view. Then after each view Walter Bradley, John Jefferson Davis, JP Moreland and Vern Poythress weighed in with comments and at the end Richard Bube and Phillip Johnson summarised.

The beauty of the format is that allows the proponent to advocate, and then you immediately follow that up with alternate views - the 'what about this?' retort. I find this helpful because an argument may seem compelling until you've heard the rebuttal. In most books there is no rebuttal. So it's excellent for allowing you to form a view.

It seemed to me that a majority of contributors held the Progressive (old earth) view and supported some form of Intelligent Design all with varying views as to the limits of biological evolution, but overall there was a greater advocacy for this view.

The introductory chapter by JP Moreland was quite hard going and dense with concepts and arguments that weren't easy to grasp. Not one for the laymen but after that the book had greater pace and was more accessible to the non-scientist like myself. This is one of the greatest challenges on this debate is to how to have any kind of discussion that involves the non-expert given that it can be incredibly technical. The book largely avoids technical discussions and when it does engage in it, there is some help at hand.

In my view, the weakest arguments and case were put forward by the Young Earth Creationists, the Biblical argument was disappointingly brief and I have heard others put forward more compelling arguments. My sense was that others holding this view would be disappointed by the quality of the defense. It failed to convince me, and as the authors themselves recognised, of all the positions young earthers have the greatest amount of work to do to offer convincing science in the widest number of areas - cosmology, physics, geology, biology and not to mention theology.

I thought the case for Progressive Creationism (old earth) was much stronger, bolstered as it was by the various proponents of Intelligent Design. I was also impressed by the Fully Gifted Creation argument, it has, I think, the harder time of making good Biblical interpretations but it certainly isn't an impossible task.

The issue is for a Christian, given that the doctrine of God creating the universe is of fundamental importance, is what sort of creationist are you? I am now clearer as to what I am not and some steps along the way to being clearer about what I am. I have some more reading to do but I recommend this book for the thoughtful reader as a starting place of investigation into this important but complex issue.


Brian on 21 January 2009 at 14:25 said...

Thanks for that helpful review. I plan to read it now.

Phil on 21 January 2009 at 14:37 said...

Thanks Brian - appreciate your apologetics focused blog and thanks for leaving a comment.

Mark Heath on 22 January 2009 at 10:14 said...

Thanks for the review, I have been meaning to read a book on this for some time, and have been hoping to find one that presents a spectrum of viewpoints.

Mark Driscoll's booklet on Genesis is perhaps the best resource I have found so far.

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