Aug 13

Should Christians Embrace Evolution? Edited by Norman C. Nevin ????
This is probably the last evolution book that I’m going to read and review for a while. This compilations of essays were written by British authors, mostly as a response to Denis Alexander, and British counterpart to USA’s Francis Collins in advocating theistic evolution. The book was recommended by World Magazine as a top read of the year, so it made sense to complete my evolution reads with this text. In all, I appreciated the mixture of a strong Biblical response with the provision of a scientific defense for creation. The scientific data was a rehash of much that I’ve read in the past and recently reviewed volumes. If I hadn’t grown weary of creation vs. evolution texts I’d probably have given it a higher recommendation. I agree with World that this is a superb summary defense for a Biblical approach to creation/evolution.
 

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Aug 13


Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary, by C. John Collins ?????
This book offers a detailed analysis of the first four chapters in Genesis in an attempt to bring clarity to our understanding as to the events of creation and the first few years of man on earth. Collins certainly possesses the necessary credentials, having an advanced degree in the sciences from MIT, as well as further M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees in theology and linguistics. I have heard criticisms of Dr. Collins, mostly related to him having abandoned a Biblical approach to Genesis, and having caved in to the the god of Science. Thus, the reading of this text was done in a critical fashion. I have found that the exact opposite of his critics is true. Jack Collins is a breath of fresh air in conservative scholarship, neither giving in to modernist approaches to creation nor to traditional theories of creation. Instead, Collins maintains a prevailing stance of the preeminence of Scripture over science, and that is seen on each and every page of this text. True, he doesn’t subscribe to a 24-hour young earth interpretation of Genesis 1, yet, he offers substantial support to an old earth hypothesis that allows for a 6 day creation in God’s time.
The flow of the book is somewhat different from what I’m used to in that the sources, authorship, and purpose of Genesis is left to the end of the book, and for good reason for one reading the text from front to back cover. He initiates the book with his method of discourse analysis. He briefly explores the questions that Genesis is trying to answer. He then does a step-by-step analysis on a linguistic basis of the four pericopes of Genesis 1-4, interestingly and for good reason, including the Cain and Abel pericope and aftermath.
Collins concludes the book first with a discussion of source criticism, laying claim that even if one were to identify various sources, it doesn’t contribute to analysis of the book, since the book was masterfully compiled by Moses in a manner that leaves it as a unity rather than a fragmented mishmash. He then puts on his science background hat to explore the claims of Genesis in the light of modern science, but refuses to force science and Genesis into two separate realms. Thus the book concludes by showing how Genesis 1-4 establishes a very distinct Judeo-Christian world view.
My greatest appreciation for this book was that Collins always held a high view of Scripture, and never allowed science to preempt Scripture. Collins maintained a sense of humility toward questions that could not be answered in Genesis even in the light of the remainder of Scripture. Collins offers a forceful and cogent response to the source critics. Of particular note is the hypothesis that Gen. 1:1-2:3 and Gen 2:4-25 are two different creation stories that a redactor sloppily reassembled. Unfortunately, many “conservative” scholars have concurred with this hypothesis. Rather, Collins shows how Gen 2:4-25 was a masterful clarification of the sixth day of creation.
In all, this is one of the better books that I have read on the early Genesis pericopes, and I laud Collins for his perspicuity and insights over a controversial topic. This book is highly recommended to all who have a passing interest in the various debates regarding old and young earth creationism.

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Aug 13


Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins
I have recently reviewed one of Jack Collin’s other books on Genesis 1-4. This text addresses a limited portion of that other book, focusing on a theological as well as scientific argument for the existence of a single pair of people forming the source and basis for the remainder of humanity.  There is a moderate amount of repetition between this book and the Genesis 1-4 text, and yet sufficient distinction to make both books worth reading. Collins seems to mostly be directing his arguments toward the new thinking of Theistic Evolution, and specifically countering arguments of the BioLogos forum that states that man evolved from hominids in the distant past, slowing acquiring their distinction as humans with a relationship to god. Briefly, Collins engages in an analysis of the key Adam and Eve texts throughout Scripture, and substantiates the importance of a single Adam and Eve character for the development of the whole of Christian theology. Throw out the traditional Adam and Eve and you result in a Christianity of a completely alien character to what we know. Thus, Adam and Eve must be more than theoretical or abstract constructs.
Three appendices at the end of the book were of great value to read in addition to the main text, and thus must not be skipped. The first dealt with a discussion of other ancient creation and flood texts that archeologists have made available to us. The second demonstrates Collin’s mind in reviewing James Barr, showing Collin’s ability to glean valuable insights from a writer that tends to lace his writings with what might be called theological rubbish. The third appendix is a brief discussion of timing in Genesis.
This is a short book to read, and can be handled by the usual person in several long evenings. The insights from this book offer valuable arguments against much of the trends in theistic evolution, as well as theological discussions that must be the thinking of all orthodox Christians. I would advise that Collin’s other text Genesis 1-4 be read before this text, and hopefully someday he merges the two texts into one tome.
 

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Jul 25

God and Evolution, edited by Jay Richards ????
This text is written by a number of scholars at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, WA from an Intelligent Design perspective to counter the theistic evolution movement. Surprisingly many evangelical theologians and pastors have given their imprimatur to the theistic evolution movement, including Bruce Waltke, Philip Yancey, Os Guinness, Robert Schuler (?), Tim Keller, and Mark Noll to name a few. The theistic evolution movement argues that their stance is consistent with an orthodox reading of Scripture held in an inerrant fashion. This book seeks to establish that theistic evolution falls out of the traditional Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish beliefs.
The first emphasizes the importance of correct thinking on evolution. Richards  and West argue that errors in thinking on evolution has led to such heresies as gnosticism and deistic views of God. Richards identifies prominent Christian leaders like Tim Keller, who seem entirely inconsistent and poorly thought out on his evolution beliefs. Ultimately, the bioLogos movement tends to destroy more theological truths, including a rigorous view of the fall, and a denial that God is present and active in this world. Collin’s efforts to make evolution compatible with a strict view of Scripture has not engendered acceptance of the atheistic evolutionist crowd, primarily because evolution is much more than a scientific theory, but rather a complete belief system about the universe. Luskin spends a chapter detailing why theistic evolution will never appease the atheists in the crowd. Of greatest perplexity is Francis Collins’ strong reaction against the Intelligent Design movement. Attempts at reconciling science and religion had led to the proposal of differing spheres of influence (NOMA), which again reflects confused thinking since science and religion regularly overlap, whether one is a theist or an atheist. Demski investigates the claim that theistic evolution gets God “off the hook” for creating evil, yet argues that is does nothing of the sort, since God remains directly or indirectly “responsible” for evil. Witt then focuses directly on Collins’s position, focusing on his anti-ID stance. In the process, Collins must maintain that the so-called imperfections of nature attest to an imperfect or clumsy God who can’t get things right the first time around (as though theistic evolution solves the problem!). Wells feels that Collins prematurely caved into his atheistic buddies in the science world, but seriously compromised himself in the process by not promoting the notion of a God as immediate creator of the universe. Richards details the belief system of Howard Van Till, showing how Van Till suggested a mechanism built into the system from the beginning by God  which would lead to the tendency toward the evolution of life, called the “robust formational economy principle”. To me, this sound much like an anthropic-teleological principle, with the entire system bent toward the non-random formation of humans. Yet, Richards argues that this is not how we see nature to be, and forms very shaky theological grounds. In the end, Van Till offers more confusion than direction. Van Till himself has since abandoned an orthodox view of God, even being rejected by the now quite liberal Calvin College. Meyer summarizes by suggesting the theistic evolution fails to solve any of the questions that they attempt to solve, i.e, why nature doesn’t seem to have a perfect construction, as defined by our current concept of what an ideal, perfect world (or biological organism) would look like.
The remaining chapters are the Catholic and Jewish argument against theistic evolution. For the Catholic, much discussion related to medieval concepts of nomism vs. realism, Aristotelian thinking in the mind of Thomas Aquinas, and the formal positions of the Catholic church. For the Jewish crowd, discussion of great minds such as Maimonides and traditional Jewish thought through the ages was details. Klinghoffer suggested that while the preponderance of Jews, whether reformed or orthodox,  have blindly accepted evolution as an explanation for the world without conflict with the Hebrew Scriptures and subsequent thinking, this is a result of very poor thinking as to traditional Jewish belief systems.
In all, this book is a superb tour de force contra the theistic evolution crowd. It avoids the young earth/old earth controversy and focuses entirely on the problem Christians assuming that science must speak first, followed by us conforming our theological beliefs to science. To this end, I fear that many conservative theologians are gravely in error subscribing to theistic evolution. It leaves me wondering how my own denomination (the PCA) could close a blind eye to Tim Keller (perhaps because he has a large successful church) while forming a witch-hunt in a minor theological dispute with Peter Leithart.

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Jul 24

The Myth of Junk DNA, by Jonathan Wells ?????
The issue of Junk DNA has arisen from the claims that theistic evolutionists make arguing that the presence of “junk” DNA is proof that the genome was formed to a large extent from random events. Junk DNA refers to DNA in the genome that does not seem to encode any sort of protein. It is well known that the preponderance of our genome consists of “junk” DNA, and for the most part, its function is not well described. Oddly, the amount of “junk” DNA seems to vary among species, and particular attention is made to the presence of unusually high quantities of “junk” DNA in the onion genome. Wells effectively counters the limpid arguments of such scholars as Francis Collins in noting many discoveries that have shown “junk” DNA to play a role in the genome. First, he shows that much non-protein-coding DNA is still transcribed, and plays vital roles in gene regulatory events, oftentimes during embryologic development. Secondly, he shows how introns (also identified as “junk” DNA) play a significant role in post-transcriptional regulatory events. So-called pseudogenes (genes which are active in some species but “defective” in others) oftentimes also are transcribed and involved in regulatory events. Further chapters detail how other aspects of non-protein-coding DNA are useful in sundry aspects of cell division and growth, such as the necessity of this “junk” DNA to permit centromere function. Wells makes no claim to fully understand the functions of the entirety of the genome, but insists that it is arrogant to ascribe an absence of utility for biological entities whose usefulness is not yet understood. He more than capably destroys the idea that junk DNA is an argument for theistic evolution and against intelligent design.
I took a class in graduate school in 1986 that was in the department of molecular biology and whose subject was pre- and post-transcriptional genomic regulation. Already, much evidence was known that seemed to be dismantling a strict Watson-Crick schema of protein production. Though much of the class was a little over my head in terms of research details, the basic concept of a much greater complex schema of cell regulatory events was already clear. Proteins, chromatin, large and small RNA elements all seemed to play a confusing role in turning genes on and off, in determining what would be translated, and what would be stable versus transitory mRNA elements. This book shows that our knowledge of gene regulatory events has creeped forward a touch. We are still left with an enormous vacuum of understanding as to how the cell truly regulates itself throughout its lifetime. Evolutionists, regardless of whether they are of the theistic vs. atheistic variety, glibly fill in the missing facts with the assumption that science will ultimately answer everything. In reality, they are creating a belief system which I call science-of-the-gaps, which is far more perverse than the God-of-the-gaps accusation directed toward creationists or intelligent design adherents. Creationists of all stripes will admit that science may offer some explanations of the large voids in our knowledge, and that doesn’t do violence to the creationist stance. Evolutionists would never concede that much of their gaps will always remain gaps, since their theory cannot offer a comprehensive explanation of the world as we see it. Their arguments are not won by the force of reason but by the force of arrogant proclamation. I commend Wells for offering solid reason to admit that there is much to yet learn about the genomic structure. Being head of the NIH does not confer Collins the role of science-Pope who can speak ex cathedra for God in matters of evolution, and this book skillfully demonstrates a lacuna in Collins’ thinking.
 
 

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Dec 05

Creation without Compromise, by Donald Crowe ??
This is the second book that I’m reading on creation from a literal 6-day perspective. The book actually started out quite well, and after several chapters, was thinking that this was going to be a 4 or 5 star text. Unfortunately, Donald allowed the text to lapse into various quibbles without defending his stance, as I’ll explain. There is one vital strength to the book which I must not delay to mention. Donald is seriously concerned about maintaining Scripture as our only solid reference point for our thinking. He is concerned about maintaining Scripture as infallible, and the only orientation for our worldview, to which I would agree. He is concerned that we  not read anything into Scripture but that we allow it to speak to us, since it represents God speaking to man. Again, no problem with me.
Donald Crowe is a professor of biblical languages at two very small schools of higher education, belonging to a very small  presbyterian denomination which broke off from main stream presbyterianism, over doctrinal distinctives which were felt to be more vital than Christian unity or other Christian virtues. Several of those distinctives include a sworn allegiance to presuppositional apologetics, post-millenial eschatology, theonomy, and strict adherence to the Westminster confession.
Donald provides a history of evolution/formation of the universe from the Greek and Roman thinkers through the enlightenment. He pauses to defend the chronology of time as offered by Bishop Ussher, placing the moment of creation at about 4000 B.C. He lapses into some minor discussions of the flood, defending a universal flood. He then explores the life and thinking of Charles Darwin, showing how it was necessary for him to reject the Christianity of his youth in order to develop his fantastic account of natural selection. Donald then lapses into a vitriolic attack on Hodge and Warfield at Princeton, while placing Dabney between them as the only true preserver of the truth of creation. At last, 2/3 of the way through the book, one comes to the moment of truth—the exegesis of Genesis 1. Unfortunately, it was limited to 29 pages, and then, mostly quotes are from other texts, such as Kelly’s book on creation, and the overused text from E.J. Young about Genesis 1 not being poetry. The next chapter, consisting of 41 pages, attempts to detail the consequences of a evolutionary worldview. Sadly, this is where I realized I was wasting my time reading the book. I become weary whenever an author discusses Hitler and the Nazis as the best example of the end result of any sort of non-Christian worldview; it is way, way, way overused. Evolution came from England, and Donald could have more easily discussed the evils of Churchill as a man who will burn in the same low rung of hell as Hitler, Stalin and a few other notables of the twentieth century.
Donald loves the term “eisegesis of desperation” which he uses on anybody who disagrees with his interpretation of Scripture. Donald might be accused of übergesis, a word which I coin to mean “to not look at the Scripture at all, but over it”. Donald’s übergesis of Genesis 1 quotes everybody else, but fails to give us arguments based on his own exegesis, all the while quoting his favorite phrase from the Westminster Confession (which he must have memorized before #1 “What is the chief end of man?”) about allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. Let me remark on a few examples (of which there are many) where Donald goes astray. On p. 220, he quotes Berthoud, who asks why we would consider it difficult for the creator of the universe to not be able to do it in 6 days?The question gets you nowhere, since we all believe that God could have done it any way that he wished. Donald must explain why God couldn’t have done it instantaneously! Just before this quote, Donald übergeses a quote from James Jordan, who “… does show how it is possible to discover several chiastic literary structures [in Gen 1] without rejecting the historical narrative of six calendar days”. So what? How does that diminish a framework hypothesis? I could go on, but, so many of his “exegetical” statements were taken from Kelley and others, that I have discussed elsewhere.
I read this book hoping it to be a clear Scriptural argument for a young-earth literal 6 consecutive 24-hr creation. It was more like reading Henry Morris, whose writings first persuaded me against an absolute insistence on a young-earth interpretation. I have appreciated Donald’s willingness to give creation an entirely Scriptural defense, yet he failed in that regard. Perhaps the Scriptural text is simply NOT clear enough? We might look at Moses interpreting himself in Ps. 90:1,2 “…before the mountains were brought forth or ever you had formed the earth or the world, from everlasting to everlasting…” leaves a picture painted by Moses of the antiquity and prolonged process of creating the world. Ps. 104 leaves one the same impression. Even though these verses are poetry, they are also, just like Gen. 1, true truth, true history that must not be übergesed into insignificance as to what they say. Or, take God interpreting God in Job 38 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? ..Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? … who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together?” Why didn’t Donald inform God that the morning stars had to wait until day 4? When God speaks, I dare not explain way his statements as simple poetry that can’t be taken literally!
We live with a creational tension that is best described by optical metaphors. When we look at God’s creation, we get a virtual (apparent) image of age, which is probably different from the real image (or age) of when the earth was actually made. The difference will be especially true if God created with apparent age, or if there were factors before the flood which have since caused things to appear older. There is simply no way that science will give us an exact answer as to the age of the earth, but  a complete reading of the whole counsel of God in the entirety of Scripture neither will give us a perfect answer as to the exact age of the universe. I don’t need a perfect answer. We should not do as Donald has done, and use a young earth creation scheme as a proof of orthodoxy.

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Nov 29

Creation and Change, by Douglas Kelly ???
I purchased and read this book at the recommendation of a friend in hopes that I would have a better biblical rationale for a 6 day creation, over that of an old-earth creation.  My comments later will discuss the efficacy at achieving that end. Kelly is a theologian who teaches at Reformed Theological seminary, and is definitely not a scientist, a fact that he does not hide. I review the book chapter by chapter to offer adequate comments.
Chapter one is a simple introduction, stating his goal of developing the scientific and Scriptural necessity for a 6 day creation.
Chapter 2 develops the literary genre of Gen 1-3, arguing against poetry and for pure history as the literary construct in these passages. His main source material for the argument comes from the work of E.J. Young, who adamantly states that there is no poetry in Gen 1-3. The argument posed by Young is not given. I tend to disagree on forming a dichotomy, and feel that Gen. 1 reads very clearly as poetry, yet, as true poetry, and thus also historical. It is both. Kelly argues briefly against the documentary hypothesis, which proposes two accounts of creation, that found in Gen. 1-2.3, and that found in Gen 2.4 and on. I agree with Kelly that the best reading is a single account with Genesis 2 expanding on details in the creation narrative.
Chapter 3 provides an argument for creation ex nihilo, and the argument of intelligent design, as well as an argument for the necessity for a creation from the laws of thermodynamics.
Chapter 4 discusses day 1 of creation. Much of his discussion centers around what might be considered pre-day 1, that is, the account of the Spirit of God moving over the unformed earth, before He creates light.
Chapter 5 is a partial diversion, arguing about the timing of the creation of angels, for which nothing is said in Scripture and thus isn’t worth speculating on. He discusses the gap between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2, mostly countering a theory that supposes the world to have been developed, and then destroyed, after which God begins again to create the earth as we know it. He doesn’t discuss why the literary structure would most easily be read as a gap, especially since he is concerned about the “plain reading” of the verses.
Chapter 6 specifically examines the meaning of the word “day”. He offers a very incomplete argument regarding the entire scriptural usage of the word “day”. In this chapter, he discusses the framework hypothesis, popularized by Meredith Kline, which states that the six days are only a framework for God’s creative activity, and not necessarily a chronological account. He contends that a more “literary” approach dangers on nominalism, which is a strange argument, since such reasoning could be used to argue against just about anything. As an example, an argument against predestination is that it logically leads to fatalism is simply not true. The technical notes at the end of this chapter argue again against the documentary hypothesis. He discusses Augustine’s ambiguous stance on creation and various New Testament quotes, none of which address the young earth vs. old earth controversy.
Chapters 7 and 8 are his plunge into science. In chapter 7, the first argument is for the timing of Adam, which he feels fits the Ussher chronology, and to which I have no serious problems. Unfortunately, this addresses only timing following the seven creation days and nothing more. He then spends much time discussing the theory that the speed of light over time has slowed down, in fact, since the creation 6000 years ago, it is going 5 x 10(11th power) slower, which would give the earth an apparent age of billions of years. This sounds overtly appealing but logically destroys all of Kelly’s argument. He suggests that we reference the 24 hr/day of creation by today’s reference. Under this scheme, the clock which ran ran apparently for 24hrs would now run for millions of years. This explanation creates as many problems as solutions by making time variable and thus meaningless for discussion. Finally, Kelly tortures me in his absence of scientific knowlege in this chapter. He constantly speaks of such things as the “velocity of an electron in its orbit around the proton”, a kickback to the old Bohr theory which nobody including Bohr accepts.
Chapter 8 deals with physical means of determining chronological age. He first argues that all things were created with apparent age, a statement that I couldn’t disagree with. If things were created with apparent age, then science (as he offers) simply could not help us resolve a timing issue. Regarding geological evidence provided by Morris and his comrades, my Christian geology friends attest it to be woefully wrong. Morris does not take account of plate tectonics and other geological explanations as to why things appear the way they are. Kelly argues strongly against uniformitarianism, i.e., that the laws of physics do not change, since the catastrophe of a great flood could explain matters without uniform physical laws. The discussion then turns to dating methods such as carbon-14, showing a moderate inaccuracy in the dating technique as well as reason to doubt the validity of c-14 dating. I have no disagreement with his arguments, even though C-14 dating has also been quite helpful at establishing biblical type dates to many archeological finds, and thus is not totally without value. Much of his criticism stems from the work of Morris and Brown, who tend toward doing poor science at best, and whose arguments in this chapter do not bear worth contending with since are are so poorly thought out. As a brief example, Morris and Brown, as others, contend against uniformity, yet use uniform physical properties to claim calculations of the age of the earth and universe, a questionable enterprise at best.
Chapter 9- This chapter speaks about days 2 &3 of creation, first the separation of waters from heaven and earth, and then the “gathering” of water to create dry land. Finally, vegetation is created. Much of the discussion relates to the creation of vegetation, and the argument against time and chance possibly creating plant life.
Chapter 10 discusses briefly day 4 &5 of creation, i.e., the creation of the sun, moon and stars, and later the creation of fish and fowl. He makes minimal elaboration but tries to explain how plants were made on day 3 and the sun on day 4 – surely plants could survive one day without sun!
Chapter 11 speaks very briefly of the creation of the animal world followed by the creation of man. He leaves many holes in the explanation of the creation narrative. He too briefly touches on theistic evolution, and to my dismay, offers minimal critical arguments against this thinking on a theological basis.
Chapter 12 finishes with a discussion of the Sabbath day and it’s relevance for today as a creation edict. I have no problem with this discussion, though he fails to offer an explanation why the seventh day doesn’t end with the typical closure verbiage of the previous 6 days.
So, did the book persuade me against old earthism as distinctly an error in the interpretation of Genesis 1? Unfortunately, his arguments relied heavily on such people as Henry Morris, who, more than any other writer, persuaded me against a solid 6 day creation scheme because of his sloppy thinking and writing. There were stylistic issues that I had with Kelly. I don’t like when somebody overuses superlatives, such as “Prof. X wisely reminds us…”, “distinguished Christian exegete XX”, “crisply states”, etc. Kelly repeats often, and could have edited the book down a bit. Kelly’s exposition of Hebrew grammar sometimes is too harsh and determinative. As an example, he discusses Gen 1:26 ” Let us make man…” arguing that the pleural for God is a first argument of a trinitarian God. Contrary, Waltke (whom I don’t always agree with) takes a much more cautious approach, but offers adequate explanation as to how he comes to a certain conclusion.
In summary, Kelly does a poor job of arguing for a young earth. He fails mostly in that he should have given a better theological development for a young earth. Thus, I remain undecided yet between old and young earth explanations for creation.  I don’t believe it humanly possible to scientifically prove one way or another, since things could have been created with age. There remains the question as to whether old-earthism does violence to Scripture, which I remain unconvinced by Kelly’s arguments.

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