Book Review – Rau, Mapping the Origins Debate

Last post, my power was running out. This time, funnily enough, it’s the anaesthetic on my wisdom tooth extraction. But this book is worth a quick post before the pain sets in:

Rau, Gerald. Mapping the Origins Debate (Leicester: InterVarsity, 2012).
Now I’ve read more than a couple of books about creation, evolution, and Genesis, and a few more about science and religion. I dare anyone to read all the books available on those topics. There would hardly be time if you did nothing else. So it isn’t uncommon to get that “I’ve heard all this before” feeling.

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Five Responses to Reading Genesis 1–2 (ed. J. Daryl Charles) #4

Welcome back to the nearly everlasting series where I respond to each of the five main contributors’ essays in:
Charles, J. Daryl, ed. Reading Genesis 1–2 : An Evangelical Conversation (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2013).
Charles, ed., Reading Genesis 1-2

My last post in this series offered my opinions on Chapter Three: “Reading Genesis 1–2 with the Grain: Analogical Days,” by C. John Collins. Now, none too soon, are my thoughts on:

Chapter Four: What Genesis 1–2 Teaches (And What It Doesn’t), by Tremper Longman III, along with the other writers’ responses. Tremper Longman is one of the most prolific writers in the world of evangelical Christian scholarship, one of those guys who must stay up working all night every night, or has a dozen graduate students working for him, or both. He is also involved in the ongoing maelstrom that surrounds Westminster Theological Seminary in the US, which is spitting out professors on a regular basis; I’ll let you google that one. His profile means that his opinions on hot topics are well noticed, and in recent years his negotiability on evolutionary human origins and a literal Adam have come to attention. If you’ll forgive the spellos, one insight is available at: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2009/09/21/tremper-longman-on-the-historicity-of-adam/. Longman’s chapter here in Reading Genesis 1-2, as for the other contributors, is a great short-scope synopsis of his thinking on early Genesis matters.

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Micro Book Review – Sam Berry’s Lion Handbook of Science and Christianity

Berry, R. J. (ed.). The Lion Handbook of Science and Christianity (1st ed ed.; Oxford : Chicago: Lion Hudson ; Distributed by Trafalgar Square Pub, 2012).
Lion Hbook Science and C'ty

I have recently given a thorough browse to this attractive work from our college (Melbourne School of Theology) shelves. Let me tame my prolix (verbose (wordy)) ways and give you a few pros and cons:

Pros

  • Really well presented, with lots of colour, diagrams, pictures, great layout, visual differentiation to make it easy to face each page. Books have come a long way in user-friendliness in the last century! If only my book looked like this!
  • Reasonably bite-size portions, with many 1- and 2-page treatments of science and religion issues.
  • A great coverage of such issues, offering a really useful overview of what might be debated under the heading of science and religion.
  • Scientifically well-informed, as far as I am qualified to tell.
  • Currency – it’s right up to date.
  • Evangelical Christian standpoint. (If you’re not an evangelical Christian, you might put this under ‘Cons’, but I still encourage you to check it out.)

Cons

  • Naturally, there is a sacrifice in depth where there is gain in breadth of coverage. So this is really an introductory volume, designed I think for the college student as an introductory science and religion textbook (but what a textbook!) or for the interested layperson.
  • We might wish for a deeper and more determinate handling of texts like Genesis 1 (though see pp. 152-153).

The Wrap

  • This makes a great starting point for your research into science and religion. It will orient you to the issues and get you pointed in the right direct. With lots of eye candy along the way.
  • I would recommend following up with some deeper reading on the issues of concern to you. There is a good-length list of further reading in the back of the book, so you won’t be short of ideas.

Mini Book Review – Creator God, Evolving World

Crysdale, Cynthia S. W, and Neil Ormerod. Creator God, Evolving World (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013).

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, which I picked off a bookshelf on spec about a year ago because it was of interest to me, and because I’m tight, more importantly, it was on the discount shelf. As so often the good stuff, that people ought to read but don’t, is. And I noticed that one of the authors, Neil Ormerod, is an Aussie, and teaches at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, while Crysdale is based at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, USA. The perspective of the book is Catholic, with an appreciation for the deep tradition of Christian thought back through influential figures such as Thomas Aquinas, as well as what looks to me, as one not scientifically trained, like a solid feel for the sciences (e.g. biology, physics) as well as the philosophy of science.
Crysdale & Ormerod - Creator God
As the title suggests, biological evolution is taken for granted in this book, and for some evangelical readers that may be a deal-breaker. I personally see Neo-Darwinism as another knowledge paradigm, like so many composed by humans over the years to make sense of their world. One day it will give way to a replacement paradigm, though many of its composing elements will be carried over into whatever follows. So a further century or two of history will give its verdict on which parts of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis deserve to be retained and which ones are no longer persuasive. This means I find myself pretty relaxed about paradigms generally, and I find some evolutionary belief elements more persuasive than others. So it was not something that stopped me reading.

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Mini-Book Review: The Adam Quest

Tim Stafford, The Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Who Held on to a Strong Faith While Wrestling with the Mystery of Human Origins (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013).

Adam Quest

With a subtitle worthy of the eighteenth century, almost, this book was recommended to me in early December. I saw it on a bookstore shelf in mid-December and bought it, and had it read in about a week and a half.

It’s an evangelical Christian treatment of the evergreen issue of understanding creation (ranging a bit broader than simply ‘human origins’), from the/a senior writer for Christianity Today. Well-researched and well-written, what really makes it reader-friendly is its biographical tack. It is not just about ideas but about people and their personal odysseys (odyssies? I’m not near a dictionary). And people are always interesting to other people. So I finished this book quickly because I found the personal stories so interesting.

But it is also handy to explore ideas by the biographical route. In this book we get to wrestle with issues of truth concerning creation and science through the lenses of other individual persons’ own quests for truth, in the context of all the human hangups, prejudices, social obligations and relationships, human and divine, that go with being human. It’s real thinking in the context of real life, complicated by real politics. So I related to these stories and liked them.

The eleven primary stories feature well-qualified scientists whose convictions about creation are arranged in a steady sequence from strictly young-earth, as it were six-day creationism, through to those who believe in an old earth (progressive creation) and on to theistic evolutionists. The names are on the whole quite well known, another asset for the work. The movement represents an increasing proximity to Stafford’s own theistic-evolutionist sympathies, revealed at the end of the book, and these sympathies are detectable as an undertone throughout the book. That notwithstanding, I found Stafford’s treatment generally even-handed. He sought to avoid demonising or patronising any participants, and largely succeeded.

I should mention that within the eleven major stories are embedded many more in shorter compass. I should give you examples, but I’m on holidays and have snatched the chance for some public wi-fi, and don’t have the book with me. But I recall seeing a nutshell bio of Intelligent Design advocate Philip Johnson offered within a fuller treatment of another ID advocate, one of the researchers at the Discovery Institute, as I recall.

It was fascinating to read about Kurt Wise, Michael Behe, Francis Collins, John Polkinghorne, and many other important figures in Christian discussions about creation. It was also interesting to see whose careers really flourished, and whose seemed somewhat stillborn, or remained starved of funding or mainstream acceptance.

Well, enough words! It’s inexpensive and available, and if you’re interested in creation and evolution, and like human stories, I recommend this book to you.

Days of Creation Book Now Available

Received the first box of print copies this week, and I’ve checked and found that the title is available for purchase:

http://www.eisenbrauns.com/item/BRODAYSOF

Boxa Books

Here’s a better view, though I enjoyed the first one, too:

Days of Creation Book Image

Here’s the rider: it only covers up to around 1860! (Perhaps I should have put that on the cover!) Stay tuned for the sequel. I hope you’re in good health…it’s gonna take some time!