October 22, 2020

Riffs: Conrad Hyers on Creationism, Genesis and Science

meaningofcreationPresbyterian minister and Biblical language scholar Conrad Hyers has been the primary help for me on issues of the Bible and Science. I’m sorry so little of Hyers is on the web. His book, The Meaning of Creation, is a mandatory read for those interested in this subject. Hyers’ simplicity and amazing respect for the Bible stands in real contrast to what is done to and with the Bible by those who require science to validate their faith.

The Rise and Fall of Creationism

Biblical Literalism

AIG thought Hyers worth a mention in this column.

And yes, your Google search will reveal that most of Hyers’ work was done in the area of the Bible and humor.

What science and religion books have been helpful to you?


  1. For me it was The Creator and the Cosmos, by Hugh Ross, and also his Creation and Time.

    I have a third book of his in my library, but I’m somthing like 5,000 miles from said library, so I can’t remember the title. But Hugh Ross was the one that helped me realize I wasn’t totally out there in not accepting YEC.

  2. I’ve read _many_ science and religion books, but three really stand out as fundamentally changing my views:

    _Creation and Time_ by Hugh Ross – Being a science and astronomy buff since childhood, I was never comfortable with the whole 10,000 year old universe thing. Ross presented all the evidence I needed to finally abandon any attachment to YEC. Ross is an Astronomer, and we he speaks on his subject, he is authoritative. His pronouncements on evolution and biology tend to be very wrong, though.

    _Darwin on Trial_ by Philip Johnson – This book had the exact opposite effect on me as the author intended. I read it, and armed with its arguments, I sallied forth to debate those evil, atheistic evolutionists. And promptly had my a** handed back to me on a platter. So I determined to go through _Darwin on Trial_ again, check every argument and every piece of evidence, and be ready to really give it to those evilutionists. To my surprise, NOT A SINGLE ONE of Johnson’s arguments or bits of evidence stood up under scrutiny or the weight of the evidence. Johnson is a lawyer and he plays by lawyer’s rules. A lawyer’s job is not to establish the truth; it is to pursuade a jury to accept the story he is selling. Johnson uses every trick in the lawyer’s arsenal to make his case sound plausible. And it does, to someone who knows nothing of science. See Johnson and Lamoreaux _Darwinism Defeated?_ for a devastating takedown of Johnson’s arguments. After reading Johnson’s evasion and escape tactics and name calling when pressed on a point he can’t defend, I lost all respect for him.

    _Finding Darwin’s God_ by Ken Miller. The book that drove the final nail in the coffin for Intelligent Design for me, and showed me how Theistic Evolution is a viable and Biblical option.

  3. Kenny Johnson says

    I actually just read through “Three Views on Creation and Evolution” this weekend. I actually found that incredibly helpful. I think it’s important to see all sides. The funny thing is, never having been a YEC, this books convinced me even more that the YEC has no merit. Even the authors who supported that view admitted it was not currently scientifically supportable! So they’re sticking to it just to hold on to a specific interpretation of Genesis? Seems silly.

    I like Ross and the RTB stuff, but I find that it still tries to hard to hold every word of the Bible — in relation to creation or descriptions of the world as scientific pronouncements. I just don’t think that’s the case. Like I heard Ross talking about how a passage in Job (I believe) supported the view that the universe is expanding. I doubt highly that the author of Job had any intent on conveying the expanding universe idea as we understand it today. They seem to ignore authorial intent/audience.

    I’m really somewhere in the middle. I’m suspicious of complete Darwinian evolution. Most theistic evolutionist (or fully gifted creationist, as Till wanted to call it) believe that God basically front loaded the universe to be so finely tuned that God never ‘had’ to intervene again. That means that everything, including humans were a product of the universe’s fine-tuning by God — produced through natural processes, but only because God made it possible by his initial creation. I’m not there with them. They also see ID or special creation as God ‘having’ to tinker with his creation (as if it weren’t already perfect). I don’t see it as having to tinker, but rather that God takes pleasure in being involved with his creation — guiding it, etc.

    However, I’m still open to such ideas. I just don’t think the evidence backs their claims. It does of course introduce a host of theological problems though… Were Adam and Eve historical? If not, was the Fall historical? People like Karl Giberson don’t believe so.

    I have no problem with Genesis not being literal historic narrative. I never really believed it was. However, I have a hard time then, deciding when did Genesis become historic narrative?

  4. Kenny Johnson says

    It should say “I have no problem with Genesis 1-2 not being literal historic narrative.”

  5. God and Evolution – David Wilcox
    Beyond the Firmament – Gordon Glover (good stuff on his web site also)
    Origins – A reformed look at creation, design, and evolution – Haarsma
    Kidner’s Genesis commentary

    – Craig

  6. At the end of this month, over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight and RJS will be doing a series on John Walton’s book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.


    As they state, “This book promises to keep evangelicals and scientists and ancient historians engaged the whole time … “

  7. Dear iMonk,

    ‘Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons: Evolution And Christianity From Darwin To Intelligent Design’ by Peter J. Bowler, Harvard University Press, 2007

    From the cover flap: ‘Our polarized society, Bowler says, has all too often projected its rivalries onto the past, concealing the efforts by both scientists and theologians to find common ground. Our perception of past confrontations has been shaped by an oversimplified model of a “war” between science and religion. By uncovering the complexity of the debates sparked by Darwin’s theory, we might discover ways to depolarize our own debates about where we came from and why we are here.’

    Mr. Bowler does not write from a Christian perspective, but neither does he bash Christianity as he offers a balanced historical view of the debate.

    Yours, Lee

  8. The Language of God by Francis Collins was very helpful to me. As a former teacher married to someone who has taught science for more than 20 years, I’ve seen just about every side of this passionate issue and all the craziness that goes with it. I may not agree with everything he says, but Collins is a voice of calm and reason in the fray, and proof that you can be a faithful believer and a serious scientist.

  9. SottoVoce says

    In the Beginning by Henri Blocher–Great commentary on the first six chapters of Genesis. Almost entirely responsible for my current view on the creation narrative (along with Hyers’ book).

    The Creationists by Ronald Numbers–an in-depth history of the young-earth movement. Prepare to be astonished. Single-handedly discredited flood geology forever for me.

    • Forgot about _The Creationists_. Excellent, excellent book. A very fair and even-handed history of the creationist movement from one of our foremost historians of science. Even Henry Morris of the ICR gave _The Creationists_ a thumbs up.

  10. I have to put in another plug for Ken Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God.” Also to, perhaps, throw a cruve ball I really enjoyed “The Ancestor’s Tale,” by Richard Dawkins. A great book that does not talk about religion but provids a well written panoramic view of the current understanding of the evolution of life.

    • Kenny Johnson says

      I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard Miller’s critics claim that Miller believes that God didn’t know that evolution was going to produce humans. That, very likely, He could have just ended up with very intelligent dinosaurs or clams, for instance. If that’s what he really believes, it’s a bit too far for me. 🙂

  11. @ K Bryan,

    I totally agree with you. I had a similar experience with YEC books. The question that I keep asking myself when it comes to those that write YEC books like Johnson is…Do they not see the flaws in their arguments? or do they not care i.e. they will write anything to win. I had a similar experience reading Lee Strobel’s “Case for a Creator.” There he used a huge number of outdated arguments or seemed not t have read what scientists now think. This is seemingly done with the intention that the YEC author does not think that the reader is going to ‘fact-check’ their book. This really bothers me and I think this is the issue that I have with YEC. Not that evolution is true or false, but that many YEC’ers seem willing to misrepresent , or use any argument (whether true or not) to attack evolution.

    • Kenny Johnson says

      I don’t believe either Strobel or Johnson are YEC.

    • “Do they not see the flaws in their arguments? or do they not care i.e. they will write anything to win.”

      They know they have “some” flaws in their theories. But it doesn’t matter. Since they KNOW the answer their flawed theories are just a part of the journey. They KNOW their answer is the right one and figure that eventually they’ll get the theories right.

  12. Tim VanHaitsma says

    Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World gave me an appreciation for the scientific method. From there it was all downhill;)

    Ronald Numbers and Mark Knoll(both mentioned above) helped me to understand the evangelical position and relationsip with science.

  13. Bill Bryant says

    “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin
    “Show Me God” by Fred Heeren
    “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” by Mark Noll
    “The Creationists” by Ronald Numbers
    “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” by Michael Denton
    “Darwin on Trial” by Phillip Johnson
    “Nature’s Destiny” by Michael Denton
    “The Funeral of a Great Myth” by C. S. Lewis
    “Science Held Hostage” by Howard Van Till, Davis Young, and Clarence Menninga
    “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins
    “The Dawkins Delusion” by Alister E. McGrath
    “Darwin’s Black Box” by Michael Behe
    “Icons of Evolution” by Jonathan Wells

    • Kenny Johnson says

      What’s great about this list is.. I can’t tell what your opinion on the matter is!

      • Bill Bryant says

        The monkster didn’t ask for an opinion, just a list of books. If he asks for an opinion the floodgates will open. 🙂

        • FollowOfHim says

          Kudos! It’s commenters like you that make iMonk’s blog such a great experience!

  14. John Haught’s “What is God?”. Excellent book that, despite what the author thinks, is actually about religious experience.

    • FollowOfHim says

      And also Haught’s “Deeper than Darwin” is outstanding. It’s not polemical, but is all the more persuasive for that very reason.

  15. Evolution is not an issue for me, since I have never taken the proposed alternatives seriously. However, I would like to point out that this is by no means the only (or even primary) issue involved in the relationship between science and religion.

    For example, recent developments in consciousness studies would seem to have a bearing on the traditional Christian belief in the soul. Also, brain research may reveal much about the nature of Christian prayer, as well as Hindu / Buddhist meditation. (Not to be confused with “prayer studies” attempting to measure the efficacy of prayer, which I consider about as useful as psychic research.)

    Meanwhile, socio-biological writers have been blending genetics with “game theory” in order to explain, for example, our propensity sometimes to behave altruistically, and sometimes selfishly. This seems relevant to religious theories of ethics.

    The subject was framed as “science vs. religion,” but actually philosophy and secular historical research are at least as challenging to traditional belief. To what extant would a Christian be justified in deferring to the opinions of expert historians on subjects such as the life of Christ? This introduces issues of epistemology similar to those raised by the sciences (or the philosophy of science).

    • FollowOfHim says

      Meanwhile, socio-biological writers have been blending genetics with “game theory” in order to explain, for example, our propensity sometimes to behave altruistically, and sometimes selfishly. This seems relevant to religious theories of ethics”

      Indeed, this is indeed a fascinating area of research! Axelrod’s “The Evolution of Cooperation” is a fascinating study of cooperation that emerged from, of all things, a computer-code competition involving the so-called “Prisoner’s Dilemma” of standard game theory. It’s pretty self-contained, and gives a few insights into (not laws about) why we behave – perhaps – towards each other, at least in certain situations. I don’t think socio-biology is the whole story — not even close — but it does have the virtue of taking seriously our creatureliness.

  16. I recommend this book on this website all the time, but for tradition’s sake:

    “The Phenomenon of Man” by Teilhard de Chardin.

    It’s just awesome.

  17. Thanks for those excellent links IM. I wish I had have read those articles a long time ago.

  18. The book that may have saved me from having a crisis of faith as a geology undergraduate was Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict? by Pattle Pun. I think it is out of print now, but it showed me that there were other Biblical options out there besides young-Earth creationism.

    Other great books:

    The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Young and Stearley. This is a devastating analysis of young-Earth creationism by two geologists who hold to Biblical inerrancy.

    Creation and Time by Hugh Ross.

    A Biblical Case for an Old Earth by Snoke. The best chapter is on death before the fall.

    Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? by Collins, who is an OT professor at Covenant Theological Seminary (PCA)

    Another important science-faith issue is the environment. My two favorites in this area are:

    Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer was not afraid to acknowledge that there is an ecological crisis, that Christians have often been a part of the problem, and that Biblically-informed Christianity has the best answers. Many who love Schaeffer’s works have ignored this book.

    For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger. This contains a more thorough case for Biblical creation care than does Schaeffer’s book.

  19. John Polkinghorne is the gold standard in this area. He is a Knight of the British Empire for his work in quantum physics, and is now a priest in the Church of England, and as far as I can tell, he is orthodox in his beliefs. He has written several books, and his most recent one is a pretty good summary of his beliefs: “Questions of Truth: Fifty-One Responses to Questions About God, Science, and Belief.”

    Also check out http://www.polkinghorne.net/

  20. I’ll going to be one of the odder balls here.

    Frankly, some of the earlier creationists helped me. Like Henry Morris, and those who wrote about the same time. They helped me because they were the first to show that I could be a Christian, and a scientist who believed in creationism at the same time.

    I later moved on, partly not being able to judge the quality of science done by them, It was not in my area of chemistry, nor have I ever studied geology.

    When Intelligent design became popularized, I read (and may still own) Behe’s books. I’ve read one or two by Ross and found them helpful.

  21. For the life of me I will never understand why Christians find literal 6 day story necessary nor do I understand how they can find it believeable. St. Augustine rejected it and so should we. Are creating a hugh barrier for people to accept Christianity because of narrow-minded dogmatic reading of the Bible.

    I understand the concern that by rejecting the literal reading of the text we are calling the authority of the Scriptures into question. I suppose that is a risk. But does anyone think a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2 is not making a mockery of the Bible? This is an unfortumate development because it need not be that way. Genesis has some of the most profound theology in Bible – or anywhere for that matter. Treating it like a science journal is plain silly.

    • Kenny Johnson says

      Actually I don’t think denying a 6-day creation calls the authority of scripture into question at all. I’ve never been a YEC. I don’t currently believe that Genesis 1-2 is supposed to be understood as historic narrative or a scientific explanation of creation. But I consider myself an Evangelical and have a high view of scripture.

      Even the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy would allow for a non-literal intepretation of the Genesis creation account.

      I do have issues with Darwinian evolution (that is, purely naturalistic and unguided), but they have nothing to do with how I interpret Genesis.

  22. Examining the biblical creation story from a literary viewpoint has been helpful to me when it comes to the science vs. the Bible conundrum. First off, it’s important to note that Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is poetry and much more akin to the Psalms than the narrative stories and historical accounts in other parts of Genesis. And if you look very closely, you’ll discover that it’s poetry specifically aimed at children as the intended audience and, with it’s repeated refrains (obviously meant to be spoken aloud by a participating audience), it’s very close to what we would call a nursery rhyme. Look even closer and you’ll find it’s a children’s poem written with specific instructional agendas, such as teaching children how the world came into being in seven easily remembered and understood stages, explaining the origin of the seven-day week and the Sabbath, and, most simply, teaching young Hebrews to count to seven.
    As far as I’m concerned, denouncing the Biblical creation story because it doesn’t line up perfectly with current science is like denouncing Shakespeare’s “Julius Ceasar” because it doesn’t line up perfectly with current historical scholarship on ancient Rome. Unerring historical accuracy was not at the top of Shakespeare’s agenda when he wrote his historical plays, and it would be absurd to judge the man’s works along those lines. And expecting a children’s instructional poem written not too long after the invention of writing itself to satisfy modern science’s insistence on purely factual details is just as absurd.
    With that said, I do contend that the first part of Genesis is the most amazing piece of children’s literature ever written, and a wonderful poetic (not scientific, mind you) picture of how God brought our world into being. And when you line it up alongside all the other creation accounts of ancient cultures, it is definitely the most reconcilable with current scientific knowledge about the origins of our planet. In that way, I believe this ancient children’s poem transends it human author(s) and the cultural and historical context in which it was written and shows the subtle indications of divine inspiration. But if you insist on being absurd about it, then you’re welcome to fault God because He chose to communicate His work of creation to ancient children rather than to the modern scientific community.

  23. Chad Rushing says

    In response to Alfred’s question, I would propose that not accepting the plainly straight-forward account given in Genesis 1 & 2 is to make a mockery of the Bible, including its Author.

    Pardon my extreme candidness, but if God cannot even competently and clearly communicate historically reliable information regarding His creation of Everything That Is and His initial interactions with humanity, pivotal events that lay the foundation for all of biblical history and God’s divine plan of redemption, why should one believe anything else in the rest of the Bible? If one cannot accept Eden, why should one accept the promise of Eden restored in the New Creation to come? If all humanity and the creation itself was not cursed because of the sin of the First Adam, why should one believe that the “Second Adam” will (or even can) lift both of those curses in turn? Why should one believe in the mission of Jesus as given in the Gospels when that very mission, salvation for a fallen humanity, is based on mere poetic Jewish mythology from a bygone age (and aimed at children, according to one commenter)?

    After all, most professional scientists of the modern age would agree that a virgin birth, resurrections of the dead, plagues of judgment, talking donkeys, shape-changing staves, angelic messengers, fire from heaven, ascensions into heaven, and the like all belong solely to the realm of superstitious fantasy, too. Why should all those remarkable accounts be selectively retained by Christians while other supernatural events are unapologetically jettisoned? Pure historical proximity? Matters of scale? Mankind “knows better” now?

    After years of earnest, heartfelt investigation on both sides of the debate, I eventually reached the following inescapable conclusion: it is not logically valid for one to believe in hundreds of millions of years of horrifically competitive, tooth-and-claw evolutionism (theistic or otherwise) with its inherent death, disease, decay, and assumed (or implied) proto-humans and still believe in the claims of biblical Christianity. That is, the modern Gospel of Darwin and the biblical Gospel of Christ are completely irreconcilable.

    Of course, that is not to say that most modern Christians do not claim a belief in both at the same time. However, one of those paradigms absolutely must give way to the other if both are followed to their logical conclusions. After facing that dilemma myself, I chose to discard evolutionism and have never looked back. Years later, a respected friend of mine, who also perceived the conflict between evolutionism and Christianity, attempted to reconcile them, too. His faith in evolutionism was so great, though, that he developed a doubt in supernaturalism in general and eventually chose to abandon his Christian faith. Tragic as that was, I cannot help but admire his intellectual honesty in following the facts (as he understood them) wherever they might lead.

    If the natural mechanism proposed by modern evolutionism is truly capable of operating in the creatively “upward” fashion attributed to it and required of it, it has absolutely no need for a theistic deity to be tacked onto it. Doing so is as nonsensical as claiming that a functioning automobile is actually being pulled by an invisible, magical unicorn. That is how pitifully delusional theistic evolutionists appear to atheistic evolutionists. (I should know, having been one of the latter in years gone by.)

    Lastly, I sincerely admire St. Augustine and cannot say enough good things about his Confessions which I am currently reading. However, his opinion on the matter cannot be taken as authoritative because the history of the Church is full of otherwise great theologians who were mistaken in particular areas of their theology. Give me a clear-cut example of a biblical patriarch, New Testament apostle, or Jesus himself explicitly denying a creationist understanding of the early chapters of Genesis within the Scriptures themselves, and then I will reconsider my stance.

    • Kenny Johnson says

      “Pardon my extreme candidness, but if God cannot even competently and clearly communicate historically reliable information regarding His creation of Everything That Is and His initial interactions with humanity, pivotal events that lay the foundation for all of biblical history and God’s divine plan of redemption, why should one believe anything else in the rest of the Bible? ”

      But that’s the issue here. Was it the intention of the author of Genesis to provide a historical/scientific account of God’s creation? Many Christians, conservative Evangelical Christians, do not believe that’s the case. Any time we are interpreting the Bible we need to take into account several things: It’s genre, the cultural context, the author’s audience, the author’s intent, etc. No one is suggesting that Augustine’s interpretation is authoratative. But it’s often that YEC claim that they are following the historic tradition by reading it literally.

      The other thing that we absolutely have to consider is that the Bible was written by man — inspired by God. It’s not simply God’s thoughts jotted down. There is no way you can read… Paul’s letters for example, without reading Paul’s personality…

      This isn’t simply about not believing the Genesis account because it seems to fanciful. It’s reading it differently because we’re uncertain that it was MEANT to be read as historical or scientific. Please remember that the ancient Hebrews are not like modern western people. They didn’t follow all the rules. The rounded numbers, used number as symbolism, etc.

      The fact that our observations of the world around us further discount the Genesis creation story as scientific make it even more important to understand it as non-literal, otherwise we seem to be promoting things that are clearly false to everyone else as true. The evidence for an old earth and an old universe are absolutely staggering. It’s not just 1-2 things that we observe. It’s not just one discipline of science. Cosmology, physics, geology all point to an old earth.

      And then.. we also have to ask. Is reading the Genesis account literally even faithful at all? Because Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 apparently contradict each other. The genealogies of Matthew don’t mesh quite right. So what do we do with those?

      If you want to believe in a literal 6-day creation that happened 6000 years ago, that’s up to you. I cannot reconcile such a thing with any amount of logic though. And God did make me a rational being. If the universe and the earth look and seem old, yet it’s not… then is God a deceiver?

      • Gregory DeVore says

        Kenny writes ” If the universe and the earth look and seem old, yet it’s not… then is God a deceiver?” But can’t that question be turned around? If the Bible presents the earth as young and it is in fact old is not God a deceiver?

        • Did God tell you the Christian Bible was literally and completely infallible?

          • Gregory DeVore says

            Did God tell you modern consciousness and the presuppostitions of the Scientific Meathod and the collective opinion of the Scientific Community was litterally and completely infallible?
            As far as your Bible question yes and no. That is yes God tells us that the bible is infallible but since I don’t know what you mean by literally I cannot answer that part of the question. For instance do you mean litterally as opposed to allegorically? Or by literal do you mean there are no figures of speach, metaphors or images in the bible? Since I find your question incomplete without further elaboration I cannot answer that part of the question.

    • Re: “I would propose that not accepting the plainly straight-forward account given in Genesis 1 & 2 is to make a mockery of the Bible, including its Author.”

      Except that I think you are missing something very simple, as are most who read this “plainly straightforward account” from a “creationist” perspective. One simple observation blows the creationist position out of the water and it doesn’t depend on reading the text in any way other than its plain sense.

      That observation is this:

      Grammatically and syntactically, Genesis 1.1 stands alone. Genesis 1.2 starts a new paragraph.

      Think about the implications of this. If Gen 1.1 is an independent sentence, with a new subject beginning in verse 2…

      1. Gen 1.1 may describe the creation of the universe from nothing before the six days.
      2. If so, then the “six days” are about something else, not the creation of the universe.
      3. Or, Gen. 1.1 may be a “title” or summary statement for the rest of the chapter.
      3. If so, then the “creation” account that begins in v. 2 starts with the “earth” (or land) already in existence. Nowhere do we have a description of God creating it, or water, or wind.

      Either way, the “six days” are about something other than the “creation” of the universe.

      That is a plain straightforward reading of the first two verses of Genesis 1.

  24. Chad Rushing:

    “Pardon my extreme candidness, but if God cannot even competently and clearly communicate historically reliable information regarding His creation of Everything That Is and His initial interactions with humanity, pivotal events that lay the foundation for all of biblical history and God’s divine plan of redemption, why should one believe anything else in the rest of the Bible?”

    I’m afraid that the Bible does not qualify as a clear communication from God. Not only are its contents opaque (as we see from the diversity of interpretation surrounding it), but its authority is not at all obvious to everyone. Rather than endorse an ancient scripture (one of dozens or hundreds), why could not God have, for example, written his message in fire across the depths of space, for all to see and understand? Or perhaps he could appear before us in a puff of smoke, ready to answer our reasonable questions. (Some hold that free will cannot exist without this ambiguity. Maybe.)

    “After all, most professional scientists of the modern age would agree that a virgin birth, resurrections of the dead, plagues of judgment, talking donkeys, shape-changing staves, angelic messengers, fire from heaven, ascensions into heaven, and the like all belong solely to the realm of superstitious fantasy, too. Why should all those remarkable accounts be selectively retained by Christians while other supernatural events are unapologetically jettisoned?”

    Good question. You are absolutely right that a virgin birth is not more plausible than a six-day creation, or a talking donkey. We might also ask why a reasonable person would feel pressure to believe any of these things–or why a reasonable God would require us to. I admire the approach taken by Reform Judaism, and some liberal strains within Christianity, which treats these things as stories rather than as historical accounts.

  25. Seems to me a bit of the “issue” involves human hubris, i.e. if I cannot understand what God says is true, then He must be wrong/telling stories/just kidding. Isn’t there something utterly basic about His ways and thoughts being so much higher than mine? If I cannot reconcile scripture with what I see with my eyes or grasp with my mind, then should I reject it in favor of my logic? Am I such a spoiled child that, without total comprehension or complete resolution of all quandaries, I cannot simply wait until He clarifies things…even if I wait my whole life…and thus reject Him?

    If I cannot answer all the questions or reconcile all the conflicts, so be it. I need not. I need only decide to believe…..or not. Rationalists may not like it when we choose to “simply believe,” but that makes sense, since it is a rejection, not of them, but of understanding as the primary focus of life.

    It’s as though we are bargaining with Him: “When I understand You, only then will I believe.” Yet, in my experience, the understanding part seems to follow the relationally knowing part.

    Some today reject God because “I don’t understand You.” What’s more important is that if He rejects me/us, it will be because “I never knew you.”

    I enjoy logic and appreciate the mysteries of the mind, but it is an ancillary organ. Either it follows the spirit, or it will lead us as poorly as our bodies or emotions do.

    “Lean not on your own understanding…”

    • Just to be clear, are you taking the position of Fideism?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Fideism as in what in practice drifts into “DON’T THINK! JUST BE-LEEEEEEVE!”?

    • You seem to be saying that God, despite his alleged omnipotence, is incapable of communicating effectively across the gulf between us, at least until after we’re dead.

      And given the enormous stakes said to be in play here (salvation or damnation), why would he make me wait “my whole life” in order to find out whether I’ve chosen (or more likely, inherited) the right religion? (Remember, the next guy is saying the same thing about Buddhism.) Or make faith incompatible with “logic,” thereby frustrating attempts to reason our way through to the required right beliefs?

      By the way, the “I never knew you” line (what a perverse piece of psychology!) actually comes in the context of those who neglect to feed the hungry or clothe the naked. Or in another place, forgive the debts of others.

  26. Bob Sacamento says

    Nature, Design, and Science, by Del Ratzsch.

    Excellent, but a challenge to read, being written by a professional philosopher writing in an unapologetically professional philosopher’s manner.

  27. Numbers’ book “The Creationists” has already been mentioned, but I’ll up-vote it again. That book is a must-read if you want to understand the… er… origins of the evolutionist/creationist controversy in the US.

    Another one along similar lines (but shorter) is Michael Ruse’s book “The Evolution-Creation Struggle”. Ruse is an atheist, but is one of the more “charitable” atheists I’ve ever read on the science/religion topic. He does a great job of pointing out how this isn’t a “science vs. religion” dispute, but rather a dispute between competing “religions”, one of which is “secular”. I can also recommend Ruse’s “Can a Darwinian Be A Christian?”.

    There’s a huge cache of excellent, free audio talks on science and religion (including lectures by Ruse) presented by Cambridge University’s Faraday Institute: http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/Multimedia.php

    • Here’s another vote for Ruse’s _Can A Darwinian Be A Christian_, and any other book by him on the topic. I got to meet Ruse and have him sign a couple of books for me after a lecture recently. He was a true gentleman, handling the standard creationist questions from the audience with grace and aplomb.

  28. coming to peace with science by darrell falk

  29. It is crucial for believers to come to peace with the Biblical text first and foremost, and the best commentaries I have read are by:

    1. John Sailhamer (Expositors Bible Commentary)
    2. John Walton (IVP Application Commentary)
    3. Bruce Waltke

    In Waltke’s OT Theology he continues to deal with the text in a helpful way also. Sailhamer’s Genesis Unbound elaborates his views. I am looking forward to reading Walton’s new book as well.

  30. I’m with Chaplain Mike on this one. Interpreting Genesis correctly is the key here, everything else is secondary.

  31. There are 2 different aspects to biological evolution. One is the process which, because it is happening now, can be investigated using an appropriate, formalised, scientific method. For instance, we can do DNA testing on Galapagos finches, measure their beak sizes, determine their food sources, measure the rainfall over time, observe mating behaviours and so on and so forth. I will call this aspect “Scientifically Testable Evolution”.

    The other aspect is the process of differentiation that is thought to have occurred since the origin of the first living organism. Since every differentiation event occurred in the past none of them are now available for investigation using an appropriate, formalised, scientific method. All we can do is investigate remnant artifacts, such as fossils, compare them with each other and make more or less informed guesses regarding what their relationships to each other might be. I will call this aspect “Historical Evolution”.

    The only real difference between “Creation Science” and “Historical Evolution” (theistic or otherwise) is in their respective presuppositions.

    The former assumes;
    a) that God exists,
    b) that in the words of Scripture God has revealed himself through what he has done,
    c) that God, having made us, understands how we think and reason, and
    d) that God, being both good and merciful, would not provide a story of our origins that requires us to have tertiary-level training in Biblical literary criticism and several different branches of philosophy in order to correctly understand the meaning of the account that he gave us of our origin even if it is in the form of poetic prose. (“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 19:14 RSV)

    The latter assumes;
    a) that God either does not exist (or, if he does, would leave no trace of his working in his work) and therefore,
    b) random, spontaneous events must be sufficient to explain how every living thing could have descended from a single, original, spontaneously formed, living thing (assuming it’s possible for a living thing to be formed randomly and spontaneously).

    Neither “Creation Science” nor “Historical Evolution” are scientific in the sense of being the kind of work that can, “cure disease, solve hunger, improve national security, and otherwise … improve the quality of human life.” (AAAS statement: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2008/media/0418aaas_statement.pdf)

    None of us would be bothered by the whole science vs. religion argument if we could be bothered with thinking hard about what we think science really is and why we think it’s such a valuable enterprise. I like having a computer, a digital TV, non-stick cookware, a mobile phone, antibiotics, MRI scans, movies on DVD, etc., etc., etc. I can do without people pushing their naturalistic religion/philosophy of history on me and telling me I should believe it because, according to them, naturalism explains everything.

    I don’t want “Creation Science” in school science classrooms. I want “Historical Evolution” out of them precisely because it has no more to do with science than did Lysenkoism.

  32. Thank you so much for this post. I belong to an LCMS church that has a strong creationist bent. As much as I love my church in other ways, I’m distressed by this focus. The gospel doesn’t need to be tied down by the heavy load of the creationist belief system. Thank you so much for recommending Hyers’ book – I just got it through interlibrary loan and I can’t put it down.

  33. If God did not create the earth and man as its written then we have to accept that he used death, disease, violence, destruction, misery and suffering to create man. If man did not fall and cause sin to enter the world, then sin was something our loving God created to what?

    If man did not fall and is not sin cursed there was no spiritual purpose for Jesus to die on the cross. So that has no significance at all.

    If you can’t believe in what is written in Genesis there is very little you can believe when it comes to scripture, very little is relevant, or has any real meaning and most of all salvation wasn’t necessary.

    Why couldn’t God create the earth in the manner in which it’s written in the bible? Why wouldn’t he? Is it necessary to believe he didn’t?

    If we can’t believe that God created the earth instantly because it’s “too supernatural” then why should we believe the divinity of Jesus or any of the miracles of the bible, because what makes those supernatural and not the creation story in Genesis.

    Can we only believe in supernatural events when there is no possible natural explanation? If God appeared in front of you and made a chicken by pouring out sand on the ground is it impossible to believe that chickens come from fertilized eggs?

    • ajy:

      As an old-earth creationist, I believe in a real creation by God, in a real Adam, in a real fall into sin, in real consequences for that sin, and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for that sin. Looking at the text of Genesis (as well as Romans 5 and 8 and other places) I do not see anywhere where it says that human sin caused animal death (this is something young-earth creationists read into the text). Like many prominent conservative Christian leaders over the years—such as Charles Spurgeon, B.B. Warfield, Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, and J. Gresham Machen—I don’t think the text requires a young earth.