Tag Archives: Science

Book Review: Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos, edited by Kenneth Keathley, J. B. Stump, and Joe Aguirre

Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?Edited by Kenneth Keathley, J. B. Stump, and Joe Aguirre, Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos is a moderated (Southern Baptist Convention), two-view presentation and discussion between two “Christian” organizations (BioLogos and Reasons to Believe) in agreement with evolutionary theory in general and an understanding of the earth as being billions of years old, but they are in disagreement over what all that necessarily means and how we (humans) became we are in particular, especially regarding what it means to be “made in the image of God.” BioLogos members believe all life, including humans, have a common ancestor; Reasons to Believe (RTB) members believe humans were created as special beings separate and apart from an evolutionary process.

WHO ARE THEY?
BioLogos is quite a diverse group with no central board of scholars dictating their beliefs and findings to others. Their “core commitments” are relatively broad:

  • We embrace the historical Christian faith, upholding the authority and inspiration of the Bible.
  • We affirm evolutionary creation, recognizing God as Creator of all life over biollions of years.
  • We seek truth, ever learning as we study the natural world and the Bible.
  • We strive for humility and gracious dialogue with those who hold other views.
  • We aim for excellence in all areas, from science to education to business practices.

When an author writes from the perspective of BioLogos, he or she often includes a caveat that not all within the organization may agree on the specifics (or even in general, as the case may be). The organization’s focus is primarily on educating Christians in the “both-and” of science and Scripture in hopes of ending or smoothing controversies surrounding both and the fear and/or disdain many have for evolutionary theory.

Reasons to Believe is rather exclusive with only a small team of four scientists (Fazale Rana, Anjeanette Roberts, Hugh Ross, Jeff Zweerink) and one theologian (Kenneth Samples) leading the pack. Requirements for participation include signing a four-page doctrinal statement (“explicitly Protestant and evangelical, patterned after Reformation creeds, but allows for diversity of views on eschatology, spiritual gifts, and the paradox of human free will and divine predestination”) with a view of biblical inerrancy as articulated by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, a Christian behavior contract, and RTB’s mission statement. When an author writes from the perspective of RTB, it is assumed all are in agreement. The organization’s focus is evangelizing non-Christians into a saving relationship with Jesus.

CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS
Southern Baptist Convention: Ted Cabal, James Dew, Ken Keathley, John Laing, Steve Lemke, Robert Stewart
BioLogos: Darrel Falk, Deborah Haarsma, Loren Haarsma, Jeff Schloss, Ralph Stearley, J. B. Stump, John Walton
Reasons to Believe: Fazale “Fuz” Rana, Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples, Jeff Zweerink

ABOUT THE BOOK
Though not likely to convince and swing young-earth and “literal six-day” creationists to an old-earth perspective, it proves helpful in better understanding the two provided views in general and in pointing to much needed further detailed and precise information (see footnotes and bibliography for sources). The format of each chapter includes an SBC moderator introduction with questions, a response from a BioLogos author followed by the RTB response, a redirect with clarifications and questions from SBC, a response from BioLogos and RTB in the same order, and a conclusion from SBC. While authors BioLogos appear to be much more specific, detailed, and thorough than those from RTB, there simply isn’t enough time or space for fully articulated arguments and responses, and I wonder if the discussion would have been any different if the order had alternated between BioLogos and RTB responses. It would also have been helpful had the authors been able to edit their responses to better suit the moderator’s questions as intended rather than some moderator conclusions ending with something akin to “I must have been misunderstood” or “my questions weren’t really answered.” It definitely reads as an ongoing conversation, which it is, than a thoroughly prepared articulation of two views, which it isn’t.

STARTING WITH THE END
Some people read the end/conclusion of a book before reading the first page, which I find intriguing, especially in regards to fiction in general and mystery in particular. While I am not one who practices this, I perceive a few things mentioned in this book’s final chapter to be helpful on both bookends. So, for the reader’s benefit, here are three quotes from the end that should prove beneficial before starting on page one:

“After participating in all of our conversations with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos and now after working through this book, which is the product of those conversations, I am struck by a number of things. To state the obvious, this issue is huge. The creation/evolution conversation is big in the sense of how broad and interdisciplinary the topics are.” – SBC moderator Kenneth Keathley

“We probably all felt frustrated at times, wondering, Why can’t you see the strength of my argument? or Why can’t you see the danger in your position? If the group had not established strong personal relationships and been committed to humility and Christian unity, we would not have been able to sustain true engagement and would have descended to talking past each other or rancorous debate. … In today’s public square and—sadly—in our churches, people are assign guilt by association, so that even talking with someone of a different view can be seen as an endorsement or agreement with that view. I admire the courage of everyone involved to continue our conversations despite the risks.” – BioLogos author Deborah Haarsma

“The issues addressed in this book are very big and controversial and, even for people with doctoral degrees in science or theology, can be confusing. Our goal in this book was twofold: to help remove some of the confusion and to demonstrate that important controversial disagreement can be addressed in a spirit of gentleness, respect, and love. … This book…is a two-views book but not a debate book. We purposely avoided long rebuttals and responses, recognizing that there is not enough room within a single volume to engage in sufficient depth to map out pathways for resolution of our differences. Our goal is to do that in future books.” – Reasons to Believe author Hugh Ross

RECOMMENDED?
While I remain unconvinced on many of the particulars, I did find the book helpful in better understanding some of my brothers and sisters in Christ and applaud the way in which all participants demonstrated the love of Christ. I look forward to delving into some of the more specialized and detailed sources cited.

 

*I received a temporary, unpublished digital copy (hence no page numbers for included quotations) for review from IVP Academic via NetGalley.

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Book Review: Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body, by Jo Marchant

CureScience journalist Jo Marchant (PhD in genetics and medical microbiology) has just released Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body, a much-needed look into the real science of how one’s mind can and does affect one’s physiology. Often disregarded as immeasurable and unscientific, the connection between the mind and body has had a hard time penetrating the skeptical walls of those wholly reliant on the modern scientific method. Marchant, however, eloquently makes a compelling case for not only its inclusion in serious scientific research but also the naivety of those who place problems in only one of two categories: mental (see a psychiatrist) and physical (see an MD), arguing that these should be bridged in order to further the scientific medical community. One need not be an academic or medical scholar to read this text—see the plethora of footnotes for that kind of information—but the information is not so dumbed down that those of that ilk will be disappointed; there’s plenty here for everyone.

The case studies found in Cure are beyond intriguing—what we’ve discovered about placebos alone may stretch the reader’s mind beyond its level of comfort. We know so little about the mind, but the more we study it the more we see just how great its influence is on the body, whether through intentional or unintentional means, consciously or subconsciously. Marchant does not believe in anything spiritual, but she does not deny the influence certain behaviors and beliefs have on the mind and, therefore, the body, which should be of interest to believers and nonbelievers alike.

I’ve found that Marchant’s approach may be equally as helpful for those who place their faith in the modern scientific method as for those who place it elsewhere. As a Christian whose faith is in God but who also sees the benefit of the Enlightenment period and birth of modern science but also sees its limitations, I found myself saying, “Well, duh,” a few times, but also, “Whoa! What?!” I have to admit, after reading through the first three chapters I was ready to write to a few people and say, “Get this book now.” The information on placebos alone (specifically in relation to Lupus) has given me a whole new hope for some people. The applications of the information found in this text are virtually limitless.

One experiment made participants aware from the start that they were taking placebos—they were all taking placebos—but it still improved their situation simply by tricking the brain. Granted, much of what we’re talking about is purely addressing symptoms, but often times relieving those can allow the real problem to surface and heal. And, of course, without proper physical treatment tricking the mind into thinking the body is okay will simply cause it to die due to ignoring the real issue—thinking your blood has enough oxygen and actually having enough are two very different things!

This isn’t a “how to” book, but it is informative and should raise awareness as Marchant intends. She writes in her conclusion, “My hope, then, is that this book might help to overcome some of the prejudice against mind-body approaches, and to raise awareness that taking account of the mind in health is actually a more scientific and evidence-based approach than relying ever more heavily on physical interventions and drugs” (254). I hope so, too.

Highly recommended.

 

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.