Monday, November 23, 2015

BookPastor >> "40 Questions About Creation and Evolution" (Kenneth D. Keathley and Mark F. Rooker)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on March 9th, 2015.


TITLE: 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution (40 Questions and Answers Series)
AUTHOR: Kenneth D. Keathley and Mark F. Rooker
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2014, (432 pages).

Is there a conflict between science and faith? Is there a way to understand both? When is the beginning of the world? What is the origin of the human species. How did the world come into existence? These questions have challenged people through the centuries. From archaeology to philosophy; humanistic thought to theology, the questions about the beginning of the world and man continue to fascinate. In this book, forty questions are posed with regards to creation and evolution. All of the questions are categorized in 6 major parts.

Part 1 - Doctrine of Creation
Part 2 - Creation and Genesis 1-2
Part 3 - Days of Creation
Part 4 - Age of the Earth
Part 5 - Fall and the Flood
Part 6 - Evolution and Intelligent Design

For over 200 years, since the publishing of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859, the topic of creation and evolution has been vigorous, sometimes extremely controversial. In Part One, the authors lay down the major issues surrounding creation and evolution. We learn about the difference between "creation and creationism" where the former is a doctrine while the latter is an apologetic. Even though the empirical data is the same, everyone comes with a presupposition that is different. The two main presuppositions that parallel creation and evolution are "supernaturalism" and "naturalism." Christian theists take the former position while those inclined toward a scientific presupposition will begin with the latter. The big question is, how much should our presuppositions determine the truth of the data? Another issue is the creation narrative. Is it "concordist" (literal understanding of the seven days of creation) or "non-concordist" (seeing Genesis as myth, allegory, or literary device). With the many different views (and problems) of each perspective, it is good for readers to note that even the authors themselves take different positions. For instance, Keathley leans toward "young-earth creationism" while Rooker believes in "old-age creationism." The authors affirm that the biblical narrative about creation is unique and counter cultural at that time. They compare "eternalism" (no beginning world) and "creation." They give four reasons why the doctrine of creation is critical to understanding four realities.

  1. There is only One God; in contrast with other gods represented by polytheism, materialism, dualism, pantheism, panentheism, apathetic monotheism, trinitarian monotheism.
  2. Man is special, made in the image of God.
  3. The doctrine of creation enables us to understand the nature of creation. That it is real, has value, a creation, order, subservient, and purpose.
  4. Creation doctrine helps us understand the grand picture of salvation and redemption.

Part Two deals with questions about creation and in particular, Genesis 1-2. The authors compare and contrast biblical creation narrative with ancient "Mesopotamian cosmologies." They say there is a stark parallel between Enuma Elish and Genesis 1. The question then becomes, who influences who? According to John Walton of Wheaton College, there is no direct relation because the purposes were different. Keathley and Rooker points out more differences. Genesis 1 is a polemic that asserts the God of Israel and the One True God. All of creation comes under the sovereignty of God. Scientific experimentation is all possible in the first place because of this creation narrative. There are other questions like how did God create everything? There is even an interesting question about Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1, about "in the beginning." Four views are popular. The first is the "summation view" which sees Gen 1:1 as a summary statement of the creation narrative. The second view says that it is the "initial act of creation" and not just a title or summary. The third view separates verse 1 from the rest, saying that there are two distinct creation narratives in Genesis 1. The fourth view takes Genesis 1 as a whole. Other questions include the part about Sabbath, purpose of Man's creation, and the meaning behind the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2.

Part Three goes into the nitty-gritty of the seven days of creation. They explain what the gap theory is and the unknown time difference between the first two verses of Genesis 1. This gap theory allows theologians to accept a scientific old age view of the world without having to accept evolution. The day-age theory was compared by using the insights and research of Hug Ross and Norman Geisler. The key distinction is in the definition of what a day means. The Framework theory prefers to interpret the seven days of creation as figurative with deeper theological significance. Looking at the literary style of Genesis 1, scholars like Meredith Kline and Bruce Waltke see the days of creation as a framework of symmetrical design that puts together Days 1 with 4; 2 with 5; 3 with 6; and the seventh day as a non-solar day. Keathley and Rooker were not convinced by this theory. Other theories covered include the "Temple Inauguration theory" which is a parallel to the building of a cosmic temple; the commonly held "Historical Creationism Theory" which is the reading of Genesis as a historical fact instead of literary style or myth. It is another way to reconcile biblical history with scientific findings; and the "24 Hour Day Theory" which interprets the days of creation in a literal 24 hours format. The authors conclude that the burden of proof is upon the shoulders of those who argue against a day being 24 hours.

Part Four deals with questions surrounding the age of the earth, the impact of Bishop Ussher's dating of the earth at 4000BC, and a discussion of what extent one can adopt literal interpretations of human genealogies. Due to the incomplete genealogies of human history, one cannot be too dogmatic about the precise date of the earth. Contrary to what many people thought, the debate between creation and evolution comes only AFTER the tussle between "creation and eternalism." This is in line with the original context of Genesis being a counter cultural against the fatalistic pagan beliefs then. Yet, scholars through the ages continue to offer different theories to date the age of the earth. Four other questions were covered to see if there is any way to reconcile both creation and evolution.

Part Five deals with questions surrounding the Flood and the Fall. Readers learn about the three major views concerning the meaning of man being made in the image of God: the substantive, the literal, and the functional views. It goes back to Adam and Eve even asking whether they are actual historical persons or not. Without brushing aside some of the scientific arguments made by opponents, the authors believe that it made a lot more sense to believe in the historicity of the first two human beings on earth. Other questions cover original sin, animal deaths prior to the Fall, effects on creation, Noah and the Flood.

Having covered the basic topics surrounding creation and the Fall, readers will be ready for Part Six which is the finale of the book that deals more directly with the differences between creation and evolution, creationism and intelligent design. Even the word "evolution" has multiple meanings. It can be a "descriptor for biological change," a theory of life development, or an "explanation of biological change." The authors point out that even evolution proponents have different opinions about the extent of evolution. Some do not even accept Darwinism. While it explains some progression, there are other serious shortcomings that were not addressed by proponents of Darwinism. Sociobiology, complexity of living cells, arguments for and against evolution, plus views on Theistic Evolution and Intelligent Design complete the final section.

So What?
Keathley and Rooker are both professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the former a professor of theology while the latter of New Testament. They are to be commended for dealing with a complicated topic like creation, evolution, and combinations of both, and framing the issues clearly and concisely into 40 questions. There are books that talk in depth about creation, evolution, and various combinations of both. There are few that explains it in such a clear and detailed manner like this book. Even though the authors are accomplished scholars and theologians, they have managed to give us an accessible volume of facts and theological information for us to chew upon. While it is not exactly light stuff, it is written in a very layman fashion which should appeal to large sections of the laypeople congregation.

What I find most helpful is the progression of thought from Genesis to biology and genetics. By establishing first things first, readers can follow the flow from ancient to contemporary times instead of trying to cross mix the different time periods prematurely. The engagement is both biblical and scientific, theological without dismissing empirical evidence. While the title of the book refers specifically to "creation and evolution," the book goes far more than that. Readers get to see the different views among creationists as well as Darwinist proponents. It is hoped that readers will come away wiser with regards to the complexities and issues that both positions have. It can help spark interesting and educational moments. When talking about creationism or evolution, one can finally ask with some confidence: Which one? Knowing the many perspectives keep us in a posture of humility and openness to learn from people who know more than us. Indeed, I find simplistic definitions of creation and evolution as a stumbling block to true learning. By being able to define exactly what our questions or doubts are, and to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each view, we can move toward a platform of learning together instead of arguing just to prove some pet points. This is what true learning is about. This is why anyone desiring to know more about creation and evolution can confidently pick up this book as a starting point toward constructive engagement.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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