My Rating – Put it on your list
Level – Medium length, moderately to highly (especially the last chapter) scientific/technical language (from three of the authors)
The format is the now standard Counterpoint Series – Essay/Argument, responses from the other three authors, then a rejoinder. Also, intro and conclusion from an editor (this time, from one that is affiliated with one of the other authors, which I don’t think I’ve seen before, however, he does acknowledge this up front).
The four views are Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth/Progressive Creationism (also often known as Day-age Creation), Evolutionary Creationism (also known as Theistic Evolution, but she explains why they is a weak and broader term than her view, which I found compelling), and Intelligent Design.
I was torn on how to rate this. Three of the authors made this a five star, must read, but the first author was just a disaster. I would give him a zero if possible. I’ve read probably 10 of the Counterpoint books and his essay was the weakest one I’ve ever read. He weakens not just this book, but the entire series.
Ham has no education or training in either science or theology and it shows. He doesn’t seem to understand how science works, and is unrelenting in his belief that his theological interpretation is the only valid one. His understanding of church history (claims that his view is the historical one, which is demonstrably false) and Hebrew is also lacking. His responses boiled down to ‘na-uh’, putting things in ‘scare quotes’ the he didn’t agree with, and questioning the salvation of the other authors.
The editor even pointed out in the conclusion that he refused to shorten his essay, due to be the only one to support Biblical authority (the editor also expressed dismay over the lack of charity). Obviously, this is incorrect as there are multiple conservative (SBC, PCA, etc.) pastors, theologians, commentaries authors, Hebrew scholars, and seminary professors that do not share his view. I assume when he said he wouldn’t meet the standards everyone agree to, that he threaten to leave the project, and it is a shame that the editor and publisher didn’t just allow this to happen and move on without him. The book would have been far superior with his absence.
Now back to the good part. Ross was likely my favorite writer of the group. He made compelling arguments for the ‘Day-age’ view of creation. So, he uses the more general ‘framework theory’ of Genesis 1, not that they are literal days. He agrees with geology and physics that the world is Billions of years old, but not with biology that we evolved (explicitly reject the ‘common descent’ evolution). He sees God involving himself in the changes to species throughout time, creating new ones in history. He also had a fascinating argument that one reason there have been no new species since humans came on to the scene is because God rested from creation. Not sure if I believe it, but compelling and interesting nonetheless. He take the order of creation to be literal, so expects that science will prove that at some point. I generally agreed with his interpretive view, but I wonder about picking some science and not others.
Haarsma took the Evolutionary Creation view, making the point that creation is the point and evolution modifies it, not the other way around, as with Theistic Evolution. Also, ‘theistic’ is no necessarily the God of the Bible. She accepts science on both age of the earth and evolution. She also takes the ‘framework view’ which is common among Evangelical scholars. She doesn’t take the creation order as literal and supports common ancestry. Her organization (Biologos) seems to be focused on evangelism to those in the scientific field, so she starts with accepting science, and then moving to God and Christ.
This is a different approach from Meyer. His group, The Discovery Institute, isn’t focused on evangelism or apologetics, but instead focuses on the issues within the science, and the argument that the science itself calls for a creator. In that way, his group does not have faith statements for the God of the Bible or Christ and has other religious and non-religious people within his organization; though he himself is a committed orthodox Christian. His focus was entirely on the science of biological evolution, and did not make much of a theological argument (which is fine, that is how his organization works). He accepts all science on age of the earth and biology in regards to evolution, his point is to argue that is was directed by God (which is not really different than Haarsma essay). His article was maybe the most interesting, but certainly the most technical, so get ready, it might take awhile.
Three of the authors have PhD’s in science, and then there is Ham. Due to this, there are some technical aspects of the writing in all chapters. There is also the academic argumentation that occurs in, well, academic/scientific research, but for some reason it seems odd in this book. Maybe that was an editorial decision. It is also likely, unavoidable, though, were I the editor, I don’t think I would allow arguments that use scientists who point out issues with evolution, yet still fully support it. That is just how science and research work, and the fact that these issues don’t sway those scientist somewhat undermines the argument.
Most of the authors cited widely, with the exception of Ham, who only cited himself (which is fine if you are published) or his organization (or their printing arm). He also labeled others who disagreed that were cited elsewhere as ‘atheistic’ regardless of what they actually believed, I assume in an attempt to scare people. Again, I would just cut him out entirely, so I’ll ignore the other issues with him.
Another editorial change would be to lock down some definitions. There seemed to be at least four working definitions for evolution alone, which sometimes lead to people talking past each other. I would have liked to see some more discussion of ‘special creation’ for those who support evolution, but I guess Haarsma mentions a few things that makes her views clear, while Meyer stuck to science and no theological arguments.
I’m actually still torn on the inclusion of Meyer. His arguments were inline with the others, with huge agreement with Haarsma. It is just that his tactic is different. Ultimately, I think he brought a lot of value, but due to his nature, it didn’t leave much for the others to interact with. Haarsma and Ross, agreed with him and his critiques of science, respectively. As I mentioned above, he article was maybe the best, but as he isn’t really arguing a different ‘view’, it left the chapter feeling a little disconcordant.
If you have interest on the science (mostly settled) and theology (all over place) of creation, this is a book to put on your list. As for age of the earth, if you are a committed young earth, this book will help you understand the old age arguments and show how it doesn’t have to end your faith. If you are trying to understand young earth, you should probably look elsewhere, as Ham is a street corner preacher that yells at people as the pass bye. Certainly there are better sources out there. The strength of the book is evolution science (though Ross and Haarsma have PhD’s/academic careers in the astro-physics realm, which does come up and is quite good), so if that is what you are interested in (while still maintaining a Christian belief, or if you don’t want to see the Christian belief that discusses evolution seriously) then this book is a must read. If you interest is the theology of evolution, this is still good, but the Four Views on the Historical Adam (my review) is better. If you are trying to read everything you can about all these, put it on your list.