Book Review: Language of God

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

My Rating: Must read

Level: Parts can get fairly technical, but Collins does a good job keeping it understandable; medium length (300+)

Summary

The book is broken into three parts, with two to six section in each. There is also an introduction and an appendix on bioethics. The three parts are: The Chasm Between Science and Faith, this is mostly autobiographical; The Great Questions of Human Existence, he starts with the physics of the beginning of the universe, then evolution, then his work on the Human Genome Project; and Faith in Science, Faith in God, which is the best part of the book and goes into what he calls the reactions to the evidence of science – Atheism/Agnosticism, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and BioLogos. 

My Thoughts

I appreciate what Collins has done with this book. I think it serves as a great intro for either people who are familiar, on the theological side, with the other ‘views’ of creation or as an intro to the science aspect of evolution, as understood by an evangelical Christian. The last section of the book serves as a mini ‘four views’ type book where we briefly reviews other positions and then states the issues he sees in them. If you are interested in this topic (creation/evolution) I think this book is a great place to start and then you can move on to deep dive type books such as Four Views on Creation (my review) for a better understanding of the different views (a mix of theology and science) or Four Views on the Historical Adam (my review) for more of a Biblical/Theological understanding. 

The strength of this book is probably the science aspect of it, and how well Collins explains and helps you understand it, especially on the DNA/Genome side of things. He also does a good job of using church history to explain the various views of Genesis over the last two thousand years (which is not a monolithic ‘literal’ only understanding, as many Young Earth would have you believe). This book can also contribute to the discussion of the so called ‘science vs. faith’ controversy. Collins has both a PhD and a MD, so his science credentials are pretty solid, while also being a devote and steadfast in his belief in historical orthodox Christianity. I would hope that many people with many views (especially non-religious) would read this book and try to gain some understanding. Overall, anyone with any interest in evolution, creation, or Christian beliefs, this book is a must read.  

Age of the Earth Discussion Video

Watch me and friends from church discuss the age of the Earth (I’m the one who was freeze framed with my eyes closed):

I’ll point out for those curious, this was not meant to be a debate, but instead a discussion of general positions people hold, and which positions we hold in particular. There was so much more all of us wanted to say, but as you can see from the length of the video, we already failed our 45 minute hard stop. It seemed like every question and tangent could have been its own hour long discussion. 

As you can see, I’m not the best speaker, and apparently my mom was correct in that I cannot sit still and fidget too much. So I wanted to clarify or expand on a few things here. Like I said, this wasn’t a debate, so we didn’t really interact with each other’s positions that much, but this is my site, so I can do what I want. 

I thought that there would be a little more on the Literary Framework Interpretation, so I kind of cut it short, but it works better as a visual anyway. The main argument is that we have a symmetry where God creates ‘realms’ so to speak, and then fills those ‘realms’, then as Ruler of all and uncreated, He rests on the seventh day (which also establishes the Sabbath, which we didn’t get much into). It looks something like this:

Creation KingdomsCreature Kinds
Day 1: LightDay 4: Luminaries
Day 2: Sky/WaterDay 5: Birds/Fish
Day 3: Land/VegetationDay 6: Land animals/Man
The Creator King
Day 7: Sabbath

For people who are interested in a non-literal, chronological reading of Genesis 1, I think this a good understanding. Of course, and I thought we’d talk more about literal vs literary, very few people actually have a literal view. If they did, they would have to believe that there is a dome above the Earth (the firmament) that separates the waters from above. Very few people believe this anymore. Martin Luther was adamant that you had to have this view, while Calvin was a little more understanding that conception of cosmology has changed (though he was still a strident geocentrist).

I think that is something we have to wrestle with if we try a truly literal view from Old Testament cosmology. This was the debate around Galileo, that the Earth simply could not revolve around the sun. Why? Because the Psalms and Job said that the Earth is fixed on its foundation and cannot be moved. This is even attested to in the New Testament where we learn that the plan of salvation goes back to before the foundation of the world.

That is what changed my position, as I tried to state in the video. Nothing about science, but by learning about Ancient Near East cultures and their cosmology. Understanding Genesis in its place and world, helps you to understand the purpose.

As for evolutionary science, I don’t really care. If something came out tomorrow and all of sudden all scientist agreed that evolution was wrong all this time, that would not change my interpretation of Genesis. However, as it stands now, someone’s feeling or opinions are irrelevant to the science of evolution, it is established fact (for now, I suppose it could change). However, I maintain that this isn’t the point of Genesis and so to reiterate, I’ll end with the J.I. Packer quote I read last night:

I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and I maintain it in print, but exegetically I cannot see that anything Scripture says, in the first chapters of Genesis or elsewhere, bears on the biological theory of evolution one way or the other.