Dealing heavily with the “set-in-stone” dichotomy between Science and Scripture (or more specifically evolution and Scripture), Scientist Dennis R. Venema and New Testament scholar Scot McKnight have created a book which very well may challenge previous assumptions Christians have concerning science, the Apostle Paul, and the Edenic story. While both agree with the theory of evolution, they are not afraid to critique the arrogance common in those who align with the “New Atheism” (Richard Dawkin’s guild) as well as those Christians who feel themselves superior to those who hold a creationist view.
Can Belief in Evolution and Belief in Christ Coexist?
The book is split in two, with Venema taking the reins in the opening chapters which deal extensively with science while McKnight closes with his chapters focused on theology and the Apostle Paul. In the first half, Venema observes that once upon a time there existed no dichotomy between following where Science leads and simultaneously being dedicated to what the Christian Scriptures say; that there was a time when “science was seen as praiseworthy activity for a Christian”, faith in God acting as a motivation for scientific pursuit rather than a stumbling block to it. “Regrettably, evangelical communities seem largely to have lost these convictions for some areas of science” says Venema (p. 8).
Challenging how quickly Christians disregard evolution as just a theory, Venema gets very technical (he is a scientist after all) which will make all those who love science very happy indeed (all you science nerds know who you are). Personally I was longing to get to the theological section since science was my worst subject in school. All of the science discussion was bringing me back to those days when my science teachers would speak to me in their foreign tongue while I pretended to listen and advanced in my drawing skills.
In McKnight’s chapters he firstly makes a defense for the reconciliation many have made between the sworn enemies of Christianity and evolution, noting his interactions with a large number of scientists who are devout followers of Jesus and who find there to be no dichotomy between evolution and faith in God. Many, McKnight informs the reader, remain closeted due to the general attitude towards evolution held by Christians.
“I found these Christian scientists to be faithful in their discipleship and humble in their knowledge of science, but clearheaded in believing that, while science didn’t offer all the answers, there was very good evidence to trust much of what was being claimed” (p. 95).
With this “humbleness” by many of these Christian scientists noted, it becomes ironic when Bible-thumping fundamentalists take on a superiority of their own while accusing scientists of intellectual pride. Of course this goes both ways as I have had my fair share of encounters with Christian evolutionists who view themselves superior to those petty creationists, those literalists.
Praise where Praise is due
McKnight utilizes stellar scholarship and presents his conclusions with great writing skill and wit. If his conclusions are in fact correct, there are great implications and ramifications for the church and the way we view the Edenic story. I certainly don’t have my mind made up with what is presented in Adam and the Genome as it has given me much to think about (as I said in passing to McKnight in an email, this book is equally intriguing as well as mind boggling).
While I’m currently not on the same page as McKnight concerning his leanings that the Edenic story doesn’t really have anything (or much?) to do with a sin transfer from Adam/Eve to the human race, I do understand the point he is pressing; that we’ve been taught (rather we’ve been programmed) to believe certain things concerning the creation narratives that are not always implicitly there. We may have more of a ‘Sunday school-inherited’ faith than we’d care to admit concerning the creation story.
I recommend this book to any Christian who wants to honestly think about science in its relation to Christian faith. No matter where you stand on this issue, this book is still a great resource if you want to understand one side of this debate, giving a fair hearing to those who in fact find there to be no dichotomy.
*I received my copy from Brazos Press in exchange for an honest assessment