A Frustrating Book, But A Good First Step

A new, honest book about the creation/evolution controversy with the church.

When the creation/evolution controversy comes up in Christian circles, it is often accompanied by a lot of strife. Some Christians think that evolution comes straight from the Devil, while others think that when Christians refuse to accept the fact of evolution, they are harming the cause of Christ. Unfortunately, most of the major Christian organizations that focus on the subject fuel this acrimony. As a result, when I heard that the Colossian Forum had convinced Dr. Todd Wood (a young-earth creationist) and Dr. Darrel R. Falk (a theistic evolutionist) to write a book about the subject, I was intrigued. I actually pre-ordered a copy of the Kindle version, but later was happy to find that the publisher had sent me a free paperback copy to review.

The book, entitled The Fool and the Heretic, is made up of chapters written by Dr. Wood (the “fool”), chapters written by Dr. Falk (the “heretic”), and short interludes written by Rob Barrett of the Colossian Forum. There are also discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Drs. Wood and Falk are diametrically opposed when it comes to the question of origins, and that becomes clear right up front. Indeed, the first chapter (written by Wood) is entitled “Why Darrel is Wrong and Why It Matters,” and the next chapter (written by Falk) is “Why Todd is Wrong and Why It Matters.” Because of those titles, I almost named this review, “Why Todd, Darrel, and Rob are all wrong and why it matters,” because that’s the main conclusion I was left with when I finished the book.

Both initial chapters present the standard view from each camp. Dr. Wood says that Dr. Falk is wrong because when you try to interpret the first eleven chapters of Genesis to be anything other than historical narrative, you end up doing great theological damage to the rest of the Bible. Dr. Falk says that Dr. Wood is wrong because the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, and when Christians reject that evidence in order to hang on to an outdated view of Scripture, it ends up causing great damage, especially to those who are interested in pursuing the truth. They will eventually encounter this overwhelming evidence, and it will produce a crisis of faith, which sometimes results in leaving the faith. Of course, neither of those assertions is new, and in my view, neither of them is correct.

Contrary to Dr. Wood’s view, the history of Christendom is replete with examples of great Christians who did not interpret the first eleven chapters of Genesis as historical narrative and yet not only did great works for the cause of Christ but also provided great insights into the meaning of Scripture. Origen of Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, Cyprian of Carthage, William of Conches, Charles Hodge, Benjamin B. Warfield, C.S. Lewis, and Gleason Archer all come to mind. Contrary to Dr. Falk’s position, while there are cases of young-earth creationists giving up the faith because of evolution, there are also cases of atheist evolutionists coming to faith in Christ because of young-earth creationism (see here, and here, for example). In my personal experience, there are more of the latter than the former.

What makes this book particularly frustrating, however, is that all three of the contributors seem to agree with Dr. Falk on the idea that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. Dr. Wood is well-known for saying that there are “gobs and gobs” of evidence for evolution, and he doesn’t do anything to back away from that incorrect view in this book. Unfortunately, even Barrett says:

When it comes to the science of origins, Darrel appears to hold all of the cards. Legions of scientists have been working diligently for more than a century to refine our understanding of evolution. Mountains of evidence support the theory of evolution, so much that no single scientific specialist can appreciate it all. Even Todd would agree with that. (p. 125)

Dr. Wood probably does agree with that, but many scientists, including me, do not. Unlike Todd, I am not a creationist because I think the first eleven chapters of Genesis must be interpreted as historical narrative. I am a creationist because the data clearly support the creationist position. Indeed, I was an atheist who became a creationist because of science. In my opinion, when it comes to the science of origins, creationists appear to hold all of the cards.

This, of course, brings me to my second frustration with the book. It barely touches on the science related to origins. There are 188 pages of text in the book, and only a handful of them deal with any science. Unfortunately, in those pages, the treatment is ridiculously simple. Now I understand that a scientific discussion is not the primary aim of the book. However, if your book is going to claim (incorrectly) that there are “mountains of evidence” supporting the theory of evolution, you had better at least climb that mountain a little bit. Unfortunately, none of the contributors do.

Now, despite the fact that I found the book frustrating, I also found it to be a very positive addition to the creation/evolution discussion within the church. As you read through the pages, you see what it means for two people who genuinely love each other to disagree about something really important. It means that they get past the animus and try to understand each other. For example, there is a wonderful discussion about how Dr. Falk initially dismissed Dr. Wood’s understanding of a particular scientific idea, but later apologizes, because he comes to realize that Dr. Wood does understand the idea quite well. In the same way, there is a discussion of how Dr. Wood thought that people like Dr. Falk weren’t worried about the devout Christian who reads the Bible and doesn’t care to understand the science of evolution. However, Dr. Wood comes to realize that Dr. Falk is, indeed, worried about such people, because they may one day be faced with the supposed “mountain” of evidence, and that might result in a crisis of faith.

In the end, that’s the main focus of this book. It isn’t specifically about the creation/evolution debate itself. It’s about how Christians who are on opposite sides of the issue need to get beyond the debate and find something deeper. Why? This is adeptly explained by Barrett:

Jesus cuts through arguments in ways that bring us back to the fundamentals. His enemies tried to entrap him with the hot debate over paying taxes. But he refused the two options and challenged his followers to dig deeper to discover what it might mean to give God what belongs to God (Matt. 22:21). What if there’s something more important at stake than whether we pay taxes?…What if our disagreements are about something more than who’s right and who’s wrong? What if our plight of division and disagreement is an opportunity for something new to appear, something worthy of Jesus? What might that look like? (pp. 11-12)

I honestly think it would look a bit like this book. So while it wasn’t the book I was hoping for, it is a good first step in opening up a dialogue on the creation/evolution debate that might, one day, produce something deeper.

19 Comments

  1. David H says:

    Thank you for this book review and your thoughts on the subject. Though I cannot remember a time when I didn’t believe in God as our creator, yet even without Genesis I cannot see see how life could have come about by Darwinistic evolution. Looking at nature as an engineer I am in awe of the great design I see there. Not only does the design of living things (and non-living things!) attest to the existence of the Designer, it also shows that His intelligence is much greater than ours.

  2. David Lawrence says:

    Thank you for the insightful review. You mention that the book barely touches on the science related to origins. I can sift through your blog to find references and discussions of such science (which I think is great), but is there a book (or two), that is not necessarily comprehensive, but more detailed in current (or at least updated) scientific findings that you would recommend? A book that references peer reviewed scholarly articles would be great. I find that many resources try to explain with a general understanding of scientific principles and often without specific references to evidence. If there is not one out there, have you thought about making such a book?

    1. Jay Wile says:

      It kind of depends on what you are looking for. A good book on the weaknesses of evolution is The Shadow of Oz. A good book on the positive evidences for young-earth creation is The New Creationism. A detailed book on the obvious design in nature is Undeniable.

  3. Doug Lindauer says:

    Very thoughtful and useful commentary. Much appreciated. I might offer this perspective on the “mountain of evidence” in favor of evolution. It seems to me that there is indeed a HUUUUUGE mountain of … of … of (I’m having trouble defining it!) … well papers, opinions, and data used to support the TOE. But it’s all a house of cards built on sand at the edge of the seashore at low tide. And the winds have picked up and the tide has come in.

    Evolutionists right now are like Wile E. Coyote when the roadrunner tricks him into running off a cliff. His legs keep going but he has nothing underneath him. The evolutionists mouths keep running even though they’ve been shown to be wrong by many lines of evidence. All they have left is their firm belief that it MUST BE TRUE!

    What makes their lines of “evidence” less relevant than the ones creationists cite? That’s the right question. And the answer is that creationists are citing fundamental, explicit, and incontrovertible things whereas the evolutionist has to rely on secondary things, things which are implicit (and therefore subjective), and things which imply evolution IF you make the right assumptions. One such thing is entropy. If the universe, which as a whole has a high degree of order, started up 14 billion years ago, it would have had to have started with an impossibly LOW amount of entropy and very high order. This is the elephant in the room for evolutionists and Big Bangers. It is only the first of many fundamental truths which contradict the ideas of evolutionists. The evo would contend that, “welllll, it MIGHT happen, it’s POSSIBLE,” whereas in any other context they would quickly observe that that infinitesimally small probability is the practical definition of IMPOSSIBILITY!

    So the evo devotee does have his mountain of “evidence.” But a mountain of baloney is still just a pile of baloney.

  4. John D says:

    Huh.. this is interesting. I do have you ask you though – Would you personally agree that Creationism makes more sense in light of science AND interpretation of Genesis? Someone like Kurt Wise (and probably Wood) would say that reading Genesis doesn’t make sense outside of a literal interpretation. Do you have theological / personal issues with reading Genesis as “day = years” or as purely allegorical?

    1. Jay Wile says:

      I think that interpreting a day in Genesis as a solar day (probably shorter than 24 hours in the beginning, but on that order) is the most straightforward interpretation of the creation account. However, it is not the only reasonable interpretation. Thus, while I think the Genesis days are best understood as solar days, I don’t have a theological issue with someone else interpreting them as long periods of time. I also don’t have a problem with people interpreting them allegorically. Both of those interpretations have a rich history in Christendom (especially the allegory interpretation), and I don’t see any textual reasons to exclude them as possibilities.

    2. Doug Lindauer says:

      John D I guess your question was aimed at Dr. Wile but let me comment also. This question has been raised and answered (over and over and over again) by creationists. And that is that numerous explicit references elsewhere in the Bible refer to a literal 6 day creation not a yom=years (or millions of years.) The bottom line is you can’t realistically accept the Bible as inspired and yet cling to yom=years.

      1. Jay Wile says:

        I strongly disagree with Doug on that point. Many fine theologians throughout the history of Christendom have accepted the Bible as inspired and not interpreted the Genesis days to be solar.

        1. Doug Lindauer says:

          Jay, who gives a flip about what theologians say! I don’t care what their bona fides are. What I said was that you can’t “realistically” cling to yom=years and still maintain that the Bible is inspired. I can’t repeat all the reasons cited by the numerous YEC spokesmen. But in short, Moses stated in Exodus that the earth was created in 7 days. The Lord repeated that and said the earth was created in 7 days. There is no doubt about the context in both of those places. It was a plain, 24 hour day. Period. There are a lot of people who succumb to worldly thinking on this point. They must experience a huge amount of cognitive dissonance! On the one hand even the Lord clearly said the world was created in days and yet they somehow say to themselves that, “welllll, maybe he didn’t really mean what he said.” It couldn’t be more clear, even in Genesis 1! Evening and morning! What was God supposed to say to make it more clear!

          No, I’m sorry but citing “theologians” doesn’t cut it. Not with me and not with any clear thinking, honest individual. You cannot realistically and consistently accept yom=years and try to match it up with the words of Moses and the Lord. It’s intellectually dishonest. It doesn’t work.

        2. Jay Wile says:

          I give a flip what theologians say, because they know A LOT more about original languages than you and I. They also know a lot more about historical and cultural context than you and I. It’s intellectually dishonest (and simply wrongheaded) to ignore their knowledge.

          Yes, Exodus 20:11 says that the earth was created in 7 days, but the context is not necessarily solar days. Moses is citing a pattern. The pattern that applies to people is in solar days. The pattern that applies to creation does not need to be solar days (Psalm 90:4). The pattern is later used in Leviticus 25:1-7, but in that case, the context is years. The message of Exodus 20:11 is the pattern, not the length of days.

          This is not in any way a case of suggesting that the Lord didn’t mean what He said. It is a case of doing serious study to find out what the Lord actually did say. You can interpret the Scriptures in the way that the Holy Spirit guides you, but to demean serious Christians who interpret the Scriptures differently from you is utterly wrong. This is one reason a book like The Fool and the Heretic needed to be written.

        3. Bruce Rennie says:

          Good morning Jay and Doug,

          The only one who has an authoritative voice here is Jesus Christ as God Incarnate. If He says the world was created in 7 days and nights then that is the end of the matter. If He says that it was created over a longer period of time, then that is the end of the matter.

          If you believe that the new testament is authoritative about what Jesus has said and if he then speaks on any such matter then that settles the matter.

          Our problem is that we assume we understand what has been written and how it has been written without taking the time to see if our understanding is accord with where our Great and Holy God is.

          To highlight this, A long time ago now, the pastor and his associate (of that time) made a statement of “fact” from the pulpit. I knew it was wrong and so I did an extensive search through the bible to prove it wrong. The Lord himself showed me the very passage of His Word that proved that statement wrong. I was so gleeful. However, He figuratively speaking, tapped me on the shoulder and told me to reread the passage. I dd so and was gleeful again. So he tapped me on the shoulder again to reread the passage again. he patiently did this 10 times before I got the message that the passage was also refuting my position. Once I got this, he then asked if I would like to join Him where He was.

          The upshot was that both the pastor and I were “arguing” over something that had no significance whatsoever and we were so concerned about our points of view that we had forgotten to keep our eyes on where we were supposed to be – beside and with Jesus Christ.

          This is another of those matters. I personally think that the was created as per the days of the bible. For me, that appears to be the confirmed by Jesus Christ. How we think the universe operates and how God Himself actually builds and maintains teh universe are two completely different things.

          We have the privilege of being able to investigate the universe around us and we have some workable ideas about this. But we should not make the mistake of ever assuming that we “know” as we are very short-lived, micro-intelligent, opinionated, frail beings.

          if one ever reads the bible for the pre-flood people, one begins to recognise that compared to any of those individuals, we are highly disabled un-intelligent descendants. Their problem was the corrupt moral values that they ended up having and we see the same corruption today.

          We might get an effective 20 to 40 years of abilities, whereas that could get 800 plus.

  5. David says:

    When I was writing my own book, I focused on my own “Young”-Earth view and atheistic evolutionism, not “going after” OECs or Theistic Evolutionists, and pointing out that the two extreme views share some points that some of the intermediate positions and post-modernism do not. I also note that there is a perfectly valid, scientific formulation of “the theory of evolution” and a lot of good science that is done as evolutionary science. And both of those are compatible with all forms of creationism.

    The issue of “solar” days vs “metaphorical” days is also moot, as even if one allows for great periods of time one way or another, the order of events in Genesis is incompatible with the “scientific” (naturalistic) origins of “life, the universe, and everything,” and natural processes alone cannot produce living things, nor the panoply of life from microbes (nor, I suspect, stars and planets from the lightest elements condensing out of raw energy and so forth).

    If I may put in this plug my book is:
    Creationism, Science & the Scientific Theory of Evolution VS Evolutionism:
    The Philosophy, History, and Practice of Two Worldviews

    https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1987703480/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1534807432&sr=1-1

    There is also a Kindle version, for those who like e-books and saving money.

  6. John D says:

    Thanks everyone for responses. I have read many of the ideas regarding this subject already… Just curious what Dr. Wiles personal take was.

    I’m personally more inclined to understand Genesis in a straight forward / literal sense (especially since the tedious geneologies are woven through it – which seems odd for poetry)…however I’m not so staunch that I would ignore mountains of scientific evidence (should they arise) or disregard the contributions of centuries of theologians (Jew and Christian) who’ve devoted their lives to study of the texts.

    My Catholic faith offers a good deal of fidelity on evolution (maybe too much). However, there are some areas where the teaching isn’t so grey. Catholics must accept a literal Adam and Eve (and reject polygenism). We must accept that the fall was a real event and that all people have inherited original sin through this parentage. We are free to interpret time in Genesis as we see fit but must accept that the account refers to real events even if written in a metaphorical prose.

    More here – https://www.catholic.com/tract/adam-eve-and-evolution

  7. Bill McClymonds says:

    Dr. Wile, are both authors of the book considering abiogenesis when they concede that evolution has mountains of evidence? In my opinion it is disingenuous to claim molecules to man evolution is well worked out without establishing a route to first life. Starting with an existing organism containing the brilliance of the DNA code and trying to progress from that starting point rather than starting at the beginning with rocks, chemicals and absolutely zero intelligence is cheating … at least in my opinion.

    Stealing the brilliance of an existing reproductive bacterial organism containing DNA as a starting point for the theory of evolution gives proponents of the theory a place of brilliance to begin instead of the actual beginning conditions consisting of an accretion of cosmic debris (or rocks and chemicals if you prefer) that formed our planet. In addition, the intellectual landscape was barren. There was a total lack of intelligence on the primitive Earth according to natural evolutionary scenarios.

    Even if we give them a reproductive bacterial organism (which I am not suggesting we do), natural evolution proponents would still have to provide a pathway to a slightly more complex organism like yeast. James Tour PhD referenced an article during his You Tube lecture presentation at Syracuse University about the interactome of a yeast organism. I will add what he wrote in the introductory heading to that video as the paragraph below.

    “There is an unfathomable non-covalent interactive connectivity within a functioning cell. Nobody knows how a viable cell emerges from the massive combinatorial complexity of its molecular components and of course nobody has ever synthetically mimicked it. An INTERACTOME is the whole set of molecular interactions in a particular cell. If one merely considers all the protein-protein interactome combinations in just a single yeast cell, the result is an estimated 10^79,000,000,000 combinations. That is the number one followed by 79 billion zeros, a whoppingly large number.”

    For reference, his information came from the following article. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3302650/

    Even with a bacterial organism to start, getting from a prokaryotic organism to a eukaryotic form is unfathomably difficult. The protein-protein interactiome numbers are only the beginning. Dr. Tour pointed out that there are all the ways the proteins could interact with all the other cellular components to consider as well as all the ways the other components could interact among themselves.

    Of course there is also the chicken and egg problem that the article researchers mentioned. Without existing proteins and other cellular components you can’t make a protein. In other words, it takes a protein to make a protein. How do you get the first protein and what would it do without all the other cellular components if it was able to self assemble? There is also Dr. Tour’s point that there is no reasonable chemical mechanism or pathway for either abiogenesis or molecules to man evolution to occur. I liked Doug’s term, infinitesimally small possibility, as a practical definition of impossibility. I think it fits the problem of abiogenesis and the problem of explaining the chemical pathway of molecules to man evolution.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      Abiogenesis is not brought up in the book. Biologos, the organization that Falk is on staff for, characterizes abiogenesis as “frontier science.” Indeed, the article says:

      Let me say that again: when it comes to abiogenesis, we have almost no clue how it might have occurred.

      So the “mountains of evidence” claim seems to only apply to descent with modification. I don’t know the Colossian Forum’s position, but I suspect it is similar to that of Biologos.

      1. Bill McClymonds says:

        Thanks for the reply Dr. Wile. Dr. Tour himself thinks the theory of universal common descent is an extremely robust theory with lots of evidence to support it. His problem is not with the theory, but with the mechanism by which common decent occurs. He can’t envision a realistic chemical pathway for either abiogenesis or molecules to man evolution to occur and, according to him, neither can anyone else who has tried to explain it to him or given him papers to read. In addition, he thinks that common descent is being challenged by the findings of ENCODE since common descent studies are primarily done within the 1.5% of the genome that codes for protein. He thinks many differences have been and will continue to be found in the remaining 98.5% of the genome. He thinks the ENCODE findings raise questions about the accuracy of the theory of universal common descent.

        The other comment by Dr. Tour that I recently heard is that “No one in origin of life research ever mentions the interactome”. Given the combinatorial possibilities for just protein-protein interactions in a yeast cell, I can understand the hesitancy to publish anything on the interactome in OOL publications. Even the researchers who wrote the article Dr. Tour referenced in his You Tube video understood the implications of the number 10^79 billion.

  8. Alaska Nivanuatu says:

    Hmm, Jay, perhaps you could collaborate with a theistic evolutionist or an old earth creationist (maybe Kevin Nelstead or Hugh Ross) and write a “sequel.” It could be titled something like: “Another Fool and Another Heritic, how two more scientists moved beyond labels and climbed two mountains of evidence together.” You’ve never written a book that wasn’t a school textbook, have you?

    I don’t understand Dr. Wood very well. It seems his reasoning for being a creation scientist is based not on evidence, but on his interpretation of scripture, but one would assume that he would think there was at least SOME evidence that favors creation science outside of scripture. Is it just that he thinks MOST of the evidence favors evolution?

    1. Jay Wile says:

      That’s a great idea. I will have to think about it.

      Dr. Wood believes there is evidence for creation. In the book, he spends a little time discussing discontinuities among organisms as evidence for creation. He just thinks that on the face of it, there is more evidence for evolution. However, he does think that a deeper understanding of nature will show that creationism is the best scientific view. He just doesn’t think we have reached that level of understanding.

      1. Alaska Nivanuatu says:

        Dr. Wood kind of sounds like some evolutionists, who think, “Well, evolution has some problems, but scientists will discover answers to these problems in the future.”

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