Another way of looking at the ongoing debate
Reviewed by John Halford
In the course of coordinating the material for our main article in this issue, I realized that I was fairly familiar with the ideas behind Creationism (both “young” and “old” earth) and also Intelligent Design. I also had read, and firmly rejected, the case for atheism. But friends who are scientists told me of a fourth alternative: Theistic Evolution. I didn’t know much about it, and I suspect you don’t either.
Theistic Evolutionists believe in a Creator God, but also endorse evolution as an explanation for the development of life. Many believing scientists hold this position, and the argument is well thought out. Here are a few books that have helped me understand what Theistic Evolution is all about. They might not answer all your questions, but they will get you thinking.
Saving Darwin, by Karl W. Giberson (Harper One, 2008). Giberson, Professor of Physics at a Christian college, traces his own journey from creationism to an acceptance of the current theory of evolution. He shows that Christianity and evolution do not have to be incompatible. The book is easy to read, and it is an excellent introduction to the subject.
Can You Believe in God and Evolution?, by Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett (Abingdon, 2006). This is another easy-to-read introduction to the ideas behind Theistic Evolution. The book is subtitled “A Guide for the Perplexed,” and it calmly sorts through the rhetoric and often volatile emotions that tend to cloud the debate. Peters and Martinez set out to answer the questions the average person has, avoiding jargon and technical language. I think pastors and teachers will find this short book (90 pages plus notes and glossary) particularly helpful. It has been named a “book of distinction” by the prestigious Templeton Foundation.
The Language of God, by Francis Collins (Free Press, 2006). Francis Collins is a committed Christian who was chosen to head the international panel of scientists working on the human genome project. He explains how this experience has helped him accept evolution as an explanation, and how it has done nothing to shake his faith in God. It gets a bit technical in places, but you’ll come away with a greater appreciation of what it means to be “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
God and Evolution, by Daniel Samson (Solon Publishing, 2006). This is a big book (544 pages) by a former fundamentalist pastor who, after being confronted by questions his church education left him unable to answer, spent 14 years in intensive study of evolution and creationism. Samson came away from his research with his understanding of evolution transformed and his faith in God intact. Many of our readers will identify with Samson’s background and might find this book particularly informative.
Thank God for Evolution, by Michael Dowd (Viking, 2008). Another “big” book and I’m still reading it, so regard this review as a work in progress. Dowd explains why the bitter controversy between science and religion is unnecessary. Far from being a threat to belief, he explains why an understanding of the process of evolution will actually enhance and intensify your appreciation of what God has done and is doing.
The above is just a small selection of what is available. Theistic Evolution is an idea that is catching on, and if you are interested in the creation/evolution debate, these books will help you understand what is being said.