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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"How I Changed My Mind About Evolution" (Edited by Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump)

TITLE: How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science (BioLogos Books on Science and Christianity )
AUTHOR: Edited by Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016, (200 pages).

Is creation and the theory of evolution compatible? Is faith compatible with science? Can there be a middle ground that one can settle in? In examining the two, BioLogos and Inter-Varsity Press come together to publish a collection of articles from scholars, theologians, pastors, and evangelical thinkers who all had moved from a stubborn view against evolution toward a more moderate stance. Admittedly, the title gives me the impression that it is about people shifting their beliefs from an atheistic form of evolution to the theist view of creation. This is not so. In fact, this book presents a tricky shift to the middle ground that has cost at least two professors their jobs at conservative seminaries. At the heart of this book is the belief that Christianity and science are not incompatible. In fact, they can be reconciled at many levels. In other words, being a Christian does not necessitate one to be anti-evolution. In this book, we have twenty five stories and memoirs of people who have moved to a position of reconciliation, that evolution does not contradict creation. It is not some theological treatise or evidence against or for either evolution or creation. The mission of BioLogos is to "invite the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation."

Each contributor tells their own personal stories of why they had 'changed' their minds about evolution. James KA Smith speaks of a Dr Dave who inspired him to study 'creation science' and not to dismiss science away because of one's faith. Scot McKnight sees science as a way to think about the Bible as it does not necessarily forces its views on religions. Pastor Ken Fong believes that there is a way to hold both science and faith because all truth is God's truth. Biblical scholar Tremper Longman III insists that the Bible speaks more about the 'who' of creation while science gives us a clue on the how of creation. Stephen Ashley Blake is troubled by evangelicals' hostility toward science and believes that such attitudes threaten the faith of future generations. Sharing his conversion from agnosticism to faith in God, Francis Collins believes that we cannot argue our way into faith. We can believe without having to pit science against faith. Oliver Crisp gives a compelling article about faith, truth, and mystery, sharing with us that mysteries are not necessarily problems to be resolved. Richard Mouw recalls his experiences with fundamentalist groups and his wrestles with science and faith. He knows the unique difficult position when viewpoints clash, especially when influential donors hold a different theological position than his. Other contributors include Jim Stump, Daniel Harrell, Amos Yong, Dennis Venema, Justin Barrett, and even NT Wright from the United Kingdom.

The attitude that the contributors promote is: "Learn the best science. Talk to religious thinkers you trust. Give grace to everyone, remembering that our human attempts at knowing are finite and provisional." There is no need to straitjacket religion or science into their respective extremes in an unhelpful binary manner. In fact, they are not incompatible in the first place. There are good points raised by both parties that people can all learn together. Our faith should not be easily threatened by the conflict. In fact, science should be a way to facilitate our thinking about faith matters. In fact, our faith should be secure enough in Christ not to be easily derailed by champions of science.

The original number of contributors is nearly twice as many, and I think it is wise of the publisher to pare them down to 25. There is a lot of similarities in the articles that there is no need to double the size of this book in order to make the point. In fact, halfway through the book, I have that nagging feeling that the next article in line will parrot the same line of thinking, that is, science and faith are not necessarily incompatible. One can be both a person of faith and believes in evolutionary science. Perhaps, there should be articles that provide the other point of view. Instead of simply from anti-evolution to evolutionary science, have a few alternative opinions about change coming from the other direction. Have some kind of a respondents to each view. Reduce the number of similar minded contributors to include alternative views. Otherwise, the title of the book may create false impressions.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of IVP Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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