Saturday, July 27, 2019

Book review of Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique

Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique
Full disclosure first: I am committed to young-earth creationism, because I believe that is the best understanding of the biblical record. 

Theistic Evolution does not promote such a position. It is, rather, a tour-de-force of the best arguments of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. The ID movement leaves aside the question of the age of the earth and instead directly attacks the main vehicle of evolution: random change over time coupled to natural selection of the fittest. ID argues that the panoply of created things clearly displays the marks of design, and therefore the existence of a Designer. This is set in opposition to the notion of theistic evolution, in which it is argued that, yes, God is there, but his act of creation was limited to producing the initial cosmic conditions and the inherent properties of nature. From that point forward, God steps out of the picture and allows what he has created to coalesce randomly over time, eventually producing the world as we see it today. One of the arguments of many proponents of theistic evolution is that, other than the initial creation, any further act of God must be undetectable.

The authors of the essays in Theistic Evolution have compiled a compelling case, both negatively against the possibility of evolution and positively for the contention that the cosmos and all that is in it displays purpose and intention, and therefore is evidence of a Designer.

The book is composed of three major sections. The first section deals with the scientific critique of theistic evolution (and therefore evolution itself, since theistic evolution is built on it). Nine chapters virtually destroy the case for evolution, drawing from chemistry, information theory, DNA, and embryology. Seven more chapters attack the idea of universal common descent (the “amoeba to man” idea). The final chapter of the first section details how scientists are pressured to conform to prevailing theories.

Section two confronts theistic evolution from a philosophical standpoint. In nine chapters, the various authors address themselves to the philosophy of science, the inadequacies of methodological naturalism, the problem of evil, the origin of the moral conscience and more.

The last section, five chapters, addresses the failure of theistic evolution to deal with the biblical and theological data. For someone committed to Scripture, this is the best part of the book. The authors of the essays demonstrate that theistic evolution undermines twelve creation events and multiple important biblical doctrines, and does not comport with the clear statements of either the Old or New Testaments. Theistic evolution is held up against the historic positions of theologians over the last 2000 years and found wanting.

Do not expect the book to argue for young-earth creationism, because it does not. It appears that the authors of the essays (at least the majority) are more comfortable with an old-earth position (but one that clearly involves belief in an actual, historical Adam and Eve supernaturally created as the very first humans, and who fell into sin, becoming responsible for the advent of death). But young-earth creationists should not reject this book. It is a strong polemic against any form of evolution, and the arguments of the authors are, almost in their entirety, arguments that young-earth creationists will find equally useful.

Five stars, highly recommended.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Book Review: The Virtue of Nationalism

Yoram Hazony has constructed a brilliant defense of nationalism over against the utopian vision of imperialists such as the UN and the EU. He also has an interesting take on why Israel is so hated by Europeans, and why the Palestinians, Muslims, and much of the Third World get by with so little censure by the UN and the EU. Carefully argued, carefully documented, Hazony makes a powerful and scholarly case for his contentions. The logic of his argument is painstakingly constructed and easy to follow--he communicates it well as a writer and a thinker. Hazony puts forward a thesis that is difficult to refute; I find myself agreeing with him in his main points.

Criticism: Hazony appears to write as, at most, a deist. God is an uninvolved bystander if He even exists. Hazony treats the OT as if one of its main purposes is establishing the "right" kind of government for Israel. In other words, Hazony treats reality as if the big story is the unending struggle of politics, philosophies, and peoples--a struggle that has neither beginning nor end. He seems to completely miss the big story of the Old Testament (the promised coming of Messiah). He's unable to deal with (or at least, does not deal with) the fundamental reality of the nature of man: that each person is intrinsically morally corrupt, and that this moral corruption becomes part of the fabric--and the explanation--of our actions, politics and philosophies. Consequently, his unrelenting logic and excellent argument about relations among peoples and nations would only be completely true in a world in which God does not exist or is not involved, and in which all men are not morally corrupt. But that is not the world we live in, with the result that his argument is incomplete and at some levels inadequate when he gets to the reasons for the hatred and violence we see in the world.

Good book, well worth reading. The criticisms above do not vitiate his main point of the virtue of nationalism.