"Creation or Evolution" - Book Review

"Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose?"

By Denis Alexander

Six years on from its first appearance, and following a number of reprints, Denis Alexander has provided a welcome second edition, revised and updated, of this excellent book.  Written for Bible believers by a Bible-believing scientist passionate about evolution, it seeks to help its readers “baptise evolution into our Christian worldview … as the process God has chosen … to bring into being all the amazing biological diversity”.  Thus evolution “ceases to be a bogeyman and takes its place along with all the other wonders of God’s creation”.  Evolutionary creationism provides a “framework to hold together the book of God’s Word and the book of God’s works in a way that does justice to both” (p.213).

Alexander gives us first a “thorough immersion in the overall biblical understanding of creation” – a past, present and future ‘event’ – with an explanation of how that theological perspective relates to scientific knowledge. This leads into a more detailed study of the science – usually comprehensible! – before returning to examine different understandings of Adam and Eve, the fall, death and suffering, in light of the science.  He is unimpressed by extreme conservatives who look for scientific data and answers in the Bible (and by liberals who dismiss miracles).  Better let Scripture be a “Rule of our Faith and Obedience” rather than a Judge of such Natural Truths as are to be found out by our own Industry and Experience” (56, quoting John Wilkins, one of the founders of the Royal Society).  Rather, as Christians we should perceive evolution as God’s way of bringing biological diversity into being.

The creation narratives of Genesis are seen as figurative accounts with theological purpose, Adam and Eve being, in the author’s view, probably a couple of Neolithic farmers living about 8,000 years ago to whom God chose to reveal himself and enter into relationship with.  The author uses John Stott’s term Homo divinus for this couple, “the first humans who were truly spiritually alive in fellowship with God” (290).  Adam thus became, in biblical terminology, the federal head of the whole of humanity alive at the time.

Pain, disease and death, were, of course, all there before Neolithic times – those who deny it merit, in Alexander’s view, the proverbial reference to ostriches and sand!  He sees physical death as “essential if we are going to move on in the purposes of God to inherit the kingdom with our new resurrection bodies in place” (315).  Spiritual death, alienation from God caused by sin, can be remedied by faith in Christ’s atonement, but the other death mentioned in Revelation, the ‘second death’, is final (see Matt 10.28).

Alexander concludes with chapters on Intelligent Design and Creationism, concepts he finds untenable and embarrassing – even quoting Augustine to support his squirming over Christians and their sacred writers being perceived by unbelievers as unlearned.  On the contrary, as his postscript affirms, “Saving faith through Christ in the God who has brought all things into being and continues to sustain them by his powerful Word, is entirely compatible with the Darwinian theory of evolution.”  This is a book well worth studying.

Bob Lunt

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