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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: Science Creation and the Bible by Carlson and Longman

Book Review:

            Richard F. Carlson and Tremper Longman III, “Science, Creation, and the Bible”, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011.

            Richard F. Carlson is a professor of physics who also hols a masters degree in theology.  Carlson edited “Science and Christianity: Four Views” in 2000.  Tremper Longman III is a long time theology professor, who has written a number of texts in the field.  The publisher, IVP, has for decades specialized in books with the goal of being simultaneously faithful to the historic Christian faith and correct intellectual understanding with regard to a variety of issues, with particular emphasis on those points which are commonly seen in either secular intellectual culture or popular Christian culture as being in conflict.                                                                                              Certainly current understanding of the origins of the universe and life, and what appears in the Bible as commenting on creation of the universe and life fits into that description.  Possibly there is no subject which has more misunderstanding, both among believers and among those in mainline scientific circles.  No doubt, this is in part due to very public statements of Christian leaders who have built a public platform to speak, combined with minimal education with regard to specifics of modern science.  Key in this is the question:  How do we believers understand Genesis 1 and 2 in light of the discoveries of the scientific community over the last 200 years?  Carlson and Longman are both highly experienced in dealing with this question, one from the side of physics, which is now the premier jumping off point from the scientific side of the question, the other from the side of Christian theology.  The authors maintain the the question is answerable while maintaining orthodox Christian belief, but it is not a simple answer, and cannot be answered simplistically while desiring to be the “salt and light” believers are commanded to be towards the unbelieving world.  Therefore, any believer desiring to answer this question in 25 words or less, possibly even 25 minutes of less, will be disappointed.  Carlson give a complex, nuanced explanation which is connected to both science, especially physics, and that part of theology that deals with the literary and cultural contexts of the various parts of scripture. 

            For those who have not been exposed to this discussion according to the state of the art over the last couple of decades, the creation discussion is connected to the origin of the universe, not the biological discussion, which is only even mentioned in one sentence.  This book is slightly shorter than the normal published book at 141 pages, but none of it, in my opinion, is filler.  The whole book builds up aspects of the discussion as to why the authors hold the view that they present at the conclusion.  This is not an easy reading book, but still understandable to an average person willing to intellectually engage in some nuanced subject matter.

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