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Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Evolution and Faith from an Evangelical Perspective: Recommended Introductory Books

1. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins

Collins is probably the most prominent Evangelical scientist today. As the Director of National Human Genome Research Institute, he lead the team that mapped and sequenced all the human DNA, arguably the greatest scientific breakthrough of the century. Collins grew up as an atheist and only encountered God in his mid-twenties as a medical intern. CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity was very influential in his spiritual formation.

Evolution was not something he ever questioned either prior to or after his conversion. “The Language of God” is not a defense of evolution per se – Collins primary objective is to show how scientific findings support belief in God. However, biological evolution is an integral part of this worldview that supports his theism. As such he rejects the findings of both the YEC and ID movements.

This book can function as a very readable introduction to evolution for evangelical Christians, or as an introduction to the Christian faith to those that are comfortable with the science, but unfamiliar with Christianity.

2. Coming to Peace with Science by Darryl Falk

Darryl Falk grew up in an Evangelical home but was always fascinated by natural science. This book documents his struggle, even from an early age, with the seeming contradictions being taught in science class and those taught in church. His objective is to present, as gently as possible, the evidence for evolution to an evangelical audience that is predisposed to be hostile to evolution. In fact, he for the most part avoids the use of the word evolution, and instead substitutes the phrase “gradual creation”. This book is not nearly as popular as Collins book but I liked it better for the simple reason that it spoke so directly to my own experience.

One small quibble with this one: although Falk provides an excellent analysis of evolutionary evidence and theological implications, he virtually ignores the topic of human evolution until one short section in his conclusion. I understand why he does this given the sensitively of this topic for evangelicals (after all, the evolution of single celled creatures into multi-celled creatures does not raise the same types of questions as that of human evolution). Still, this can be frustrating for those that want to grapple with the central problem head on.

3. God and Evolution: A Faith-Based Understanding by David Wilcox

Wilcox is a biologist who has long maintained that creation and evolution are not mutually exclusive. This book outlines his ideas on the integration of his science and his Christian faith. Of particular note are the excellent sections on human evolution. Unlike Falk, Wilcox does not shy away from the subject. He is a specialist in hominid evolution and covers the topic well.

4. “Evolutionary Creation: An Evangelical Approach to Evolution”, by Denis Lamoureux

Ok. I haven’t read this yet .... its still not published. Denis is a Canadian biologist at University of Albert who teach Science and Religion courses. You can view an outline of his forthcoming book at: http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/3EvoCrBk.htm. He also has some excellent online material on his web page, in particular, his essay “Evolutionary Creation” at http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/3EvoCr.htm .


Anonymous said...

Don't forget my on-line video essays!



Nate said...

Some more good books:

Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution, John Haught

God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, John Haught

Deeper Than Darwin, John Haught

The Meaning of Creation, Conrad Hyers

Finding Darwin's God, Kenneth Miller

Darwin's Forgotten Defenders, David Livingstone

Whatever Happened to the Soul? Nancey Murphy

Can a Darwinian be a Christian?: The Relationship Between Science and Religion, Michael Ruse

Steve Martin said...

hi nate,
Check out my "selected bibliography" at http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2007/07/evangelicals-and-evolution-selected.html - some of those books are listed there.

Jeffrey said...

When dealing with the biblical issues, step 1 is certainly a proper science/faith perspective. Step 2 is a understanding of the genre of Genesis. Which book would you recommend for step 3, a verse by verse understanding of Genesis 1-3, Romans 5, etc.?

Steve Martin said...

Jeffrey: For Gen 1-11, I highly recommend Gordon Wenham’s commentary “Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 1. Dallas, Tex.: Word Books, 1987”. Not sure what to recommend on Romans 5. My own (limited) view is that although Evangelical OT biblical scholars have started to do some legwork here, Evangelical NT Scholars have not yet grappled with Romans 5 in this fashion. Would love to have someone else’s recommendation on this.

Jeffrey said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

What is your personal opinion of the meaning of death in Romans 6:23? IMO, either death = spiritual death or death = human physical death + spiritual death are consistent with TE, although the latter may require a literal Adam.

Steve Martin said...

Jeffrey: for me, “death” in this context is clearly spiritual death.