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Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Literal or Liberal: Our only choices for interpreting the Bible?

Beware. That first step on the slippery slope to Liberalism can be very dangerous. So goes the warning to Evangelicals trying to broaden their intellectual horizons. And compromising on a literal view of scripture is seen as the most dangerous step of all. So how can Evangelicals accept modern scientific theories of origins that seem to directly contradict the literal scriptural account of creation in Genesis? If we compromise on the literal interpretation of scripture, isn’t this a sell-out? Aren’t we left with relativistic hermeneutic rules that allow us to make the bible say anything we want? If it’s not a literal interpretation, isn’t it a liberal one? I believe this choice between a liberal and literal interpretation of scripture, like the choice between creation and evolution, is a false dichotomy. In the latter case we can accept both; in the former case we need choose neither.

Evangelicals have been at odds with liberal Protestantism since the 19th century when the Liberals, claim Evangelicals, “sold out” to biblical criticism. Liberals for the most part accepted modern biblical scholarship, including radical new understandings of the bible’s source, formation, and interpretation. Evangelicals strongly rejected both the conclusions and the evidence of this modern scholarship. In the 19th century this defense included the definition of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. More recently the focus has been on the “literal” interpretation of scripture. Even though I disagree with the Evangelical tendency to reject the evidence of biblical criticism and modern biblical scholarship, and the movement's outright hostility to liberalism, I am unquestionably in the Evangelical camp on the place of the scriptures. I take a very high view of the bible and wholeheartedly acknowledge its divine inspiration. My concern is that in reacting to a Liberal interpretation of scripture Evangelicals have chosen a method (ie. Literal interpretation only) that may be just as theologically damaging (heretical?) as the Liberal method.

Not so Literally Literal

Though many Evangelicals claim that they hold a “literal” view of scripture, very few are uncompromising literalists. Very few still believe that the earth is a flat, immovable disk floating on the ocean, even though this is what the ancient Hebrews biblical writers believed and implied in scripture (See Psalm 93:1, Psalm 104, and 1Chr 16:30). Neither do we believe that the sky is a solid dome like structure, which is the logical conclusion based on a literal interpretation of the Old Testament. Almost everyone agrees that the earth revolves around the Sun, even though the ancient Hebrews thought the Sun moved across the sky and then raced back to east to start another day. (See Psalm 19:6 and Eccl 1:5). Very few Christians maintain that a literal interpretation of these passages is required. Young Earth Creationists do claim to interpret the bible literally, but they do so in a very liberal way. (One commentator described flat-earthers, geocentrists, and young-earthers as the conservative, moderate, and liberal factions within the biblical literalist camp).

Focus on Science and History

When someone declares that they interpret the Bible literally, they are generally referring to the science and the history in the bible. I think this betrays a modern bias, where historical and scientific facts are the highest form of truth. Modern western culture has elevated historical and scientific knowledge to the point where other forms of knowledge are deemed less important, and less reliable. But this is not the perspective of the bible. To the wise man or woman, it is the knowledge of God that is important.

The bible does contain history. It provides narrative accounts of real historical events that were part of God’s ongoing work with his people. In fact, recent biblical scholarship demonstrates that the bible faithfully represents ancient history as defined by the people of that time, and is not, as claimed by some biblical scholars, a much more recent historical fabrication. But we should be careful not to judge an ancient view of history by modern historiographical standards. The bible also contains a type of science since scripture describes how God’s creation worked. However, these scientific ideas are ancient, not modern. We may call these ideas outdated, or even wrong, but that does not compromise the authority of the scripture to speak in matters of faith or practice. The historic view of the church fathers (eg. Clement and Augustine) and reformers (eg. Calvin, Luther) was that God accommodates his message to humanity through the scriptures. That is, the bible is the revelation of an unlimited God accommodating himself to limited humanity using humanity’s limited language and ideas. The bible uses some of these scientific ideas to communicate God’s message, but it never tries to teach science.

Science and history may be contained in the scripture, but these are not the point of scripture. The purpose of the written Word is to reveal God’s message to humanity, and not to provide a complete history of the world. Its purpose is to reveal how God works in the lives of his people, and not how God’s creation works. I believe that by insisting that all scriptural narratives be interpreted “literally” we not only depart from the traditional view of the church fathers and protestant reformers, but we make the bible say things it was never intended to say. By focusing on the literal interpretation of scripture, we may be missing the meaning of God’s message, even as the Pharisees focus on the letter of the Law, missed its spirit by a very wide margin.

What’s really important?

The important difference between an Evangelical and Liberal understanding of scripture is not a literal versus non-literal interpretation, but rather in the area of revelation. While Evangelicals view scripture as God’s self-disclosure to man, Liberals view scripture as man’s search for God. Therefore, in a Liberal view, the bible is certainly a holy book. However, its source is not divine revelation, but man’s yearning for the divine. The focus then is on human experience throughout history, and the meaning achieved from human interaction with the divine or divine ideals. For an Evangelical, the focus of the bible is on God’s plan of redemption. Jesus death is the culmination of this plan, and his resurrection is the final victory over death. These historical events are the source of meaning for man; it is not man’s experience that gives meaning to the events. The Liberal focus on the human aspect of the bible to the exclusion of the divine, not only misses the point, but by removing the source of life, sucks the life out of the Living Word.

Scripture: Both Human and Divine

On the other hand, the Evangelical focus on the divine source of scripture can lead us to minimize or ignore the fact that the bible is also a very human book. It is God-breathed, not God dictated. Evangelicals have spent an enormous amount of energy trying to understand what divine authorship, inspiration, and guidance really mean, and the implications of this divine source. The simple fact remains that many different human authors wrote the bible, authors with human limitations and human ideas, all living within cultural contexts and using literary conventions very different than our own. God accommodated his message to specific ancient cultures; he met them where they were and revealed himself in a manner that was understandable to them. Just because God accommodated his message to specific human cultures at specific times in history, using scientific and cultural ideas specific to that time, does not reduce the power of this message or the truth of his revelation.

Thus the bible needs to be recognized as having both a divine and human source, not as liberals would claim, a human-only source with a divine message, or as Evangelicals often imply, a divine-only source to a human audience. The early church grappled with the divinity and humanity of Christ, and concluded that neither a divine-only description nor human-only description was adequate. We agree that the “Word made flesh” is both fully human, and fully God, even though this seems to defy logical understanding. Why then does an acknowledgement of the humanity of the textual Word threaten or lessen the divine origin of the scriptures? God condescended to take on human form, experienced all the limitations of a human mind and body, spoke in ways standard for a specific local culture, and used the science of his day to communicate his message of love, forgiveness, and redemption. In the same manner, God also accommodated his message in the written word.


I believe that remaining faithful to the scriptures does not require us to interpret it literally in all cases. A non-literal interpretation does not minimize the truth and authority of the word. In some cases, it is surely the more faithful method of remaining true to the biblical message. This is definitely not always the case and we need to be careful in jumping to figurative conclusions, especially when they fit more nicely with what we want the bible to say. What the bible shows very clearly is that God will not limit his revelation to a single culture. Every culture has had its assumptions challenged as God gently, and sometimes not so gently, leads his people to the truth. We need to ensure that our theology does not lead us to interpretations of the text, but that the text leads us to the formation of our theology. Our theology should not limit us to literal (or figurative, or symbolic, or mythic!) interpretations of any text, including our interpretations of the creation accounts.

Some recommended Reading:

Friday, 22 June 2007

Excellent post about creation and evolution on John Stackhouse's blog

Tonight I stumbled across this excellent post called “Creation versus Evolution: Is this a sensible Question” on John Stackhouse’s blog. Stackhouse has been one of my favorite evangelical authors every since I read a draft of his book “Canadian Evangelicalism in the 20th Century” in the early 90’s. (This was on my recommended reading list in my Evangelicalism: Distinctive Characteristics post). Stackhouse, a professor a Regent college in Vancouver, has never been shy about tackling the really tough questions that most Evangelicals avoid like the plague, for example theodicy in “Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil” and the evangelical dialogue with other religions in “No Other Gods Before Me? Evangelicals Encounter the World's Religions”. I very much look forward to reading his thoughts on creation and evolution.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Rating RATE: Integrity needs Improvement

In my last post I stated that the creation science movement has often shown a lack of integrity. Randy Isaac highlights this lack of integrity in an article in the June 2007 edition of Perspectives in Science and the Christian Faith (PSCF). Isaac assesses the Institute for Creation Research’s (ICR) just concluded RATE project. RATE stands for “Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth”, and ICR claims that it provides “exciting new scientific evidence which supports the Biblical teaching of a young earth”. However, as Isaac shows, the ICR evidence is inadequate, the interpretation of the evidence is flawed, and worst of all, the way the results are being portrayed is deceptive.

Radiometric dating is the process of determining the age of material (primarily rocks) from the decay of its radioactive elements. One of the key findings of the 800+ page RATE report is that there is overwhelming evidence for more than 500 million years worth of radioactive decay. From this evidence, one would have to conclude that the earth is at least a half billion years old, or at least it has the appearance of being that old. To say that this is a major concession by the premier creationist scientific research organization is an understatement. Creation Science has historically claimed that radiometric dating is inaccurate and completely untrustworthy (for example, see http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/faq/dating.asp). Now, however, the most extensive creationist research study in history has concluded that the radiometric dating evidence for an ancient earth is overwhelming. This is a highly significant development.

Since the key evidence from their study does not support the young earth conclusion, the RATE authors propose that the laws of nature must have been radically different in the past. They suggest that there was an accelerated rate of radioactive decay during both the first 3 days of creation, and during the global flood. This hypothesis has two significant problems. First, it has been calculated that the heat caused by this acceleration would have incinerated not only Noah’s ark, but possibly the entire earth. Secondly, if some type of cosmic air-conditioner happened to available for just this occasion, Noah and his family would still need to survive radiation levels a million times greater than we have today. The authors do concede that these are real problems for their hypothesis but they are “confident these issues will be solved”.

Much of the rest of the report deals with a few areas that do support (in the authors eyes) a young earth scenario. Unfortunately, it uses scientific methods and evidence that have been discredited long ago. For example, it is well known that carbon-14 (C-14) dating is accurate only for materials between about 200 and 50,000 years old. As well, C-14 dating is notoriously unreliable when there are only trace amounts of C-14 available. Yet the RATE report’s use of C-14 dating fall outside of these generally accepted parameters.

Isaac summarizes the RATE argument as follows:

  • The evidence for 500 million years of radioactive decay, given current natural laws, is overwhelming
  • Since the bible indicates the earth is young, radioactive decay must have accelerated significantly during the first 3 days of creation and during the flood.
  • How this acceleration occurred, given the heat and radiation problems, is currently unresolved. However, the RATE authors are confident that resolution will occur.
  • Therefore the RATE project provides encouragement regarding the reliability of the Bible
This is clearly a circular argument. (Assume “A young earth” therefore “Accelerated radioactive decay”, and because of the possibility of “Accelerated radioactive decay” the evidence points to a “young earth”). Once again the Creationists will provide fodder for the likes of Richard Dawkins who describe faith as “blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence”. And once again, Creation Science organizations demonstrate that they do not examine the evidence to reach a conclusion, but choose data that can be interpreted to meet their pre-existing conclusions. When the data does not cooperate (as in the case of the radiometric dating evidence in the RATE research), a new hypothesis is proposed so that the pre-existing conclusion does not need to be abandoned. This strategy is utilized even when the new hypothesis has even more difficulties than a previously discredited one.

The saddest part of this story is that the RATE project is still being advertised as a “success for Creation Science”. Good science encounters failure all the time. Scientists with integrity admit when this happens and move on. When Christians (whether scientists or not) start acting like corrupt corporate PR departments, when debacles are marketed as success, when creative interpretations of the facts show more influence from Dilbert than the Bible, it can only bring shame to the body of Christ.

Recommended Reading:
As well as the excellent article in the June 2007 edition of PSCF, Randy Isaac has a very good series on Integrity in Science in his weblog. Check out: http://www.asa3.org/weblog/randyisaac/Integrityinscience/

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Evangelicalism and Evolution: Why the Discussion Matters

This is the last of four posts that provide an overview of the history & character of Evangelicalism, its historic response to evolution, and why the discussion of evolution matters today.

Is it important for Evangelicals to soften their anti-science stance and discuss the topic of evolution? Does it really matter? In one way, it’s not really that important at all. Understanding and agreeing to biological evolution is no more important than understanding and agreeing to other scientific theories that are supported by significant evidence. One can get along quite nicely without understanding gravity, stellar evolution, or quantum mechanics. (Everyone prior to Newton did). One can be a humble follower of Christ, participate in his kingdom work, and attract others to the Way without agreeing with any of the these scientific theories. So why do I even think that discussing biological evolution is important let alone relevant? Why not just ignore this controversial topic, and concentrate on primary concerns like spreading the gospel, making disciples, serving the poor, and creation care?

From my perspective, it is not actually the theory of biological evolution that is significant, but Evangelicalism’s misguided response to it. Not understanding how God created life is one thing; insisting that God could not have achieved his purpose through biological evolution is quite another. Adding anti-evolution beliefs and an anti-science attitude to the gospel is no addition at all, but a corruption at least on par with the early Jerusalem church’s insistence on continuing the observance of Jewish law. I believe there are four specific dangers to this antagonism to evolution: First, it discourages Evangelicals from participating in science and celebrating the wonders of God’s creation. Second, it is instrumental in causing many to abandon faith in Christ. Third, it promotes and “end-justifies-the-means” attitude to science and encourages Christians to compromise their integrity. Fourth, it prevents many from coming to faith in Christ.

Problem #1: Anti-evolutionism discourages Evangelicals from studying science

As I mentioned in my welcome note, I avoided certain academic disciplines when I was in school (particularly biology) because I dreaded what they would do to my faith. That evolution leads to a loss of faith is an adage repeated constantly YEC organizations, and this repetition enhances the intimidation factor of the evolution bogeyman. From anecdotical evidence, it appears that the fear generated by this claim is a key reason why many other Evangelicals avoid academic disciplines that deal with human origins. (For example, see this article lamenting the fact that there are so few Christian anthropologists). This propagates a vicious cycle. A dearth of Christians in these scientific disciplines make it all the more likely that non-Christian philosophical interpretations of the evidence will abound.

Problem #2: Anti-evolutionism causes many to abandon faith in Christ

YEC organizations often claim that the theory of evolution is causing youth to abandon faith in Christ. I believe that this is an incorrect assessment and that the responsibility lies not with the scientific theory, but with YEC organizations like Answers in Genesis, The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and Creation Ministries International (CMI) which shackle the gospel with an outdated theory of science. Far from “defending the bible from the very first verse” as AIG claims, the YEC version of the gospel causes many to reject the biblical message because it is poisoned with YEC nonsense. The insistence that abandoning a YEC interpretation of Genesis is equivalent to abandoning the authority of the bible, and ultimately the authority of God, is a horrible travesty. Unfortunately, many Christians have swallowed this YEC version of the gospel, and their faith is shaken when they encounter the evidence for real science.

The testimony of Glenn Morton is instructive. He became a follower of Christ during his college years through the witness of a Christian campus ministry and was told his new faith mandated that he believe in YEC science. To Morton Christ’s life transforming power was authentic, and if YEC beliefs were part of the package, it too must be authentic. As a geo-physicist, he became active in ICR and published many articles that attempted to reconcile the scientific evidence with a YEC interpretation of the bible. Over the years however, he found it increasing difficult to ignore the evidence for a very old earth. Eventually, he was forced to abandon the YEC scientific view. Because his faith was so tightly coupled with the YEC scientific view, he nearly abandoned his faith as well.

Problem #3: “Creation Science” compromises our integrity as Christians

The scientific evidence points overwhelmingly towards an old earth. Even YEC scientist Kurt Wise admits this. He states that:

"I am a young-age creationist because the Bible indicates the universe is young. Given what we currently think we understand about the world, the majority of the scientific evidence favors an old earth and universe, not a young one. I would therefore say that anyone who claims that the earth is young from scientific evidence alone is scientifically ignorant”.

Unfortunately, from my reading, most creationist scientists do not have this kind of integrity and honesty when dealing with the scientific evidence. In an effort to bolster the faith of their followers, they will insist that the scientific data actually points to a young earth. When someone identifies the flaw in a specific scientific interpretation, they tend to move on to new claims and new evidence. Rarely, it seems to me, will YEC promoters admit to their followers that their former claims were invalid, even when the claims have been irrefutably contradicted. (For a growing list of answers to creationist claims, see: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/)

For Creation Scientists, science is not about examining the evidence to reach a conclusion. Rather, their science is about choosing data that can be interpreted to meet a pre-existing conclusion. This is Morton’s view as well. As he grappled with the geological evidence, and tried to discuss this evidence with his fellow creationists at ICR, he found out that:
“… my fellow young earth creationists were not willing to listen to the problems. In general they were not interested in discussing the difficulties and they did not want to read any material that contradicted their cherished position”

God is the creator of all things, the creator of nature, the creator of science. God is not afraid of the data and we should not be either. A dishonest portrayal of the evidence neither honours nor defends God.

Problem #4: Anti-evolutionism prevents many from even examining the claims of Christ

Not only does marrying Creation Science with the gospel cause some to abandon their faith, it can also prevent spiritual seekers from even considering the claims of Christ. For those who are scientifically literate in particular, the patently ridiculous claims of “creation science” are a definite obstacle to acceptance of the gospel.

Preston Jones, a history professor at a Christian university, had an interesting email discussion with Greg Graffin, an atheist and member of the punk rock band “Bad Religion”. In a Christianity Today article, he comments:

In those months of dialogue I also saw the devastation wrought by the passion for pseudo-scientific theories on natural history among some Christians. Many of my students believe that six-day creationism is an essential Christian belief—that if the first chapters of Genesis can't be taken literally, then the whole Bible is a fraud. What tragic nonsense!

Before Greg and I corresponded, I didn't care. "You wanna believe the earth was created six thousand years ago? Whatever." But Greg helped me see that this kind of gaping ignorance promotes the perception that theologically conservative Christians are the enemies of learning.

It is this (often true) assumption that evangelicals are “enemies of learning” that can conceal the truth of the gospel. I like 11th century theologian Anselm’s motto “faith seeking understanding”, meaning an active love of God seeking a deeper knowledge of God. We seek to understand because we have faith, not in order to have faith. When we abandon an attempt to understand, we diminish faith, not enhance it. And unfortunately, our “faith seeking understanding” turns to “faith without understanding”. This can be easily distorted into “faith because there is no understanding” by those opposed to the Christian gospel and finally to “faith because of ignorance” by militant atheists like Richard Dawkins.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Two Myths about the relationship between Christianity and Science

This is the third of four posts that provide an overview of the history & character of Evangelicalism, its historic response to evolution, and why the discussion of evolution matters today.

When I started this blog about a month ago, I stated that the current relationship between evolution and evangelicalism can best be characterized as warfare. While this particular statement is true, I would like to address two popular myths that are extrapolations on the statement above. The first is that the relationship between modern science and religion can be described as one of continuous conflict. The second is that Evangelicals have, from the beginning, unanimously opposed both the scientific views of an old earth and of biological evolution.

Militant atheists claim that the warfare between Evangelicals and evolution is just one new battle theater in the ongoing war between religion and science that started during the Enlightenment. This is a myth in the sense that it is a story, created in the late 19th century, to support an agenda, in this instance an anti-religious (primarily anti-Christian) agenda. It is also a myth in the sense that the historical evidence does not support the claim. Modern science was born, grew, and flourished in a thoroughly Christian Western Europe. Although it would be an exaggeration to say that the Christian worldview was a pre-requisite to the discovery and success of modern science, or that the relationship has always been harmonious, the worldviews have much more in common than the myth above would have us believe.

It is true that modern western Christians often regard claims of new scientific discoveries with skepticism. However, this is also true of the broader scientific community. That is the way science functions. “Show me the evidence” is that mantra that must be followed, particularly when the discovery radically shifts our understanding of how the world works. Wacky theories are constantly being postulated, theories that rarely jive with common sense, and are often simply nonsense. Occasionally, significant supporting evidence for these “wacky theories” is found and we start referring to them as “brilliant theories” instead. Being skeptical of the wacky, and supportive of the brilliant, (even when they describe the same theory) is simply good science.

It is also true that modern Christians have been troubled, not only by the fact that many scientific discoveries contradict “common sense”, but also how some seem, at least initially, to contradict the bible. Common sense confirmed that the earth was immovable, and the bible supported it (1Chr 16:30, Psalm 93:1). It was not only immovable, but also flat (Psalm 104). The Sun moved around this stable earth, and not visa-versa (19:4-6 and Eccl 1:5). The sky was a solid dome (Gen 1:6-8) and the physical location of heaven was just beyond the sky for that is where Jesus ascended. In each case, it was discovered through science that these ideas were incorrect. However, Christians generally assimilated the new scientific theories relatively quickly without abandoning a trust in scripture. Although the old “biblical” concepts of nature still have some recent adherents (check out notes on flat earth believers and geocentricists), the vast majority of Christians (including those who are strict literalists) now reject these ideas.

Christians that support a YEC stance will sometimes promote a second myth, that Evangelicals have historically been unanimous in their condemnation of both evolution and an old earth. The objective is to portray Evangelicals that support either scientific theory as abandoning core Evangelical beliefs. The historical facts also contradict this claim.

As the science of geology developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, estimates for the age of the earth increased rapidly from about 75,000 years old to many millions of years old. Although Evangelicals at first grappled with the implications of a very old earth, they rapidly came to accept the fact that the earth was more than 6000 years old, the age of the earth calculated from a “literal” reading of Genesis. Even Charles Hodge and Benjamin Warfield, the two conservative Princeton Theologians who were primarily responsible for formulating the modern doctrine of biblical inerrancy, accepted the fact of an old earth. The two most popular methods that Evangelicals used to reconcile Genesis 1 with an old earth were the day-age theory (each day was not a literal 24 hour day but rather a very long period of time) and the gap theory (the insertion of a very long gap between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2). As the dawn of the Fundamentalist revolution approached in the early 20th century, very few Evangelical leaders still clung to the idea of a young earth.

Evangelical acceptance of the theory of evolution was much less prevalent. Charles Darwin published “The Origin of the Species” in 1859 and both positive and negative reactions were almost instantaneous. Those wishing to damage the Christian faith saw it as an opportunity to prove that the bible was composed of myths and fables; conservative Christians saw it as a threat to God’s role in creation. As such, even from the beginning, there were those on both sides of the debate that positioned evolution as inherently atheistic. By the early 20th century most Evangelicals may have accepted the fact of an old earth, but the majority of them were dead set against the theory of biological evolution.

What is interesting to note however, is that this opposition within the Evangelical community was not nearly unanimous. Some Evangelical leaders were able to reconcile the theory of evolution with a high view of scripture. The noted botanist Asa Gray, an Evangelical from Harvard University, was the most influential initial supporter of Darwin’s theory in America. Benjamin Warfield mentioned above, as well as other Evangelical theologians and clergy, also supported the theory of evolution. Even several of the authors of the Fundamentals, the series of books from which the name “Fundamentalist” derives, either supported a form of evolution or were willing to accept it “if it could be proved on scientific grounds”. Before fundamentalism, the acceptance of evolution certainly did not mean banishment from the Evangelical club.

The obvious question is this: Why today, with the availability of significantly more scientific evidence to support an old earth, have many Evangelicals rejected this claim? Why are they abandoning the theological positions of past Evangelicals that came to accept the evidence for an old earth, just as earlier Christians had accepted the evidence for a round earth and a heliocentric view of the solar system? The rise of “Creation Science” and “Scientific Creationism” is a story in itself, so it will have to wait for a future post. However, I do find it ironic that in the 1960’s while America was pouring resources into science so they could launch a rocket to the moon, Evangelicals began poring resources into creation science so they could launch a counter-attack on the theories of an old-earth and evolution.

These two myths, the myth of constant conflict between science and religion, and the myth of unanimous Evangelical rejection of an old earth and evolution, are being used today to promote opposing agendas. Militant atheists see it as a tool to help them meet their objective of eradicating religion. Militant creationists use it to prop up their credibility as defenders of the faith. Neither have any interest is seeing these myths exposed. And the objectives these myths prop up can be dangerous, dangerous to our faith, and dangerous to our mission. That will be discussed in my next post.

Recommended Further Reading:

“Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders”, byDavid Livingstone: Livingstone provides an overview of the Evangelical response to biological evolution, from the publishing of “On the Origin of the Species” up until the fundamentalist controversy in the early 20th century. As noted in my post, the response was occasionally positive, and the negative response was often understated.

“The Creationists”, by Ronald Numbers: If you are captivated by in-depth, heavily footnoted historical research (136 of 624 pages are footnotes), and fascinated by creationism, then this is the book for you. Ronald Numbers has written the definitive study on the movement. Although rejecting the conclusions of Creationism (it was the claims of Creation Science that caused him to abandon his faith), he writes an honest and thorough account that is at the same time respectful to the Creationist cause.

“When Science and Christianity Meet”, by David Lindberg & Ronald Numbers. A series of essays on the interaction between science and Christianity. The central theme of the book is that the relationship is complex, and that the characterization of the relationship as one of “constant conflict” is not accurate. An academic book, but an excellent volume. I particularly found the essay on Galileo interesting, as it showed the conflict was primarily political rather than religious.