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Tuesday, 28 August 2007

“Beyond the Firmament”: A Good Starting Point

I’m frequently asked questions like the following: “What book should I read to gain a better understanding of evolution and its implications for the Christian faith?” Unfortunately, this is actually not an easy question to answer; at least I’ve found it very difficult. And I’m often dissatisfied with my answer. So it is probably safe to assume that others are dissatisfied with my answers as well.

Part of the challenge is that so many different academic subjects are relevant to the evolution and faith dialogue. Should one start with a good commentary on Genesis (eg. Gordon Wenham’s Genesis 1-15) or something that looks at OT interpretation in the Ancient Near Eastern context (eg. Peter Enn’s “Inspiration and Incarnation”)? How about examining reasons for Evangelical's historic opposition to evolution? Murphy’s “Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism”, Noll’s “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”, or Numbers’ “The Creationists” all explore various aspects of this topic. Starting with the scientific evidence for evolution is also a possible strategy and one of the three books by Evangelical biologists that I reviewed here might be appropriate. For breadth of coverage, Keith Miller’s “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation” which I reviewed here is excellent and Polkinghorne’s “Science and Christian Belief” is the book I’d choose to take with me to a desert island, but neither is a book I’d recommend as a starter for someone new to the subject.

Gordon Glover highlights this problem as well:

If [someone] were to ask me to recommend a “good book” that was short, to-the-point and could help them work through these difficult issues, I would have to give them not one, but several books on a variety of subjects. For example, they would need to know a little about ancient Near-Eastern cultures as well as the history of scientific development. A basic understanding of scientific principles and some familiarity with modern theories including the Big Bang and evolution would also be essential. Finally, they would need to grasp some key theological and philosophical concepts that help tie all of these things together into a single consistent approach. But who has time for all of that?
So Glover decided to “fill that void”. His soon to be released “Beyond the Firmament” looks like it might fit the bill for a single volume, short introduction for Evangelicals grappling with the difficult issues raised by evolution. The paragraph quoted above is from his preface, which he has posted online here.

As an Evangelical interested in science, Glover initially embraced Young Earth Creationism, but over many years became “increasingly unsatisfied with some of the creative ways Christians reinterpret the Bible to agree with the latest findings of modern science.” His book is the culmination of much research and thinking. He states that it “affords me a brief moment to capture what I’ve learned thus far (before I forget what I went through to get here), so that anyone else who also finds themselves unsatisfied with how both sides have framed this [creation vs. evolution] debate might profit from my experience”.

I think one of reasons I’m attracted to “Beyond the Firmament” is that Glover’s experience seems to parallel my own. Both of us were raised in environments where evolution was tantamount to atheism. Both of us had an interest in science and became uncomfortable with the message & tactics “in our own camp”. Neither of us is an academic, meaning that we have had to make a significant personal investment looking at the options and evidence. And both of us have reached a point where biological evolution and our Christian faith form a coherent framework. I’m definitely looking forward to this book. I encourage you to check out his website at http://www.blog.beyondthefirmament.com/.


Unknown said...

Thanks for a great site! It saves me the trouble of having to create one myself!

Gordon J. Glover said...


BTF is doing well in Canada! See the following press release:



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