Science in Christian Perspective
Book Reviews for December 1971
BIOLOGY: A SEARCH FOR ORDER IN COMPLEXITY. J. N. Moore and H. S. Slusher (eds,) Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1970.
WHERE ARE WE HEADED? A Biologist Talks About Origins, Evolution, and the Future, by Jan Lever. Wm. B. Eerdmans (1970) 54 pp.
THE BIBLE, NATURAL SCIENCE, AND EVO LUTION by Russell W. Mattman, Reformed Fellowship, Inc., Box 7383, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1970). Paperback, 165 pp. $3.50.
SCIENCE AND CHRISTIAN FAITH by William H. Davis, Biblical Research Press, Ahilene, Texas (1968) Paperback, 96 pp. $1.00.
WE BELIEVE IN CREATION by Charles C. Ryrie, Word of Life Fellowship, Inc., Orange, N.J. (1967) Pamphlet. 28 pp. 0.15.
BIBLICAL COSMOLOGY AND MODERN SCI ENCE by Henry M. Morris, Craig Press, Nutley, New Jersey (1970) Paperback, 146 pp. $2.50.
MODERN SCIENCE AND CHRISTIAN LIFE by Stanley D. Beck, Augshurg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1970) Paperback. 157 pp. .$2.95.
BIOLOGY: A SEARCH FOR ORDER IN COMPLEXITY. J. N. Moore and H. S. Slusher (eds,) Zondervan Publishing House, Grand
Rapids, Michigan, 1970.
Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity is a high-school biology textbook produced by the Creation Research Society in an attempt to produce a book which will . serve effectively in teaching the
actual facts of biologic [sic] science and will also acknowledge the creation concept as the most acceptable underlying explanation of these facts".
This text is original and unique in that its presentation and interpretation of biological data is from a creationistic viewpoint. To our knowledge this represents the first attempt to produce a science textbook with Christian overtones which could be adopted by secondary schools. It can be positively stated that the text does raise significant questions which the evolutionists need to answer, but unfortunately, it has many shortcomings, as indicated in the following discussion.
The subject matter is divided into ten units which we will review systematically. The first unit is a commendable approach to the scientific method and its application, but the word "theory" is defined unconventionally as a "conceptual theme" which usually "includes some imagined unit or aspect, such as a gene, molecule, atom or electron. Thus, because of such imagined aspects, no theory can he tester! directly."
Units 2 and 3 are devoted to laying a chemical foundation for the subsequent study of biology. They are organised in quite an uninteresting and traditional manner. The conciseness of text and overuse of chemical structure make it doubtful that any real understanding of biology at the molecular level would be achieved. This, however, is a problem of any biology textbook. The book does have a serious shortcoming when compared to others,' for it practically neglects modem biology and the molecular and cellular experimental concepts that have currently captured the interest of many practicing biologists. Chapter 6 confirms this by using token diagrams and discussions of the cell, chromosome replication and the DNA-RNAprotein synthesis story. There is also a noticeable absence of any cellular electron micrographs or discussions of critical topics such as cancer research, tissue culture, drugs and chromosomes, nuclear transplantation, etc. There is a supplement on the "chemical basis of gene action," but there is no unifying conceptual diagram on how DNA, RNA, etc., are really involved in the cell's life history.
The chapter on genetics contains adequate diagrams, pictures, and discussion of ylenclelian genetics and eugenics. It appears that the importance of mutation and selection to current evolutionary theory is deemphasised, by the omission of examples and mechanisms of genetic change that could he beneficial to an organism and the role of environment as a selecting factor.2 In line with this, a point made several times in the text is: that all mutations are harmful since an overall decrease in viability of the organism is experienced. This of course is true, but without appropriate amplification, may tend to leave the reader misinformed concerning the real mechanism of natural selection and its genetic basis.3-7 One example statement, representative of several made in this section is: "Data show that human cells have less total DNA content than cells of some so-called 'primitive' organisms. This contradicts the idea that all heritable factors are spelled out in the genetic code," This is misleading since most informed biologists recognise redundancy of genetic material and attach no phylogenetic significance to it whatsoever.
The chapter on development has several attractive diagrams and pictures on classical embryology, but is severely lacking in its presentation and discussion of the now-important experimental field.
The problems of classification of organisms are quite well outlined in Unit 4 which includes a rather lengthy biography of Linnaeus. We feel that it would have also been instructional to include a section on current concepts of what data should be used in taxonomic positioning.7
The text lacks overall integration, is classical and out-of-date in terms of information presented in several sections as well as many bibliographical and chapter references, and is heavily biased in many areas, leaving the reader with a confused picture of biology.
"Small Plants and Little Animals" are covered in Unit 5 which points
out some of the groups' taxonomic problems. Discussion of
importance of algae, and the supplement on malaria add to the unit's relevance
Unit 6 on animal life is weak. There does not seem to be any unifying criterion for discussion of the invertebrate phyla in their arrangement in the text (i.e., Arthropoda, Annelida, Platyhelminthes, Nematoda, Porifera, Mollusca). This appears to defeat the stated purpose and title of the book as a "Search for Order in Complexity." Annelida lacks the designation of phylum when discussed, and is not illustrated in any way. There is a need for diagrams to show an overall design in the animal kingdom and to help clarify some of the life cycles (e.g., parasitic flatworms and nematodes).
Chapter 14 ends with a well-written supplement on Pcripatis, explaining in some depth its similarities to the annelids and the arthropods. This is one of the commonly proposed "links" between two different phyla, yet the only comment is that it is a "very strange creature,"8
The discussion of Archaeopteryx is quite misleading. Diagrams of this fossil and skeletons of a modern bird and reptile should have been presented so that the students could see for themselves the similarities and dissimilarities. They are quite fair in their discussion of the Coelacanth and in its evolutionary importance. We also found the snake-bite section in chapter 15 interesting and relevant-all-important qualities when writing for high school students.
There are many interesting and relevant paragraphs in Unit 7 on the biology of man, such as eye defects, vitamins, drugs and behavior; still, the discussion of hormones and their importance is far too simpliStic (even for high school). Due to the lack of adequate diagrams and discussion of hormonal relationships and general reproductive processes, the entire section on reproduction appears to be irrelevant to the age group for which it is intended.
We believe Unit 8 on Plant Life to be the most outstanding of the text, in terms of organization, illustrations and objectivity, and there is sufficient detail to interest the more advanced students, Captions for all illustrations and photographs are consistent with the text, and attempt to explain what the reader is seeing (a problem in other units.)
Unit 9, dealing with Geology and Evolution, contains several interesting arguments which favor the creationistie point of view. The chapters contain several unique interpretations of the scientific evidences mentioned. For instance, the text states that the fossil layers were probably ". . . laid down by the flood in Noah's time. As the flood waters rose, less complex forms, being less able to escape, would he buried first. More complex and more mobile forms could move to higher ground." Another example is a photograph of a tiny horse which the caption, "These midget horses never get much taller than 17 inches. Are scientists justified in placing horse skeleton findings of various sizes in an evolutionary time sequence?"'() We believe that the point being made is that size alone is not sufficient criterion for the phylogenetie arrangement of horses. We question whether a modern horse with one toe should he used as an example when the discussion pertains to multiple-toed fossil horses. However, the text does indicate that the evidence for the horse series is difficult to ascertain.
It may be instructive to note that one of the more effective discussions of evolutionary problems in terms of scientific writing was a supplement, "Comparative Study of Fossil and Living Vascular Plants," located in Unit 8 on plants.
Chapter 22 states that biochemical inconsistencies do exist, thus defying phylogenie relationships. It should he noted that current research in computerized sequence analysis of biological molecules appears to reinforce established phylogeoetie systems." The text does indicate, however, the future importance of these new research methods for classification.
Several valid arguments were given in this unit to refute various evidences for evolution. For example, anatomical and embryological similarities of organisms could he evidences for a common creator as easily as for a common ancestor. The weaknesses of using so-called "vestigial organs" as evolutionary evidence was clearly pointed out. There was also a reasonably good argument on the "problems of establishing a new trait" such as the vertebrate eye.
In Chapter 24, "Problems for Evolutionists," the text maintains that "some organisms are still in existence today that by all 'rules' of evolution should have been either extinct or evolved into something else long ago." We are not familiar with these "rules of evolution" and would indicate that many fossil forms probably extend into present-day distribution because they live in a stable environment or unchanging ecological niche, e.g., marine protozoa, etc. It is also stated that "one obvious difficulty is that any mechanistic theory of the origin of life violates the law of biogenesis" (life begets life). This is true if one assumes that past conditions were similar to those of the present. Other problems appropriately examined in the text are the absence of fossil or living transitions between invertebrates and vertebrates, and the uniqueness of man.
The unit is terminated with the reassertion that an explanation of first causes is outside the realm of science, and that evolution and special creation are mutually exclusive theories of origins. If this is so, it would also have been instructive to have a chapter in this unit on "Problems of Creationists."
It is disappointing that the subject of ecology and conservation (Unit 10) which is of such great importance in the thinking of young minds today is relegated to the end of the text (also true of other textbooks) The information presented is classical, with no mention of actual data or experiments (old or new) on food webs, pyramids, pollution, population dynamics, etc. The terminology used in the discussion of interrelationships (e.g., antagonistic and reciprocal nutritive conjunctive symbiosis) is cumbersome, not in common useage, and would tend to confuse the reader when other texts are consulted." The magnitude of man's effect on the environment and his responsibility to it are practically ignored.
Technically, we found the illustrations in the text to be excellent artwork with only two exceptions;13
however, we judged nearly one-fourth of the more than 350 photographic reproductions to be either too small, dark, out of focus, or poorly captioned. The table of contents is hopelessly long; yet it is similar to those of the previously-cited texts.' We must mention the antiquity of the bibliographies which precede each unit, and would recommend lists of up-to-date suggested readings at the close of the chapters, to which the interested student could refer for expanded information.
In conclusion, we believe that the text lacks overall integration (a fault of many edited texts), is classical
and out-of-date in terms of information presented in several sections as well as many bibliographical and chapter references, and is heavily biased in many areas, leaving the reader with a confused picture of biology. We are left asking the questions: Is a textbook built around negating supposed evolutionary evidences going to be effective in 1) communication of biological science as it now stands, 2) teaching a student to think analytically and experimentally on his own, 3) giving him an effective current base of knowledge and understanding, and 4) guiding him in his consideration of Christian truth?
We agree with the authors that most modern biology texts are not honestly approaching the question of origins by presenting only evolutionary theory, and feel that the book is a step in the right direction in its attempt to show two different views.
It is unfortunate that neither the philosophy of evolution nor
creation is defined
at the beginning of the text, and that they are never clearly
defined. Since the
text often refers to what creationists believe about specific topics, it would
have been instructional to quote chapter one of Genesis, and list the various
ways in which different "creationists" interpret this scripture. For
in reading this text, one can only conclude that all biologists either believe
that creation is true and no aspect of evolution is true, or they are atheists
and believe that the process of evolution can account for all life forms, past
It should be stated to the book's merit that it is a first edition and that a time of evaluation (i.e, second edition) may correct many of the difficulties mentioned in this review. We agree with the authors that most
modern biology texts are not honestly approaching the question of origins by presenting only evolutionary theory, and feel that the book is a step in the right direction in its attempt to show two different views. We believe, however, that what is needed in our educational establishment is a biology textbook which will present unbiased facts about the evidences pertaining to origins along with several possible interpretations of those facts.
1E. T. Smith and T. G. Lawrence, 1966, Exploring Biology. Harconrt, Brace and World, Incorporated. BSCS, 1963, Harcourt, Brace and World Incorporated.
2. H. Stebbins, 1966, Processes of Organic Evolution. Prentice-Hall.
3J. M, Savage, 1969, Chapter 2, Evolution, Holt, Rinehart &Winston.
4T. Dobzhansky, 1955, Evolution, Genetics and Man. John Wiley & Sons.
5 A. L. Mixter, ed., 1959, Evolution and Christian Thought Today, chapter 4, Eerdmans.
6Cold Spring Harbor Symposium volumes 16 (1951), 20 (1953), 21 (1956), 24 (1959).
7M. Vogue, 1969, "Systematics of Cestodes-Present and Future," in Problems of Systematics of Parasites, ed. by G. H. Schmidt. University Park Press, pp. 68-71.
8Text, p. 245.
9Text, p. 405.
10Text, pp. 409-410.
11Text, p. 426; see M. 0. Dayoff, 1969, "Atlas of Protein Sequence and Structure," National Biochemical Research Foundation.
12G. P. Read, 1970, Parasitism and Symbiology, Ronald; Weiss, P. B., 1966, The Science of Zoology, McGraw-Hill.
13Text, pp. 230, 271.
Reviewed by L. C. Eddington, Department of Zoology, University of California at Los Angeles; R. B. Payne, Department of Biological Sciences, University of California at Santa Barbara; and P. H. KnId, La Mirada, California.
WHERE ARE WE HEADED? A Biologist Talks About Origins, Evolution, and the Future, by Jan Lever. Wm. B. Eerdmans (1970) 54 pp.
This very brief book, which can be read in little more than an hour's time, is composed of nine short talks on the general subject of the Bible and science by the Professor of Zoology at the Free University of Amsterdam presented at the invitation of the Netherlands Christian Broadcasting Society. It has been beautifully translated into English from the original Dutch by Walter Lagerwey.
The principal thesis of the book can be seen by examining the introduction to the fourth chapter.
In the preceding chapters an attempt was made to show what confusion resulted because Christians for so long failed to understand that the writers of the Bible accepted as a matter of course the picture of reality prevalent in their time. It was stated emphatically that the acceptance of the data and insights of the natural sciences, and thus of the present scientific picture of reality, is no more than an extension of the general acceptance of the fact that the earth is a sphere and revolves around the sun. Next, these conclusions were focused no the creation account in Genesis 1. We should not regard this story as an interesting account of historical events, but rather as a confession about God, who is the creator of all things in this earthly reality, and who therefore determines their being, their nature, their place, their meaning, and thus also their history. Moreover, it became evident, I trust, that in listening to the message-revelation-in this manner, nothing of the first chapter of Genesis is lost. On the contrary, the message can now be experienced in faith without the old tension between science and the Bible, since it clearly is valid for all times and is no longer obscured by conflicts between changing pictures of reality.
The author is convinced that the Bible is not "concerned with scientific
knowledge," and any attempt to read such scientific insights into the text
can only do damage to the message of the Bible. Our forefathers were
able to combine
their description of the natural world with their literal acceptance
of the Bible
record, but this has not been possible in fact for any of us who no
the earth to be flat, or who no longer believe that the sun revolves around the
earth. Modern scientific insight into the age of the earth, the
history of organisms,
and the dying of organisms, makes it necessary for us to "give
up the picture
of reality held by the writers of the Bible." But this is no loss, Lever
argues, but rather gain; for now "the fact is that we can understand its
message all the better."
Lever is a thorough-going evolutionist, and when he reaches topics of this area in later chapters on the origin of life, the origin of man, consciousness, the dominion of man, and the answer, he becomes rhapsodic a la Teilhard de Chardin.
For those who believe that God is the creator of this entire earthly reality, the process of evolution described by the natural sciences in the presentday picture of reality becomes a grand manifestation of God's intentions and activities.
The more our knowledge of the reality about us increases, the more clearly we understand that we are living in a world that is caught up in an all-embracing process of evolution.
Having sketched the evolutionary process according to currently held theory, Lever goes on to emphasize the change in evolution which occurred with the emergence of man. "Now it was no longer a biological development, but rather the unfolding of latent potentialities in man of a wholly different kind." His evolutionary faith is evident as he writes,
We are living in the midst of a transition to an entirely new period, in which man will know and control in a very detailed and fundamental manner the functioning of matter, the inanimate environment on the earth, and in part even outside of it, of living creatures, and of himself. Increasingly, man holds in his hands the future development of this earthly reality.
Much, if not all, of what Lever proposes can be accepted as a possibility by this reviewer. What is most troublesome, however, is the dogmatic assurance with which Lever states what can only be an article of faith at this time. A few examples will illustrate this tendency to overelaim:
The only conclusion to which we can come is that quite obviously these chapters (Genesis 1 and 2) do not aim to give a report of events that took place then and there.
We have seen that the writers of the Bible ... expressed their divinely inspired view of this earthly reality in words and notions that were strongly influenced by the prescientific picture of reality of their time. We have also ascertained that this picture of reality has proved to be wrong on nearly every point.
I know that the central thrust of this answer is right, simply because I believe in it.
When we finally do come to The Answer with Lever, the presentation
short of what an evangelical Christian might hope for as the climax of such a
discussion. Eighty percent of this final chapter deals with the development of
the thesis that man's inhumanity to man can be traced back to his
The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is upheld as relevant, but in
primarily as a guide as to how to live in order to be contributors to
strides of evolution. Does the author mean more than this? Does he believe that
the restoration of the individual to fellowship with God through faith in the
atoning sacrifice of Christ is the essential first step to social
but one cannot tell. This uncertainty is heightened by the closing words of the
When you gaze at the stars some dark night, the stars that are so infinitely far away, and think back to all the generations that have lived on this earth since life first moved in the oceans billions of years ago and realize that all of this reality rests in the creative hands of God, and you worry and wonder about the conditions in the world today, and in your own short life, and ask again and again Where are ice headed? then there is, I believe, but one answer.
THE BIBLE, NATURAL SCIENCE, AND EVOLUTION by Russell W. Mattman, Reformed Fellowship, Inc., Box 7383, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1970). Paperback, 165 pp. $3.50.
Response by Maatman
Dr. Maatman is a devout Christian, committed to defend the integrity of the Bible. He believes that the
nature of man is at stake in debates on evolution. He rejects the hypotheses that life emerged from inanimate matter, that evolution produced plants and animals from the simplest forms of life, and that man evolved from animals. He offers no quarter, affirming from the start that he is not presenting a Christian position, but rather the Christian position, the Biblical position.
The reading of this book by Dr. Maatman, who is Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of the Division of Natural Science at Dordt College, is simultaneously stimulating, frustrating and disturbing. It is stimulating because Maatman shows clearly that he has thought long and deeply about many problems related to the interaction of science and Christian faith, and he shares these insights with his readers. It is frustrating because the readability of the book is reduced through the frequent use of a quasi-logical, multi-hypothetical, face-all-the-possihilties approach intended, one imagines, to emphasize the objective thrust of his arguments. It is disturbing because one sees the author strained to the breaking point, offering personal and cultural preference as absolute truth in the attempt to keep one foot firmly planted in the antiscientific biblicism of Protestant Fundamentalism, while at the same time he fights free of many of the fallacies of this position and plants his other font firmly in his own vital Christian experiences as a modern scientist.
First let us consider some of the cases in which Maatman comes through clearly for a relationship with science based on understanding and integrity. Among his contributions are the following: (a) we need not seriously consider hoaxes or conspiracies as a factor in modern science; (b) the marvelousness of creation is not proportional to the brevity of the period required to accomplish it; (c) the Bible nowhere teaches that Adam's sin brought death into the natural world except for man; (d) in those large areas where scientists agree, it is not fruitful to doubt the essential correctness of their science; or again "Wherever there is broad agreement within a well-developed discipline, such as astronomy, there is virtual certainty that the conclusions agreed upon are correct (p. 103);" (e) supporters of the apparent age theory of creation are inconsistent to argue that the scientific evidences for great age are faulty; (f) Bible believers must accept the principles of uniformitarianism; (g) it is unreasonable to argue that age determinations are in error by factors of thousands because of non-uniformity in natural law with time; (h) age considerations can be carried out independent of those dating methods that might be affected by some kind of catastrophism; (i) "yitalism" is not a viable option for the description of life; (j) the modern idea of evolution is not to be equated with the historical notions of "spontaneous generation;" (k) in the course of Cod's creative activity, it is possible that some things were derived from pre-existing things; (1) the Bible does not tell whether the appearance of the first life was instantaneously created or whether or not life arose from nothing; (m) the question of starting materials for the creation of the simplest life or of new "kinds" is quite unimportant; (n) arguments levelled against evolution by use of the Second Law of Thermodynamics are invalid; and (o) the discussion of evolution can more profitably be made by discussing the scientific question before the philosophical questions.
The first seven chapters set the foundation upon which the specific discussion of evolution, as a kind of case history, is based in the next seven chapters. One of the key conclusions of these early chapters is that "man has no means of finding a contradiction in the Bible (p. 23)." Nlaatman argues that any means by which a man could judge an error in the Bible would itself be raised to a level equal to or greater than the Bible; such a possibility is denied by the basic presupposition that "Christian theology cannot depend ultimately upon man (p. 23)." The argument is reminiscent of Anselm's classic argument for the existence of God, and probably suffers from some of the same difficulties. The correspondence can be made as follows:
The Bible, being the Word of God, is a hook than which a more perfect book cannot he conceived. Suppose that imperfection is found in the Bible. In order to find imperfection its something we must of necessity have something more perfect, Then that by which we judge the Bible imperfect must he more perfect than that book, than which a more perfect hook cannot he conceived. This is impossible. It follows that no imperfection can he found in the Bible. (The reviewer is responsible for this proof; Dr. Maatman should not be blamed.)
As an example of the application of this line of argument, Maatman
"three-story universe" (see also Journal ASA 21, 18 (1969)) implied
in Genesis 1 and such passages as Philippians 2:10. First he concludes that if
Moses and Paul really believed in a three-story universe, we would have no way
to declare this belief of theirs tangential to the Biblical content until the
necessary extra-Biblical evidence were available. He prefers to argue that such
verses never did indicate the author was thinking of a three-story
if early readers got that impression, they were mistaken. What
science could show
was that the readers of the Bible couldn't understand it, not that the authors
of the Bible didn't present a scientifically accurate picture of the
Maatman's dilemma in this, and many other instances throughout the hook, is his narrow and generally simplistic view of Biblical hermeneutics. Like the proverbial hull-in-a-china-shop he thrashes about determined to preserve the integrity of the Bible, using a sledge-hammer where a gentle and informed hand is required. Upon occasion, as in the case just cited above, he realizes that the correct interpretation of the Bible poses some problems, but his general approach is that what the Bible has to say can be known with certainty by simple inspection of the text without the intervention of any other influence. What he does not realize is that in almost every case of conflict, the resolution is produced by his own personal extra-Biblical position carrying the day. Sometimes his approach leads to humorous results, as when Maatman discusses the meaning of "day" in Genesis 1.
The Bible is indeed to be taken literally, but the literal meaning of a passage is sometimes difficult to obtain. Understanding "day" in Genesis 1 is not easy, even though the word is to be taken literally. (p. 88)
Not only does Maatmass argue that it is impossible for man to discover an error in the Bible by extra-Biblical evidence, he maintains further that "No words of the Bible are to be taken as symbolic, or as non-symbolic, just because extra-Biblical information seems to demand it (p. 135)." Furthermore, even if a man wishes an answer to a scientific question, he must consult the Bible before making any other inquiry, for "if this is not done, and one uses another source first, he might sin by contradicting what God states its the Bible (p. 75)." The possibility that it is not the purpose of the Bible to supply scientific mechanisms through revelaton is condemned as "a clear example of potting the mind of man, as he decides what the Bible teaches, above the Bible (p. 76)." Even "whether or not man can ultimately understand a Biblical passage is not a criterion that may be used in interpreting any passage of the Bible (p. 80)."
This position fails because it does not properly discriminate the categories involved in the interaction of science and the Bible, it is nect'r a choice between "believing science" or "believing the Bible;" it is always a choice between believing science and believing someone's interpretation of the Bible. The Bible as the completely authoritative and reliable special revelation of God is in the same category as the natural world, the reliable created revelation of God. If we are to exhort someone directly to "believe the Bible," we must also be willing to exhort him directly to "believe the natural world." One is no more possible or meaningful than the other. In both eases the data must pass through a system of interpretation. The system of interpretation 0f God's natural revelation, we call science; the system of interpretation of God's special revelation, we call theology. Maatman equates his theology with the revelation of the Bible. It is as inappropriate to demand for our theology the authority we give only to the Bible, as it is for us to demand for our science the authority we give only to physical reality. Let it be clear that our disagreement with Maatman does not concern the authority or the reliability of the Bible in conveying God's revelation to us, but rather that it concerns the authority or reliability of Maatman's theology and the methods he has used to develop it.
Maatman does not appear to realize that it is not possible for him to develop his theology without bringing extra-Biblical influences into action. When Maatman decides what is or is not symbolic, what is or is not understandable in the Bible, he is exercising a fallible rationality conditioned and shaped by his training, personality , culture and world perspective. He is not to be condemned for this; none of us can do anything else. But where he does lead us astray is in contending that he is not doing this. An examination of the exegesis set forth by Maatmao on several controversial points shows clearly the kind of extra-Biblical criteria which affect his judgment. The solution can be found only in as careful a study of the foundations of Biblical hermeneutics as has been invested in scientific hermeneutics.
In arguing that the interpretation of the word "day" in Genesis 1 cannot be made by considering the opinions of the original readers of that book as normative, Maatmao states, "Neither presentday science nor the ideas that the Israelites had may be normative in determining the meaning which God intended as he inspired Moses to write 'day' (p. 95)7 On the following page, however, he is concerned to argue that death did occur prior to Adam's Fall; he does this by citing the fact that Adam and Eve are said to have eaten before the Fall. But why must eating in the perfect Garden involve death? Maatman replies,
The eating which was allowed caused the death of fruit cells and bacteria in she digestive tract. There is
no reason to suppose that Adam's eating differed from our own. Since the Bible speaks of those who live after Adam's fall, it should he assumed that the Bible means 'eating' in the sense that post-tall man understands this tern). Why should deep mystery he ascribed to eating? (p. 96)
In the same context he argues that meat-eating animals shows that
before Adam's sin.
Eating meat would of course cause death. There are many animals that were created with claws and large, sharp teeth, giving them the ability to kill other animals and tear flesh for eating. One would hardly expect claws and fangs to be used on vegetation alone. It is a peculiar view of death which distinguishes between the death of plants and the death of animals. (p. 97)
How do we know that eating in the Garden meant death? How do we know that animals as created had claws and large, sharp teeth? How do we know that such animals lived by killing one another in the perfect Garden? The only answer that we can draw from the above exegesis is that it seems reasonable to Maatman. The reasonablenss of the interpretation, guided by its relationship to his whole system, enables him to make difficult decisions which he denies others have the right to make on similar extra-Biblical grounds.
Maatnian's interpretation of Genesis 1 never takes into account the purpose of the author as being anything else than conveying factual information. He assumes without support or discussion that the six creation days of Genesis 1 are chronological days. By his own criteria, such a passage as Exodus 20:8-11 should constrain him to accept the seven days as literal solar days of 24 hours each; he is able to avoid this (scientifically objectionable) conclusion, however, by arguing that God's rest on the seventh day (from the work of creation) has lasted for all time.
Although Maatman admits that the term "kind" in Genesis 1 "cannot he defined accurately," he is nevertheless able to conclude in spite of this that there can be no doubt but that "'creeping things' did not by any series of evolutionary changes produce 'cattle' (p. 134)." He is also certain that these passages teach "that unlimited change, from 'kind' to 'kind', is not possible (pp. 134,135)." How are such conclusions possible?
Maatman is prompt to emphasize that there is absolutely no problem in determining whether or not Genesis 2:7 is to he taken symbolically. "The passage which contains Genesis 2:7 is virtually labeled, 'This passage is not symbolic.' (p. 153)." Such a dogmatic affirmation is offered about a passage that occurs in the middle of a context including a tree of life, a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and a talking serpent-a picture of the past east into the same language as the great heavenly picture of the future described in the closing chapters of Revelation, and generally conceded by all to be symbolic!
A concept much mentioned but little defined in Maatmen's discussions is the concept of miracle. Now a miracle is generally agreed to have at least two characteristics: (a) it must either appear to violate the laws of nature as they are currently known, or it must appear as an extremely improbable coincidence of diverse elements; and (b) it must have a deeper significance than simply being a rare and unusual event for the persons involved, i.e., it must have deep religious, ordinarily redemptive, significance. In general,
Maatman ignores the second of these characteristics completely, and equates a miracle with any highly improbable occurrence which did nevertheless occur. Thus lie implies that the purpose of miracles is to show the power of God and neglects any interpretation in terms of God's redemptive activity. At no point does he define what lie means by "miracle," and in one place brushes aside the whole question by asserting "I miraeuloos' to mean just what it usually means when it is used in connection with Biblical miracles (p. 128)." If Maatman had indeed done this, he would have recognized the redemptive content portrayed by most Biblical miracles and hence would not have entered into a long and tortuous attempt to show that the natural man really accepts a miracle when he accepts the highly improbable natural development of life and human spirit by an evolutionary process. If God brought life into being through natural processes, our wonder and awe at the accomplishment is by no means diminished; we are guilty of inexactness, however, if we continue to speak of the process as a miracle. Maatman also misunderstands the nature of the problem when he attributes the rejection of miracles by natural man wholly to their improbability; it is not their improbability that causes the basic trouble, but the necessity to admit their divine origin, an admission that can he withheld as long as one does not think too deeply about the foundations of the natural world.
In treating "theistic evolutionism," Maatman discusses three aspects of this position. He states that theistic evolutionists (a) emphasize that man's body and not his soul evolved from animals, (b) maintain that the word "dust" refers to an animal, and (c) maintain that God added a soul to a previously existing animal body. Now I cannot say that some theistic evolutionists may not hold these views, but it can certainly be affirmed that theistic evolutionists need not hold these views. A much more defensible and consistent position is to view the creation of man from "dust" as a statement of the whole process of evolution from inanimate matter through to man, and to view the creative activity of God in producing man's soul as a continuous evolutionary process that took place concurrently with the evolutionary development of man's body, for the simple reason that body and soul are intimately and inextricably related.
A word of protest should also be lodged against the common practice of emphasizing that if evolution is true, then Christian faith is false, or of pointing with alarm at the inevitable connection between acceptance of biological evolution and such political excesses as Naziism, racism and Marxism. The scientific question of evolution is far from settled, but the evidence sits somewhat heavily at the moment in its favor. It hardly seems a wisp tactic to argue for the rest of the world that they cannot accept the Christian faith, and that they must accept one of a variety of inhumane philosophies. A much more positive approach is to see what possibilities there are for seeing evolution within the context of Biblical faith, so that excesses derived from misapplications of evolutionary ideas may be counteracted.
This has been a critical review. Let me close on a positive note by quoting a passage by Maatman from the end of Chapter 10, with which we can all agree. God teaches that animals and plants reproduce after
their kinds. It is one thing if this promise of continuity has been demonstrated for a period of thousands of years. It is quite another matter if the continuity has existed for hundreds of millions of years. Perhaps this picture of the universe is a picture so magnificent that we are moved even more than before to prase our creator God. (pp. 113, 114)
This review was also published in the Reformed Journal.
SCIENCE AND CHRISTIAN FAITH by William H. Davis, Biblical Research Press, Abilene, Texas (1968) Paperback, 96 pp. $1.00.
This little study guide is part of an adult series called the Way of Life, edited by J. D. Thomas. It features a discussion of the major issues relating science and the Christian faith by Dr. William H. Davis, Ph.D. in philosophy from Rice University in 1965 and Assistant Professor of philosophy at Auburn University. Thirteen lessons set forth a rational and evangelical exposition of the subject, and each chapter is provided with several questions to further stimulate discussion. The two chapters devoted to Science and Evolution emphasize in a moderate way some of the difficulties with the General Theory: origin of complex organs, origin of complex instincts, phenomenon of metamorphosis, absence of transitional forms of life, exact mechanism of evolution. Unfortunately the author offers no balance by way of positive evidence for evolution, and even more unfortunately no discussion at all of the theological relevance of evolution for the Christian. The series in the Way of Life contains thirteen other titles.
WE BELIEVE IN CREATION by Charles C. Ryrie, Word of Life Fellowship, Inc., Orange, N.J. (1967) Pamphlet. 28 pp. 0.15.
Almost every classic error its the debate on creation and/or evolution is repeated in this presentation with the imprimatur of modern evangelical authority. Acceptance of the Biblical creation account is set in opposition to acceptance of the theory of evolution as a valid scientific approach to the question of the origins of life and man. An incredible statement accompanies the discussion of alternatives to the theory of evolution:
A fourth possibility is to accept the Bible fully and plainly with the necessary consequence of rejecting cvolotion. This alternative would involve accepting the detailed facts of Genesis and it would require discovering basic fallacies in the tenets of evolution in order to have on intelligent basis for rejecting them. (Italics mine)
Quotations from standard or pseudo-scientific texts are interspersed
with quotations from
the Saturday Ecening Post or from an unnamed "med
ical doctor," who thought that Neanderthal men might be ordinary men with
In a final discussion on the time of creation, Dr. Ryrie rejects the Ussher chronology, but feels that verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1 leave room for "an indeterminably long period of time." He argues that the results of the flood must be taken seriously as essential to the total picture of creation, and supports the notion that "apparent age" is to be expected from a fiat creation process and cannot he taken as indicative of "true age."
We also believe in creation. We fervently wish that creation could be upheld firmly by all Christians without such negative and ultimately self-destructive tactics.
BIBLICAL COSMOLOGY AND MODERN SCIENCE by Henry M. Morris, Craig Press, Nutley, New Jersey (1970) Paperback, 146 pp. $2.50.
MODERN SCIENCE AND CHRISTIAN LIFE by Stanley D. Beck, Augshurg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1970) Paperback. 157 pp. .$2.95.
These two books represent about as great a difference as one could expect to find between two Christian analyses of the relationship between modern science and the Christian faith. Dr. Henry' N. Morris, hydraulic engineer and zealous conservative Christian, has long since chosen to reject a large portion of modem science in order to defend what he considers to be the only permissible interpretation of the Bible. Dr. Stanley D. Beck, Professor of Entomology at the University of Wisconsin, eagerly embraces what he considers to be the perceptive insights gained through modern science. Of the opening chapters of Genesis, Morris states
If these first eleven chapters are not historical, then our entire Biblical foundation has been removed.
On his part, Beck says,
To interpret this writing as a source of factual scientific information rather than a powerful statement of religious faith is to greatly underestimate its true significance.
It is no surprise, therefore, when Morris flatly rejects evolution,
and Beck considers
the evolutionary process to have been established "beyond
In his book, Morris continues to pour old wine into old wineskins, and once again runs the risk of leading astray that group of devout Christians who look to him as the voice of modern science. What he offers is an almost unbelievable manual of pseudo-scientific esoteriea. Flatly rejecting the modern stance of several of the major sciences, with the words
Thus the Biblical cosmologist finally must recognize that the geological ages can have had no true objective existence at all, it the Bible is true. There most therefore, be some better explanation for the geological strata and the fossils which they contain.
Morris goes on to offer his "better explanation:" (1) the
of the world in six literal days a few thousand years ago; (2) a
as the cause of all geological or paleontologieal evidence that
indicates an aged
earth, with sedimentation rates in turbulent fluids as the mechanism
for the observed
distribution of fossils among the strata ("no geologic difficulties, real
or imagined, can be allowed to take precedence over the clear
statements and necessary
inferesrees of Scripture"); (3) the occurrence of miracles
during the present
age of uniformity in nature through the intervention of mighty angels
and modify natural processes and who may well dwell in the stars; (4)
-rapture pre-millennial return of the Lord and the creation of the
new Jerusalem as the dwelling place of the saints ("this still leaves over
uric-sixth of a cubic mile for the estate and mansion of each of the
people dwelling there").
It is Beck's purpose to "seek a common ground or basis of reconciliation" between modern science and Christian life. He feels the modern conflicts arising out of man's new ability to do for himself many things that previously could be and bad to be left in the bands of God He argues that science can lead to a better life in the future only if it is coupled to and guided by a religious concern and understanding more powerful and effective than anything demonstrated in the past.
He emphasizes that within the past seventy years we have come to realize that science does not lead to the ultimate human understanding; there are other legitimate pathways to real knowledge.
Beck argues that former notions of a sharp difference between living
systems cannot he maintained, nor can notions of a sharp difference between man
and the rest of the natural world. "Human evolution has been demonstrated
beyond reasonable doubt," but "the meaning, purpose, and
joy of living
cannot he explained in terms of DNA."
Carried away with the presentation of a particular perspective, Beck seems to drift at times into statements not obviously reconcilable with evangelical or Biblical Christian faith. Marvelling at the wonder of life in a universe of law, he says
Our world is not a vale of tears and sorrows through which we strive to pass unstained by evil, that we may enter an ultimate world to come.
He tends at times to speak as though man's sin were only "the pull of his
biological heritage." And he indicates that he would probably
hold a mythological
view of such concepts as resurrection, ascension and the second coming, as well
as feel that atonement and redemption are "abstract theological
He advocates a "Christian humanism" without always showing
it should be called "Christian."
If Beck'sbook shows such signs of not fully appreciating the depth of the Christian message, his book is still to he recommended over that of Morris for the average reader as far as the stated subject is concerned. Beck does present by and large a reliable and accurate picture of the relationship between modern science and Christian faith. If Beck's theology must be taken cum grano salis, Morris' science must be taken cum monte salis.
Renewed by Richard H. Rube, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford,