A Book Review from Books At a Glance
by B. Jason Epps
A Biblical Case Against Theistic Evolution is an anthology edited by Wayne Grudem. Grudem has built a reputation for himself making complex theological concepts easy to understand while simultaneously accurately conveying the topic. The contributors in this anthology consistently follow that philosophy, making an otherwise convoluted argument simple and straightforward.
This book has the advantage of being an abridged version of an older work, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. As such, regularly the authors dialogue with critiques of the previous work. This particularly comes to light in the discussion of an accurate definition of theistic evolution. In that particular chapter, Grudem skillfully presents the critique of the definition and demonstrates fairly that the minor change does not have considerable impact on his conclusion.
In the introduction, Grudem very clearly describes what this book is not, namely, it is not a book defending a literal seven-day creation, but rather a book that argues that Genesis 1-3 is presented as history. Grudem defines theistic evolution as “God created matter [with regular properties governed by “natural law”] and after that [God continued to sustain matter and preserve its natural properties, but He] did not guide or intervene or act directly to cause any empirically detectable change in natural behavior of matter until all living things had evolved by purely natural causes, [which God actively sustained, but did not change]” (17). Grudem then provides a succinct list of twelve differences between the Bible and theistic evolution after theorizing these facets made by several renowned scholars. In these discussions, he presents their views in an understandable way, supporting them with direct quotes from the scholar themselves and using that base as a foundation for the critique. The twelve differences he sees are Adam and Eve are not the first humans, Adam and Eve were born from other humans, God did not directly create Adam and Eve from the dust or from a rib, Adam and Eve were not sinless, Adam and Eve were not the first to sin, death began long before Adam’s sin, there were thousands of humans that did not descend from Adam and Eve, God did not directly create animals, God never created the world good, and finally, God did not curse Adam and Eve.
In chapter two, John D. Currid discusses the theistic evolution of ways of interpreting Genesis, namely the functional model, Genesis 1-3 as myth, and Genesis 1-3 as figurative and theological literature. As he discusses these positions, he clearly explains each scholar’s position, explains why that position is incorrect according to the Bible, and even explains the thoughts and presuppositions behind these models, which helps the reader think critically not only about the models he presents, but about any potential future models. An interesting point he makes in the discussion of Genesis 1-3 as myth is the fact that some scholars hold that Genesis was written in a more spiritual and unhistorical way. He rightly points out that this position is just a position and we have no evidence for it. Also, for the functional model, the Ancient Near Eastern literature which Genesis is often compared to is said to emphasize function rather than origin. Currid goes into multiple creation accounts demonstrating that while function was present, the origin of the universe was also a major concern. He then makes the case based on Genesis’ genre and context that Genesis is structured and meant to be read as a historical narrative. Finally, Currid covers some objections to this plain reading and demonstrates on close inspection that these interpretations are not valid. One element in his critiques that he notes is the overemphasis on theological accommodation in these positions, which he rightly points out that if pushed too far can have reprehensible results. He also notes that using etiology, which is a perspective that states that the Old Testament stories were just written for instruction at a much later time than they actually happened, is a circular presupposition that has no objective evidence.
In chapter 3, Guy Prentiss Waters argues that theistic evolution is incompatible with the New Testament primarily because the genealogies of Jesus see Adam and Eve as real human beings and Paul uses Adam and Eve as the foundation for the gospel. As Waters interacts with his opponents, it becomes clear that their lack of belief in Adam and Eve creates a false view of the gospel bordering on Pelagianism. Therefore, he argues that Adam and Eve are central to the whole New Testament, the gospel, and the Bible itself. Also in this chapter, Waters notes the problem with seeing Adam as not the first human, namely, that it directly flies in the face of what Paul has said and diminishes the effects of sin on the world itself. In discussing these problems, Waters regularly includes the thoughts of his opponents, presents them clearly and succinctly, and offers his own critique.
In chapter 4, Gregg R. Allison argues that even though the councils did not mention theistic evolution by name, the councils did affirm God’s direct hand in creation in response to the Arian heresy. He argues that this sentiment was carried through the Reformation by both the Protestants and the Catholic church.
In chapter 5, Fred G. Zaspel argues that even though theistic evolutionists claim that Warfield supports their position, the historical evidence does not support that claim. Zaspel argues that while Warfield sees the importance of both special and general revelation, he does not see these two sources as having complete clarity; hence, special revelation must rule over general revelation. Zaspel also makes the observation that Warfield is clearly against theistic evolution in his lecture in 1888. He argues that Warfield’s sentiment did not change. Zaspel’s particular observation with Warfield demonstrates that figures are sometimes used to support positions to which they never would have adhered, making careful analysis necessary. Zaspel helpfully looks at some propositions of theistic evolution and provides quotes from Warfield demonstrating his disagreement.
In chapter 6, Grudem helpfully summarizes the entire book, incorporating content from the other contributors. This helps remind and reiterate the content to readers. Grudem re-emphasizes the points that are different between the Bible and theistic evolution from the first chapter and specifically explains why these points do not adhere to the biblical text, drawing again on content from all the contributors. He also expands on this by delving into the specific necessary doctrines that would be undermined by theistic evolution. The first is the trustworthiness of the Bible, where Grudem argues that if one questions the historical accuracy of Genesis 1-3, how can one trust the accuracy of the rest of the Bible? He also argues theistic evolution undermines God’s direct creation through powerful words and the evidence in nature for God’s existence, referring to God’s divine design of the universe. Also, Grudem argues that theistic evolution undermines moral accountability because if God is not the primary creator of everything, there is no final authority that has the right jurisdiction over the universe. He also sees the goodness of God and God’s justice affected and human equality to be impacted by theistic evolution. Human equality is impacted, he argues, because under theistic evolution, we are not all from Adam and Eve and therefore not equally created in the image of God and therefore our value is diminished. This particular point not only has abstract theological implications but immensely practical implications on human worth and value. He also argues that theistic evolution has the tendency to undermine sin and the atonement. Finally, theistic evolution undermines the value of improving and caring for nature.
In general, I would highly recommend A Biblical Case Against Theistic Evolution because it is written in a clear and understandable way while fairly demonstrating opposing views. The book also does a fantastic job of seeing each of the individual facets, Old Testament, New Testament, theology, etc., as interwoven with each other. As such, I would highly recommend this group for small groups, high school students, or college freshmen.
B. Jason Epps
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Buy the books
A BIBLICAL CASE AGAINST THEISTIC EVOLUTION, edited by Wayne Grudem