A couple of years ago, the editors at Zondervan came to me and asked if I’d be interested in working on an update to their 1999 book titled Three Views on Creation and Evolution. They gave me wide latitude in what an “update” might look like. The finished product has just been released: Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design.
There are several key differences between the new volume and the 1999 edition. First, the contributors are different. I thought it would be nice to get the leaders of the four main organizations in the U.S. origins conversation to state their positions and interact with each other. We were very pleased when all four agreed:
- Ken Ham, of the Young Earth Creationist organization Answers in Genesis
- Hugh Ross, of the Old Earth Creationist organization Reasons to Believe
- Deborah Haarsma, of the Evolutionary Creation organization BioLogos
- Stephen Meyer, of the Intelligent Design organization The Discovery Institute
Secondly, the format of the book has been brought in line with the other books in the Counterpoints series. There are four sections of the book, one for each of the views. In each section, the contributor representing that view writes a substantial essay explaining the position; then the other three contributors write their response to that essay; then the original contributor writes a rejoinder to those responses. Then the book moves on to the next contributor, who writes the main essay for that section with the others responding. And so on through each of the four positions.
Since each of the contributors is so strongly tied to organizations, it might seem a little strange that I am the editor for the volume, given that I am a full-time employee of one of those organizations. And it took a little convincing to show the other contributors that I was not there to stack the deck in favor of Evolutionary Creation. This project was not part of my job at BioLogos. Rather, it was a scholarly endeavor to try to give an accurate snapshot of the origins conversation right now. To that end, I gave editorial advice to all of the contributors, suggesting ways that I thought their explanations might be stronger or more clear. But ultimately, I wanted for each of them to speak in their own voice, and they retained editorial control of their essays (that is, I didn’t change anything without their express consent).
All in all, I’m pleased with the way the book turned out. For seasoned participants in origins discussions, there won’t be much new in the book in terms of arguments. But I think there is something to be gained in seeing the leaders of these organizations interacting with each other in one book. For those newer to the origins discussion, it provides a good introduction to these positions and clear explanations of where the contributors agree and disagree.
I hope the book shows that there is not just one “biblical” position on origins. Each of the contributors affirms the inspiration and authority of Scripture as God’s word; they disagree on how the Bible should be interpreted. Furthermore, they disagree on how to interpret the scientific findings about the age of the earth and evolution. So one of the main takeaways for people reading the book will be that experts disagree. Readers might be forgiven for asking with some frustration, “Which of these experts should I believe? One claims the Bible clearly says the earth is young; others claim it doesn’t say that. One says the science overwhelming shows evidence for evolution; others say it doesn’t. How am I supposed to make up my own mind on this?!?”
I reflected a bit on this situation in the conclusion to the book:
There is no easy formula here, but I’d suggest it starts with regularly subjecting your views to critique. Don’t just read the people you agree with, but make an attempt to really understand why others are equally persuaded of different views. Studies show we are hard-wired to see and accept reasons that support what we already believe and to quickly dismiss evidence that challenges our own positions. It takes enormous effort, then, on our parts to listen to others and consider their critiques of our own positions. But if we’re serious about pursuing the truth in these matters, it is important. And if we ourselves are in the position where others look to us as experts, it is doubly important that we do this integrity. I think this book makes a good contribution toward that goal. No matter what your perspective on origins, you should be able to find points and questions here that challenge you to examine again what you believe on these matters.
Beyond reading books, trusting experts comes from personal acquaintance. Invite scholars from a variety of backgrounds to come to your church or school group. Get to know them as people and hear their stories. Ask questions about their research to genuinely try to understand what the world looks like to them. Even if you don’t come to accept their perspective, your own perspective will be richer for entering into dialogue not just with a set of ideas, but with a person. In this way we might move past the rancor and mistrust that characterizes too many of our disagreements. I continue to hope that the origins conversation can help the church make strides towards unity, understanding, and love (234-5).
I think I can speak for all of the contributors in saying that it has been a worthwhile experience to interact with each other in this way. Consider getting together a group of people who don’t all agree with you about origins, and read and discuss the book together. The primary goal of that conversation should not be to argue with each other about who is right and who is wrong, but to understand each other. Our world could use a little more of that.