Book Review: 40 Question About Creation & Evolution
Author: Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker
Publisher: Kregel Academic
Reading Level: Moderate
The topics of creation and evolution seem to increase in importance as subjects for the church. These subjects are no small matter and are worth of intense, faithful discussion. A discussion of that magnitude will unearth misconceptions, poor arguments, and false assurances on both sides. In 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution (henceforth 40 Questions), authors Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker (henceforth the authors) present a comprehensive look at the important questions pertaining to the study of these subjects.
Covering the gambit, 40 Questions addresses these issues from a generally conservative point of view. Mark Rooker represents young-earth creationism (YEC) and Keathley old-earth creationism (OEC). This fact might turn off readers with an evolutionary bent. However, the authors provide a significant amount of grace in their writing and definitely push important issues with their conservative readers. 40 Questions is split into six sections covering 1) the doctrine of creation, 2) Genesis 1-2, 3) the days of creation, 4) the age of the earth, 5) the fall/the flood, and 6) evolution/intelligent design. The sections and questions build upon one another and conclude with the author’s opinion on the important battle lines (e.g. theistic Darwinism being out of the question, pg. 356).
40 Questions is written for honest and open students of these subjects. It does not presuppose any previous knowledge. With this type of intent, clear and upfront writing is at a premium. Setting a trend for the entire book, definitions are clarified and stressed (36-38), dispositions of extremes on both sides are labeled (18), and critics of conservative misconceptions (42-42) are overturned in the early chapters (chapters 1-4). This is well exemplified in an approving quote from N.T. Wright (a proponent of theistic evolution) and summary statement against latent Gnosticism that “there will be continuity between this world and the next, and as a result there is a surprising amount of similarity” (51). The chapters pertaining to part two (chapters 5-10) are similar. There are highly technical chapters that deal with original language and syntax (chapter 7 & 10) and graceful descriptions of views not held (e.g. “precreation chaos theory,” pg. 65-66). Readers unfamiliar with debates over the chronology of Genesis 1-2 will benefit greatly.
Part three (chapters 11-16) discusses the many variants of understanding the seven days of creation. Each view receives a chapter explaining the strengths of the positions and critical analysis. The gap theory (chapter 11), day-age theory (chapter 12), and framework theory (chapter 13) receive some of the sharpest evaluations. The more complex views of temple inauguration theory (chapter 14) and historical creationism theology (chapter 15) receive lackluster criticism while drawing out some valuable questions pertaining to the overarching theological relevance of the creation account.
Part four (chapters 17-22) presents some challenging perspectives to the YEC view. The authors put forth that there are gaps in the genealogies of Genesis (chapter 17, pg. 176) and report that YEC has only recently been the majority view among evangelicals with OEC being predominate since the enlightenment (187-188, 202). Speaking about the astronomical evidence for an old earth the authors confess, “many lay supporters of the young-earth position do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the problem” (251). The authors of 40 Questions are insistent that YEC proponents adopt a fideistic paradigm in the “apparent age” position (251, 223, 307-308). Yet even here, the authors quote Vern Poythress to communicate that a consistent “apparent age” earth conflicts with YEC views of a global flood and no animal death before the fall (221-222). In presenting these views 40 Questions provides clarity to these discussions and refutes misconceptions within YEC fundamentalism.
The fifth part deals with the historicity of the fall and flood. Concerning the fall, the authors state that a literal Adam and Eve “is of the utmost importance” (237) but their chapter proves lackluster (chapter 24). When writing about the effects, the authors handle animal death before the fall with care (chapter 27). That the authors even argue that an OEC position entails animal death before the fall may rock conservative consciences. A similar event occurs when the authors discuss the flood. The arguments for a local flood are presented in full strength though the position of the authors leans towards a global flood. Their conclusion, nevertheless, serves as a definitive testimony to the honesty of 40 Questions,
The only record that flood catastrophists have to save their theory is to appeal to a pure miracle and thus eliminate entirely the possibility of historical geology. We think that would be a more honest course of action for young-earth advocates to take. Young-earth creationists should cease their efforts to convince the lay Christian public that geology supports a young earth when it does not do so. To continue that effort is misguided and detrimental to the health of the church and the cause of Christ (307-308).
Part six (chapters 32-40) concludes with helpful distinctions for those raised in conservative homes. The science of evolution is addressed thoroughly. The more militant views of evolution (e.g. Darwinism) receive, like YEC, a similar criticism of fideism. For many, distinctions between Darwinism and evolution (330-333) will be foreign. The discussion of Christian evolutionists is only available after these dictions are made (chapter 38). Ultimately, the authors see no options for a Christian Darwinist (356) though theistic evolution is provided multiple views that remain available in grace (chapter 38). The authors do conclude with strong chapters affirming intelligent design (ID) with the pinnacle coming in the concluding chapter on the universe’s fine-tuning (chapter 40).
In conclusion, 40 Question About Creation and Evolution is a one of the best source materials for Christians to begin their exploration of the origin of man and Biblical teaching of Genesis 1-3. More progressive views are as fairly represented as Keathley and Rooker can manage in good conscience. YEC and OEC will benefit greatly from the exposure to differing views. Christian holding to theistic evolution will benefit from the scientific challenges. The church as a whole will benefit from the upfront nature and grace of the volume.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.