Book Review (continued): In the Beginning God, Chapter 2

Chapter Two

I am somewhat concerned that Hoeksema is setting up false dichotomy when he speaks of "the relation between creation and science's claims" (pg. 42).  Strictly speaking, science does not make claims—people make claims.  Unbelieving secular scientists make claims from many of the same pieces of data that believing scientists analyze.  The difference is all about interpretation, not the science per se.  By using this wording, a certain view of scientists becomes apparent.  That is, "they" are something other than "us."  I think that this is a dangerous path to start going down, because it makes scientists people we need to distrust and dislike rather than engage.  My sense is that Hoeksema primarily intends to distinguish between "false science" and "true science" (pg. 79), by which he is trying to say bad and good interpretations of scientific data. But the wording could make some conservative Christians worry about whether it's even possible for a Christian to be a scientist.

During the various speeches that Nate Lanning and I have given, one of our suggestions that met a bit of resistance was distinguishing between “evolution” and “evolutionism.”  I find it interesting that Hoeksema himself uses the latter term and implicitly makes this distinction, though perhaps not as consistently or clearly as we have suggested. In any case, he makes clear that evolutionism is a worldview that extends far beyond origins and cannot comport with orthodox Christianity.  On this we agree entirely!

Hoeksema shows remarkable insight into the real problem with theistic evolution, which is that it comes with a significant risk of much greater departure from the historic Christian faith.  For a long time, people in relatively conservative Christian denominations (including Reformed ones) have been comfortable holding to both theistic evolution and the orthodox understanding of Scripture as given in the creeds because they just don't see an issue that relates to salvation in Jesus Christ.  I think the developing history in the Reformed community bears this issue out pretty well.  But in being entirely consistent with the tenants of exegesis that come from reading Genesis 1-2 in a non-literal sense, it becomes impossible to hold onto a non-literal Genesis 1-2 and draw a sharp line at Genesis 3 as the beginning of literal exegesis.  Knowledge of this fact isn't new at all, but the consequences of consistency are only recently beginning to bear fruit in what were once conservative denominations.  This is a warning that we all should take very seriously. (https://www.calvin.edu/admin/provost/seminars/human-origins.html)

The real issue with theistic evolution emerges when exegetical license is extended further to the origins of man and sin, which is the logical result of capitulation to secular, atheistic scientists' view of scientific data in the first place.  If some Christians are concerned that the traditional Christian view of cosmology doesn't match the interpretations of secular scientists (and therefore accept theistic evolution as a synthesis), they will likely also have quite a bit of trouble with newer secular interpretations of human origins based on genetic data.  Synthesis in this area is a lot more difficult than simply allowing for a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2, which Christian scientists, theologians, philosophers and anthropologists are finding out.  This is because synthesis (or perhaps more accurately, accommodation) beyond Genesis 1-2 very quickly gets into trouble with the orthodox doctrines of anthropology and original sin, and therefore the doctrines of Christology as well.  When these doctrines come into question, the reality and foundation of the Christian faith crumbles—entirely! 

That really leaves only three viable options: 1) accept the Bible's account of creation as literal and as a consistent rule for the book of Genesis; 2) live with exegetical inconsistency while accepting the narrative and authority of Scripture contained in the orthodox Christian faith; 3) deny the literal account of creation consistently, along with the authority of Scripture altogether.  I believe that there are true Christians who fall into the second group, choosing to live in that frame of reference while holding to the orthodox Christian faith.  One cannot hold to the third option and maintain that he or she is an orthodox Christian.  Unfortunately there often times seems to be only a hair's breadth of difference between options 2 and 3.  This is the reason why I place myself in the camp of option 1.

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