Friday, August 6, 2010

Driscoll's Doctrine of Creation (Review)

My own take on the creation/evolution debate has been, ahem, 'evolving' quite a bit over the last few years. While I have gone from being a firm 7-Day Creationist to having more of a theistic evolutionist stance (I was helped along by Bible scholar Bruce Waltke and Human Genome Project geneticist and believer Francis Collins on this one), I still identify with fundamentalist Christian takes on the importance of the doctrine of creation. In this way, I see myself as having the best of both worlds: I can appreciate the science of the atheists, although not their religious conclusions, and I can also stand with my creationist friends and mentors against scientific naturalism. I still hold to a literal view of the Bible, and would sign off on the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy if I had the opportunity. So while I feel my view is misunderstood by Driscoll in this book, I can still thoroughly enjoy what he has to say about naturalistic evolution and its problems. And I do. Here is the good, the bad, and the awesome about the chapter Creation: God Makes.

Content: Dawkins, Genesis, and the Gap Theory

The authors describe the ways in which Creation is a good gift from a loving God, and outline four statements on the creation/evolution debate; (2 and 3) Taking time to break down Genesis 1, Mark and Gerry lay out how the Bible says creation happened; (3) With the question of 'how did creation begin?' answered, we move on to explore what creation can tell us about God; (4) Driscoll and Breshears lay out an interesting overview of different Christian takes on creation/evolution; (5) "Are the days of Genesis 1 literal 24-hour days?" To this, the answer in this chapter is a resounding 'yes'; (6) On the question, 'how old is the earth?', we are given different options before Mark writes that the Bible doesn't really tell us one way or the other; (7) In outlining differences between creation and naturalism, Mark and Gerry show how the two worldviews absolutely contradict each other in every way, but go on to show how Christianity and Science at their best can reinforce and help each other; (8) In answering why creation makes a difference, Mark Driscoll acknowledges Dawkins' conclusion: if there is no God, then the world is bleak and cold and meaningless.

Positives: Apologetics, Debate, Exposition, Practicality
Although I disagree with the Gap Theory hypothesis of the authors, I still enjoyed this chapter. It correctly sizes up and criticizes the philosophical weaknesses of Atheism (I can get behind that!), it spends time commenting on a section of Scripture in order to remain tied to the Biblical text, the tone of the writing is more real and honest than in previous chapters, and -as always in Doctrine- the beginning and end of the chapter do a really good job helping to show why all of this actually matters in the first place.

1. Tone of Debate. If Doctrine is as important as Breshears and Driscoll are saying it is, then it's really worth making some strong statements over. The past couple of chapters have been pretty tepid in tone, but here -with a clear group of Atheists to debate with- Mark is able to make the necessary strong statements about how important this doctrine of creation actually is; when we read "I could not fathom encouraging people to build their lives on unyielding despair," we understand the implications of rejecting the doctrine of creation. It also makes for way more interesting reading material.

2. Apologetics. One thing that I love about Doctrine is the authors' ability to argue for the faith as well as explain what that faith is in the first place. I appreciated this aspect quite a bit in the chapter on Revelation; I enjoyed it equally if not more here. To witness Driscoll and Breshears sum up, criticize, and practically mock a weak Atheist speculation about infinite parallel universes (see below) would be really important for the new believer who is immediately in the position of having his faith challenged by friends and family. It will give him some appropriate confidence in what he has come to put his trust in.

3. Exposition. Instead of randomly stringing Biblical texts together in whatever way seems best, the authors wisely stick to one large part of Scripture and work through it all in context. This is a great benefit of Mark's dedication to preaching through books of the Bible: very rarely have I seen him proof-text a verse out of context in order to back up a claim. He sticks to large passages, which makes his reasoning easier to follow and more balanced. Especially on an issue like creation, the important question needs to be 'what does the whole context of Genesis One say? What issues does it leave open for individual Christians to interpret differently?"

Practicality. Another benefit of Doctrine, besides its apologetics strengths, is the focus that it has on practical issues. If you want to know why it matters whether you believe in creation (theism) rather than cold naturalism (atheism), then the beginning and end of this chapter will tell you. I am encouraged by that. Conservative Christian thinkers have long argued that doctrines are important, but they haven't always been able to show why. This book, and this chapter, does that very well. If creation is true, we have much to be thankful for. If it isn't, then we are left stuck in the midst of denial or despair.

Negatives: Science, Theistic Evolution, God from Creation
Overall, had a great time with this chapter. I could actually describe it as a page-turner; I finished it in a truck ride on the way to work, excited to read whatever came next. Some concerns, though: (1) Mark dismissed Theistic Evolution on the grounds that it "inherits all the scientific impossibilities of evolution as a theory of origins," but the only problem is with random chance being responsible for the evolution of life; if you assume an Intelligent Designer behind the process, the problems with the theory disappear right away. Contrary to inheriting the scientific impossibilities of evolution, it actually solves them while remaining faithful to the Bible. (2) When Christians make statements about what "the scientific evidence" is, they had better be ready to back up their claims. More than a couple of Mark's "the evidence is" statements struck me as pretty inaccurate, and so I would have appreciated a couple of footnotes to scientific articles that I could have checked his facts against. I can't be alone on this one. (3) When talking about what creation teaches us about its Creator, Driscoll sort of just told us about what the first chapter of Genesis says about God--which is fine, but that's not what that section of this chapter was promising to do.

Overall Score: ****
I give this chapter a cheerful 4/5 stars, because it was written well stylistically, argued for well Biblically (even though I disagreed with the conclusion), and really did a good job on the practical issues related to the doctrine. This will be a good chapter for some home groups to work through together, and it will helpfully tie them down to the Bible--"What does Genesis 1 say about this?" Scientific concerns aside (see above), the philosophical and logical arguments against Atheism are really helpful, and there are some good sources provided in the footnotes for further reading in good apologetics books. As with other chapters, it could use some improvement, but overall this offering is more helpful on the subject than the vast majority of other systematic theology works.

Memorable Quotes

"In desperation to avoid the quandary of a universe with a beginning, [some scientists] speculate that there might be an infinite number of invisible parallel universes stretching back into eternity, without a shred of evidence to support their imagining. How can they criticize Christians for being people of blind faith? We have all the historical evidences for Jesus and his resurrection to support our faith, while they have absolutely nothing for their mythology."

"As a pastor who has preached the funerals of suicide victims and prays often with teenage women who continually cut themselves and comes from a long family history of depression so severe that it often results in mental insanity and self-medication with alcoholism, I (Mark) could not fathom encouraging people to build their lives on 'unyielding despair' because 'the universe is bleak, cold, and empty' only to flippantly disregard their pain and tears by saying 'so what?'"

Outline of Chapter Three
  • Four Comments on Science and the Bible
  • What Genesis One Says About Creation
  • What the Creation Reveals About God
  • Overview of Christian Stances on Creation
  • Are the Days in Genesis One Literal 24-Hour Days?
  • The Age of the Earth and the Doctrine of Creation
  • Differences Between Creation and Naturalism
  • The Difference That Creation Makes


  1. Hey can you elaborate more on your theistic evolutionary perspective? That sounds interesting. Also, what led you to that conclusion? I know you have those who have helped you see that way, but I was curious about that. Great post man!

  2. My take on Theistic Evolution is pretty involved; I'm not sure where I would start. But the general outline of how I make sense of it from Genesis is this:

    GENESIS ONE - Genesis 1 is poetry (undisputed). So I can interpret it symbolically as if it were a Psalm. Seven Days? Literary device. Order of the days? Same thing. As long as I make allowance for the literary genre in Genesis 1, I'm well within the stated definitions of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. Waltke really helps with this in his commentary, in that he sees other clues in the original Hebrew that the days are meant to be taken figuratively.

    GENEALOGIES - After studying through Genesis last year, I came to the conclusion that the genealogies are abridged. They don't record every generation. This is partly my own observation and partly the observation of a wide range of commentators on the genealogy between Noah and Abraham. A large portion of them seemed to have thought it was abridged. "Well, if this one is abridged," I thought, "then all of them could be." That means the age of humanity could stretch back however far you wanted it to, because you could insert multiple generations in between each name in the genealogies.

    So in Genesis 1 (not 2 or anything after!), the poetic genre keeps it from having to be read literally. Also, if the genealogies are abridged, that allows for an old earth and an old humanity. Together, although I still haven't completely explained this well, that creates a pretty open space in which evolution could have been the mechanism by which God created life and continues to have it adapt.

    I should write a couple of posts on this, actually. Lots of stuff that I have to explain. But that's basically the gist of it.


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