Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Seven Days That Divide The World

It's Day Two of my Genesis book reviews, and perhaps appropriately, it's a book that deals with the creation days themselves. This wasn't strictly part of my sermon series prep, but further background reading by an author I respect on a related topic. John Lennox is emerging as one of the leading Christian apologists in the realm of science and evolution, so it was interesting to read his take on the creation.

It might be a recurring observation by all the writers this week, but Genesis is not an easy subject: 'The biblical announcement of the fact of creation was as timelessly clear as it was magnificently appropriate. However... when it comes to the timing and means of creation... people over the centuries have found the book of Genesis less easy to understand.'

Lennox declares that 'the topic is clearly a potential minefield.' Yet he continues to argue that there is hope of a harmony of the Bible and science both properly interpreted. After all, belief in creative intelligence was the starting point for modern science, which therefore doesn't disprove God's existence. Indeed, Lennox examines the trouble surrounding Galileo, that famous test case of religion against science. Rather, 'The conflict was far more between two 'scientific' world pictures than between science and religion.'

Continuing to discuss bible interpretation, Lennox points to a number of examples where the 'literal' sense of the words used can be inadequate and even misleading - 'since there can be different levels of literality.' So, with the discovery that the earth revolves around the sun: 'Even though our interpretation relies on scientific knowledge, it does not compromise the authority of Scripture.' Therefore: 'The Galileo incident teaches us that we should be humble enough to distinguish between what the Bible says and our interpretations of it.'

With this foundation in place, Lennox examines the text of Genesis 1 to discover what it actually says. He explains that there are a variety of meanings for the word 'day' in the Hebrew, whether the period of sunlight; a twenty-four hour period; or an age. He also considers the possibility of the six creation days being solid days, but spaced throughout a longer period of time (ie not just in the one week).

Moving on, the problems of the origin of humans and death are raised. Were Adam and Eve just a pair of humanoids that God decided to begin with, or were they a special creation? Did evolution play a part in their rise? Did death exist before the fall? Lennox' answer seems to push for an ancient world, with an attitude of humility as the 'best fit' for the evidence of Scripture and science.

His fifth and final chapter appears to be the strongest, as he turns from science to focus instead on the message of Genesis 1, displaying the truth it reveals of God to the reader. In a series of simple points, Lennox again and again points to the God who is, the creator, the one who formed us, and calls us to relationship with him.

There are also a number of interesting appendices, providing a background to Genesis, an examination of the Cosmic Temple view, thoughts on the beginning of time, a brief discussion of the suggestion that there are two accounts of creation, and an analysis of theistic evolution and the God of the gaps.

All in all, it's a book that will raise the salient points in the discussion and provide much food for thought. I'm not sure that I agree with all his conclusions, but at least I've been provoked to think more carefully about my position, and am now better informed about the issues. Any book by Lennox also equips the reader for apologetics, which is also a bonus!

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