Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review of Evolving out of Eden, by Robert M. Price and Edwin A. Suominen

For hundreds of years, Christians have attempted to "reconcile" the Bible, and what it says about how the world was created, with what science reveals about how the world came to be. Evolving out of Eden: Christian Responses to Evolution is a lucid and, dare I say complete, exploration of the various intersections between Christian theology and science -- in particular, the science of evolutionary theory.

For hundreds of years, Christians have been adamantly opposed to humanity's ever increasing knowledge about the way the world actually works. Galileo was opposed by the Roman Catholic Church. Darwin was, and still is, opposed by Christians from many different Churches. And in America, Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians attempt to smuggle creationism (that is, Bible stories about the creation of the world) into the science classrooms of our public education system. All in an effort to protect their long held, and false beliefs, that the Bible is in some way a science text book. Well, as New Testament scholar Robert M. Price and co-author, Edwin A. Suominen clearly demonstrate: the Bible is NOT a science book!

Evolving out of Eden essentially begins as layman's guide to evolutionary theory. Quoting extensively from leading scientists in the field, the authors explore the reasons scientists throughout the world insist that evolution is true, and has always been the mechanism for the creation of life on earth. It is, in many ways, a crash course in the basics of evolutionary theory, as understood and explained by scientists. But like the Bible, Evolving out of Eden is not -- nor does it pretend to be -- a science text. It's real strengths are to be found when the authors delve into the vast history of the Biblical creation stories -- of which there are many. It explains, how these stories came to be, what they meant for the writers of the texts, and how Christians throughout the centuries have interpreted and reinterpreted them, in order to make them fit with our ever expanding scientific knowledge. And it shows that, no matter how hard Christians have tried to force the Biblical creation stories into the world of science, it is always a futile attempt to force the square peg bronze age creation myth into a round hole of science.

While the authors themselves no longer consider themselves religious, they are not, in an way, anti-religious. They both have a great deal of respect for religion, Christianity, the Bible and Christian theology -- and their respect shows in their words. This is not a book meant to bash those who believe in Creationism, but a book meant to open up lines of communication that -- for the most part -- have been closed down, by us Christians.

Evolving out of Eden simply points out what some Christians and Church fathers (like Origen of Alexandria) always understood: the Bible is NOT a scientific text from which one can draw information about how the world works. It is a religious text, meant to explore humanity's quest for something more than the world. And any attempt, no matter how sincere, to reconcile the Biblical creation accounts with scientific facts, fail on every level.

As a believing Eastern Orthodox Christian, I highly recommend this book. It's educational, enlightening, at times funny, and above all it is honest and fair. Following the internet book review standards, I'm rating it five stars, with one caveat: by the very nature of the topics involved, somewhat technical -- especially near the beginning. I'd rank it 4.5 stars, because the technical nature may turn off some readers who aren't as serious about following through on the subject as other. However, that's not the fault of the authors, but rather the fault of America's lackluster science education system, so in order to not punish the authors in my review, who've done their very best to make a complex topic understandable, I'm giving it five stars.

It is a FANTASTIC book, and probably the best over all introduction to the topic of how evolution and Christianity intersect that I've ever read. If you have, even the slightest hint of an open mind, this book will change your opinions about the Bible, creationism, and science, while giving you a new respect for all three.

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