I only read this book because I started to read the counter-argument (Should Christians Embrace Evolution?
) which was on a Creationist bookstall, and I realised I needed to read this one too. I'm glad I did.
This is a good book whether you agree with the views or not, as DA expounds some commonly-held perspectives of Christians working in science. He has been a top-rate scientist for decades, and is also a committed Christian and a well-recognized leader in the community of Christian scientists. For these reasons alone the book should be worth reading, but more than this, he has written a well-constructed and readable account of the relevant science and biblical passages, in particular addressing the issues of Adam and Eve and The Fall.
Chapter 2 is a joy: The Biblical Doctrine of Creation in which DA discusses what the bible reveals of God's immanence in creation, referencing Galileo's comment that so-called `nature' is the `executrix of God's will' - the outworking of God's will (p32). Here is such an expansive vision of God and His creation that has direct application to the daily lives of all Christians here and now, as we seek the coming of God's kingdom in the corner of creation where God has placed us. A Creationist would surely applaud this, but it sits especially well with the idea that God is `big enough' to generate the natural world without interventionist `tricks', since God is taken to be just as present in the everyday as in the miraculous.
After this, Chapters 3 to 5 get into the scientific detail of evolution whilst continuing to view things through Christian spectacles. So, for example (p62), he relates the story of a Cambridge science undergraduate who converted from a completely atheistic background after she sat in a standard (`secular') university biochemistry lecture and was stunned by the beauty of DNA which has evolved over billions of years. I suspect that some Creationists and New Atheists alike would simply not `get' this - that just to appreciate the outcome of `natural processes' should point someone to God (though remember that DA has already expounded the biblical view that `natural processes' are themselves the outworking of God's will - the world is made of HIS materials). So good!
He specifically addresses several `Objections to Evolution' and includes some detailed answers to anti-evolution arguments and questions. Some have criticized DA for not referring to the plethora of Creationist material which argues against evolution. However, DA is careful to point out that good science requires it to be openly `peer reviewed' and this certainly does not apply to the kinds of material generated by these organisations. The key point is one of openness where `dissent and discussion are encouraged' (p130). Personally I'm sure he's right in principle, but in practice we all know people can take sides unfairly.
In discussing Genesis he points out that everybody interprets the early chapters figuratively in some sense. So for example, snakes don't eat dust do they? (p167). And most people would surely think that the river out of Eden wouldn't actually branch into four other rivers - rivers don't do that. If we were to take the creation of Eve as being simply a literal divine operation then we will have missed the key figurative point that every preacher makes (and that Jesus himself made) about marriage. In this he is laying the groundwork for a review of how we see Adam and Eve and The Fall, and challenging assumptions.
So having described his science, answered some common objections and reviewed some key bible passages, he then goes on to postulate how we can reconcile evolution with the bible - particularly with regard to the major areas of who Adam and Eve actually were, and what does The Fall really mean (given that the expression doesn't occur in the bible). He discusses 5 alternative syntheses (`models') of science and theology which he then tests against the facts. He says that the models `go well beyond the text itself' (p234), one of which (Homo Divinus) he uses as a working model until `a better model comes along' (p243) and about which he says `It may be wrong' (p274). How's that for being tentative?! He doesn't mention it, but his favoured option is similar to ideas suggested by John Stott (Understanding the Bible) and CS Lewis (The Problem of Pain).
He claims that he never uses science as a `tool for interpreting the passage' but he will allow his science to `shed light on a biblical passage' (p151). He does this remarkably well in my view. One of the worst things to happen in a bible study is when somebody simply gives a `standard answer' without allowing personal experience to engage with the text. I'd love to share a bible study with DA because he is so Berean about understanding what the bible actually says in the light of his experience. But I have to say that when he later changes what I would see as being a fairly traditional interpretation of Romans 8:22-23 (p269) it does feel more like he's using science as a `tool for interpreting'. Those verses have always been taught to me as being about Adam's (and our) sin causing physical death and destruction.
For me, this is the toughest pill to swallow: DA's Homo Divinus decouples the origin of physical death from sin. Yet Matthew Henry says that these verses in Romans 8 have `some difficulty...which puzzles interpreters a little; and the more because it is a remark not made in any other scripture, with which it might be compared.' Personally, I wouldn't want to divide a church over this, or force my children to make a choice over incompatible interpretations as seems to be the intention of some preachers. And DA is certainly right that when you read the simple text of Ge 1:29-30 at face value there was physical death before the Fall. I applaud him for the way he tackles these issues.
There are other excellent chapters on Theodicy, Intelligent Design and the Origins of Life. Here are some quotes for those who worry about randomness of evolution or its inherent atheism: `evolution is far from being a chance process. It is tightly organised and highly constrained' (p322). `This implies that the protein tape of life may be largely reproducible and even predictable' (p324). `In none of this account have we been talking about `blind, natural forces' doing things, because for the Christian such language is inappropriate. We are living in God's world. These are God's chemicals and God's molecules that we are talking about.' (p349).
And one that shows he believes in God's intentional and intelligent design: `The more we look at Darwinian evolution taken as a whole, the more it seems to display precisely the signs of intelligence that ID proponents believe are located in those hidden non-Darwinian gaps.' (p 311).
In a very brief postscript he bemoans the divisive nature of much Creationist and ID activity, the barriers it raises in outreach and the waste of money in `publishing glossy magazines attacking evolution'.
This is an excellent work - comprehensive enough for both well-read laypeople and church ministers. If you are seriously contemplating the truth-claims of Creationists then please do your church a favour by reading this book carefully.