Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!
Paperback: Zondervan, 2016
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Reviewed by Emily McGowin
Denis Lamoureux is Associate Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He holds a Ph.D. in theology, a Ph.D. in biology, and a D.D.S., Doctor of Dental Surgery. Lamoureux is the author of Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution; I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution; and Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins. At one time, Lamoureux was a passionate promoter of young earth creationism (YEC), eager to expose evolution as an elaborate deception. But, in the process of obtaining his Ph.D. in theology, Lamoureux found his assumptions about the Bible—especially what it does and doesn’t teach—challenged and ultimately up-ended. He embarked on a journey to figure out what the Bible really says about science. Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! is a distillation of Lamoureux’s conclusions and his attempt to help others along the same journey.
Lamoureux’s most important contribution in Evolution is his dismantling of false dichotomies that dominate most discussions of evolution and creation, both in the laboratory and the church. In the church, the thinking of many Christians goes like this: Either one accepts evolution, and with it modern science, atheism, and immorality, or one accepts creation, and with it Christian faith, theism, and Christian morality (26). This false dichotomy, Lamoureux says, is rooted in the false assumption of scientific concordism or “the belief that there is an alignment between the Bible and the facts of [modern] science” (27). Lamoureux shows that the Bible contains evidence within itself of a very ancient understanding of the physical world. Thus, to assume the Bible’s statements about the physical world will align with modern science is an absurdity. The Bible and science do not concord, and they are not supposed to. Also, in contrast to Christians who claim evolution is inherently atheistic, Lamoureux suggests there are two kinds of evolutionary theory: teleological and dysteleological. The former is evolution headed toward a God-directed end (a telos) and the latter is atheistic, random evolution without an end. Because a posited telos remains outside the bounds of science (in the realm of metaphysics rather than physics), Lamoureux says Christians are perfectly reasonable to posit an intelligently designed end for evolutionary creation.
Two chapters will be particularly important for readers who hold to the YEC perspective: chapter 2, “Opening God’s Two Books” and chapter 5, “Ancient Science and the Book of God’s Words.” In the former, chapter 2, Lamoureux tells the story of his own transition from YEC to evolution. In so doing, he presents evidence that YEC proponents consistently claim isn’t in the fossil record: transitional fossils (or transitional forms) demonstrating scientifically the transitions of fish-to-amphibian, reptile-to-mammal, and land-mammal-to-whale. He also reviews the strong analogy between embryology and evolution. The chapter is by no means exhaustive, but Lamoureux offers a good introduction the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution, which many holding to YEC have been told doesn’t exist. This, in and of itself, is an important step.
In the latter, chapter 5, Lamoureux deals with the ancient geography, astronomy, and biology demonstrated in scripture, from the three-tier universe to ancient animal taxonomy to primitive understandings of reproduction. He uses all of this to demonstrate two truths. First, the Bible displays an ancient phenomenological perspective whereby, for instance, the authors saw the sun rising and setting and, without the aid of scientific instruments, assumed the sun literally rose and set in the sky. Second, the Bible’s ancient phenomenological perspective on the natural world is not a threat to the trustworthiness of scripture. Lamoureux claims the Bible contains inerrant spiritual truths, which were incidentally communicated through the ancient scientific perspective of the authors. The ancient science of the biblical authors is incidental to the theological truth communicated through their words, therefore the Bible remains trustworthy and, in Lamoureux’s terms, inerrant.
Given Lamoureux’s concerns to show the reasonability of evolutionary creation to a skeptical audience, I think he should have addressed, even in a limited way, the question of an historical Adam. Perhaps this subject was simply too much to cover in one volume. But I know from experience this is a major sticking point in the minds of many evangelicals. Jesus and Paul speak as though Adam was an historical person. Were they wrong? I would have liked to see some of Lamoureux’s take on the subject.
I also find some of the terminology in Evolution problematic. Throughout the book, he uses the terms design and designer in reference to God creating and sustaining of cosmos. These are fine as far as they go. (They are the culturally standard ways to refer to a divinely orchestrated creation.) But design and designer imply a finished, static product, which science demonstrates (via evolutionary theory, among other things) is not the case with the cosmos. I think it’s preferable either to posit a new, more dynamic metaphor for God’s creative work or to give design a thicker, more nuanced explanation. There’s a similar difficulty with the phrase book of God’s world, which Lamoureux sees as the natural pair to the book of God’s word. God’s word, the Bible, is much more like a library than a single book and the universe seems far too complex to call a book at all. I understand why Lamoureux uses these terms and phrases. But, for those seeking a more theologically robust account of evolution, they are inadequate.
As I said above, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! is a distillation of Lamoureux’s personal journey and conclusions, so it will not satisfy those looking for a comprehensive scientific account of evolutionary creationism. For that, readers should consult his 493-page volume, Evolutionary Creation. But no book can do it all. As it is, Lamoureux has produced a very accessible apologetic for evolutionary creation, particularly appropriate for evangelicals who hold to inerrancy and Young Earth Creationism. I recommend it for pastors and laypersons alike.