Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Creation or Evolution: Do we Have to Choose? Book Review

Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose?
New Edition: Revised and Expanded. £14.99. (2014).
ISBN: 9780857215789.
Author: Denis Alexander

Reviewed by J. Charles Lee Powell

   During three addresses at the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students’ Conference in 1971, the well known evangelical Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones soberly warned hearers of a number of subtle yet serious shifts in commitment to the biblical gospel which were causing him (and other evangelicals) deep concern. The volume under scrutiny in this review, Creation or Evolution, is simply a number of these terribly dangerous shifts repackaged in a slick presentation – written in a very readable style – yet now representing, even more so than it did back in 1971, a “radical” departure “from the true position of the evangelical” (Lloyd-Jones, 1992)[1].
   The purpose of this review is not to exhaustively critique Dr Alexander’s work in earnestly contending for the historic evangelical faith. Much superb and detailed rebuttal of the first edition has already been provided by a compilation of authors edited by Professor Norman Nevin and also by David Anderson in his valuable little book ‘Creation or Evolution: why we must choose’ (together with a review posted online) (Nevin, (2009) and Anderson, (2009)). Rather, this briefer assessment will focus on just a few select claims which are fairly representative of the quality and/or veracity of the expanded edition as a whole. This is not intended as some trite ‘points scoring’ exercise, but simply as a reflective warning to readers that ‘nothing significant has changed’ in this second edition; it remains utterly unacceptable to the true evangelical believer in God’s Holy Word[2].
   One of the first disturbing claims occurs rather abruptly in chapter 2, on page 48, where we are confidently informed that Scripture is silent about the ‘miraculous aspect’ of God’s creative activity. This same claim crops up again in chapter 8 - on page 221-222 where it is argued that attributing miracles to Genesis 1 is going beyond what the text actually says. Yet is it not written in Scripture (Psalm 33): “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made […] let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him […] For he spake, and it was…; he commanded, and it stood fast”? Who else but God can create mass-energy instantaneously merely by speaking? Therefore to assert that the Scriptures are silent on the fact of miraculous creation is an extraordinary oversight. As the American evangelical R.B. Kuiper once ironically commented to hammer home this point: “The creation of heaven and earth was a miracle. It is flatly denied. The theory of evolution is substituted… So the Bible begins with a lie. But that is a bad beginning. A book that starts with a lie is quite sure to contain lots of them” (Kuiper, 1919 and 2010).
   A second claim occurs in Chapter 4, pages 90-91, where we are told that genetic code ‘redundancy’ (in the triplet codon to amino acid mapping) means that in many instances it makes no difference to a protein if a mutation substitutes certain nucleotides for others (i.e. the code is ‘degenerate’ as we’ve all been taught). However, a paper published soon after Dr Alexander’s expanded edition was released may compel him to think again. Writing in the journal ‘Frontiers in Genetics’ under the title ‘Redundancy of the genetic code enables translational pausing’, authors D'Onofrio and Abel (2014) have found that mutations in codons can alter another rule-based code which governs the rate at which amino acids are folded into proteins within ribosomes (something like how ink-jet printers specify intentional pauses in their paper throughput to allow the wet ink time to dry). This discovery of logic-based pausing code must surely have important implications for the theory of ‘neutral evolution’ and ‘genetic drift’ (covered in this volume on pp. 96-97). Yet my point is that code ‘degeneracy’ and not another layer of ‘ontological prescriptive information’ is what evolutionists would expect to find if genomes are just cobbled together from co-opted strings of acids. In reality and to the contrary, complex, multi-dimensional, multi-layered coding is characteristic of both genotypes and ribotypes. To his credit, Dr Alexander notes that in genomics “…there will almost certainly be many more surprises to come”, however one begins to wonder why they should be considered counter-intuitive ‘surprises’ if an omniscient Intelligence is behind them.
   A conclusion (and witticism) soon arrives in chapter 5 (p.123): “Adam was commanded by God in Genesis 2:19-20 to name all the animals, but we have a long way to go in finally fulfilling that command!” A quick glance at the referenced Scripture passage indicates that the former assertion is simply false. The only animals mentioned are all cattle (behema), flying things (‘ôp) and every beast (hayyat ha’sadeh). Significantly, this excludes all the many swimming swarmers (šereṣ) and creeping things (remes – e.g. flightless insects) from Adam’s task. Therefore this conclusion is quite incorrect, despite the statement seemingly meaning to invoke wonder at the breadth of biodiversity; we have no reason to doubt that Adam had ample time to name those creatures that God brought to him on the sixth day.
   Chapter 7 favourably outlines a ‘Form and Fullness’ or ‘Creation Kingdoms and Creature Kings’ structure for Genesis 1:1-2:3, which was conclusively proven false by Professor E.J. Young back in 1964 and again by Professor Todd Beall in 2008 (Young, 1964; Mortenson and Ury, 2008). ‘Figurative interpretation’ is subsequently given the ‘proverbial nod’ through church fathers of the allegorical ‘Alexandrian School’ (Philo, Origen and Augustine) who were influenced by Greek Hellenistic thought and were actually some of the only fathers to take exception to a literal-day interpretation (c.f. Rose, 2000; Sarfati, 2004). All this leads on to a discussion of how Ancient Near Eastern creation epics contrast with Genesis, ending with the curious observation: “…the gods continue to act like a murderous bunch of thugs in these accounts, sending vicious plagues onto mankind for trivial offences like making too much noise...” What? Has Dr Alexander forgotten that judging by his own distorted theodicy, his “deity” created human beings through multiple mass-extinctions, plagues and a blood-bath of the most heinous animal cruelty spanning over 500 million years? And are we really meant to accept the claim that this “wondrous” process was a “robust expression of God’s omnipotence” since “We are all part of that long food chain without which the biosphere cannot function”? Such wholly diminished conceptions of a holy, sublime Creator, who creates oblivious to all the primal horror screams of lifeblood spilling around him as he joyfully frolics with such said omnipotence, are frankly disgusting. If this is to pass for modern evangelicalism then we really have lost the gospel! The Lord Jesus metaphorically called himself ‘The good shepherd’. Yet in Alexander’s Machiavellian worldview this same Jesus (before his incarnation) was indiscriminately slaughtering countless generations of real sheep before they were justly cursed on account of the serpent’s usurping role in Adam’s sin (i.e. in Genesis 3:14); thus a glorious biblical metaphor is rendered squalid and inappropriate through his misinterpretation of Scripture! The (impossible) challenge for Dr Alexander is to square God’s revealed nature (i.e. gracious, loving and compassionate, even toward animals – cf. Exodus 23:12, Proverbs 12:10, Isaiah 11:8-9 and 65:25) with his unbiblical, non-lapsarian theodicy of physical death, suffering and natural evil.
   So let’s examine his theodicy in more detail. One notable conclusion which Dr Alexander reaches is that physical death is not a consequence of human sin. He reasons that the New Testament does not appear to link Christ’s sacrificial death to the physical death resulting from Adam’s sin – and we need not do so either. Yet on page 337 Dr Alexander writes that: “The use of animals for […] sacrifice is closely linked as the Genesis text progresses. It was God who provided Adam and Eve with garments made from animal skin after the fall.” Are these two sentences meant to be logically connected in Dr Alexander’s Theology? It is clear from the context of the passage alluded to here, coming just after the spiritual death of Adam and Eve (and God’s subsequent ‘proto-evangelium’ of Genesis 3:15), that God physically killed animals in order to make such skin tunics as allegorical atonement coverings for them (c.f. the ‘garments of salvation/robe of righteousness’ allegory in Isaiah 61:10). Now, behind these symbolic coverings, as Dr Alexander appears to acknowledge elsewhere, “the death of the animal powerfully symbolises the forgiveness of sin and salvation from the consequent penalty of death that the sinner really deserved” (p. 352). Yet he discounts his own ‘sacrifice/animal-skin garment’ logic just shortly before this when he writes: “The very first sacrifice that we find in the Old Testament comes in Genesis 8 when Noah sacrifices burnt offerings…” (p.351). Is this really consistent? Not as such, for we may safely make a logical inference (as with the vast majority of evangelical commentators) that because atonement for sin is always associated with the physical death of an animal through the shedding of its life-blood, Genesis 3:21 is actually the first sacrifice. As Theodore Epp wrote in 1972: “[God’s] love and mercy were manifested in that He arranged that this death penalty could be taken by Another and that man could be delivered from condemnation. This is seen in type in Genesis 3 when it is recorded that God made “coats of skins” (v. 21), which involved the shedding of innocent blood. This type was fulfilled in Jesus Christ when He came to earth to shed His innocent blood on the cross for the sins of the world.” Why then does Dr Alexander decide to discount his own logic?
    Quite simply, should Dr Alexander admit that Genesis 3:21 really was a sacrifice, the resulting typological connection would deeply compromise his other claim! For Hebrews 9:12 links the insufficient animal life-blood (inferentially shed from Genesis 3:21 onwards) with the sufficient sacrificial life-blood of Christ (shed on the Cross of Calvary). And Hebrews 10:3-10 teaches the necessity of this physical link - because the shadow had to be offered repeatedly throughout Old Testament history and could not take away sin, whereas the reality (i.e. the life-blood of Jesus) cleanses us from all sin once and forever. Hence the New Testament does by typology and logical inference link these two deaths together - and the reality (fulfilled in Christ’s physical death) is the reason we will see Adam and Eve physically resurrected as part of the new earth community! Furthermore, besides this typological argument, should the Apostle Paul have wanted to distinguish between Adam’s spiritual and physical death in his New Testament letters, he could easily and perspicuously have just added the qualifying Greek word ‘pneumatikon’ (spiritual) before his word for ‘death’, yet he never so much as hints that this artificial demarcation is appropriate for the first man… (Greek: anthropos) …Adam.
   Although there might be many more claims to critique, the last for our purposes occurs on page 381. There we read: “…page after page of the Old Testament remind us of God’s delight in all the creatures of his creation. For nearly all of our planet’s history, only God was around to enjoy their presence on the earth.” Presumably these temporary ‘sandcastles’ were an even greater joy for Alexander’s “deity” to divinely demolish - because as he explains elsewhere: “More than 99% of all the species that have ever lived on this planet are now extinct.” Indeed! So what are we to make of this ‘deep time doctrine’ in light of Holy Scripture and the historic evangelical faith? To begin with, Proverbs 8:24-31 makes it clear that when God created the earth, it was then his delights were with the sons of men – not some 4,566 million years later! Secondly, it wilfully overlooks the Lord Jesus’ own teaching on the age of the earth around A.D. 30 (Mark 10:6, Mark 13:19-20 and Luke 11:50-51); the majority of the church fathers (who also taught a youthful cosmos); Peter Lombard (d. AD 1164), Hugo of St. Victor (AD 1097-1141), Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274) and Giacomo da Bergamo (AD 1434-1520) during the Middle Ages; together with Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, several major ‘Confessions of Faith’ and innumerable modern theologians and scientists around the world. The last word must surely go to Calvin, who noted that: “…if men wish to cling to their knowledge and judgement, it will be incredible to them that the world was created six thousand years ago. For what was God doing from all eternity? In fact, shallow and imaginative people will never understand what the Holy Spirit gives witness to because they will always have their own answers (Calvin, 2009).” Those who call themselves evangelicals, including this author, must pray earnestly that Dr Alexander would miraculously relinquish his own fallacious answers, in favour of those really found in God’s Holy Word, before that great and terrible Day of Judgment arrives.

Anderson, D. (2009). Creation or Evolution: choose wisely! [WWW] http://creation.com/review-creation-or-evolution-david-anderson (Accessed on 24/01/15).
Beall, T. (2008). ‘Contemporary Hermeneutical Approaches to Genesis 1-11’ In: Mortenson, T. and Ury, T. (eds.). (2008). Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth, USA: Master Books. p. 156-158.
Calvin, J. (2009). Sermons on Genesis, Volume 1: Chapters 1-11. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust.
D’Onofrio, D.J. and Abel, D.L. (2014). Redundancy of the genetic code enables translational pausing. Front. Genet., 20 May 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00140
Epp, T. (1972). The God of Creation. Back to the Bible, p.195-197.
Kuiper, R.B. (1919 and 2010). While the Bridegroom Tarries. The Banner of Truth Trust, p. 33.
Lloyd-Jones, M. (1992). What is an Evangelical? Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, p. 79
Nevin, N.C. (2009). Should Christians Embrace Evolution? Biblical and Scientific responses. Inter-Varsity Press, UK
Rose, S. (2000). Genesis, Creation and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Version. Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.
Sarfati, J. (2004). Refuting Compromise… USA. Master Books. p. 121
Young, E.J. (1964). Studies in Genesis One. USA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. pp. 68-73.

[1]. Note that Dr Lloyd-Jones rightly located the issue of “Creation not Evolution” and a ‘global’ not ‘local’ flood under truths ‘essential and foundational’ to the evangelical faith. Dr Alexander, on the other hand, states that he does not regard these issues as foundational, and he appears to consider his evolutionary position to be historically orthodox because some I.F.E.S. leaders in the latter decades of the 20th century advocated it!
[2] Although Dr Alexander is no doubt aware of the detailed critiques just cited, he has chosen to dismiss them as significantly "inaccurate" – yet his short, selective responses and studied ignorance of key Scriptural texts actually display a pseudo-intellectual opposition to God's Word. 

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