Darrel R. Falk. Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
I would like to thank InterVarsity Press for sending me a review copy of this book. Click here to see InterVarsity’s page about it.
Darrel Falk is a professor of biology, and he is also an evangelical
Christian. This book contains his reflections about his own attempts to
bridge those two worlds, and it promotes tolerance within the church
towards different views on origins.
I would like to make three points about this book.
First of all, the book has a lot about science. The book is
especially helpful in that it clearly explains how we can know that the
earth is old and that evolution has occurred, and it presents lucid
answers to young earth creationist objections. On dating methods,
fossils, and the second law of thermodynamics, Falk’s presentation is
excellent. I found chapters 5-6 to be rather difficult, however. His
overall point in chapter 5 was that animals around the world have a
common descent yet have features that fit their environments, and Falk
argues that evolution is more consistent with the evidence on this than
the view that God performed a special creation of all species, or that
the species evolved from a set number of “kinds” that God created.
Chapter 6 was about genetics. Falk was making important points in these
chapters, but I was getting lost in the details of some of Falk’s
discussions, and I think that he should have organized them better,
especially for us non-scientists.
Second, the book is about Falk’s personal spiritual journey. Falk
says that, earlier in his Christian walk, he was afraid to learn about
biology because he feared that doing so would undermine his faith. This
may puzzle some people, who might ask: if he was so sure that
Christianity is true, why would he have feared learning new things?
But, on some level, I can actually understand where his younger self was
coming from: Falk wanted to grow as a Christian, and he did not desire
any discordance or confusion in his worldview. Fortunately for himself
and others, he chose to wrestle with hard questions, and to write his
thoughts in this book. Another story Falk told that I appreciated was
about how he decided to start going back to church so that his children
could have the same positive church experiences that he had growing up.
He was initially reluctant to attend church because he did not know if
people at a conservative church would accept him, a scientist with views
that challenge young-earth creationism.
Third, the book contains Falk’s reflections about theology and the
Bible. On the one hand, Falk tends to treat Genesis 1 as figurative,
one reason being that he believes that the science contradicts a literal
interpretation. Atheism does not appear to be on the table for Falk
because he genuinely believes that he has had a spiritual experience,
and so he maintains that the Bible is true in some way, even if it is
not always literal. Falk appeals to the existence of figurative
language in the Bible and also the views of Augustine, John Wesley, and
John Calvin. On the other hand, Falk seems to maintain that Genesis 1,
on some level, communicates what actually happened. He notes, for
example, that God in Genesis 1 “lets” things happen, which is quite
different from God taking an active, micromanaging role in creation, and
is consistent with letting nature take its course in the development of
plants and animals, with God’s involvement (somehow). I did not think
that Falk’s theological reflections were always consistent, yet I
respected what he had to say as a pilgrim trying to make sense of
science and religion. I also appreciated some of the passages that Falk
quoted near the end of his book: C.S. Lewis’ statement that the
layperson with a literal view of God and a process theologian
essentially worship the same God, and conservative Christian James Orr’s
statement that, even if Genesis 1-3 are not literally true, the fact is
that there is sin in our world, and we need to be healed.
Falk’s book was an enjoyable, albeit a sometimes daunting, read.
Reason and authority
26 minutes ago