A debut book attempts to find common ground between modern science and the Bible.
Few popular debates have been more acrimonious than those that reside in the intersection of science and religion, transforming abstract physics and biblical scholarship into rhetorically charged battlegrounds. Treleaven believes that a wealth of attempts at theoretical conciliation has accomplished little: "Unfortunately, the seeming divide between science and Christianity is becoming broader and deeper, with parties on each side of the debate becoming increasingly entrenched in their positions." The dispute reaches a fevered pitch when it touches on the origins of the universe and man, and so Darwinism and the Big Bang theory have become the two lodestars of contention. But Treleaven forwards a proposal of his own, intelligent design, which is meant to stake out common ground. First, he believes that God created the universe and remains actively involved in it but has ceased playing a hand in its cosmic design since the Big Bang. In addition, the author accepts a version of Darwinism that actually reinforces key Christian ideas like the doctrine of original sin and the existence of Adam and Eve as historical figures. The implications for biblical scholarship are significant: Treleaven avers that the interpretation of the Bible has been misguided by the assumption that it's like a science textbook, constructed to directly address the physical composition of the universe. Ultimately, he believes such a détente between religion and science will counter the attraction of atheism and secularism to many young Christians exiting the faith. Treleaven also deftly argues that a robust acceptance of science will improve the Christian community's public credibility and allow it to devote more energy to other pressing debates, especially those that involve biomedical ethics. The author, an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church, lays out a diligently thorough examination of the issue; it is bold, clear, and philosophically unrelenting. The prose is studiously accessible, but the study considers so many theoretical permutations, it still may prove difficult for the layperson. This remains an admirably evenhanded bookdesigned to appeal to Christians of all theoretical stripes and non-Christians alike.
A provocative but plausible means to braid the claims of faith and reason.
Top Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 starsThe Big Bang and biological evolution as key elements of Christian apologetics
By Paul R. Bruggink on August 10, 2016
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is basically a book on Christian apologetics with a twist: using the Big Bang and biological evolution as a key part of the apologetic message. Carl W. Treleaven lays out a way by which evangelical Christians could become among the strongest defenders of the Big Bang theory and biological evolution by giving Christians a reason to want to embrace them.
The entire book is structured around five important reasons for Christians to accept and embrace the Big Bang theory and biological evolution as true, including: (1) offering a real-life way to describe the original sin of Adam and Eve and why all humans share in that sinfulness from birth, (2) providing a realistic way to show that Adam and Eve were historical figures, (3) offering a way to reinforce the efforts of Christians to share the Christian message with nonbelievers, (4) demonstrating that there is an alternative to the atheist view of the origin of the universe, and (5) providing a set of coherent arguments for use in Christian apologetics.
Carl Treleaven argues against the false dichotomy that if you believe in Darwin and the Big Bang, you can't or won't believe in God and the Bible; and if you believe in God and the Bible, you can't or won't believe in Darwin and the Big Bang.
He points out several times that the Bible doesn't say anything about what God did from the time of the Big Bang to the time of the garden of Eden. Then, as prehumans emerged in the period prior to the garden of Eden, a certain critical threshold was eventually reached—the capacity for conscious thought and willful decision making. That set the stage for the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve's ancestors gradually developed the two characteristics that transformed ordinary behavior for nonhuman primates into sinful behavior in humans: consciousness of the difference between right and wrong and the ability to make choices.
Regarding the origin of "original sin," Treleaven builds on the thinking of Frederick Tennant and Daryl Domning as follows: "(1) Darwin's theory describes how organisms adapt to a changing environment through the process of natural selection. (2) What we label as sins are actually evolutionary adaptations that help us better adapt to the environment but at the same time cause us to do bad things. (3) Humans have the capacity for sin that lower-level animals and other organisms possess, but additionally, they have the ability to make choices, so their decision making is voluntary. (4) No species other than Homo sapiens has consciousness of self, so they lack the capacity for conscious sin or sin by choice." (p. 106)
He then addresses three points: (1) why a historical Adam and Eve is so important to the Christian message, particularly to more-conservative Christians, (2) the problem posed by the latest scientific discoveries about the historical reality of Adam and Eve, and (3) why the theory laid out here creates both the real possibility of a historical Adam and Eve while being consistent with the latest scientific thinking.
The author concludes that the Christian church is suffering from failure to come to terms with the implications of the Big Bang and biological evolution. For someone who is not a theologian, biblical scholar, or scientist, the author has a remarkable grasp of the issues, except for his too-frequent references to "believe in Darwin," as opposed to "accept biological evolution."
The book includes three appendices, 26 pages of endnotes and a skimpy 4-page index.
He has written this book primarily for Christians who are skeptical of, or downright hostile to, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and the Big Bang theory. I recommend it for this audience and for anyone else struggling with reconciling science and the Bible.