Book Reviews

THE BIBLE, NATURAL SCIENCE, AND E VOLUTION, by Russell W. Mattman; Baker Book House, 1970; 165 pp., $3.50 (paper). 

This book is written by the professor of Chemistry and the Chairman of the department of Natural Sciences at Dordt College. It is a discussion of that vexing problem of the relation between science and Christian faith. 

The author takes his standpoint on the truth of the infallibility of Scripture and the absolute authority of Scripture also in matters of science. From this standpoint it would seem that the author would defend fervently and unambiguously the doctrine of special creation and would condemn without equivocation the heresy of evolution. But this he does not do; and in this, the book is a disappointment. 

We cannot discuss all the many points which the author discusses in this book. But some matters are of particular importance. The author’s rather elaborate treatment of the differences between believing and unbelieving science is often good and is well worth the price of the book. But even in this respect, in some key matters, the author’s discussion is less than satisfactory. For example, in his treatment of natural law, he discusses the whole concept of miracles, and interprets them in terms of God’s power. Scripture does not do this, but rather explains miracles as signs of the wonder of grace which God performs in Jesus Christ. This approach would have had profound effect upon the author’s treatment of creation. Also in this connection the author makes the questionable assertion that there is, above all natural law, one law which is not discernible or understandable to us, but is known to God alone. Nor is the effect of sin given proper treatment when the whole matter of scientific activity is discussed. 

But it is especially his treatment of creation that is of interest to us. The author insists that he does not want to let scientific studies be determinative in Scriptural exegesis. And so he approaches the whole question of the period theory from the viewpoint of the interpretation of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. He attempts to show that a careful exegesis of these chapters in the light of the rest of Scripture will lead anyone to adopt the conclusion that the “days” mentioned there are not days of twenty-four hours, but long periods of time. But this is unsatisfactory. Even the author cannot quite swallow this and pointedly insists that scientific inquiry leads one to the conclusion that, an old earth must be accepted. He is not convincing when he tries to show that a sober exegesis of the first two chapters of Genesis, even apart from any influence of science, will inevitably lead to the adoption of some kind of period theory. All the arguments which have been raised against the period theory are treated, however; and the author attempts to deal with these arguments. It has been asserted time and time again that the whole question of the interpretation of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2does not simply involve a question of how old the creation is; it also involves the question of how the creation took place. The period theory is not simply an inquiry into the subject of the age of the earth; it is an inquiry into the matter of evolution vs. creation. Whether some sort of theistic evolutionism is accepted or whether Darwinian evolutionism or some form of it is used as an interpretation of the existence of things, the fact is that the question of how things came into being cannot, according to Scripture, be answered in terms of development from one “kind” into another. Yet this is the position the author accepts. He does not want even a theistic evolution; yet he seeks to explain the existence of things in terms of some kind of development. His discussion at this point is not as clear as one would like to have it. But it seems as if the author wants some sort of evolutionary process to explain the how of creation; but an evolutionary process which incorporates the idea of miracles. The transition from non-living creatures to living creatures is explained in this way, as well as the appearance in the creation of the various “kinds” of which Genesis 1speaks. Yet God brought these kinds into existence by means of miracles. He writes on page 145, e.g.: