Biologos has a review of William Dembski’s new book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World by Stephen Ashley Blake, with an introduction by Darrel Falk.
From Falk’s introduction:
My theological background is Wesleyan. Theological scholars in the Wesleyan tradition are rarely troubled by death before the Fall. It’s a non-issue for most Wesleyans, but it is an issue for many evangelicals. In fact, this one concept may be the most significant barrier blocking many evangelicals from accepting an old earth and coming to grips with the reality of evolution. Dembski, in this book, leaves the realm of math and biology. This time he dons his theological hat and lays out a view that ought to generate much conversation among those troubled by death before the Fall.
Why would death before the Fall be a non-issue with Wesleyans? It would be, or should be, an issue (at the very least among theological scholars) with all Christians, those that follow the tradition of John Wesley included. Not to mention that Wesleyans are, themselves, evangelical. Falk’s interest seems to be in Dembski’s old-earth position. And I think his real interest in Dembski’s old-earth position is that it, to his mind, it may break a barrier of young-earth folks never accepting an old-earth, because if they accept an old earth, they will finally be ‘coming to grips with the reality of evolution’ as a result. The end game is getting Christians to accept evolution, and old-earth is required, for most people, for that to happen. Dembski is not advancing evolution in this book, regardless of its old-earth stance. “Old-earth” doesn’t mean “evolution” by default. The two are not synonymous. There are four positions that can be held using these distinctions: old-earth creationist, young earth creationist, old earth evolutionist, young earth evolutionist.
Stephen Blake has praise for Dembski’s book:
In The Consequences of Ideas, RC Sproul writes: “We need to reconstruct the classical synthesis by which natural theology bridges the special revelation of Scripture and the general revelation of nature. Such a reconstruction could end the war between science and theology.” Though a dizzying number of syntheses have been proffered in recent years, William Dembski’s The End of Christianity is a watershed in Christian theology, a robust, landmark contribution that bridges the faith-science divide with a refreshingly high regard for biblical integrity that, as an evangelical, I find all-too-rare. In this treatise on how the records of Scripture and nature harmonize, Dembski engages in a rigorous, deeply probative, exceptionally well-reasoned discourse of the kind we’re used to encountering in the church fathers, and of the sort one might wish were more prevalent today.
But what I do take a bit of issue with is the following:
As for who “Adam” actually was, Dembski stresses that “the theodicy developed in this book is certainly compatible with a literal Adam and Eve. But it does not require a literal Adam and Eve,” after which he proceeds to explain the first humans in a macro-evolutionary context.
What Dembski actually does is give the requirements for both scenarios (creation and evolution) in the retroactive effects of the Fall, for the sake of argument. What he does not do is embrace one or the other; he defers to his other works in order to answer this question (see chapter 21, end note 2). And anyone familiar with those works would know that they do not support macro-evolution. But I would say that, on the whole, it is an accurate review, and Mr. Blake has much praise:
Solidly grounded in traditional theology and the obvious product of deep biblical reflection, The End of Christianity is, in my view, a must-read for theologians, pastors, elders, scientists who speak on faith-science issues, and laypersons alike. No other theodicy I have studied more uncompromisingly or with greater integrity reconciles Scripture with scientific discovery. In fact, it resonates with such fundamental simplicity and theological elegance that its emergence seems to ring with an air of inevitability. Indeed, the reasoning found here is not merely Christian but patristic in quality, scope, and intent. Still, on balance, in considering The End of Christianity one has the sense that its ideas are but a runway, a launch point for far more extensive explorations and discussion yet to be undertaken (and sure to follow). But it is a fantastic starting point.