14 January 2014

Book Review: The Adam Quest

"The real problem is that the church doesn't have a place for evangelical scholars to devote their lives to a very complicated subject, think about it, test it with other scholars, and eventually come to some kind of consensus."-Ard Louis, pages 150-151 of The Adam Quest.

The Adam Quest (2013) by Tim Stafford is a unique book. Born out of his own experiences with his son getting "burned by the fight over Genesis" (p.2), Stafford set out to interview scientists who "held on to a strong Christian faith while wrestling with the mystery of human origins" (from the cover). In approaching the topic, Stafford intentionally sought well trained scientists who held strong opinions, but were not quick to condemn others (p. 7). In doing so, he presented compelling biological sketches of eleven scientists representing a variety of viewpoints. 

This book has many strengths to its credit. Stafford as a senior writer for Christianity Today is a gifted communicator. He was able to craft excellent stories. In fact, I found it very difficult to set this book down. I had to lead a group last night, but I would have been thankful to stay home and keep devouring this volume. 

Stafford is also intentionally careful not to show his hand too early. For the most part, he seemed to fairly present the positions held by young earth creationists, intelligent design advocates, and evolutionary creationists. For anyone who reads about how to interpret Genesis 1 to 11, this is an amazingly difficult task as opinions are routinely strong. There were certainly some strong opinions from the scientists here as well, but humility was a common thread in this book, which I appreciated because it is so often missing from our dialog.

Another thing that I appreciated was that Stafford not only represented a variety of viewpoints on creationism, but that the people he included represented a variety of denominational backgrounds--Anglican, Catholic, Nazarene, and Baptist to name a few.  I wonder how often we make assumptions about which denominations will appropriately support scientists.  Stafford interviewed a variety. 

I did have concerns about this book as well.  Stafford anticipates this argument, but for some who read it, they will be concerned that their positions are underrepresented or unfairly characterized. I would have appreciated it if he would have recruited an equal number of scientists from each of the main traditions, but evolutionary creationism is the most strongly represented among the scientists interviewed. 

I also think it would have been beneficial for Stafford to explore the underlying worldview assumptions of the authors in greater depth. For example, many of the proponents of evolution see no problem with a "levels-of-explanation" point of view.  Essentially, there are multiple ways of getting at truth and they need not integrate to any significant degree. I would like to explore this further, but unfortunately it is beyond the scope of this review. We all approach issues with basic assumptions about the way the world works and failure to account for those assumptions is detrimental, I believe. 

There is much wisdom from the scientists presented. Though I essentially agree with Stafford's delineation of each positions strengths and weaknesses, I disagree with Stafford's final conclusions, yet I cannot fault his approach. This is a well written book written with humility.  I suspect that Tim Stafford, all of the scientists presented, and I would agree on this: we hold to those things of first importance, that Jesus was crucified for our transgressions and that he rose again on the third day and that those who believed will be saved.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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