Origins – A Resource (RJS)

Origins – A Resource (RJS) December 11, 2008

As those who read this blog regularly will know, I (RJS) am a scientist and a professor – at a secular University, not a Christian college.  This perspective and expertise plays a major role in my view of scripture and creation.  The question often comes up, however, of how to introduce a discussion of science, faith, and creation into a local church or a small group.  This is a hard question, because emotions run high on all sides and most pastors and church leader feel ill-equipped to deal with the topic.  Experts who have carefully considered the issues are seldom available (and some experts are not as tactful as one might wish).

Perhaps we need to take a deep breath; find a calm, sheltered place; and reflect…

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In many cases the best initial approach is not to advocate a specific view, but to introduce into conversation the wide range of views taken by sincere Christians. Information download and dueling experts are counterproductive as many, perhaps most, people have a hard time knowing who to trust or how to evaluate the experts. A recent book by Deborah B. and Loren D. Haarsma, Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution, is a nice resource to facilitate a discussion of the issues providing time and space for calm reflection and critical thinking.

Deborah and Loren Haarsma are both physics professors at Calvin College in Grand Rapids MI. Deborah did her graduate work at MIT while Loren did his graduate work at Harvard – both reputable schools (almost on par with UC Berkeley – where I did my graduate work). Together they have written a book designed for use in small groups or Sunday classes exploring the science and theology of origins – creation, evolution, and intelligent design.

The pros of this book are an even-handed presentation of the range of views, thoughtful observation, and excellent discussion questions. The book also points the reader to online resources and contains a useful list of additional resources at the end of each chapter.

The con is the “reformed” bias. This book was written for and published by Faith Alive – the publishing ministry of the Christian Reformed Church. For most of us the emphasis on the Belgic Confession and the various statements of the CRC are a distraction. But this drawback is minor, confined primarily to the introduction and a few appendices. The book should prove a useful resource for a much broader audience.

Has anyone used this book for a group discussion?  Are there suggestions of other good resources available?

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