"Creation or Evolution - do we have to choose?" by Dr. Denis Alexander - A critical review

A review of: "Creation of evolution: Do we have to choose?" by Dr. Denis Alexander, Monarch Books, Oxford, 2008. Download PDF version. Download Microsoft Word version.

Book CoverGet the book on Kindle this review, tidied-up, proof-read and nicely presented is now available on Kindle, here. (The link is for Amazon UK; it is also available on other Amazon sites).

Book CoverGet the printed book - this review, tidied-up, proof-read and nicely printed is now available in print. Cover quote from the first edition: "UK creationists are considerably in debt to David Anderson for this book, his masterful refutation of Dr Denis Alexander's extraordinary theistic evolutionary beliefs." Get it here. (The link is for Amazon UK; it is also available on other Amazon sites).

Extra: Dr. Denis Alexander In The Evangelical Times, Reviewed

January's "Evangelical Times" (http://www.evangelicaltimes.org) carried a letter from Dr. Alexander whose book I have reviewed at length. He was replying to the review carried in the same newspaper by Professor Andy McIntosh, a prominent creationist and scientist at Leeds University. Professor McIntosh's review, a few months earlier (you could well be able to find it on the website) had pulled no punches. He stated, correctly in my opinion, that Dr. Alexander was "seriously in error", that his book was a demonstration of "how sophisticated we evangelicals have become in justifying our unbelief" and that the spreading of the philosophy promoted by Dr. Alexander really represents "the downgrade controversy of the 21st century".

Unsurprisingly, Dr. Alexander's letter didn't totally agree. In this post, I'm going to begin going through Dr. Alexander's letter, with the hope that it'll shed some more light on the issues for my readers. Here we go.

Do we have to choose?

Dear Sir,

Given the level of angst in Andy McIntosh's article in October's ET (`The Downgrade Controversy of the 21st Century') critiquing my book "Creation or Evolution - do we have to choose? (Monarch, 2008)", the reader might be forgiven for thinking that the theological gulf between us is rather wide.


But this is not the case.

We shall see...

McIntosh and I both believe in the full plenary inspiration of the whole of Scripture as the Word of God; in a literal Adam and Eve; a historical Fall leading to separation from God of all humankind; and our deliverance from both spiritual and physical death through the death and resurrection of Christ.

This letter, then, is aiming to downplay the differences between Dr. Alexander's attempt at a Christian Darwinism, and Professor McIntosh's (in my opinion, Biblical) creation theology. Along those lines, Dr. Alexander then lists a number of doctrines which he says the two of them both agree on.

In fact as I read this, the appropriateness of Professor McIntosh's invocation of the "downgrade" metaphor was impressed upon me. One of the striking features of the decline from evangelical orthodoxy in the late 19th century, and one that allowed it to escape from under the radar of many sincere evangelicals (or often those who should have known better but had no stomach for a fight) until the rot was well and truly endemic, was the use of orthodox terminology by downgraders. The liberals believed in the divinity of Christ and the divine inspiration of the Word of God... it's just that by "divinity" they didn't mean "deity" as Christians had historically done, and by "inspiration" they didn't mean "plenary inspiration", that word having now to be added for clarity's sake.

By referring to this, what I mean is that Dr. Alexander is being more than a little disingenuous. By this late stage in doctrinal debate in Christendom, we surely all ought to know that the mere heaping up of phrases to identify doctrines that we can all tick the box for, does not mean much. To make his Darwinian teaching acceptable to evangelicals he needs to minimise the difference between it and the historical faith, but I don't think he's being accurate in doing so. That is:

The agreement on these doctrines does not extend much further than the ambiguous labels DA has given to them. It's one thing to list labels that you could both accept as describing your doctrines - but those doctrines themselves in this case are very different things. It's in DA's strategic interest to paper over these differences and behave as if being able to keep the labels was enough, because it's DA who has departed far from the historic norms. He wants to carry those who still hold them with him into embracing Darwinism, and highlighting the other adjustments they'll need to make further down the road won't suit him. It's in AM's interests and mine to point the gaping chasm between him and them out. DA basically de-historicises the story of redemption with a sharp dualism. In the Bible, man is the climax of creation and its destiny is integrally tied up with his. In DA's reconstruction, the physical side of existence began, carried out after the fall and will to the end basically unaffected, until at last Jesus replaces it with something completely different, dying in a Gnostic-style redemption in order to release us from the prison of this painful world that the Father made into a better one that hadn't been tasted before or even anticipated until he came and told us about it. In the Scriptures, the Creation itself falls because of Adam's sin, bringing in pain, suffering and death, and Christ dies physically in part to redeem, recover and glorify this physical creation. It is not evangelical theology to paper over that yawning gap by applying the trite label "a historical fall" to them both. But we pass on.

Points Of Difference
Where we differ is that McIntosh believes in a worldwide flood, whereas I believe in a local flood (the Old Testament often refers to the 'whole earth' or to the 'whole world' as relating to the local extended area; e.g. 1 Kings 10:24; Jeremiah 51:41; Lamentations 2:15; Ezekiel 34:6; Habakkuk 1:6).

Interestingly, DA nowhere in his book actually addresses the Biblical case for a world-wide flood; there are simply a few scientific ones scattered statements here and there. There is no systematic consideration of the question anywhere. This is part and parcel of his general refusal to engage actual creationist arguments (there being precisely zero references or footnotes to any contemporary creationist author or publication in his book), because he wishes to maintain a superior aloofness. This sentence, in this letter, is the first time I recall coming across DA making a Biblical argument against a global flood (the ones in the book I recall were based on reconstructions of history, e.g. based on what it is supposed we can deduce from chalk deposits).

It is a shame that we only have one sentence of argument from DA on this subject, but this rather trite dismissal misses the following points:

DA, then, lists the "local / worldwide" difference as a minor point of disagreement, and his position as Scripturally justified. This is a point he never addresses in his book, though, and one as we've seen above of far more wide-ranging significance, if dealt with consistently, than he allows.

Mainstream Science

Quoth Dr. A:

We also differ in that I accept current mainstream science, not uncritically, but all truth is God's truth - whereas McIntosh rejects huge swathes of contemporary science, including that which establishes beyond any reasonable doubt the great age of the earth (about 4.6 billion years old) and our own common descent.

It is of course a truism that Professor McIntosh, as a creationist, is out of step with what is acceptable thinking in the mainstream scientific community as regards origins. Dr. Alexander, however, goes further than this and borrows an argument that previously I'd only seen in use by the "village atheist" crowd. That is, that the Darwinian theory and theories about the age of the earth somehow represent "huge swathes of contemporary science". This is pure rhetoric, and pure rhetorical hogwash at that. I type this on a laptop computer, with its intricate maze of transistors, liquid crystals, magnetic disks and so on, connected to a mobile phone which beams its packets to the nearest mobile mast... which beams it on, eventually via the satellites that connect Kenya to the rest of the world, along various fibre-optic pipes, and through all the chain of equipment until eventually it arrives in your room. I may not be a professional biologist, but trust me: Darwinism has nothing to do with any of this. And that's the story throughout. Even in biology, Darwinism as Darwinism has proved to be a theory of no practical use - the so-called now rejected "science" of eugenics being its main contribution to history. Descent with modification is a fact with practical implications; but Darwinian speculation about the supposed unlimited potential of that modification over periods of millions of years in the past has proved remarkably unfruitful for a theory that's alleged to be true. Neither does speculation about the age of the earth have any practical value in any of the scientific advances that we enjoy in day to day life. Medicines we take to cure illnesses, the vast reams of technology especially in communication, the blessings of modern transport, and so on... interesting stories about how the Earth supposedly cooled down over a period of billions of years have nothing to do with any of this.

That's why I've only previously heard this argument from Internet atheists before... as someone who did a Masters in a scientific discipline and spent large amounts of time with other scientists discussing our studies, I know that assertions that Darwinism or theories about the age of the cosmos are basically irrelevant to real, here-and-now operational science and rarely either come up for discussion or are assumed as implicit in any practical matter. Perhaps DA made the guess that most readers of the ET will simply take his word for it because they've never interacted in that world. I think he has over-reached himself, because if you want to stake out an influential position in the long run, you need to appeal to the knowledgeable and critical readers, and false rhetoric of this kind will turn them off.

Only Possible Explanation?

Concerning common descent, it's interesting that here in this letter DA says that it is a fact established by "huge swathes" of evidence, "beyond any reasonable doubt". In his book, he seemed to be relying ultimately upon a single argument that was ultimately theological. He argues that similar gene sequences in humans and other ape-like creatures are so similar, including claimed genetic mistakes and unused genetic material, that unless its origin was common descent, God would in effect be deceiving us. I think that argument is rather weak when DA asserts it as the only possible explanation. For one thing, it's a genuine evolution-of-the-gaps argument; genetic material that is presently thought to be the result of copying mistakes or unused may later be discovered to have some function that our present knowledge hadn't equipped us to identify. At that point, DA's argument would vanish. The argument as a whole, though, is weak because in his book DA never compares it to any other alternative (as part of his general strategy of not representing creationist arguments, I think because he wants to give the air of them being beneath his level). There are other alternatives. Man and other creatures may have a similar genetic toolbox because... they have the same designer. Moreover, on the Biblical assumption that that Designer wishes man to investigate and harness the powers of the world that he made, it would be even less surprising. If God wants us to investigate and harmonise creation, it would be massively harder if every living entity was constructed along fundamentally different principles. The fact that they're constructed on a shared set of principles is a testimony both to his wisdom and to his desire that we should to some extent investigate, understand and harness what he has done. Moreover, the Bible teaches that the creation physically fell, because God cursed it when man sinned. That had some impact or other on actual biology, though it is not the Bible's purpose to explain things on that level. If we are looking at things on that level, though, why should it be unreasonable to believe that God should have brought about similar defects in DNA in similarly-constructed creatures? What is the theological reason why God must have, as Dr. Alexander is insisting, made such genetic changes at the Fall in arbitrary or random ways? Whether the lines on which I'm speculating here are correct or not is not important - the point is that DA's assertion that there is no possible explanation either existing or even possible for what he sees in DNA except man's common descent from other ape-like creatures is simply bluff.

There is another aspect of DA's argument here that can be played back against him. In his book, DA attempts to argue that information theory should not be applied to biology, and even that biology should be allowed to have its own definitions of information - and that attempts to apply information theory represent misunderstandings by engineers and computer scientists. This is an exceptionally weak argument which itself represents a misunderstanding of and rejection of mainstream science. Information theory is universally applicable, and there is no justification for someone to put their hand up and say "you can't apply that here!" Information is a universal fundamental, and whether the encoding takes place on paper, on computer disk, or in DNA, it must apply everywhere or not at all. The point is that the application of information theory to biology and DNA leads to the necessary conclusion that DNA is an encoding by an intelligent agent, a conclusion which fundamentally contradicts Darwinism.

All Truth Is God's Truth?

The larger point, though, which DA never discusses in his book but simply assumes, as also in this letter, is his overall approach to Scripture, revelation and authority. You need to note here exactly what ideas are being packed into the slogan "all truth is God's truth". In itself, it's unobjectionable. But if you tease out the strands of what DA means by it, as hinted here and shown more fully in his book, it's simply not Christian.

DA's doctrine of authority, science and Scripture is basically a baptised Enlightenment-mode of thought. Scripture is theological, science is historical, and the twain shall scarcely meet. When Science speaks about matters in its own domain, it speaks with authority. It is effectively a second book of revelation, complementary (not competing) with the written one, and each has its own domain. In particular, Scripture cannot speak to correct science, because Scripture's domain is different: value-laden interpretations of the world and the physical facts that science unearths. And to Dr. Alexander, science speaks with authority when the peer-reviewers, applying the objective and unbiased process of impartial scrutiny, accept a theory into the mainstream consensus. Predictably, Dr. Alexander never addresses the obvious historical objection to this last idea - all the junk science that has at one time or another been mainstream, such as eugenics which we mentioned above. What you won't find anywhere in DA's book is an explanation that Genesis also speaks directly to historical matters, and that when it does so it speaks with unrivalled authority, such that any conclusions of contemporary scientists, no matter how numerous and how authoritative the journals they publish it in, must bow before it. That's because DA doesn't believe that idea - rather, in his book, he explains that Darwinian theory is the background that we must read Scripture against if we wish to harmonise it with contemporary science.

So, "all truth is God's truth" is in itself, one of God's truths. But on DA's lips, what it means is that the consensus of contemporary science ought to be treated by us as if it were revealed from heaven, and hence we ought to patronise fellow-believers in the manner in which Dr. Alexander does here. It is interesting, though, to note that this letter continues the theme in the book: that the truth is established mainly by science. This isn't a Biblical argument that DA's making: it's simply that mainstream science says so.

On scientific questions McIntosh cites only authors who are not published in peer-reviewed scientific literature, whose views are rejected by the scientific community, not because the scientists are `anti-God' but because the views lack good evidence. Readers interested in the age of the earth may download a free Faraday Paper (No. 8) from www.faraday-institute.org, Faraday Papers Folder) by Prof. Bob White FRS, an evangelical believer who is Professor of Geophysics at Cambridge University.

Here DA repeats his point to underscore it. So there's no excuse for not identifying the lines on which his thought runs: mainstream science is itself an all-but infallible authority, and there's no need to launch any actual Biblical response to Professor McIntosh's Biblical argument - the fact that contemporary journals don't accept it as the consensus is sufficient repudiation. DA here makes a pure appeal to authority - those in the seats of power in the mainstream scientific community say so, so you'd better toe the line or I'll patronise you for being an idiot, even should you yourself be a Professor! DA has so folded this idea of science's basic infallibility into his axioms of thought that he doesn't think this should need explaining, even to readers of so conservative evangelical a newspaper as the ET... when this can happen then truly the Enlightenment is still riding strong. In this letter, as in the book, DA does nothing to hint that he's aware of the idea that scientific research is done within paradigms, and is not simply a straight-forward simple fact-based procedure. Mainstream scientific journals reject ideas that Professor McIntosh promotes foundationally because they reject the Biblical paradigm that the research is conducted within. "Evidence" is not a simple up and down matter - it must be interpreted. A presuppositional Christian, such as AM, asserts that, especially when dealing with a matter such as origins, our paradigm must be explicitly Christian. That's anathema to the secularist thinking that dominates the academy, and so hence the chasm between it and Christian orthodoxy. DA, though, here promotes pure Dawkins-style Scientism - the idea that science is simply a paradigm-free, unbiased inquiry into neutral facts and proceeds simply based upon evidence.

To save you the trouble, dear reader, I did download and digest the paper that Dr. Alexander refers us to. Its thought is the same as DA's. There is no discussion of the relationship between Scripture and other supposed authorities, or a comparison of their relative fallibilities, or a Christian view of authority, etcetera. Nope - it's asserted that science proves this and that, that therefore the earth is very old... and now let's hunt for a way to interpret God's word (which is after all a theological text, not one that deals with real-world facts of history) that agrees with this assured result of modern man's cleverness. Science first - then we'll see what we can do with the Bible. That's exactly the wrong way round, as far as evangelical religion is concerned. As with DA's own writings, there's also a few arguments and bits of rhetoric borrowed from the atheists - Christians who disagree are termed "fundamentalists", and creationism is falsely said to be a late 20th Century American import (in fact the oldest anti-evolution society (now known as the Biblical Creation Society), is British... and the two most well known creationist organisations today, Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International, both of which DA avoids any mention of in his book, originated in Australia). Oh come on, can't you do better than this?

McIntosh claims that I maintain certain positions in my book which in reality I definitely reject, which also make me wonder whether he has actually read the book!

I remarked a few times during my extended review that DA often seems as interested in giving off an air of intellectual superiority, that creationism is beneath his level, as much as he is interested in actually interacting with brethren who honestly disagree with him. This was evidenced mainly in the fact that in 353 pages he references precisely one creationist... who's now dead. Current creationists, their books, journals or other writings: zilch.

Given that Professor McIntosh's contains statements that only make sense if the whole book has been read ("The author makes no reference to those who have written on the biblical arguments concerning this matter, such as Douglas Kelly in his book Creation and Change" and specific references such as " his bald statement on p.242" or "contrary to Alexander's assertions on pp. 138-139" or "He even suggests (p.275)"), this sentence from Dr. Alexander comes across as being empty polemic - and a cheap shot at that. More basically, the review begins with the words "I have just finished reading Denis Alexander's new book" which makes the purveyor of such cheap shots look rather silly... or perhaps the Doctor didn't actually read the review? :-) But passing on... what actually are these positions?

For example, he suggests that I 'read' evolution into Scripture, whereas I spend a whole chapter explaining why biblical texts need to be understood according to the literary style they represent, not as if they were scientific texts. Scientific literature as we know it today, with its highly specialised language, did not exist when the Bible was written, so to seek to press the language into that literary genre is an abuse of Scripture. Of course evolution is not taught in the Bible, any more than relativity, thermodynamics or quantum mechanics.

Here, Dr. Alexander simply talks past his reviewer. Nowhere does Professor McIntosh's review state the idea that Dr. Alexander refutes here: i.e. that he "reads evolution into Scripture" in the sense that he says that Scripture actually explicitly teaches evolution as if it were scientific literature, using specialised language like textbooks on thermodynamics. That's a straw man; there's not a word in AM's review that approaches suggesting that the Bible teaches matters like relativity or quantum mechanics. The false dichotomy that Dr. Alexander makes in reading Genesis between "science" and "theology" or between science and history, is the one that the Professor actually took him to task for - to simply repeat it in the answer will only give more ammunition should the Professor wish to charge him with not having properly read his review. It smacks of a "canned response". That Dr. Alexander actually does read evolution into Scripture, in the sense that AM meant, is stated baldly on page 232, where after reviewing the present mainstream scientific (Darwinian) thinking on the history of man, he then goes on to begin considering the Scriptural data by stating:

"It is against this cultural and historical background that one needs to consider the early chapters of Genesis."

The idea that one should - indeed, must - begin with fallen man's fallible speculations about history, and then read God's inspired account against that background, is precisely what "reading evolution into Scripture" means. Methinks that DA knows he's guilty here, and simply answers a different point instead because he suspects that the ET's readers are too conservative to follow him if he spells out his full position candidly.

McIntosh also claims that my book suggests that some humans may still languish outside the God-called community of humanity, whereas I make precisely the opposite point (p.238) - that God graciously bestowed his image upon the whole of humankind with Adam as the federal head

On this point I think there are faults on all sides. Having read through Dr. Alexander's book more than once myself, and having read other reviewers, I think Dr. Alexander himself is responsible for a lack of clarity - or rather, a confused concept that inevitably has generated confusion in the reviewers as they try to piece the bits together. It seems that, pulling everything together, Dr. Alexander teaches that: a) As required by contemporary scientific orthodoxy, human beings had existed in basically their present form for many tens of thousands of years. b) But Adam and Eve were most likely Neolithic farmers in the east, around 6-8,000 years ago. These two points have logical implications which Dr. Alexander unflinchingly follows: i) Adam and Eve were not the first humans, but were descended from a long line. ii) Likewise, not all humans are descended from Adam and Eve; in particular, Australian Aboriginals were in Australia for long before they were around and there's no reason to think any interbreeding could have occurred given the histories, timescales and distances involved. Thus iii) God's image is some kind of super-addition to essential humanity - i.e. something that humanity had existed for a long time without before it was conferred first on Adam. This leads on to the next teaching point, c) that God, at the time that he bestowed his image on Adam, also "graciously" (Dr. Alexander IIRC uses this word, though not in a proper sense, as Biblically grace implies the existence of demerit, i.e. sin) conferred it upon the rest of humanity around the world too.

What is this image? DA doesn't give a full answer, but says that there are two important aspects for his purposes (p192-3) - the delegation of authority and the potential for relationship with God. So, when God made Adam (or rather, when he was born to his parents or had grown to an appropriate age afterwards), God extended a benefit to the whole of humanity as well as to him. Dr. Alexander then goes on to ask what the Fall would have meant for those, such as the Aboriginals (p275) who were part of Adam and Eve's family - and concludes that we can have no real idea. It is this that Professor McIntosh understands as suggesting "that some Australian Aborigines may still languish outside the God-called community of humanity because they are not descendents of Adam and Eve". I presume that the logic here is that as they were perhaps (DA's suggestion) not affected in any practical way by the Fall, by logical consequence, neither are they subjects of the redemption from that Fall achieved by Christ - AM doesn't make it explicit. If they are not part of the fallen creation, then presumably not part of the redeemed. I'm not sure I'd have imputed this line of thinking to DA though; elsewhere his teaching implies that he doesn't really see Christ's work in terms of leading to a redeeming of creation so much as in terms of replacing of it (here AM's imputed more orthodoxy to DA than he should have done!). What exactly DA does mean by this speculation and how it is systematised in his thinking is not clear, because he doesn't really clarify it - he does, as he states in this rebuttal, teach that the divine image, whatever its exact content, was extended to Aboriginals; thus, by implication, giving them the capacity for relationship with God. Hence on the precise point itself, I agree with him that AM has missed an element of his thought and drawn a conclusion that he doesn't hold.

Why Did Jesus Die?
McIntosh asks, 'Why did Jesus die physically if the wages of sin is not physical death?'

This is a question which also arose strongly in my own review. It is a natural consequence of Dr. Alexander's altered doctrine of the Fall, which he makes an invisible, spiritual event. He denies that it had any impact on the workings of the physical creation, a denial that he has to make because Darwinian orthodoxy will not allow that the creation suddenly came into bondage to decay only a few thousand years ago. According to Darwinism and hence according to Alexander, all those things that Christians have historically identified as being part of the deleterious results of Adam's sin (thorns, pain, suffering, death, etc.) are original parts of the cosmos, not later intruders. Hence the question arises; if the Fall was not a physical event, why is redemption (the incarnation, Jesus' sufferings, death and resurrection) so physical? Has Alexander's Darwinism not made the essence of the gospel incoherent?

The answer is in Hebrews 9:11-28, and the fact that Jesus died to save us from eternal separation with God, the 'second death' (Matthew 1:28; Revelation 2:11).

Again (and as commonly done in the book as well as in this letter), Alexander simply ducks the question and answers a conveniently different one of his own devising. The question is highlighting the physical nature of Jesus' death; Alexander instead merely states why Jesus had to do something to save us. The answer may well be in Hebrews 9... but what is that answer, Dr. Alexander? How does it relate to the question you were being asked? Just how and why did Jesus experience physical death in order to liberate us from a fate that you see only in terms of the non-physical?

Paul in Romans (6:21-23 and other chapters) is speaking of spiritual death. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus in response to his question (John 3:4), rebirth is spiritual, not physical (v. 5).

Here in his letter, as in his book, Dr. Alexander introduces the strong dichotomy which he relies upon to evade the fundamental problem with his teaching: that between "physical" and "spiritual" death. He merely insists that this idea is what is being spoken of by this or that Bible passage. The point is, though, not whether you can super-impose this idea upon passages of Scripture as DA does... but whether it actually reads out of any passages themselves. Here's Romans 6:21-23:

What fruit did you have then in those things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being free from sin, and having become servants unto God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Where do these verses teach Dr. Alexander's particular distinctive doctrine, namely that the Fall was a non-physical event, and that physical and spiritual death must be sharply distinguished? Of course, they don't. Dr. Alexander is guilty of reading a text through his own pre-supposed hermeneutical grid. His doctrine does not read out of the text - it has to be read in.

The idea that Jesus, in John chapter 3, was teaching or even implying to Nicodemus that the Fall was an event without physical consequences is exegetical madness. The idea is not even in the remote horizon of the exchange. Here, DA has plucked a verse wildly out of context to suit his purpose. Nicodemus thought of redemption in earthly and political terms - Israel being liberated from the Romans, and a new kingdom like David's being established. He needed to see that the true enemies of God's people were spiritual - sin, Satan and death - not military. He needed to see that he was in bondage to sin and that this was a more ultimate reality than Israel's political subjugation. He stumbled at Jesus teaching of the need for inward renewal and cleansing. I don't personally think that his question about being born again from his mother's womb was intended by him to be taken literally - it was simply a way of expressing his surprise at Jesus' teaching and pushing him to clarify what he meant. Alexander, though, rips this all out of context and makes Jesus teach not merely that we need inward and spiritual renewal by the Holy Spirit, but into a denial that man dies because Adam sinned! The fact that his doctrine can only be supported by ripping passages out of context in this way, and not by direct appeal to any texts where the subject is being addressed directly shows us the lack of Biblical support for the idea.

Gnostic Resurrection

DA then proceeds to state his neo-Gnostic view of the resurrection and the future state:

We have to physically die to fulfil God's purposes, for 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable' (1 Corinthians 15:50).

In this verse, Paul gives one of the subsidiary reasons why our resurrection bodies must differ in some ways (whilst still having continuity - see earlier in the chapter) with our present bodies. The state of glory is of an order which we can hardly yet imagine. To enter it, we must be changed. This change, though, does not actually necessitate death; Paul makes that explicit by saying (emphasis mine): "We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed" (verse 51). Those who are still alive when the Lord returns shall not go through death, but shall be changed without it into a fitting state for glory. Hence there is no necessity for death for us to enter that state, contrary to what DA says. I label DA's view "neo-Gnostic" because his denial of a physical Fall leads him to effectively deny that Christ's physical death is related to our physical redemption which culminates in physical resurrection and transformation. He rather views this present mode of existence as being a classic Gnostic prison, and Jesus liberates us from it - he doesn't so much redeem and glorify a Fallen world as take us out of it into something else of a totally different nature.

DA's view makes no sense of the whole thrust and purpose of 1 Corinthians 15. There must, contrary to the deniers at Corinth, be a resurrection because without it Jesus' victory over sin would be incomplete. The first Adam through his sin caused us all to die (Romans 5:12-14); to reverse that, Jesus himself died and rose, and must raise us too. His physical resurrection is the great announcement, realisation and proof that the consequences of Adam's rebellion have been overcome. His physical resurrection is such a proof precisely because Adam's rebellion brought in physical death. Cut that vital link in Biblical theology, and you're left floundering around to explain all of this. DA never answers the pertinent questions raised by McIntosh's review. Why did Jesus physically die? Why did his punishment include physical sufferings if physical sufferings are not in fact in this world as a consequence of sin? Why would he endure such a penalty if it never was part of the penalty God imposed? Just why did Jesus enduring physical death save us from a spiritual separation? He doesn't answer them because ultimately the truncated doctrine of redemption which his Darwinism leads him to... can't.

When Arguments Fail, Try Polemic
Young earth creationism causes serious pastoral problems.

This mere assertion is not contained in Dr. Alexander's book, or expanded on here, so we can only speculate about what these pastoral problems are. I suppose, based upon the general tenor of his book that DA would say that creationism pits science against faith and forces believers to choose between two truths. Whatever the precise line of argument, though, it's moot. If creationism is true, then teaching it may indeed cause problems (especially with such as DA teaching so dogmatically that it's false) but it's our duty to believe and proclaim whatever God has made known. If it is false, then to say that spreading it causes problems is telling us nothing new. Either way, DA adds nothing here to his argument except polemics. As DA's never taught creationism, we can only speculate as to what experience he has that underlies this assertion.

There are atheists in the scientific community (some very high profile) who used to be practising Christians in their teenage years, but who were turned away from the faith because their church pitted science against faith.

DA states this in his book too. Who are these atheists? Where is the documentation where we can follow these assertions up? Either way, though, this statement again adds nothing to the argument. If there are atheists who were turned away by creationism and creationism is true, then they were turned away by the truth. Are we supposed to preach lies in the hope that it will persuade people to make professions of faith? If on the other hand creationism is false, then this argument is redundant - we all agree that in that case it shouldn't be preached. Again, more polemics, intended simply to intimidate creationists to pipe down on the basis of undocumented authoritative-sounding assertions, rather than on the basis of argument.

Since DA's played this card, though, let's see if he's willing to take on a wager. Suppose that we can count up the number of atheists who turned away from a profession of faith because their church taught them that they had to accept creationism as true, and who will freely confess that, after it's been explained to them that Darwinism and the Bible are fully compatible, they will gladly return to Christianity. Suppose on the other hand that we count up the number of atheists who won't accept Christianity because they find that theism actually really is incompatible with Darwinism, and therefore they judge Christianity false because they think Darwinism is true. Which category's going to have more people? DA may be able to do the mental gymnastics to persuade himself that the Bible and Darwinism don't contradict each other a hundred times. I'd be pretty confident on the other hand, though, that he's in a slim minority. As the expression goes: a simple man can persuade himself only of some things; but an educated man can persuade himself of anything.

Preaching the gospel is made much harder when it becomes associated with beliefs, such as a young earth, which most people find ridiculous.

Again, same empty argument. If creationism is true, then this is something DA will just have to put up with - unless he believes that we should actually trim and prune our beliefs according to what our present society deems acceptable. This argument can also be reversed. DA's the one trying his darndest to make belief in a young earth seem ridiculous - which he does throughout his book using the method of never representing or interacting with actual creationist arguments, but by setting fire to a succession of straw-men. If he's actually concerned about the effect on preaching the gospel of making creationism seem ridiculous, why is he doing it?

Do people really find the idea of a "young" earth ridiculous? The earth in fact can only be as young or old as it is. It can only be termed "young" in relationship to something else. In this case, it's supposed to be "young" in relation to the telephone-number figures circulated by such as DA. I seriously doubt that more than the tiniest fraction of people have ever looked into the arguments for or against the age of the earth, or considered how to evaluate the two competing paradigms. (DA himself never approaches the matter in terms of paradigms - it's simply infallible, objective science says so...). They simply accept it on authority because people like DA say so; just as they accepted eugenics, geocentricism and other mistaken science in previous generations. This argument is ultimately a naked appeal to authority.

Still Friends
I would urge Christians to hold science and faith together as the friends they have traditionally been, not force them apart for biblically unnecessary reasons.

As the letter comes to a close, DA is really piling up the vacuous polemic. Of course, no creationist actually believes that science and faith aren't friends. They simply dispute whether Darwinism and faith are friends, or whether Darwinism and science are. Whilst in his book he falsely, without providing any references, teaches us that creationists claim that Genesis is written in the genre of a modern scientific journal, the reality is that it is DA who is forcing a dichotomy where none exists by forcing us to choose either between choosing to believe in what he terms "science", or to read the book of Genesis as self-conscious, accurate history. DA's reading forces us to accept it only as "theology"; an interpretation of events, but not actually recording events in a historical way. DA forces us to choose between evangelical Bible interpretation, or having his like poor thinly-veiled contempt down on us and accuse us of all manner of sins, pastoral problems, spoiling evangelism, spoiling the relationship between science and faith, etcetera. Still, that's the way it is - and we have to choose our lot.

I also hope that readers will not accept the representation of my book that McIntosh provides, but actually read Creation or Evolution - do we have to choose? for themselves.

Editor's note: Our reviewer, Andy McIntosh, will publish a reply to Dr. Alexander's letter in February's ET.

The End!


This review plods through the whole book. If you have time only to read some, look at the chapters on the theology of the Adam and Eve, the fall, suffering, evil, etc. These are the ones that most clearly reveal the non-evangelical methodology and resulting theology. Logical and scientific mistakes in other places are interesting, but the fundamental issues come out most clearly in the more theological chapters.
  1. Introduction to the review
  2. The Preface
  3. Chapter 1 - What Do We Mean By Creation?
  4. Chapter 2- The Biblical Doctrine of Creation
  5. Chapter 3 - What Do We Mean By Evolution? Dating, DNA and Genes
  6. Chapter 4 - What do we mean by evolution? Natural Selection and Reproductive Success
  7. Chapter 5 - Speciation, Fossils and the Question of Information
  8. Chapter 6 - Objections to Evolution
  9. Chapter 7 - What about Genesis?
  10. Chapter 8 - Evolutionary Creationism
  11. Chapter 9 - Who were Adam and Eve? The Background
  12. Chapter 10 - Who were Adam and Eve? Genesis and science in conversation
  13. Chapter 11 - Evolution and the Biblical understanding of death
  14. Chapter 12 - Evolution and the Fall
  15. Chapter 13 - Evolution, natural evil and the theodicy question
  16. Chapter 14 - Intelligent Design and Creation's Order
  17. Chapter 15 - Evolution - Intelligent and Designed?
  18. Chapter 16 - The origin of life
  19. The revealing postscript!
  20. Appendix: A synopsis giving a "big picture" overview of the philosophy/theology of this book.

© David Anderson 2008-10. Please copy and redistribute as widely as you please (no modifications are permitted without permission; you must distribute complete chapters, and always include this copyright notice). Last updated: 29/03/2010. Feedback: use the e-mail address on my homepage. Or for more open discussion, use the comments facility on my blog.