Review of Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution by Deborah and Loren Haarsma

There are not many books on the topic of creation and evolution that I would wholeheartedly recommend, but Origins by Deborah and Loren Haarsma is one of them. I have known the Haarsmas since we were graduate students and have come to expect thoroughly researched, thoughtful analysis from them on any topic in the general area of science and religion. This excellent book is no exception. Be sure also to check out the associated website for a large amount of supplementary material that did not fit into the book.

One seemingly small, but very important, feature of the book is that it is written in the form of a discussion group study guide, and there are questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter. For a controversial topic, often the most important step is to get people with differing views to talk about the subject in a context where different points of view are considered acceptable. This book does an admirable job of encouraging that to happen.

The book favors an old earth and most of the standard scientific views about (biological) evolution, but gives a fair hearing to the alternative views, including young-earth creationism, which is too often treated disrespectfully, not just by atheists but also by Christians. Throughout the book, the authors repeatedly stress the points on which all Christians agree; where Christians disagree, they carefully list all the different viewpoints. The book does not shy away from “heavy” theological and scientific discussion when it is important to do so, but explains everything in plain language, and always keeps the discussion relevant and personal. Several times they discuss their own personal spiritual journeys and the ways in which their own thinking has changed over time.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in the church today, when it comes to this topic, is to persuade Christians to tolerate the views of other Christians whose view of origins/creation/evolution/design differs from their own. This book does as much as any one book could be expected to do to meet this challenge. I hope it is widely read and discussed.

Posted August 2009

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