An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Selfless Gene - a review

The Selfless Gene
Living with God and with Darwin

Charles Foster
Nashville: Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-0-8499-4654-7
Pbk, 283pp, $14.99

This book review is brought to you courtesy of Thomas Nelson’s Book sneeze.

The Selfish Gene is something of a curate’s egg: good in parts. Reading it I was frustrated, angry, puzzled but it made me think – and that can’t be a bad thing.
Foster in the beginning sets up a conflict between creationsits and naturalistic evolutionsists. He writes polemically: “If few in the business agree with Dawkins, almost nobody thinks there is anything at all in any of the creationist contentions” (p xiii) And yet only a few pages later he writes: ‘An August 2006 survey of British university students found more than a third believed in either creationism or intelligent design’!

“There are no proper evidences for any of the creationist assertions” (p viv) – this left me wondering where is the evidence for this assertion? He then goes on to knock intelligent design as ‘ the fashionable fig leaf’ that paints a strange picture of God. Unfortunately, he doesn’t deal with the more sophisticated views of ID or old earth creationists. He seems content to deal with a straw man and a caricature of creationism.

“Creationism has done untold harm to Christianity, and untold good to Richard Dawkin’s bank balance’ (p 19). But neither does Dawkins escape scathing criticism: “His essential creed – scientism- has a quaintly dated feel about it.” (p. 19)

His main thesis is that creationism and Dawkinsism (Foster’s term) are very dull and cannot explain such a colourful world. So he goes in search of a middle way.

He goes on to look at the evidence for evolution – chapter 3 consists of a display of exhibits. From chapter 4 onwards the book gets a little more interesting. Until now it has been rather predictable. Here he looks at the evolution of altruism and community. How can a theory that’s based on the survival of the fittest produce altruism and community? He tentatively suggests that may be there is another force operating alongside natural selection. He then looks at the evolution of religion – how can, given an evolutionary framework, religion exist? He is asking good questions and that is a good step towards finding an answer.

He spends many pages examining the creation and fall accounts in Genesis 1-3. The fall has been a stumbling block for a theistic evolutionary perspective. Foster doesn’t seem to know what to do with the fall. He seems to want to minimise or reinterpret it; he doesn’t see it as a solution to pain and suffering. But then I would maintain it wasn’t meant to be that anyway.

He asserts that ‘nothing remotely like the traditional Christian doctrine of the Fall was recognized either by Jewish scholars or by the early Church’ (p. 171) but gives no evidence in support. He asserts that in the fall ‘the image of God was enhanced. That was precisely the problem” (p. 224). ‘If this was a fall it was a fall up”! “The direct and immediate consequence of the ‘Fall’ is civilization as we know it “(p. 227 – emphasis in original). This is an interesting twist on things.

Foster asks some important questions both of evolutionary theory and of the Genesis text. I’m not convinced by his answers though.

Music for a Sunday morning

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

All of life redeemed update

Added to the website:

David Beldman 'Towards a missional approach to Christian scholarship in the theological disciplines: learning for shalom'

Mark Roques 'Epistemology, story-telling and pedagogy'

Cover and contents of J A L Taljaard Polished Lenses added

Monday, 13 September 2010

We humbly suggest that you can do both

Thomas Clarkson: Mr Wilberforce, we understand you are having problems choosing whether to do the work of God or the work of a political activist.
Hannah More: We humbly suggest that you can do both.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Home alone!

My wife and daughter are off to Uganda this evening for two weeks. You
can read about their adventures here. Susie is a
trustee of the Chilli Children Trust. She will be visiting the Chilli
Children project with some of the other trustees. 

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Cultural callings

The recording of session 4 of the cultural callings seminars can be found here.
Jon Swales looks at George Cadbury and I look at some principles for a Christian approach to (small) business.

Odds and sods

Sean Purcell on 'culture and cultivation'
Rob Joustra 'did a book': God and Global Order ed. Jonathan Chaplin with Rob Joustra.
John Byl at bylogos on 'Science, neutrality and the antithesis'
Reformed Reader takes a look at a piece by Al Wolters on Zechariah
The Sheffield Department of Biblical Studies now has a blog
Sheffield King James Project