After my last post, 4 Key Points Christian Kids Need to Understand About Evolution, I had many requests for resources to help parents learn more about the varied views of origins.
Ask and you shall receive! This post is my answer to those requests.
The problem with most resource lists is that they become a dumping ground for links that leave you feeling as directionless as you were before you bookmarked them. My goal with this post is to not just give you resources, but a plan of attack for really getting your arms around this critical subject. There are five things you need to know before diving in to the rest of the post:
1. None of this implies my promotion of a particular view. I intentionally do not advocate one view on my blog (or in my book) because I feel it would be distracting to my more central purpose: to help Christian parents understand 1) why Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people have varied views on origins and 2) what the scriptural and scientific implications of those views are. I believe every Christian parent should be equipped to discuss these hot-button issues with their kids, and I’m here to help you navigate them as objectively as I can. That means I’m recommending books that I don’t necessarily agree with, but that represent, in my opinion, the best opportunity to learn about a particular view (see number 3 below for more on this).
2. The reading plan I’m recommending here is book-based rather than article-based. Online articles can be helpful for tailored research on a topic, but books are really your best bet for systematically learning about complex subjects like these.
3. In this reading plan, I outline five core books—one dedicated to each view (see the chart below for what the views are). I’ve labeled one book my “top pick” in each category. The books I’ve selected are those I feel most accurately, thoroughly, and concisely present the case for their view for a broad audience. I’ve read a boatload of books on all these views, and to be honest, some of them have really bothered me. They misrepresent other views, oversimplify the issues, leave out important facts or criticisms of their own view, or speak condescendingly of other Christians. This is not specific to those writing from any one viewpoint; these issues arise across the spectrum. The books I’m recommending aren’t necessarily free from these problems (this is a complex topic and it’s impossible to address all necessary points in popular-level works), but I do feel they are the best in their category.
4. Since some readers may have already read the basics, I’ve also included recommendations for going deeper. If you’re just getting started, ignore the “going deeper” recommendations for now. Bookmark the page for later.
And with that, here you go!
Step 1. Get the big picture.
I’m going to make step 1 very easy. Here’s a diagram I created of the relationship between the major views you should understand (this is from my book, which has eight chapters devoted to explaining these topics for Christian parents).
Step 2. Learn about young-Earth creationism.
Young-Earth creationism is the view that God created the world in seven 24-hour days, about 6,000-10,000 years ago.
My top pick for understanding young-Earth creationism is Old Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict Is In by Tim Chaffey and Jason Lisle.
This book simultaneously presents a case for young-Earth creationism and a defense against old-Earth creationism. I found it to be the most thorough yet concise look at the core case made by young-Earth creationists. While this book is less well-known than some others, I chose it because I felt it most directly and thoroughly addressed the key issues.
The Bible and the Age of the Earth is a free PDF from Apologetics Press. It’s a much more detailed analysis of the scriptural case for the young-Earth view with rebuttals against other views. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it as a beginner’s resource, but if you want an in-depth reference guide for the scriptural issues involved (from a young-Earth perspective), this is the best I’ve seen.
Step 3. Learn about old-Earth creationism.
Old-Earth creationists accept the mainstream scientific consensus on the age of the Earth (4.5 billion years old), but, like young-Earth creationists, reject evolution as God’s (sole) method of creation. Note that theistic evolutionists also accept the mainstream scientific consensus on the age of the Earth, so they are technically “old-Earth creationists,” but the term old-Earth creationist is almost always used specifically to mean someone who accepts the ancient Earth but not evolution. (You may need to read that sentence again! Part of the problem in these conversations is that words can mean many different things in different contexts, so I just want to be absolutely clear what I’m talking about here.)
My top pick for understanding old-Earth creationism is A Biblical Case for an Old Earth by David Snoke.
Snoke’s book is the best overall guide to the old-Earth creationism view that I’ve read. Other, more well-known books, are focused on promoting a specific biblical interpretation within old-Earth creationism (old-Earth creationists are united in accepting a 4.5 billion-year-old Earth, but differ on how they reconcile that with their interpretation of the Bible—for example, there is a Gap Theory, Day-Age Theory, Framework Theory, and Temple Inauguration Theory). I chose this book because it focuses on the more general case for old-Earth creationism and addresses scripture in depth.
Going (much, much) deeper:
The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth by Davis Young and Ralph Stearley is an extremely detailed, academically-oriented book written by two (Christian) geologists to present the geological case for an old Earth. If you’re wondering why mainstream scientists are so convinced that the Earth is way more than 10,000 years old, this is a comprehensive resource on geology written by Christians for Christians.
Step 4. Learn about theistic evolution.
Theistic evolution is the view that accepts the mainstream scientific consensus on the age of the Earth (about 4.5 billion years old) and on evolution (that all life on Earth descends from a single species that lived 3.5 billion years ago) while affirming the existence of God. There is no single view amongst theistic evolutionists on how to reconcile evolution with the Bible, so theistic evolutionists have varied theological beliefs.
My top pick for learning about theistic evolution is I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution by Denis Lamoureux.
This is a humbly written and easy-to-understand book written by a scientist who “loves Jesus and accepts evolution.” I say “humbly” written because, throughout the book, Lamoureux is careful to acknowledge the biblical challenges of his view while clearly explaining why he believes what he does…all with a very charitable tone. (This is something I hugely appreciate because many books treat other views with considerable condescension.) This was the first book I read on theistic evolution and, in my opinion, it remained the best of the bunch.
Going (much, much) deeper:
Biologos, the major organization promoting theistic evolution, has a full course on evolution basics for Christians on their website (free). It’s mostly about the science of evolution, but since parts of the course address Christians specifically, I’m including it as a resource here rather than under naturalistic evolution. I’ve read through the whole thing and found it very accessible. If you’re looking for a resource for understanding the science of evolution, this is an excellent place to start (read Lamoureux’s book first, however, in order to get the broader view of both the science and theology involved).
Step 5. Learn about naturalistic evolution.
Naturalistic evolution is the view that all life on Earth descends from a single species via blind, purposeless processes (most frequently associated with the “neo-Darwinian” mechanisms of natural selection acting on genetic mutations). This is an atheistic view.
My top pick for learning about naturalistic evolution is Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne.
It’s pretty much impossible to find a book written about naturalistic evolution that doesn’t simultaneously and explicitly disparage any notion of a creator. My pick in this category is no different. However, I recommend it because 1) it provides a well-written, easy-to-understand overview of evolutionary theory for non-scientists, and 2) it’s very representative of the atheistic view of origins that your kids will hear (it’s good to hear something as they will hear it).
Step 6. Learn about intelligent design.
Intelligent design is the theory that some features of the universe and of living things are better explained by an intelligent cause than by the undirected natural process of evolution. Intelligent design theory is based solely on scientific evidence. It’s therefore compatible with a Christian view, but is not a Christian view itself.
My top pick on this topic is Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer.
Stephen C. Meyer is a leading proponent of the intelligent design movement. In this book, he explains the significance of the “Cambrian explosion,” a time period in which many animals suddenly appear in the fossil record without apparent ancestors in earlier layers of rock. The Cambrian explosion is one of the biggest challenges to evolution that intelligent design theorists write about. This is a detailed book, and if you’re not scientifically-inclined you may not enjoy certain parts, but it’s a very important work that I have to recommend as the top pick.
Just for fun, here is a totally random, grainy cell phone-taken picture of me with Dr. Meyer. I attended a local panel he was on last year. Like a total nerd, I was actually nervous to meet him, but he was incredibly nice.
If you’re already aware of basic intelligent design theory and want to learn specifically about the complexity of the genetic code (and how intelligent design theorists say it points to an intelligent agent), you need Meyer’s earlier book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. This one is even more scientifically detailed than Darwin’s Doubt, but it’s the go-to book if you want to really understand this topic. And, since I have the above totally awesome picture with the author, I felt it warranted a second recommendation for his work.
Going much deeper:
I’m going to add one more in this category, specifically for those atheists/agnostics who may be reading this post and ferociously oppose intelligent design theory. It’s remarkable just how much people can mischaracterize what it says. If you think intelligent design theory is all about “God of the gaps,” please get The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design by William Dembski, which addresses this and other common misunderstandings in great detail. You don’t have to agree with intelligent design, but at least understand its claims accurately.
Bonus Pick: One Overall Great Book
There’s a book that came out somewhat recently that I have heard absolutely no one talk about. It was recommended to me by Amazon based on my past purchases and I took the bait. This turned out to be an EXCELLENT find that I recommend whole-heartedly. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution, by Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker, didn’t fall neatly into one of my categories above, but I had to tell you about it.
Here’s why it’s so great. One of the authors “leans” toward young-Earth creationism and the other “leans” toward old-Earth creationism. They wrote this together and do a wonderful job of objectively and systematically looking at the key issues in a balanced way. The book is organized by subject rather than by young-Earth or old-Earth view, which is also refreshing. I thought the answers were very scripturally and scientifically “responsible,” thoroughly addressing all key facts and criticisms. In terms of giving a fair view of all the pertinent subjects, this book wins hands-down.
I still wouldn’t recommend it as a replacement for reading the case for each view, but it would serve as a PERFECT capstone book after doing the other reading, to solidify your understanding of all the topics together. And, if you absolutely can’t handle the thought of reading more than one book on all of these topics, this would be the one I would give you.
Websites for Endless Reading on Creation and Evolution Views
Now that I’ve hopefully provided a good framework for systematic reading, I’ll give you a quick rundown of links to the major sites with (often endless) articles on these views. There are countless smaller sites and blogs with related articles, but these are the major hubs of information.
Apologetics Press (They write on more than views of origins, but have many resources on young-Earth creationism specifically.)
Evidence for God from Science (I have to say, this site looks very messy and out of date. However, it has a wealth of resources on the old-Earth view.)
Any questions on resources or books? Let me know in the comments. And for those of you who have already read a lot on this, go ahead and suggest your top picks in the various categories. You know want to. 🙂
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