In this final installment we turn our attention to a “book review” posted on the facebook page of the Siouxland Reformation Society. It’s a two part review, the first part focuses on theology and biblical interpretation, while the second addresses the scientific claims. A brief word about the theological section.
I appreciate how the author (whoever it is—the post is anonymous) shows my engagement with Anselm, Calvin, and Barth, and the different versions of atonement theory throughout the history of the church. The author ends this section with this: Who best gives us the answer to this central question: “Why did God become man”, or in Anselm’s original Latin: “Cur Deus homo?” Who? Anselm, the Reformers, Barth, Lief? The answer is Paul, Paul speaking words given him by the Holy Spirit. Paul in Romans 3:23-26 writes: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed ; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
What’s confusing about this is that I, too, appeal to Paul. On page 89 I write, “The opening chapter (of Colossians) includes a hymn declaring Christ to be the ‘firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in hims all things hold together.” Paul connects creation with incarnation, saying that in Christ all things are being re-created and transformed.” Most of chapter 4 is an examination of Paul’s understanding of the incarnation in his letter to the Colossians. So why not acknowledge my engagement of Paul? Maybe the author didn’t read this chapter? Maybe the author doesn’t believe that Colossians was written by Paul? Or, maybe the author just ignored it. Thankfully, the author acknowledges that I do not deny substitutionary atonement. I can’t because Paul’s letter to the Romans is full of it. However, anyone who takes the bible seriously recognizes there are multiple ways of understanding the saving work of Christ on the cross. In fact, the Heidelburg Catechism demonstrates this in question and answer 1:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,1but belong— body and soul, in life and in death—2to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3 He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4 and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5
Here we find both the “ransom theory” AND what has come to be known as “Christus Victor”. Later, in Q and A 37 we find substitutional atonement—supporting my claim that while substitutional atonement is Biblical, it is not the only interpretation of Christ’s work on the cross in the New Testament or in the confessions.
Much more troubling, however, is this statement by the author: “Anselm’s view, the Reformers view, was not just a theory, it is God’s own explanation as to why he set forth Jesus as a propitiation, a word that means wrath-bearing substitute.” Apparently, Anselm and the Reformers are on par with scripture? As a protestant, I don’t believe this: Luther started the reformation to oppose this, and Calvin would have been mortified. Also, I wonder if the author understands the difference between Anselm’s satisfaction theory and the penal theory of the reformation. They are very different: the first is the basis for Roman Catholic eucharistic theology AND indulgences; the second is a view of justification based on God’s declaration.
Turning to science, the section dealing with Dr. Tolsma’s contribution to the book begins this way: Sara Tolsma attempts to prove that evolution is true by affirming arguments that have already been disproved and by ignoring dozens of arguments that have proven evolution is false, not only false but impossible.
Yet, here’s what Tolsma writes in chapter 1:
The scientific method is a process by which an idea can become a theory. In the scientific method, scientists make an observation, and based on that observation they propose a statement, called a hypothesis, that explains what has been observed. Predictions emerge from the hypothesis as a way for a scientist to anticipate how a system will behave, assuming the evidence supports the hypothesis. The scientist then designs experiments to test the hypothesis using those predictions, performs the experiments, and analyzes the results. If the experimental results are consistent with the predictions, the hypothesis is supported. Notice that is did not use the word prove. Hypotheses are not proven, they are only supported. This might seem indecisive, but, in reality, it keeps scientists open to the possibility that their hypothesis might not be completely accurate. It maintains a level of intellectual humility necessary for the scientific method to work. (p. 10)
The rest of the review focuses on the arguments of “creation science” in order to refute the examples Tolsma uses in the book. Very little time is spent engaging what Tolsma has written, or the arguments she makes. To be fair, we have no problem with people articulating the arguments of “creation science”. In fact, I use the book Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design in class, which includes a chapter written by Ken Ham. The problem is that they continuously distort our words to fit their agenda.
While groups like the Siouxland Reformation Society and the Sioux County Conservatives, and individuals like Kurt Korver talk about truth, they have shown over and over they do not care about the Truth—they are only concerned with what furthers their agenda or political campaigns, and will label, intimidate, and threaten anyone who thinks differently. Dr. Tolsma and I refuse to be intimidated. Our purpose in writing this book is not to convince everyone to think like us; it is to open up dialogue on issues of faith and science. I honestly believe those who hold to a young earth, and a literal six 24 day creation, are brothers and sisters in Jesus. Our purpose in writing this book to encourage the Christian community to see Christians who hold different scientific views in the same way.
If you are interested, here’s a link to our book. Read it (or don’t read…totally up to you) and decide for yourself.