What would Genesis look like if it was a story told in the 21st century? Would the sky still be called “firm,” or would the light exist before the Sun? Professor Karl Giberson tries to answer those questions by, as he puts it, re-telling the Genesis creation story using the most up-to-date scientific understanding at his disposal. Giberson does an excellent job of relating current science and the direction it is going in, while maintaining a constant anchor in the Christian perspective by continually returning to God’s purposes throughout his relaxed study. If Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time were to become amalgamated with C.S. Lewis’s Miracles, this book is how I would imagine it.
Giberson’s writing style is gracious from a layman’s perspective, and his analogies offer deep insight into the void that is often scientific explanations. In light of the many praises I have for the book though, there are two rather substantial items which plagued my reading throughout every page of the book. I’m somewhat reticent to criticize the good doctor, as I greatly admire the open dialogue going on over at BioLogos (who were the primary supporters of this book) and of the work going on at Paraclete Press (who published the book). But, I would be remiss to be anything less than honest. And perhaps a reader more enlightened than I can help put my mind at ease regarding these matters.
The first is Giberson’s area of expertise. While I appreciate his early days in interdisciplinary studies (he majored in Philosophy and Physics as an undergrad), he is first and foremost a scientist. This certainly doesn’t disqualify him from studying the word of God or speculating about it either, but it does raise questions as I read: how much Hebrew was researched in this analysis? Was there comparative work done with other Ancient Near Eastern creation stories to see if the premise of approaching Genesis from a scientific lens was plausible? Perhaps such questions shouldn’t have nagged at me, but they did nonetheless.
And I’m glad they did, because they exposed what I think to be the ultimate issue I had: what if Genesis isn’t a scientific story? This has been discussed at length in books and blogs alike, which makes me wonder how this topic seemed illusive in Giberson’s retelling. In the end, I simply can’t align with the professor’s basic premise. I don’t think Genesis is a scientific story, which means I don’t think retelling it in “modern terms” will help the origins discussion.
In my opinion, the only way to really bridge the divide between those who love Jesus while favoring evolution and those who love Jesus while favoring creation science is by recasting the debate entirely. Folks like John Walton are already engaged in that process, so I don’t feel the need to elaborate further here in a book review. But I had to make my positions clear. Until I can see Genesis 1-11 as a scientific narrative, I can’t get behind Giberson’s efforts. I get what he’s trying to do; he’s trying to redirect the discussion by pointing out that Genesis is about more than science. Which is a point on which I am in full agreement. But you can’t make such a case by building the foundation of your argument on evidence from science! That undermines the position from the very beginning, and effectively caused Seven Glorious Days to fall flat in my mind.
I certainly commend him for trying a different approach, but in the end it just felt all wrong both inside and out.