Almost-great Bible study has fatal flaws

Review of Jen Wilkin’s God of Creation (Lifeway, 2018).

by 

Published: 14 February 2019 (GMT+10)
God-of-Creation

There is a certain market for ‘generically evangelical’ Bible studies—explanations that take the Bible seriously as history, but don’t get too far into controversial topics where Christians have different opinions. Popular Bible teacher Jen Wilkin’s new Bible study for women God of Creation falls solidly into that category.

Wilkin’s study is designed for personal or group use, and it consists of a book and recorded teaching that can either be purchased as video or audio downloads. Both the book and either the audio or video are required for the study, which lasts ten weeks. It is designed in such a way that the student spends the week in the text of Scripture, answering questions from the workbook, before hearing the teaching about that section.

Positive aspects

On first glance, there are a lot of things that seem to recommend Wilkin’s study. She affirms that Genesis is written as historical narrative, that Genesis depicts things that actually happen, and that Genesis sets up the context for the rest of God’s redemptive plan. She connects what happens in the first 11 chapters of Genesis to Christ. She affirms Mosaic authorship, and does not present JEDP as even an option.

Her Bible study also features a lot of work with the text itself, encouraging women to make a conscious effort to notice the details and interpret the text according to what the author intended. This would be especially useful for someone who has never engaged in this type of study before.

Fatal flaws

Unfortunately, there are fatal flaws that negate these good qualities, and it probably comes from an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. Wilkin teaches that young earth creation, old earth creation, and theistic evolution are all valid options for understanding origins. She also says that one might understand the Flood to be regional, not global, as long as one affirms that all humans except the eight on the Ark were killed by it. These instances are exceptions to her normally plain interpretation of the historical nature of Genesis 1–11.

These fatal flaws mean that there is not really an ideal audience for this study. If Wilkin were consistent in taking Genesis as history, this would be a good study for people without much experience studying the Bible or Genesis in particular. But with these flaws, that audience that could have benefited the most might be deceived regarding these important issues. Those with the experience to avoid these pitfalls probably don’t need such a basic study.

Why do publishers produce these studies?

It is important to note that resources like this do not come together out of thin air; they are developed in response to perceived demand. This isn’t evil—even CMI develops resources based on what we think people will find useful and want to have in their own libraries. Lifeway clearly knows that people want to know more about creation—but they wrongly think that being agnostic about some of the most important issues in Genesis 1–11 will make a more popular product. But this makes it substantially less helpful than it might have been.

How should we respond?

It would be easy to call creationists to righteous indignation that yet another Bible teacher has gotten it wrong, and pat ourselves on the back that we’ve gotten it right. If we really wanted to fire people up, we could call for a boycott of the publisher. But I don’t think that Wilkin is a false teacher in the same way that BioLogos is—she may be simply uninformed about these particular issues. That doesn’t mean that she’s not responsible for the errors in her study—anyone who stands up to teach about a topic brings greater scrutiny because they’re claiming to be an authority. But someone who follows Wilkin’s general method consistently will be a biblical creationist, even if she is inconsistent on this point and does not teach it. And that makes me hesitant to condemn Wilkin herself, even if I cannot recommend her study for those who want to know more about creation.

Helpful Resources

Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
From
US $12.00
From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
From
US $12.00
The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
From
US $35.00

Readers’ comments

Donald V.
The problem is that Romans 1:20 says “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”. If the unbeliever is “without excuse”, then a bible study like this one is dangerous and should be rejected. Thank you for bring this “study” to our attention.
Bridget M.
That seems to be consistent with many of the Lifeway products I've seen. I was in a Lifeway bookstore in Ohio not long ago. I had never heard of the brand, but was on a business trip with time to kill and stopped in. They had all sorts of devotionals, Bible studies, and Bibles, but that was the one thing that struck me as I browsed these products: not a single one affirmed a young earth creation. One Bible was touted as a hermeneutics Bible, but as I scanned the opening information on Genesis, it didn't affirm anything - just talked about the various interpretations of the authorship of the book (never backing any particular viewpoint and not supporting the Mosaic authorship, either), and pretty much ignored creation all together. I found that theme to be true of all the Bible study and devotionals they had. Each one in which I looked, either stated that it doesn't really matter which interpretation you believe about creation, or they just glossed the topic over quickly and moved on. My perception of the books on offer were that they were all feel good type books that really didn't delve deeply into anything fundamental to the faith. I left the store knowing I'd never enter another one. I've learned, when it comes to Bible study materials or devotionals, to check to see what they have to say about Genesis and creation; if the book doesn't affirm the clear, plain reading of the test and the historical narrative, then I doubt I can trust it to be honest in its interpretations of scripture in other areas, and I move on.
Dennis `.
All true but . . .

A half truth can be one of the most dangerous lies.

DW
David S.
It seems there is barely an echo of the kind of ‘take no prisoners, take it or leave it’ preaching and teaching that used to mark the church as a counter-culture force to be reckoned with. Far too many have an incessant need to appeal to the masses and market to the broadest group possible. Forgive me, but it just makes me nauseated. I would rather reach one person with the uncomprimised truth than a thousand with a watered down, milk toast, scaredy-cat message that fears offending people more than it fears the Lord. Please understand, I’m not judging this author (I haven’t read the book and know very little about her) but the state of a church that produces poor preaching and teaching.

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