This article is from
Journal of Creation 37(1):33–35, April 2023

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A useful compendium on science and faith

A review of: The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the ultimate questions about life and the cosmos
by William A. Dembski, Casey Luskin, and Joseph M. Holden (Eds.)
Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2021



The Intelligent Design (ID) movement has, for several decades, championed scientific arguments for design. They have also often eschewed any direct commitment to theism or Christianity, though most of their adherents are Christian theists.

In The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the ultimate questions about life and the cosmos, Christian theist members of the ID movement move beyond their typical limited stance on the science of intelligent design and forge a more comprehensive view of science and faith. Edited by William Dembski, Casey Luskin, and Joseph Holden, it is a compendium of nearly 50 essays from over 30 different contributors that is split into four major sections. It addresses many different topics on science and faith—Christianity, design, evolution, and the age of the earth, but also transhumanism, panspermia, and the history of science.

There is no way to do justice in a short review to a compendium this long. As such, I will focus on a broad overview and touch on the points most salient to biblical creation.

Science and faith

The first section tends to deal with the general relation between science and Christianity. It is generally locatable on Ian Barbour’s famous fourfold categorization of relationships between science and religion: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. The perspective defended in this book is most recognizable as ‘integration’. Indeed, Dr Brian Gordon, the proponent of ‘integration’ in the recent Three Views on Christianity and Science,1 contributes two essays to this volume. Nonetheless, the Thomistic influence of several authors also introduces notes of ‘dialogue’ into this volume.

The essays of this section are uneven and often quite repetitive. Possibly the best and most original is Richard Weikart’s entry “How Has Evil Been Done in the Name of Science?”. It is a good summary of his published work on the subject, which has been positively reviewed in Journal of Creation.2 Perhaps the weakest entry is one that tries to delineate C.S. Lewis’s approach to scientism and, to some extent, ends up conflating scientism, materialism, and nihilism. While there is often a relationship between the three ideas, they are not the same.

The most relevant essay to biblical creation in this section is Fazale Rana’s entry “What Is the Biblical and Scientific Case for a Historical Adam and Eve?” The introductory sections of the essay are pretty good. When he begins to address the timeframe for Adam, however, he argues for the standard Reasons to Believe ‘model of human origins’, which denies that all fossil species of Homo except Homo sapiens are ‘image of God’ humans, i.e. he still falsely regards Neanderthals as subhuman animals. He also now ‘dates’ Adam’s first appearance to as much as “about 150,000 years ago (± 50,000 years)” (p. 106). The retreat of Adam further into the past (and away from reality) according to the ‘RTB model’ continues apace.3,4

Science and design

The second section focuses more on the positive case for design and how science interfaces with that case. In general, the quality of these essays is better than those in the first section. This is largely due to several of the contributors being veteran commentators on the issues they tackle. Stephen Meyer’s opening entry to this section, “What Is the Evidence for Intelligent Design and What Are Its Theological Implications?”, acts as a good summary of the entire section, and provides a potent abductive argument for design with theistic implications, as one might expect from his extensive work on the subject.

Some will find elements of this section objectionable. For instance, there are arguments for ‘free will’, and the author of those essays, Michael Egnor, takes a Thomistic approach to free will. Elements of Hugh Ross’s entry on fine-tuning presuppose an old earth and cosmos, and so they either don’t really work or can be recast as matters of design parameterization during Creation Week.

The most relevant chapter to biblical creation is William Dembski’s essay “Why Does Intelligent Design Matter?” Here he stakes out a unique spot for intelligent design in the context of the origins controversy, and notes what he thinks are several advantages. In contrast to creationism, he says:

“Young-Earth creationism, insofar as it gives pride of place to a literalistic interpretation of Genesis, cannot avoid framing the creationist challenge to materialistic atheism as a religion-versus-science controversy. … Intelligent design, by contrast with creationism, is at root a scientific position and gains its rhetorical edge from this fact” (p. 195).

The problem with this analysis is that ID’s main interlocutors have generally repudiated the idea that ID is a scientific position.5,6 And while I certainly agree that such responses are really bad philosophy and science, the point is that this reflects the general reaction of the scientific establishment to ID. The ID proponent thus ends up ostracized from the scientific guild in much the same manner as the biblical creationist. However, biblical creation, unlike ID, offers a constructive synthesis of the Bible and science, which is a necessary component of any Christian approach to science. Therefore, ID remains on the fringe with creationism, but offers limited value to the church compared to a full-orbed Bible–science relationship. The arguments for intelligent design are welcome, but they are not enough by themselves.

Science and evolution

The third section focuses on the interface between science and evolution. And, unsurprisingly, it is largely negative. In general, it is well argued. It is also the section that has the least direct relevance to biblical creation. Apart from a summary critique by Günter Bechly of the YEC approach to radiometric dating and something of a mischaracterization of the YEC position on fossil ‘transitional forms’ (saying that we often say there are ‘none’), there is not much at odds with biblical creation in this section.

The essay I found most interesting was “Does Darwinism Make Theological Assumptions?” by Cornelius Hunter. He presents a strong case that Darwin made a lot of unsubstantiated assertions about what God would do as a crucial element in his argument for evolution in On the Origin of Species. This shows that Darwinian evolution is not a purely scientific theory, and never has been.

Hard questions on science and faith

The final section is a sort of grab-bag of different issues, addressing matters as diverse as panspermia, multiverse theories, and transhumanism. However, this section also has the most essays relevant to biblical creation, with four out of the 11 having some relevance.

The most directly related is the essay “How Should We Think About the Age of the Earth?”, by David Haines. By casting the dispute as fundamentally between ‘different interpretations’ of Genesis 1–11 (figure 1), he misconstrues the debate. Practically all the ‘different interpretations’ come from the old-earth camp, and they all serve the same purpose: to argue that the Bible is compatible with deep time. Indeed, most such interpretations arose in the aftermath of, and as a consequence of, deep time theorizing in the 18th century.7 This reveals a deep problem in the practice of sola scriptura by many (if not most) OECs. They commonly constrain the interpretations of Scripture they regard as viable to those compatible with deep time. Why? They treat deep time as true with a degree of confidence and intransigence typically reserved for mundane beliefs like sense experience and basic moral beliefs (e.g. the immorality of murder). The upshot is that, in practice, they generally do not allow Scripture to dictate what they should believe on this question; they instead let deep time determine what Scripture can mean.

More than this, though, there are severe salvation-historical problems for OECism, such as placing the fossil record and human death before human sin. William Dembski attempts to address this in his essay “How Can We Make Sense of Natural Evil?”. This is essentially a summary presentation of his book The End of Christianity, which has been extensively critiqued.8 First, he offers a reading of Genesis 1 that says it corresponds to the ‘logical’ ordering of divine creation in God’s mind rather than the chronological sequence of how He produces it in being (p. 530). He contrasts this ‘logical’ ordering with the “purely contingent facts about the chronology of creation” (p. 530). However, this depends on a distinction not present in Scripture, let alone evident in Genesis 1.9

Image: Brett Jordan, Pexels.com / CC0Bible open at Genesis1 chapter 1
Figure 1. Almost all ‘different interpretations’ of Genesis 1–11 come from old-earth proponents seeking to show that the Bible and deep time are compatible. Intransigent belief in deep time, not a commitment to submit to Scripture above all else, drives this trend.

Moreover, by contrasting God’s ‘logical’ ordering of creation in God’s mind with the ‘pure contingency’ of its chronology of implementation, Dembski seems to suggest that Genesis 1 offers a logically necessary ordering of God’s creative intents. However, why must, for example, the creation of vegetation (Day 3) have preceded the creation of stars (Day 4) in God’s mind? Rather, this seems to be as contingent as the chronology of implementation. If God is free to execute the creative act in whatever sequence He wants, it makes no sense to say that He is constrained to plan the creative act in only one specific way. God is free to execute and plan His creative act countless different ways, even with respect to this cosmos. Therefore, both are contingent. But if both are contingent, then Genesis 1 cannot be a logical ordering of creation in God’s mind in contradistinction to the ‘pure contingency’ of the chronology of its implementation.

Second, Dembski argues for his ‘retroactive death’ idea, which says that God imposed the effects of the Fall on creation before as well as after Adam sinned. This idea has been severely criticized in numerous places.7 I offered a summary critique in another review that remains apt:

“However, this reverses the Bible’s order—God making a ‘very good’ world, and then God subjected the world to futility in response to Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17–19; Romans 5:12–21, 8:19–23). It also implies God never actually created a ‘very good’ world. Moreover, it puts the punishment for the crime before the crime is committed. Furthermore, God hides the suffering-filled world from Adam until he sins so that He can blame Adam for it. This is deception of the worst kind. Anything but ‘very good’ and ‘God’s intended meaning’.”10

Dembski says that his point is merely that “you don’t need to be a young-earth creationist to maintain a traditional view of natural evil” (p. 534). Even this limited point, however, is, I think, a failure. The deep problems and contrived nature of both his reading of Genesis 1 and his theodicy will, I suspect, incline even many old-earthers toward other views.

One other essay that addresses questions of young- and old-earth creation directly is Richard Howe’s essay “How Should Christians Think About Origins?”. He is a young-earther, but, like Haines, believes the dispute between OECs and YECs is purely a matter of ‘different interpretations’. As mentioned above, this fails to see how deep time constrains the OEC reading of Scripture.

One other essay that has some relevance is “Is Theistic Evolution a Viable Option for Christians?”, by Jay Richards. It doesn’t address biblical creation directly, and so is a perspective both YECs and OECs can embrace. And he raises a really interesting point about what evolution is taken to mean by its secular expositors:

“Darwinists almost always insist that their theory serves as a designer substitute. That’s the whole point of the theory” (p. 436).

So, when we hear responses from theistic evolutionists that are uncompromising in their commitment to a ‘natural causes only’ picture of evolution but vacillate on whether God guides evolution,11 it simply underscores the difficulty in embracing such ‘theistic Darwinism’. One can’t marry a divine designer of life with an explanation for life crafted to be a designer-substitute. Either one embraces Darwin’s rejection of teleology or one imports teleology into evolution in conflict with the secular consensus. Theistic evolutionists can’t have their cake and still eat it too.


As one might expect from a compendium with nearly 50 essays from about 30 different contributors, the quality and depth of the essays is uneven. There is also a lot of repetition. And since most people in the ID movement are old-earth creationists, this issue rises at times, and it is explicitly defended in several essays. Nonetheless, this is a useful resource for any who are interested to get a handle on the origins debate and become aware of the many different issues that surround the conversation between science and Christianity. Plus, it defends a supernatural perspective on origins with respect to biology, and biblical creationists can draw on some of the conceptual resources in these thinkers to forge a more Bible-based synthesis of science with Scripture.

Posted on homepage: 5 July 2024

References and notes

  1. Doyle, S., An incomplete discussion (A review of: Three Views on Christianity and Science by Christopher Reese and Paul Copan (Eds.)), J. Creation 35(2):33–37, 2021. Return to text.
  2. Sarfati, J., The Darwinian roots of the Nazi tree (Weikart review), September 2005 (updated August 2014). Woodmorappe, J., Hitler the evolutionist; Hitler the pantheist (Hitler the atheist—Yes) (A review of Hitler’s Religion: The twisted beliefs that drove the Third Reich by Richard Weikart), J. Creation 31(2):31–34, 2017. Return to text.
  3. Line, P., Progressive creationist anthropology: many reasons NOT to believe (A review of Who was Adam? by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross), J. Creation 20(3):31–38, 2006. Return to text.
  4. Sarfati, J., Hugh Ross bluffs at church meeting, 31 March 2020. Return to text.
  5. National Academies of Sciences, Science and Creationism: A view from the National Academy of Sciences, 2nd edn, The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p. 25, 1999 | doi.org/10.17226/6024. Return to text.
  6. AAAS Board Resolution: on Intelligent Design Theory, web.archive.org/web/20061205031748/http:/www.aaas.org/news/releases/2002/1106id2.shtml, accessed 1 Dec 2022. Return to text.
  7. Kulikovsky, A.S., Creation, Fall, Restoration: A biblical theology of Creation, chap. 3, Creation and Genesis: a historical survey, Mentor, Fearn, Ross-shire, pp. 59–84, 2009. See also The History of Interpretation of Genesis 1–11. Return to text.
  8. Dembski, W., The End of Christianity, B&H Academic, Nashville, TN, 2009. See these reviews: Bell, P., The ‘problem’ of evil and the supremacy of Scripture, 12 Oct 2010; Hodge, A., Dembski’s god not worth finding, J. Creation 24(2):38–42, 2010. Return to text.
  9. Cosner, L., Talking about time: the semantic overlap of the terms ‘chronos’ and ‘kairos’ in biblical usage, J. Creation 31(3):68–73, 2017. Return to text.
  10. Doyle, ref. 1, p. 35. Return to text.
  11. Stump, J., Does God guide evolution? biologos.org/series/evolution-basics/articles/does-god-guide-evolution, 18 Apr 2018. Return to text.