Books about Genesis and Evolution

Hi everyone, I’ve enjoyed the podcast for a long time, but I just joined the forum because I’d like help picking the best resources. I’m a high school science teacher as well as a Christian. My Sunday School is going to do a full study of the Old Testament starting in January. I’d like to better understand how to read the book of Genesis in a way that fits with what we know about the history of Earth and the evolution of species, and I am looking for books that can help me with this.

I have seen plenty of scientific evidence for evolution, so I don’t need a book to help me accept that. What I would like are books that can explain how to interpret Genesis in a way that fits with the modern understanding of evolution, without having to treat Genesis as a made-up story. I know that BioLogos lists 35 books under the topic of Evolutionary Creation, but I’d like to know which are the best 4 or 5 for me to start with. I’ve heard recommendations for John Walton and Dennis Venema, but I’m definitely willing to read whatever other books have helped all of you.

Thank you!

3 Likes

Welcome to the forum, Wesley! Glad you have enjoyed the podcast and stopped by. I see you’ve already mentioned John Walton, but his books are where I started so I’d recommend them. Hopefully others will chime in with others they’ve been impacted by.

1 Like

Welcome!

I think that Walton would be great for that. Enns’ “Evolution of Adam” is also helpful, though he does treat the creation story as non literal.

1 Like

Can you tell me more about Enns’ perspective? Does he believe in God? Does he believe there is any truth to the events of Genesis?

1 Like

If Genesis isn’t a made up story, if you accept all that science says, what else could it be?

1 Like

Yes, he believes in God, though he’s probably a progressive Evangelical. He was educated in Old Testament at Harvard, and was actually director of BioLogos prior to Dr Haarsma. He just put put up a new video series on E of A, but I have not seen it yet. I have read the book–it’s not very long. I believe it’s also on Audible. He also has a podcast. I’m not so appreciative of his snarkiness, but I do enjoy some of his subjects.

Pete Enns, PhD, and The Bible for Normal People Podcast

1 Like

I second John Walton’s books. Also, the podcast, The Bible Project” by Tim Mackie and Jon Collins had a few episodes and series on how to the read the Bible.

Just remember the Bible is silent on most scientific including evolution. But what we can do is apply contextual analysis to determine its literary genre.

3 Likes

Seconding the Bible Project series on Genesis and Walton’s Lost World of Genesis. Evolution isn’t mentioned, but they teach a way of approaching Scripture that reduces the conflict many people feel exists between scientific claims and the authority of the Bible. Both would be palatable to mainstream Evangelical audiences. Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight wrote Adam and the Genome. It’s aimed at people who are concerned with Adam and Eve, specifically what Paul says about Adam in Romans.

I wrote most of the Bible Interpretation and Science unit for BioLogos Integrate, and that might be something you would find helpful. It has lesson plans to work through different approaches to the Bible that lead to very different ways of harmonizing faith and science, understanding the Bible in its ancient context, and how understanding ancient cosmology and literature can help us interpret Genesis 1. It is designed for classroom use in a Christian high school, but lots of the activities could be adapted for a church group and it has lots of additional resources organized by topic. It might be useful. (You can get $10 off with the code POCKET)

5 Likes

My new book with Gregg Davidson, noted by BioLogos on 10/26, would be a starting point: The Many Layers of Genesis 1 - Articles - BioLogos

6 Likes

I’m eagerly waiting for that one! I’m currently finishing Michael Lefebvre’s The Liturgy of Creation which I’ve found very helpful. So, I was happy to see that one of your layers of Genesis 1 is “Calendar.” I’m looking forward to seeing how you build on Lefebvre’s work, as well as the other layers.

2 Likes

That layer will be the most provocative…some will love it, some will dismiss it. Providentially, while working on this project I got asked by a publisher to review LeFebvre’s manuscript (a different publisher than the one he went with). That’s how we struck up an internet friendship and were able to pass ideas and articles back and forth.

3 Likes

I want to give a shout-out to Ken Turner and Gregg Davidson’s (very) recent book too. The Manifold Beauty of Genesis One I received it late last week and had read most of it by the next day.

Up to this point, when asked for reading recommendations, I usually gave a list of books (Walton, LeFebvre, etc), which is more than most people are willing to read. “Manifold” is a winsome, succinct summary that will challenge, delight and satisfy many and possibly inspire others to read the longer list.

The Introduction and prefatory chapter “A Model Approach: What can be learned from a genealogy?” are worth the price of the book and more. The authors have made a winsome appeal to the reader to see Genesis 1 in ways that transcend the God-said-it-I-believe-it-that-settles-it approach. If you are hoping to engage non-scientists in your Sunday School class, and not seem like you are compromising the Bible, the introductory chapters of “Manifold” are the best and most appealing way to do so.

I have nothing to disclose - I don’t know Davidson and Turner and I don’t work for their publisher and do not stand to profit from my promotion of their book. :slight_smile:

Scott

9 Likes

I would also humbly suggest my series of articles on biologos, https://biologos.org/articles/awake-in-the-night-part-1, as a “good entry point” (Christy Hemphill’s remark) if people aren’t willing to buy a book.

2 Likes

Scott, thanks so much for that hearty endorsement. I do hope it proves useful in the ways you describe. BTW, I’d second the recommendation for your BL series!

2 Likes

@FaradaySaint , Please be aware that Genesis 1isnotthe only part of the Bible that talks about the Beginning. John 1:1- 3 also is helpful from the NT perspective. We do ourselves a disservice when we study the Bible piecemeal instead as a whole.

2 Likes

Thanks everyone for al the helpful resources. Christy, it was your episode on this curriculum that made me finally come here to see what resources are available. I’m looking forward to the books, podcasts, and articles from Tim Mackie, Peter Enns, Ken Turner and Scott McCullough.

4 Likes

“I have seen plenty of scientific evidence for evolution, so I don’t need a book to help me accept that.” - @FaradaySaint

:grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Yeah, this needs to be repeated again and again! Scientists themselves don’t seem to get that, sometimes, and thus get stuck in conversation, sometimes turning into scientism, without them even noticing it. I was trained in the sociology of science, so this is not said without evidence or reason. It’s easy to see when one knows what they’re looking for.

@FaradaySaint Are you open to reading non-evangelicals? It seems only texts by evangelical protestants have been recommended here so far on your “Books about Genesis and Evolution” thread. To me, that is problematic because among the three main branches of Christianity, Orthodox, Catholic & Protestant, to me it appears that the Protestants are the most confused and self-contradictory on the topic of “human origins”, as well as “what it means to be human” as a result.

Have you made that distinction and comparison in your exploration, Wesley, or are you omitting it to just remain within the “body of knowledge” produced by Protestants?

If you’re willing to read outside of protestantism, I would recommend Dennis Bonnette’s Origin of the Human Species (3rd edition) (find more here: https://drbonnette.com/) from a Roman Catholic perspective.

Also, Peter Bouteneff’s Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives (Baker Academic, 2008) drawing on Eastern Orthodoxy addresses the question in the OP, without referencing the “protestant reformation”. I hope you may find something valuable for the Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives - Peter Bouteneff - Google Books

2 Likes

The Genesis Account

A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11
This classic commentary on Genesis 1–11 contains a thorough analysis of the text itself, and has a number of features that set it apart from many other Genesis commentaries:

It defends the biblical creationist position: creation in six consecutive normal days, death resulting from Adam’s fall, and a globe-covering Flood, and confusion of languages at Babel, and in the process it explains how the rest of the Bible interprets Genesis in the above straightforward manner.

While skillfully documenting how interpreters throughout Church history have taught the above, and that long-age death-before-sin views were a reaction to 19th-century uniformitarian geology, it also provides cutting-edge scientific support for the Genesis history.

Importantly it demonstrates that all doctrines of Christianity begin in Genesis 1–11, and straightforwardly answers the commonest objections to a plain understanding of these crucial Genesis texts.

I have not encountered The Genesis Account in particular, but my experience with other things by Sarfati (or anything else that CMI promotes) suggests that the scientific side is not going to be very well done.

3 Likes

I think this is a work in progress… resistance to evolution has hampered the effort to work this out among those who prefer to take the Bible less metaphorically and more seriously. While those trying to work the science into the Bible go too far, pushing more science into it than necessary. Thus most seem to either go with a metaphorical Adam & Eve or to try push them back to 40,000 years ago or more. I don’t think either of these are the best options either Biblical or scientifically.

I think the best option does not equate humanity to a biological species. Instead there is an inheritance we have from the evolution of life on this planet in our DNA and another inheritance of the mind we have directly from God. This I take to be the meaning of Genesis 2:7, “then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” God made our body according to the laws of nature which include evolution and God created our minds through inspiration (word derived from divine breath). For this reason, I can take many details in the Bible seriously and accept a date for Adam and Eve close to the beginning of human civilization 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. But it is the inheritance of the mind which we have from Adam and Eve not the genetic inheritance of DNA which comes from evolution, therefore we do not have to be all genetically descended from Adam and Eve, let alone for us to be genetically derived from only them. That inheritance of the mind comes to us by human communication and can easily be transmitted to cover the globe in less than a thousand years.

2 Likes

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.