Reviewing Tood Wood's The Quest

Continuing the discussion from Todd Wood on Exploring Creation's Hardest Problems:

Thanks, @J.E.S and @jammycakes, for the invitation to read and discuss The Quest by Dr. Todd Wood. There are many really positive takeaways that I have from this book. First, much like you, Dr. Wood seems like a guy I’d love to sit with and enjoy a beer or coffee. He seems quite genuine, clearly loves the Lord and has great respect for the scriptures. Also, he’s a very good writer. The content is easy to read, well organized, and very easy to understand. Finally, at the end of each chapter, he invokes a mini-chapter, called an “Adoremus” wherein he recognizes a single aspect of the creation, describes why it is special to him (personally) and then closes with a related verse or two from the Bible. I see this as a pause, or reset, at the end of each chapter where he (and the reader) can re-center on what’s important. This is an act of humility and a nod to majoring in the majors and not dwelling upon the minors… even if the “minors” are the topic of his own book. There’s very little to not like about Todd Wood.

In the Prologue (p. 8), Wood talks about cognitive dissonance. I really appreciate him doing so, because I could never understand how it is that YECs deal with it. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling one gets (it’s a discernible pain or irritation in the head) when presented with two supposed truths that contradict one another. Wood says, “I never really thought how I thought.” Somehow, he (and presumably others) are able to compartmentalize evidence that points to an old earth or to the validity of evolution being responsible for speciation against their spiritual or religious beliefs, without experiencing this dissonance. Many (maybe most of us) cannot do so. Understanding that many people do have a capacity to avoid this dissonance does help me to see why one can faithfully hold to a YEC position.

Wood (p. 71) encourages creationists to do real science. To not avoid the controversy that comes with the territory by merely getting any old degree. He encourages others to pursue the sciences that interest each individual.

He states (p. 87) that creationists “need an excellent position on animal death that is uniquely creationist and addresses the hard questions.” I disagree that it needs to be “uniquely creationist” but applaud him for recognizing that there are many hard questions regarding animal death. I have often been frustrated in such conversations where another feels that their understanding of the animal death issue somehow is a trump card, which it is not.

In chapter nine (p. 105) Wood says that, “The quest is a difficult calling for people. The quest asks us to embrace the unknown.” And that, “Rather than committing to the dogma of answers or positions or arguments, we must instead commit to continue seeking the truth. We commit to a way that we believe will lead us to truth and life.” While agreeing completely, I struggle with the thought that many creationists hold to the most dogmatic stances I’ve ever observed. Seeking the truth should mean truly seeking the truth , whatever it may be. Sadly, though, the YEC position inherently precludes any conclusion that differs from this dogma.

For instance, (p. 84) Wood states (seemingly to fellow YEC), “I want to emphasize one more time that I am settled in my commitment to young-age creationism, but just like all relationship commitments, making a commitment doesn’t mean I understand everything I’m getting into.” For those of us do not hold to a literal seven-day creation narrative, this is disappointing. For us, Wood’s quest, it seems, is over before it has begun. It becomes less of a passionate search, and more of a regular trip to the supermarket, because the outcome is known upfront. To be fair, Dr. Wood is saying that, though he supports evolution, he remains committed to YEC. But, for many of us on the outside, it is not his position on evolution that is problematic.

Wood (p. 109) explains that science is “littered with wrong ideas.” And that, our “favorite hypothesis in science will be proved wrong one day.” Further, that we all “need to be prepared for that by practicing humility.” I believe again that Dr. Wood is speaking to creationists about evolution, here, and not the age of the earth. But even so, one can only conclude that YECs believe that their interpretation of the Bible (in regards to the creation) is correct and that science is wrong, and will inevitably fail.

For Christians (OE or YE) it comes down to the testimony of scripture. Wood (p. 65) insists that the meaning is clear. “Genesis 1-11,” he says, “is best understood as a series of historical accounts that are rich with theological meaning.” To this, I say AMEN. That there are deep theological truths to be mined gets no argument from me. But the degree to which the first eleven chapters are to be “best understood as” reliably historical accounts is merely a statement that’s impossible to defend. There are so many positions along the continuum of understanding of this part of scripture that can be reasonably supported by the text. A dogmatic assertion that it’s “my way or the highway” makes the quest more of a conclusion up front than a search for the truth.

If I am going to engage with skeptics regarding the veracity of The Resurrection, must I not consider that Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead? If I’m fair in my discussion, and want to hear what the person on the other side is saying, I should be willing to consider his position. Similarly, if I’m on a quest for the truth, do I begin with that truth? This is where the book, and the discussion in general, leave me feeling unfulfilled.


Thanks for the thoughtful review, Michael. If I ever did read another book from a young-earth perspective, it would probably only be one of Dr. Wood’s.

So does Wood say that he doesn’t experience cognitive dissonance at all in regard to this subject, or is it just something he’s managed to work through to his own satisfaction?


Thanks kindly, Laura! @Laura

Yes, he’s a good one for sure!

Regarding cognitive dissonance, he says (p. 8):

“If you listen to my critics, I’m supposed to (EDIT: omitted “suffer from”) something called “cognitive dissonance,” which…” and then he gives the Wikipedia definition.

He’s speaking of believing in “evolution” while “still being a creationist.” So this is, literally, the subject. I’m presuming that his critics imagine him to be experiencing dissonance over the age of the earth issue, as well, because evolutionary biology is replete with references to an ancient history of life on earth.

Okay, so he sees it more as a label that’s applied to him by others rather than seeing it as something he actually experiences? That’s interesting. I can look at my own time in YEC and now I would consider that I experienced cognitive dissonance, but it was relatively easy for me to ignore it because I tended to (eventually) avoid situations where it would manifest. But it sounds like he’s been at this long enough (and obviously has considered it quite a bit if he’s making a career in science!) that he doesn’t view it that way.

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I don’t read it as a label, necessarily, though it could be. I read him as saying, “Critics say that I should be experiencing cognitive dissonance, (but I do not.)”

He never explicitly says that he does not, but the context does not seem to allow that he does experience it.

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@J.E.S I was expecting more of a discussion. What did you think about the book? I’m guessing you read it and have some thoughts?

I’ve seen the triumphal proclamation of this concept many times in my life and it turns out it’s nothing new. Some 19th century Christian leaders, despite growing evidence to the contrary, proclaimed that the evidence of a global flood was so strong you could reconstruct a version of what we’d say the modern YEC interpretation of the flood is without the Bible (using only the ‘facts’ from God’s creation). It is delusional what happens but you can’t see it when stuck inside of it.

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Or delugional, or diluvial… :slight_smile:

I remember decades ago when I was exploring YEC as a solution. It made good sense on the surface and was comforting that it fit with my spiritual beliefs. But the cognitive dissonance was too much for me. I really think that there is something to Dr. Wood’s not being affected by it.

Many (or most) run from it, because the discomfort is awful. Clearly some are unaffected by it. It, in a way, reminds me of listening to Matt Dillahunty debating with Christians on his radio show. He is very good at asking about spiritual issues, and then posing a follow up questions that creates cognitive dissonance. Finally, knowing that most want to escape that feeling, he poses an “out”. He might say, “So, then, you agree that it is possible that God does not exist.” The caller might hold fast, but many will cave because the pressure of the CD is too much to take.

It would be interesting to hear some of our YEC friends in such discussions. They may be much better suited than the rest of us to think their way through the conundrum without caving to the dissonance.

There are a few folks like Todd Wood that have been identified as “honest creationists” with the most famous perhaps being Richard Dawkins’ quotes about Kurt Wise:

try as I might, and even with the benefit of intact margins throughout the pages of Scripture, I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two. I had to make a decision between evolution and Scripture. Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible. . . . It was there that night that I accepted the Word of God and rejected all that would ever counter it, including evolution. With that, in great sorrow, I tossed into the fire all my dreams and hopes in science… Although there are scientific reasons for accepting a young earth, I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand.

There are also admission as captured by this BioLogos article:

Given the present state of the evidence, they (Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds) “admit that as recent creationists we are defending a very natural biblical account, at the cost of abandoning a very plausible scientific picture of an ‘old’ cosmos. But, over the long term, this is not a tenable position.” Thus, they call on their fellow YECs to “develop better scientific accounts” in order “to remain [a] viable” view.[3] Unfortunately, I see no evidence that this is happening.

I don’t think it is possible to make a tenable YEC cosmology for example without accepting that God made the universe to look old and when we measure and calculate its age, it just so happens to give us 13.8 billion years or so.


Thanks, I feel as though you may have received a mistaken impression based upon my lack of clarity. I was saying that I’ve heard atheists such as Dillahunty cast doubt over the existence of God by causing cognitive dissonance in the mind of the caller. Because most of us will rush to resolve this dissonance, if we’re not careful, we might find ourselves agreeing to something that we do not, in principle, agree with. So, to a certain extent, one who is better suited to manage cognitive dissonance may have a greater success in engaging with one who uses this technique (because they are not so affected by the dissonance) I’m sorry that I was not more clear.

Greetings, @Michael_Callen! You are correct in your guess :slight_smile: . Unfortunately, I have been horrifically busy lately. Hopefully I will have time to respond at some point in the (relatively) near future!

Anyway, I think I’ll share some thoughts tangentially related to the topic of cognitive dissonance (Note: this also contains some of my thoughts about the book :wink: ).

In the origins debate, I have had the opportunity to converse with people from a variety of different theological positions. I have, through several discussions and debates, consistently found the YEC interpretation of the Scriptures to be the most traditional and faithful (I also don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that way). I’ve seen many other interpretations (which are often held by very intelligent people) that sometimes even posses potentially valid points in their favor. However, even though I acknowledge that I (in principle) could be wrong about Genesis, I have yet to be presented with a EC/TE and/or OEC interpretation that I find sufficiently convincing. If I press hard enough, it seems to come down to:

“Science shows that the earth is old, that evolution is true, or that some other aspects of a traditional reading of Genesis are impossible, so we need to figure out what is wrong with our interpretation of Scripture (or, what is wrong with the Scriptures). Otherwise, people will leave the faith because they see that Christianity is not compatible with demonstrable scientific truth.” (Note: this is not a direct quote).

In my opinion, that seems to be a rather fear-motivated stance (and I don’t think fear is always a good reason to believe something).

So (coming from my own theological framework), let’s (for the sake of brevity) say that that leaves us with YEC (or atheism). The foolishness of God is wiser than men, right? Anyway, left with YEC, we come to a fork in the road. One way is to become ridiculously dogmatic and soullessly pragmatic about everything origins-related. I think that that ultimately leads to a rather fear-motivated and potentially overconfident stance. However, I believe that there is a better way.

Even if YEC is the best Scriptural interpretation, we still need to remember that the Bible isn’t a scientific textbook. It is a book of history and theology (topics which are closely linked within the Scriptures, as real historical events have major theological implications). I think that YEC theology is good, but I think we should still be curious and explore the world of science. A cursory glance at the state of the Creation Science movement shows that our scientific expedition hasn’t always been (and isn’t always going to be) easy. It is filled with “hard” problems (to borrow Dr. Wood’s terminology). However, the difficulty and mystery (in my opinion) ultimately makes the quest much more exhilarating and interesting (not to mention that solving the hard problems is just plain epic…even if we die trying :wink: )! That was one thing I appreciated about The Quest. I thought that it was realistic, but also optimistic.

Ultimately, there are vast swaths of unexplored territory for me in the realm of the sciences! Even if many things seem stacked against me and my position (judging by my own rather superficial knowledge), how do I know that there isn’t some obscure anomaly or undiscovered (at least, by me) model that explains the data well? I certainly don’t want to change my mind based on limited knowledge and information!

That’s another thing I appreciated about The Quest. Dr. Wood wisely points out that Creationists don’t have to have all the answers and solve everything right now. He also mentions that we don’t know everything right now. That takes a lot of humility (which sometimes seems to be comparatively rare in the ce-debate :wink: ).

In the end, it always helps to:

  1. Remember that God knows everything we could ever know about origins (not to mention that He knows everything).
  2. Remember all of the things that I (and, to a lesser extent, mankind) don’t know about origins (or all of the things we don’t know about any topic, for that matter).
  3. Remember all of the things that we will discover about our origins tomorrow!

Also, I will note that I won’t change my position on origins based on:

  1. A desire to end any abrasive treatment (and/or bullying) I receive due to my current position.
  2. A desire to conform to the mainstream scientific views.
  3. My own limited understanding of scientific matters.

Ultimately, I feel that I’ll be around for a while yet (God willing), and I think I’ll learn a thing or two in that time as well. What discoveries are waiting for us just around the corner?

Thank you for posting your review @Michael_Callen! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts! I will continue to ruminate on what you wrote in your review, and I would be happy to comment on any specific areas of your review that you would be particularly interested in hearing my thoughts on (at least, as time permits :wink: )! Thanks again for the discussion!


[quote=“J.E.S, post:11, topic:41254”]
Also, I will note that I won’t change my position on origins based on:

Good for you. Those are things that should not change your mind. For me, one main deciding factor was the realization that the earth is ancient based on multiple unrelated lines of evidence, and that truth is from God also. Therefore, there must be a way to understand both creation and the Bible that respects the truth seen in both.


Jonathan, thanks for sharing your thoughts so far. I respect your point of view even though I claim a different origins acronym.

I would agree with the need for curiosity, and I have seen this sentiment expressed on YEC publications before. But for me there always seemed to be a subtle implication in that thought, which was that our curiosity should have limits. We should explore many aspects of geology, for example, but if becoming too curious about the age of the earth leads you to consider something that might contradict a particular interpretation of Genesis, shut it down and read the preproduced “answers” instead.


I completely understand and figured as much… reply when you are able. It is always nice to converse with you, and so I look forward to it. As I mentioned, I enjoyed the book very much.

You mentioned the aspect of cognitive dissonance, but I did not really read anything that addressed it. However, your dialog was very similar to that of Dr. Wood’s, so it may be that you, like he, do not experience it. If you can compartmentalize these two constructs (science and theology) in such a way that they are more-or-less NOMA, then you may have a rare ability to not be affected by it. Most of us, however, are. I feel as though reading about Dr. Wood (and even you here) discussing dissonance, that I understand better how you deal with or avoid it.

I think that, to a great extent, what you experience in the way of the three things listed (abrasive treatment, an unwillingness to conform to mainstream science, and your own limited understanding) might also help you to understand where some of the abrasiveness comes from. Those of us who experience CD literally feel a “pain” in the brain when we encounter two opposing aspects that both incompatible and presented as truth. To us, the world being old, but really being young, is not just a matter of philosophy. It is a discomfort that we want to resolve. Because of this desire to stop the pain, we can be less-than-pleasant at times. Hopefully this book will help me, at least, to maintain a proper dialog by understanding that others don’t feel the same pain that I do.

I know that your post above is not your full-blown response and that you need more time. That said, I would like to make one observation in the spirit of cooperation and understanding. You said:

As is often the case in this discussion, we agree on many points. Your observation regarding people leaving the faith because the Christianity presented to them is incompatible with demonstrable scientific proof is not a good reason to come down on one side or another.

It is a reason to be concerned about the issue, but it is not a reason to believe that the earth is old. This is the tail wagging the dog. One should conclude that the earth is old because (as Phil said above) multiple lines of evidence correlate together to show that it is so. The truth should lead the way. But, if you conclude that the earth is young and that evolution never happened, the church will lose people. I left the church for this very reason in 8th grade, so I know that it happens.

The bottom line is that the discussion is important. The Quest is honorable and worthy. The problem that many of us have (and Laura articulated it well above) is that the conclusion seems to be made at the front, not the end. This is a big issue that you need to address in discussing this issue with those of us on the other side. Nearly all of us were enticed by YEC at one time or another. It’s not that we weren’t exposed, it is that we didn’t find the answer that you find.


I resemble that remark! haha. But you’re right. I am afraid. I’m afraid for the millions of souls who have rejected Christ for no good reason. I’m afraid of what will become of the church when young people are told they must accept a 6000-yr-old universe and a global flood in order to become a Christian. I’m afraid of the tidal wave of unbelief about to break on our shores thanks in no small part to YEC anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-intellectual, and anti-factual propaganda. We’re standing at the precipice of the great apostasy, and the YEC prescription is “More of the same!”

Fear? Yes. Fear of the future if people believe Ken Ham’s argument that YEC is the only genuine form of Christianity. So you entirely misunderstand me and people like me. We aren’t motivated by fear. We are motivated by evangelism.

Sure, if you close your eyes and stop your ears to shut out the world, YEC makes perfect sense of Scripture. But the rest of us live in a multifaceted reality that includes many other things besides Scripture. If you have enough faith to exclude anything that doesn’t fit your interpretation of Scripture, more power to you. Perhaps it would be best if you preached to the choir rather than spreading your views on the internet, however. Judging by the evidence (that pesky thing!), the more that YEC spreads its “gospel,” the more people who lose faith. Whatever you call that, it isn’t evangelism.


It’s funny, but even as a little kid I didn’t believe the story of Noah’s Ark. I’d been to the zoo and watched PBS. How could all the animals fit into the ark? It didn’t make sense. I didn’t have the knowledge to work it all out, so I just mentally skipped over it whenever the story came up. Resolution had to wait until I was older.

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It never occurred to me that the world was created in seven (literal) days until I spent a few months exploring YEC. No I, too, am back to where it all began.

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