I just finished reading a book titled I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux. Lamoureux is an associate professor of science and religion at the University of Alberta in Canada. He has three earned PhD degrees, in dentistry, theology (specializing in Genesis, and in Science and Religion) and biology (specializing in the evolutionary development of teeth). Lamoureux is the author of the books Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution (2008) and I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution (2009).
Clearly, as the title reflects, Lamoureux wants to show how it is possible as one who is a well-studied “Christian” can accept the theory of evolution also. He aims to show that these two beliefs are not contradictory, but can be put together in harmony. By the end of the book, he desires his readers to see that he, as an “evolutionary creationist” takes both of God’s revelations seriously, the Bible and the “book” of nature/creation. I will state right off the bat that I believe he falls supremely short in showing that he respects both “books”. His views, as will be spoken of in this review, lift the opinions/beliefs of scientists above scripture, making them the ultimate authority when it comes to how we should interpret nature (and scripture).
Chapter 1. Lamoureux is careful at the beginning of this book (thankfully) in defining his terms. He claims to accept both creation and evolution, but he understands that, as these words are commonly defined, they are at odds with one another. He attempts to redefine both words so he can show that the origins debate between creation and evolution is a false dichotomy. Yes, he must create a new position to show this, but he feels that he sufficiently shows this to be the case. He defines evolution as the scientific theory that all life, including humans, arose through natural processes. I was surprised to see that he does not believe that this process had divine intervention to make the jumps to a new kind of animal. Because of this, his view holds the same scientific problems that a naturalists’ stance on the theory has: the fact that there is no known observable process by which an animal can become a different kind of animal over long periods of time. It is just assumed by faith that this can happen by both naturalists, and by Lamoureux. He redefines creation as the theological doctrine that God made the space-time universe out of nothing. He labors to show that this means that the Bible DOES NOT show how God created, but only that He created.
This chapter also gives an introduction to the authors stance on what he titles “scientific concordism”, a view that the scientific statements in the Bible are accurate to how the world really is. His view is that if you examine the scriptures honestly, you will see that this position fails miserably. He makes a distinction between theological statements and scientific statements, which at times, becomes a completely arbitrary distinction (more on this later). The entire argument in his book depends on whether or not he is correct in his views that scientific concordism fails. He seems to be angered over the idea that many go as far to say the Bible is 100% inerrant, including the scientific statements. He believes Christians believe this to make accepting evolution impossible.
Chapter 2. This chapter examines five common positions on origins: 1.) young earth creationism (YEC); 2.) progressive creation; 3.) evolutionary creation (his position); 4.) deistic evolution, and 5.) atheistic evolution. As you can see in his portrayal of these positions, he makes his position the “non-extreme” position by carefully placing it right in the middle of all of the positions. I will particularly note his belief about why the young earth creation stance fails. You ready… The majority of scientists disagree with it! If you wanted a logical reason in this chapter as to why he believes YEC fails, you don’t get it in this chapter at least. He here, along with many other places, falls into the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum (the appeal to the majority) as his basis of truth (albeit subjective truth) in the natural realm.
Chapter 3. Here Lamoureux builds his case against scientific concordism, a position that he claims that he strongly defended for many years. He attempts to show that the Bible itself rejects such a view, trying to show that if you take the Bible seriously, you must accept his position on origins. His argument, upon examination, is not realistic in its claim that the Bible can be viewed as inerrant if it gives incorrect factual information about nature and science. One example that he gives of the Bible being false is his assertion that the Bible authors believed that the world consists of three vertically arranged tiers, one of which is considered an “underworld.” Although he believes as he put it, that the Holy Spirit accommodatively “lowered” Himself to give information that was fallible to teach infallible truths about God, he is insistent that this in no way means that God lied or deceived the people the Bible is given to (people in those centuries and us). As stated earlier, his distinctions about what is errant (scientific info) and inerrant (theological info) are arbitrary at best and near impossible to apply throughout the Bible. For example, are there any cases in which a statement includes both a scientific statement and a theological statement in the same statement.
I have to emphatically disagree that Lamoureux’s belief holds to Biblical inerrancy. No matter how much he may emphatically say otherwise, he believes God purposely gave us false information in the Bible. No matter what the intent may be, how can you say that you are not making God a liar? He tries to escape this by redefining a ‘lie’ as a statement that is made “to deceive with malicious intent.” Simply put, redefining words does not help an argument that brings many statements in the Bible into question, including statements that Jesus Christ Himself made during His ministry. Seriously? Even Jesus made false claims based on faulty, erroneous, outdated science; in other words, Jesus lied about our origins? How can you desire to be taken seriously with such a view that makes Jesus, the sinless Son of God, a liar?
It is also interesting that he accuses YEC’s with eisegesis by reading “modern science” into the Bible. This is blatant hypocrisy considering the fact that his view is completely based on the authority of modern scientific thought and interpreting scripture based on it! He later on in the chapter even re-writes Genesis 1:1-5 to accommodate it with “modern scientific concepts.”
Chapter 4. Lamoureux continues to build his case against scientific concordism. Honestly, at this point, if he did not lose credibility by his misuse of scripture, he sure does here by arbitrarily dismissing the first 11ish chapters of Genesis as not being historical by believing the chapters are based on faulty, ancient science. Why choose chapter 12 as the beginning point of the historical narrative. He says in this chapter that his time in graduate school, where he was attending for a theology degree, helped him to see that the Bible is filled with ancient science when it comes to the structure and operation of the world. Based on this, he believes it logically follows that the Bible also provides an ancient science on origins. He does attempt to back up this assertion with what he believes is irrefutable evidence, but the case is weak at best. He claims that the poetic nature of the first two chapters of Genesis make it necessary that they are not to be taken as literal historical narrative. I don’t know where he gets this ‘revelation’ from. He is not too clear on whether he takes such a view on all poetic scripture, or if he only chooses to take this view on Genesis 1-2. Nonetheless, this is the best argument he makes for these two chapters not being historical. He also just dismisses Exodus 20:11 which states that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh because of these poetic “parallel panels” within the text of Genesis 1-2. He also uses differences between the two accounts in Genesis one and Genesis two to try to prove these accounts are not to be taken literally, making arguments that the text in chapter two of Genesis do not make in the process. He commits some serious Biblical eisegesis. So, in the end, the author’s view is that God did not create man from the dust of the ground, he did not create each kind of animal separately, the fall did not happen as recorded in Genesis 3.
Chapter 5. In this chapter, Lamoureux attempts to show the compelling scientific evidence for evolution and an old earth. There really isn’t nothing new here if you do a lot of reading of books, blogs, and listen to debates. His arguments in this chapter were disappointing. What was most surprising was what he used as his main evidence for evolution: the fossil record. Yes, that is what I said. He uses the fossil record as his “compelling scientific evidence” for evolution. He seems pretty biased in how he gives the evidence, exalting it far beyond what most atheistic evolutionary scientists will. He makes the ridiculous statement that there “has never been a fossil out of place.” In the context he is talking about how the fossil record is 100% conclusive in showing that evolution is true. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many defenders of evolution understand that there are many “gaps” in the fossil record. He also doesn’t explain the problem with the “Cambrian explosion,” amongst other scientific problems for evolution , such as (as stated earlier) the fact that there is no known observable process by which an animal can become a different kind of animal over long periods of time. It is just assumed by blind faith that this can happen by both naturalists and by Lamoureux.
Besides this, the fossil record can only be subjectively interpreted. It is not a basis for objective truth. Also, he does not deal with the fact that the fossil record can easily be interpreted to fit a literal Genesis worldview. In my opinion (as I am sure you expected), the fossil record better fits a literal interpretation of Genesis which includes accepting the flood as historical. If there was not flood, the existence of such a fossil record cannot be accounted for. He is not clear on how he believes life first originated. From his other arguments, I do not know if it is safe to assume he believes that life was started by God or that it happened on its own.
Chapter 6. If you were unconvinced over his use of the fossil record, you will be equally unconvinced and disappointed over what he uses as his evidence for human evolution in this chapter (hopefully he offers better evidence in debates). His evidence is the physical and genetic similarities between humans, supposed transitional hominids, and modern-day apes. His arguments beg the question by depending on interpretations of the evidence that assume the question that is at hand, that human evolution did happen. He seems to not see this. I am at least honest in saying that I examine the evidence based on my view that the Genesis account is to be taken literally and is scientifically accurate. It seems Lamoureux just hopes you don’t catch this. Also, it is surprising that, just as in the prior chapter, his evidence can be explained easily if you believe in a literal, historical Genesis. These similarities can easily be explained by having a common Designer. Both positions have an equally subjective and valid interpretation of the evidence.
Chapter 7. This chapter is the conclusion of his argument, where he continues to try to assert that the Theory of Evolution being accepted as a fact does not need to get into the way of the foundational beliefs of Christianity. He also addresses questions that he is usually asked that I won’t go into detail about here, such as ” Why did God accommodate the Bible to ancient science? Why did He use evolution? How dinosaurs fit in the Bible, etc.”
Final Observations. It is clear in scripture that the writers of the New Testament believed in a literal, historical Genesis. Lamoureux does not deny this, but agrees with it. The problem is that he just dismisses this fact by saying that these writers believed inaccurate information concerning origins and nature. Based on the approach that he takes towards scientific information in the Bible, he ends up submitting the word of God, not to the “book of nature” as he calls it, but to the subjective interpretations and opinions of the majority of scientists. This means the Bible is ALWAYS open to reevaluation based on the science of the day. What he is unwilling to see though, is his belief not only brings the scientific statements into question, but EVERY statement in scripture. What ends up happening in his assessments of the evidence is that scientists become the ultimate authority of Lamoureux. He lifts science far above scripture, whether he is willing to see this or not. Also, when has created a slippery slope by saying that God has accommodated to the science of the Bible times. Why stop there? Why not say that God also was accommodative when it comes to morality? or the Biblical roles of men and women? or in theology? Why arbitrarily say that it is ONLY the scientific statements that are to be questioned? These other questions are equally valid if you open up the door to question any information give by God in the Bible, and many groups DO give arguments for practices deemed sinful in scripture, one example being homosexuality. On what basis could Lamoureux argue against them if they claim that God accommodated to the morality of the Bible times? He would have NO argument at all. He also would not have an argument if churches decided to introduce temples and prostitutes into their worship of God, amongst many other things such as drinking parties, etc. There would be no end to the things one can believe about God also, as long as they give the equally valid reason that God accommodated to their standards of worship, doctrine, theology, etc.
It gets to the point where any statement in scripture can be denied based on accommodation. The existence of objective truth disappears, and the Bible is submitted to what we think, feel, or believe we “know better” right now, and if Lamoureux disagrees, I believe he is being inconsistent.