Unraveling the Origins Controversy

I am not sure what I was expecting when I picked up Dr. David DeWitt’s book Unraveling the Origins Controversy, but after reading the first few chapters, I was pleasantly surprised. I have read my fair share of creationist literature and expected similar content and style to other books on the same topic. However, I found this book to be particularly readable and engaging.

The first two chapters focus on worldviews and differences in empirical (operational) and historical science. In the Preface, DeWitt makes it clear that his approach is based on presuppositional apologetics. As I often say and DeWitt emphasizes, evidence does not speak for itself; we do, and so our presuppositions are important.

In the worldview chapter, his approach is unique in that he uses a class field trip to Washington, D.C., to illustrate his points. DeWitt draws the connections between a belief in evolution (which eliminates God and undermines biblical authority) and the decline in morals. He states that when the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History teaches children that they are the result of “time, genes and a little luck,”—that they are the product of millions of years of evolution—they are removing the only firm basis for our liberties. If there is no Creator, then there can be no inalienable rights endowed by a Creator. If there is no God, then liberties cannot really be considered a gift from God (p. 17).

DeWitt then attempts to define worldview and a biblical worldview and comes to these conclusions:

Thus, the focus of ‘worldview’ should not be a specific list of beliefs but rather the orientation of the heart (p. 25).
The more our commitments and the orientation of our heart are in line with Scripture, the closer our individual worldview will be in line with God’s heart (p. 28).
The origins issue serves as a foundation and glue to a person’s worldview (p. 29).

DeWitt clearly defines empirical and historical sciences and discusses the role of faith in the historical sciences. Belief in both creation and evolution depend on faith—in either the existence of God or the non-existence of God, respectively. He writes, “Thus evolutionary scientists assume that evolution is an unguided, random process without the ability to test and affirm this assumption. This sounds like faith to me” (p. 34).

Dewitt discusses the importance of “robustness” when evaluating scientific hypotheses: “A theory or hypothesis that is robust is one that accommodates the most data from all observations. A robust theory makes sense and has the least amount of conflict.” He states that the two competing hypotheses—evolution model and creation model—are mutually exclusive, and in order to determine which is correct, the robustness of each must be considered.This makes up the bulk of the remainder of the book. However, DeWitt, being true to his presuppositional approach, realizes that it is not a matter of evidence but rather faith:

Ultimately, neither model can be proved. Both must be accepted by faith. We should not underestimate the role of the heart in how a person approaches questions related to origins. In many cases, it is not a matter of evidence at all. . . . Thus, for some, no matter how much evidence for creation mounts up, they will reject it outright (p. 43).

He then discusses that Christianity is a “reasoned faith” and provides biblical support of God’s expectations for people to use their minds. This idea is often lost in many of today’s churches that hold emotion and feelings as superior to the mind and thinking. He also gives biblical definitions of faith and writes that “faith is not going against the evidence but just a little beyond it” (p. 44, emphasis original).

In Chapter 3, “A Day is a Day,” DeWitt emphasizes the importance of biblical authority when examining re-interpretations (i.e., Gap Theory, Progressive Creation) of Genesis which are unfortunately held by many Christians today. He states, “God told us in his Word what happened. To insist that creation took place as it says in Genesis does not ‘put God in a box’ as some have suggested. Instead, it takes God at his word” (p. 57). He also talks about the importance of faith in believing God created out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3):

In contrast, if a person rejects this view and does not believe that God created the universe then they also do so by faith as the opposite cannot be proven either. The miracles of Jesus Christ parallel the miracles of creation [i.e., multiplying bread and fish—the extra came out of nothing]. Thus, if we believe the miracles that Jesus Christ performed, it is no stretch to believe creation occurred in the same way—at God’s command from nothing. In contrast, if we believe the miracles of Jesus, but deny the miracles of creation, we are inconsistent (p. 49, emphasis original).

Inconsistency is a major problem for Christians who do not believe in biblical creation. One of the biggest problems being that every origins scenario outside of biblical creation places death before sin rather than as a consequence of sin. This makes death and suffering a part of God’s “very good” original, perfect creation.

DeWitt (a former theistic evolutionist) writes, “But it was this issue of death before sin that convinced me that theistic evolution could not work” (p. 57). I concur, as this was a major turning point for me as well, and sadly an issue many Christians have not considered when evaluating their views of the Genesis account of creation. DeWitt concludes, “Those who interpret Genesis as an allegory do serious damage and once that door is opened, there is no clear place to stop. From a Biblical perspective, evolution and millions of years cannot be reconciled with Genesis” (p. 81).

Chapters 4–11 cover varying topics in the origins controversy such as Noah’s flood, fossils, big bang, age of the earth, distant starlight, natural selection, mutations, origin of life, and human evolution. I really enjoyed DeWitt’s approach throughout these chapters in providing precise and succinct explanations of alternatives to biblical creation and then rebutting them. DeWitt clearly shows that Darwin’s ideas of evolution were greatly influenced by Lyell’s theory of uniformitarianism and Malthus’s ideas concerning populations and resources.

DeWitt continues to emphasize throughout these chapters the supremacy of biblical authority, “It [RATE project and radiometric dating] also highlights the fact that where scientific evidence appears to contradict the Bible, it is likely that it is our interpretation of the scientific evidence that is in error rather than the Scriptures” (p. 135). This is especially relevant when he discusses the scriptural geologists of the 1800s and their unwillingness to compromise on the authority of the Bible when many theologians were willing to change Scripture to “fit” the scientific evidence.

Chapter 10 offers a look at general design arguments for the existence of God, such as those used by natural theology and the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM). DeWitt deftly points out the flaws with these types of arguments. For natural theology he writes, “While Paley himself still believed that miracles were possible, he appealed to human reason on the basis of nature for evidence of the existence of God. However, human reason and wisdom provide a poor foundation for faith” (p. 192). He then references 1 Corinthians 2:4–5 which I would encourage every Christian to memorize. DeWitt gives a fair evaluation of the pros and cons of the IDM and states, “[J]ust because someone believes in ID does not mean they have become a Christian. . . . ID can be used to remove obstacles that prevent people from trusting the Bible but it should not be an end itself” (p. 195). He concludes the chapter by stating the supremacy of special revelation (Bible) to general revelation (nature): “The evidence from nature can provide sufficient rationale only for understanding the invisible qualities of God. To know God—who he is—requires faith and the study of the Bible” (p. 202, emphasis original).

The final chapter, “Evangelism in Athens,” focuses on the use of biblical creation in evangelism. DeWitt summarizes this topic well when he writes, “The primary goal of creation evangelism is to help people become Christians and come to an understanding of the Gospel of Christ. A second goal is [to] help Christians to have a more consistent worldview based on Scriptures” (p. 229).

He informs the reader that today’s society is similar to that of the “Greeks” of Acts 17 who do not have knowledge of the Bible and the Creator God. DeWitt shows how creation evangelism can be used to help people know who God is beginning with Genesis and origins. As Genesis is the most attacked book of the Bible in today’s world, this approach is necessary to regain people’s trust in the totality of the Word of God. DeWitt shares, “Who am I to say which portions are true and which are not? Although, I believe that scientific evidence supports a creation view, I do not base my belief on that evidence but on the Word” (p. 234).

As a former teacher and parent, I enjoyed DeWitt’s use of personal anecdotes relating to the classroom and children. The endnotes are not exhaustive but direct readers to more detailed information on specific topics. I found the photos to be somewhat dark, which made it difficult to ascertain detail. A topical index would also make a great addition.

The book can easily be read in a couple sittings and provides a great introduction for those not familiar with the topic and great insight for those already familiar with the issues. I would highly recommend this book to everyone interested in the origins controversy from the novice to the expert.

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