Book Write-Up: How I Changed My Mind About Evolution

Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump. How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. See here to buy the book.

How I Changed My Mind About Evolution contains reflections by scientists, theologians, pastors, and biblical scholars about their journey with the creation-evolution controversy. The contributors include Scot McKnight, Tremper Longman III, Francis Collins, John Ortberg, N.T. Wright, and others. Most of the contributors wrote their essays specifically for this book; a few essays appeared in other sources and have been reprinted in this book with permission.

Most of the stories are about how an author of an essay initially interpreted Genesis 1-2 literally, but his or her exposure to evolution and other scientific ideas challenged his or her Christian faith. The authors varied on how open-minded their religious background was and when in their life they converted to Christianity, but most of the essays overlapped in that they dealt with how the authors changed their mind about evolution: they went from disbelieving it to accepting its truth, while still maintaining their Christian faith. An exception to this pattern was the essay by N.T. Wright. Wright’s essay was not about changing one’s mind about evolution, but rather it compared American responses to evolution to British responses.

The essays got better as the book proceeded. The earlier essays referred to books that might be useful to people on a similar journey, and they had endearing stories, but the later essays were better because they got into more scientific meat, while still being accessible to the layperson. For example, Daniel M. Harrell said: “I tried to preach about how entropy was a consequence of the fall, but physicists in my congregation were quick to correct me on that. Had there been no entropy in the Garden, Adam and Eve would have been up to their necks in bacteria and bugs” (page 126). Rodney J. Scott said that he used to believe that similarities among animals testified to a common designer rather than evolution, and he likened that to similarities among automobiles. He says on page 162: “This illustration was actually more compelling in those days, but as I’ll mention below, insights from the genome projects make it less compelling now.”

Occasionally, essays in the book offered theological reflections on evolution or scientific insights. One author compared the scientific view that order came from randomness with Christian beliefs about God’s sovereignty in the face of human free will. A few essays wondered why God would wait millions of years before finally creating life on earth, and one author said that God takes God’s time.

A question that I wish more authors had addressed is why one should become a Christian. They seemed to assume the truth of Christianity, and they tried to show by various means how evolution can be consistent with Christianity, or at least not inconsistent with it. But why believe in Christianity? Why not conclude that Genesis 1-2 contradicts modern science because the Bible was written by human beings rather than God? What makes the authors of this book think that Christianity is true? Even though most of the authors told stories about how they came to faith, they did not wrestle with the question of why Christianity is true; rather, they assumed it. There were a few incidents in which authors came close to saying why they thought that Christianity was true: one appealed to his experience and said that God continued to work in his life, even after he accepted the truth of evolution; another appealed to a physicist who said that the cosmos looks like it developed with human beings in mind. Overall, though, they did not explain what it was about Christianity that made them want to believe in it, amidst the challenges posed by science.

This is still a good book, though. Those with similar struggles can read it and feel less alone.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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