The Fool and the Heretic
How Two Scientists Moved beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue about Creation and Evolution
- ISBN: 9780310595434
- Published By: Zondervan
- Published: February 2019
To some Christians, anyone who accepts the theory of evolution, irrespective of the particulars of their belief(s), has blatantly rejected biblical teaching and, thus, is guilty of heresy. In contrast, there are also not a few people who believe that anyone who accepts the idea that God created everything in a mere six days (having rested on the seventh) just a few thousand years ago must (surely?) be “poorly educated and ignorant—a fool” (as the back cover of the book under review puts it). Given this dichotomy, what steps should Christians take towards avoiding theological tribalism and (unlovingly) misrepresenting, caricaturizing, and/or demonizing one’s opponents?
The Fool and the Heretic: How Two Scientists Moved beyond Labels to a Christian Dialogue about Creation and Evolution arose via The Colossian Forum (CF); an organization dedicated to helping Christians resolve their conflicts more amicably (14, 25). Rob Barrett from CF makes clear that authors Darrel R. Falk and Todd Charles Wood were invited to a special symposium sponsored by that organization in order to become “friends in Christ, trusting that he had broken down their dividing wall” (17). In this way, the book seeks to effectively model how faithful Christians can hold opposing views on deeply divisive issues yet grow deeper in their relationship(s) to God and one another. The book tells a poignant story of two respected scientists holding opposing viewpoints on the topic of origins, i.e., Wood (the Fool), representing so-called young-age/young-earth creationism, and Falk (the Heretic), who engages the topic from a Christian evolutionist point of view (21–22).
Each chapter ends with five to six well-crafted questions “For Study and Reflection.” The volume itself concludes with “Your [Own] Colossians 1:17 Assignment,” wherein one is encouraged to engage individuals holding alternate viewpoints and ask them certain questions, such as: “What is at stake for you in this controversy? What are you concerned might happen when people get this wrong? What concerns do you have about your own view on this topic? How would you like to see your church address this topic?” (196). These unique components of The Fool and the Heretic are particularly helpful in accommodating the text to a small group (Bible) study or book club, especially for busy church leaders, Christian educators, pastors, etc.
Another laudable aspect of the book relates to the thoughts, comments, and reflections of Barrett that are interspersed throughout the text. Specifically, after Wood and Falk each finish their respective chapter(s), Barrett reinforces the mission, vision, and purpose of the text at hand and The Colossian Forum. Functioning as something of a go-between, Barrett’s work helps to mediate the two parties’ disparate voices. While the recommended resources contained in Barret’s work help to elucidate more clearly Wood and Falk’s position(s), their overall effectiveness is hampered by how infrequently they appear. An annotated “recommended reading” list from each side would have proven helpful.
Some people may be rather disappointed to discover that despite the best efforts of The Colossian Forum, their intention seems to have been frustrated. Specifically, Barrett states: “I once asked our two scientists if they saw each other as friends or enemies . . . Todd disappointed me when he answered, ‘Not just enemies. Mortal enemies.’ I looked pleadingly to gentle Darrel for the correction Todd needed. He failed me too: ‘Yes, Todd’s right’” (163–64). With respect to the overarching question, however, that is, “How might the miracle of reaching agreement about origins come to be?”, Barrett states that one should simply look at what has already been done:
[Rather than] responses . . . governed by fear, distrust, and defensiveness . . . these two Christians were granted better instincts: love, trust, and vulnerability. As Darrel and Todd have lived out their calling, they have accomplished something unusual . . . To look at things through the eyes of another requires a certain confidence and peace that lets you enter that foreign world without being afraid of losing yourself. Todd and Darrel have shown themselves able to do this (190–94).
To conclude, The Fool and the Heretic is not only an exceptional case study of what organizations like The Colossian Forum might accomplish, but a great addition to the ever-growing library of books concerning the not unimportant intersection of science, creation and the Bible. The unique dialogue format, in particular, makes for an especially interesting read. Its primary readers are likely to be pastors, Christian leaders, and educators, alongside certain Bible College/Christian university and seminary students. The book may also, perhaps, be leveraged as an apologetics tool of sorts offering stimulating yet academically responsible food for thought.
Dustin Burlet teaches at Millar College of the Bible (Winnipeg, MB).Dustin BurletDate Of Review:July 29, 2022