Forty QuestionsKeathley, Kenneth and Mark F. Rooker, eds. 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution. 40 Questions and Answers Series. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2015. 432 pp. Pb; $23.99. Link to Kregel.

Kenneth D. Keathley (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Mark F. Rooker (PhD, Brandeis University) are both professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rooker describes himself as a young-earth creationist, while Keathley holds to an old-earth view. Together they have produced an irenic and fair book on the often controversial topics of creation and evolution. The book also includes a number of chapters on other issues in Genesis related to creationism, such as the age of the earth, the historical Adam, and the extent of the flood.

To be honest, when the opportunity to review this book came up I almost passed since I find most of these sorts of books creation rather argumentative, producing a great deal of heat and very little light. I have read many conservative books on creationism that seemed to be aimed and scaring the faithful away from thinking about what the Bible might actually say. But this is not the case for 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution. Keathley and Rooker usually present several sides to the issue and rarely present issues as either/or litmus tests for a “real Christian.” While there is neither author identifies themselves as a theistic evolutionist or an advocate of intelligent design, they present these views fairly.

What is more, this is a genuinely scholarly book, interacting with the original language of Genesis as well as a broad range of scholarship. By scanning through the notes I recognize many familiar evangelical scholars, but they are not from the most conservative side of evangelicalism. In addition, all of the major Genesis commentaries are represented when discussing and exegetical issue.

Part one is four chapters concerning the doctrine of creation. Here Keathley and Rooker deal with the place of the creation narrative in systematic and biblical theology. Since creation is the beginning of the “grand narrative of the Bible” the creation story re-appears frequently throughout whole Bible, culminating in a “new creation” in Revelation.

Part two contains six chapters on creation in Genesis 1-2. In this section the authors deal with some of the literary problems of relating the two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 as well as the various options for understanding the function of Genesis 1:1 to the rest of the chapter. Two chapters are devoted to more theological issues. Question 9 concerns “The Meaning of the Sabbath.” Question 10 focuses on the purpose of mankind based on the creation narrative.

Part three presents six different views on the days of creation. A short chapter describes the Gap Theory, then Keathley and Rooker present a chapter several other more popular theories for understanding the days in Genesis 1: The Day-Age (Hugh Ross), Framework (Mark Ross), Temple Inauguration (Levenson, Walton, Beale), Historical Creationism (John Sailhammer), and Twenty-four Hour Day (Edward Young). These could be seen as moving from “more open” to evolution to “less open,” but in all five cases these are legitimate interpretations of the days in Genesis 1 and are all compatible with both inspiration and inerrancy.

Perhaps the most controversial section of the book is part four on the age of the earth. Two chapters deal with evidence for old and young earth theories, and there are four sections on some of the problems with a very young earth. For example, gaps in the biblical genealogies may permit a much older earth than some of the most vocal young-earth creationists would accept (ch. 17), and light from stars implies an old creation (ch. 21) or a “mature creation” model (ch. 22).

Part five deals with a series of implications of a biblical view of creation. Among these nine chapters Keathley and Rooker deal with several views on the Image of God (ch. 23) and the effect of the fall (chs. 25-27) Three chapters are on Noah’s flood (chs. 29-30) since young-earth creationists often use the flood as an argument for the appearance of age. Only one chapter deals with the currently hot topic of the Historical Adam (ch. 24). Here the authors interact with Peter Ens (The Evolution of Adam, Brazos, 2012) and Denis Lamoureux (I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution, Wipf & Stock, 2009). In this case, they conclude “an affirmation of the historicity of Adam and Eve must be maintained.” They cite C. John Collins, Did Adam and Even Really Exist (Crossway, 2011) and conclude an affirmation of a real Adam and Eve is required for a proper understanding of the Fall.

The final part of the book contains questions about evolution and intelligent design. These include brief descriptions of the theory of evolution itself, Darwinism, whether Darwinism is an ideology. They fairly summarize arguments both for and against evolution, although they reject them in the end. The final two chapters of the book concern Intelligent Design and the “Fine Tuning Argument.” Perhaps most interesting chapter 38, “Can a Christian Hold to Theistic Evolution” This is obviously a rather controversial topic since there are many Christians who assume Christian belief are completely incompatible. Keathley and Rooker do not doubt the salvation of theistic evolutionists, but they clearly conclude it is very difficult to fully embrace both evolution and an evangelical form of Christianity. They cite Wayne Grudem’s eight objections and conclude the chapter that “evolutionary creationism is a theory in search of theological justification” (385). While the format of the book does not allow for a response, Enns and Lamoureux might disagree, or agree and leave evangelicalism behind.

Conclusion. When I first received an invitation to review this book, I almost passed because I assumed this would be a very conservative book arguing entirely for Young Earth Creationism.  For question 19, “What are the Evidences for the Universe Being Young,” there are only as few Answers in Genesis references and there is nothing from directly Ken Ham. Keathley and Rooker observe the problems with the evidence often offered by young-earth creationists and cite young-earthers Nelson and Reynolds admission that “recent creationists should humbly agree that there is, at the moment, implausible purely on scientific grounds” (199). This is certainly not an “absolute young-earth creationist” book!

There are number of chapters I found unusual for a book strictly on creationism. Part five concerns the Fall and the Flood, both of which go beyond creation and evolution. I doubt “forty questions” could be developed on just historical Adam issues so it makes some sense they appear in this collection, although the book could be fairly titled Forty Questions about Genesis 1-11.

NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.