Mary Katherine BIRGE, Brian G. HENNING, Rodica M. M. STOICOIU, and Ryan TAYLOR. Genesis Evolution and the Search for a Reasoned Faith. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2011. pp. 133. ISBN 978-0-88489-755-2. Reviewed by Calvin MERCER, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858
The value of this book lies in the helpful process out of which the volume emerged. Informal roundtables at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, brought students and faculty together for ongoing discussions about the relationship between religion and evolution.
Among the roundtable participants were the authors of the various book chapters on biblical studies (Birge), evolutionary biology (Taylor), philosophy (Henning), and systematic theology (Stoicoiu).
There is no new information or perspective in this book. However, an effective way forward on this issue will certainly entail interdisciplinary dialogue. The Mount St. Mary’s University roundtables and this book stemming from them constitute a pretty good case study for how to do this important dialogue.
All the authors work from the perspective that science and religion in general, and biblical creation and biological evolution in particular, are not antagonistic. As John Cobb writes in a jacket blurb, “The book makes it abundantly clear that there is no reason for opposition between science and faith.”
Birge’s chapter on Genesis provides some helpful exegesis of relevant biblical texts that show how the Bible can be responsibly read in a way that is consistent with science. Taylor’s chapter is a very good summary of the science and is easily accessible for anyone without a science background.
In the final chapter, systematic theologian Stoicoiu pulls together many threads from the other chapters. He displays the deficits of creationism and intelligent design. Then, he champions an “evolutionary theology” that appreciates what evolutionary biology can contribute to theological reflection on these issues.
As he summarizes evolutionary theology, “… the world is in a process of becoming. This movement occurs throughout the cosmos by way of evolution – that seemingly chaotic method of natural selection that produces a display of life full of innovation and originality. In this process of becoming, Rahner argues, the world is drawing closer to the mystery of God by way of the ‘divinization of the world as a whole.’” (117) “God is the ultimate ground of evolutionary science and the ultimate future toward which evolution is progressing.” (119) It is no accident that John Cobb writes a blurb for the book.