July 6th, 2009
Dembski, William. The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2009. 241 pp. $22.99.
William Dembski is most noted for his work on the Intelligent Design movement through books like No Free Lunch and The Design Revolution. He has a website, Design Inference, that is well worth checking out.
Before you begin reading this book you need to know that everything you believe about the creation account in Genesis will be challenged. This is a good thing. While I am not a Christian who believes that if you do not believe in a literal 6-day, 24-hour Creation account you are not a believer, I do come close. I must confess that I was greatly challenged, in a good way, on some of my beliefs when it comes to Creation and the problem of evil.
You know you are dealing with a “thick” book when the last thing you read before the Introduction is “Twenty percent of this book consists of explanatory and reference notes. A careful reading therefore requires attention to the notes.” Dembski utilizes those end notes well and is correct in saying that the notes deserve careful attention.
The End of Christianity is divided into five parts. The first part deals with evil and a good God. The second part discusses the ongoing debate of young- and old-earth creationism. The third part looks deeper at the divine creation and the action of the Triune God in creation. Part four introduces what Dembski calls the “retroactive effects of the fall.” Finally, part five ties up any loose ends.
Dealing with the problem of evil and a good God, also known as Theodicy, Dembski explains the reach of the cross of Christ as well as the origin of evil. In so doing, he lays the foundation of the weight of mankind’s sin which will be used in later parts of the book.
In this book, Dembski never takes a stance regarding young- or old- earth creationism. What he does do, however, is explain the strengths and weakness of both in part two. He looks at the attraction of having a young earth versus the consistency of nature and what we know from science.
Part three begins to get a bit “heady” as Dembski looks at how the Triune God communed with each other during creation. In chapter fourteen, the plot thickens. Here, the reader is introduced to the plausibility of God’s having created the effects of sin to appear as though they have existed for a long time before the Fall. It is important to keep in mind the first part of the book detailing the gravity of man’s sin.
Leaving theology for philosophy in part four, Dembski details what he calls the “Retroactive effects of the Fall.” It is this section that will cause controversy if there is any. However, he does a masterful job of explaining his thoughts and offers an alternative view of the Creation account that has not been given as much thought as it maybe needs.
In part five, Dembski deals with evolution and looks beyond the frist three chapters of Genesis. Ultimately, he points us to the goodness of God and thanking Him for everything…including the discussions of the problem of evil and young- and old- earth creationism.
Finally, in case you were wondering, Dembski says in the introduction, “The end of Christianity is the radical realignment of our thinking so that we see God’s goodness in creation despite the distorting effects of sin in our hearts and evil in the world.” It is my personal belief that he brings the main thing back to the main thing—God’s glory in creation.
This book is not for the faint of heart. It is deep both theologically and philosophically. As I said at the beginning, you will be challenged in your beliefs. And, as I said in the beginning, that is a good thing. I would not offer this book to a new believer—it is too much. After all, as Dembski shows, this issue is not a soteriological issue. It is a secondary or tertiary issue within Christendom.
However, for the thoughtful Christian, I would highly recommend this book. You will be challenged. We all need to be challenged. We are dealing with God who is infinite. There is plenty of room for discussion on these matters. The End of Christianity is a well-written book that should open channels of communication between young- and old- earth creationists. I am looking forward to the release of this book in September 2009.