by Jonathan Sarfarti (Master Books, 2004)
Review by Rowland S. Ward written 2005
This book was given to me to review by one who said it was a bit out of his field. Its subtitle is self-explanatory – “A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of ‘Progressive Creationism’ (Billions of Years), as popularised by Astronomer Hugh Ross.”
I would also plead incapacity to assess many of the arguments drawn from scientific disciplines. Indeed, I question if much of the material is appropriate or necessary for the popular defence of the Biblical doctrine of creation. Obviously Dr Sarfarti of Answers in Genesis thinks otherwise.
Recently, a 16 year old known to me had to give a talk at Boys’ Brigade on why the earth was young. Not being as dogmatically difficult as I am he duly went to the AiG website as recommended by his BB leader. But he found the arguments far too technical. In the end he fell back to the general position that the world did not come from nothing, nor did it create itself, but it was made by God (Hebrew 11:3). Exactly when it was made is not told us in the Bible and is not all that important except that man is quite recent, was made in God’s image, but rebelled against him bringing death into the human family (Romans 5:12).
This however would not satisfy either side in the debate covered by this book. Ross is happy to confidently allow the large time scale commonly recognised (15 billion years for the universe and 4.5 billion for the earth), and to interpret the creation days accordingly. He believes God has progressively populated the earth, with man a recent arrival perhaps 60,000 years ago.
Sarfarti insists the universe was created in six consecutive, normal-length days about 6000 years ago, and that human sin brought a curse on creation so that animal death as well as human death is due to Adam’s sin. And of course he insists on a global flood about 2500 BC which destroyed all vertebrate animals and people not on Noah’s boat.
This is a large book (400 pages) and marshals some material via charts in a helpful way. In my view Sarfarti demonstrates sufficiently the problems with Ross’ approach in its bearing on Scripture. However, the weaknesses with Sarfarti’s approach in its bearing both on science and Scripture are not conveyed in this book, because that is not the book’s aim, while the author is so single eyed that opposing arguments and their supporters are frequently dismissed by demeaning references to compromise.
Dr Douglas Kelly of North Carolina writes the foreword in the gracious way of the Southern Presbyterian gentleman that he is, and assures us that Dr Sarfarti does not want to question the sincerity, character or faith of Christians who differ from him. In my view Sarfati fails conspicuously in this area. Indeed, even your reviewer rates a guernsey (p.77) because, says Sarfarti, though (unlike Ross) I get the Hebrew pattern of Genesis 1 right, I have “a long history of vexatious opposition to the view that Genesis is straightforward history.” Vexatious means either frivolous or malicious. Whatever you pick, it’s not very nice (nor accurate!).
This is a book for the true believer. Although he may not understand all the arguments, he will be reassured that any other view is a matter of compromise. The unfortunate tendency will be that faithful ministries that do not toe the line will be viewed with suspicion. A furtherance of the confrontational and separatist outlook we are accustomed to associate with the fringes of the American Bible-belt seems inevitable in the nearer term.