A Closer Look at the Evidence (Book Review)

Now this is a novel idea: teach about God’s creation in small daily increments over the course of a year.  That is what Richard and Tina Kleiss (married couple who were both high school science teachers and now creation science seminar speakers) have attempted to do in writing their one-year devotional A Closer Look at the Evidence (CLE).  Published by Search for the Truth, CLE provides single-page apologetics lessons focusing on various domains within creationism.  It’s helpful in a number of ways, but not to research the strengths and weaknesses of creationism from an academic perspective.  I’m still looking for a book or two on Young Earth Creationism (YEC) that has these characteristics:

  • Written at a college or post-graduate level
  • Contains a broad overview of the case for YEC
  • Deals with scientific evidence and arguments instead of mainly biblical arguments
  • Respected and recommended by the broad YEC community, including evangelicals and fundamentalists
  • Recently researched and published
  • Primarily irenic, not polemical
  • Does not engage in straw-man argumentation with its opposition

Dear readers, please help if you can recommend a book that fits most or all of these!  Why?  Because I’m trying to give YEC a fair hearing, and reading books like CLE is not helping to convince this honest skeptic.  Don’t get me wrong, CLE is an interesting bit of work, but it’s just not the kind of thing I’m looking for.  Nevertheless, it could be a very help devotional resource if used in a few limited ways.

Probably the best way to take advantage of CLE’s strengths is to introduce yourself, children, or youth to various evidence for life’s intelligent design (ID).  There are many devotions that focus on a particular feature from one of the biological “kingdoms” on earth, presenting it in such a way that begs the question: “Can macro-evolution account for this?”  The answer is always No! whether implied or stated.

Another way to use CLE is to flip through the book to search for common categories of evidence for a kind of “unit study”.  Unfortunately these units are not arranged together but are scattered throughout the book.  Even so, they are clearly marked at the top of each page.  Categories include “Evidence From”:

  1. Anatomy
  2. Anthropology
  3. Archaeology
  4. Astronomy
  5. Biblical Accuracy
  6. Biblical Uniqueness
  7. Biology
  8. Botany
  9. Chemistry
  10. Common Sense
  11. Earth’s Ecology
  12. Fossil Record
  13. Genetics
  14. Geology
  15. Great Scientists
  16. History
  17. Mathematics
  18. Microbiology
  19. Physics
  20. Prophecy
  21. Psychology
  22. Worldwide Flood

A third way to use CLE is to review its sources.  The authors have read widely in YEC and ID literature.  A bibliography at end of the book is filled with references to newsletters, magazines, curricula, video series, and monographs.  Annotations would have been extremely helpful in my search for more comprehensive scholarly material.  The only ones that look promising are Jonathan Sarfati’s “Refuting Evolution” series (read Book 1 online), but I suspect even these may be more popular-level treatments.

CLE has some weaknesses that I’m beginning to realize may be endemic to YEC arguments.  It seems to me that Flood Geology (the argument that Noah’s flood was worldwide in scope) is a major plank in the case for YEC.  Without it the scientific evidence points to a much older earth.  Flood Geology is also necessarily intertwined with the fossil record since a worldwide flood is proposed at the only viable explanation for the existence of fossils everywhere on earth: at both high and low elevations, at coastal and inland locations.

Another weakness of CLE is the common YEC argument that God must have redesigned creatures after the biblical fall.  Any feature that displays predator-prey symbiosis is attributed to supernatural redesign.  Any trait that requires killing another creature to survive is explained as intricate for fundamentally evil.  These must be the case in YEC because no death whatsoever is conceivable before Adam and Eve sinned.  Especially no human death (all creationists agree on this point), but also no animal death, and perhaps not even plant or microscopic organism death.  Without making an exegetical and/or scientific argument for divine redesign within the past 10,000 years, the prospect of no death whatsoever in a creation that is exquisitely balanced for the cycle of life-death-life is simply untenable.  Yet how does YEC explain this creational balance?  Only by marveling at how wonderful God’s mercy and grace shows itself in a second-best redesign.  Because if YEC were consistent, the life-death-life balanced cycle must be considered evil as it results from the fall.

The last weakness I’ll mention is one that consistently bothers me, but it’s tolerable because it’s so widespread in creationist literature—whether from the YEC or old-earth creationism variety.  At the end of each devotion in CLE, there is a Bible verse that is supposed to support the evidence presented on that page.  Frequently these verses are from the poetic portions of Scripture, but the authors cite them as literal yet primitive scientific proof that the Bible has nuggets of truth that correspond to modern scientific hypotheses and theories.  For example, Job 38:16 is used to support the Flood Geology theory that the ocean floor springs (only discovered in modern times) were one of the primary sources of vast amounts of water that flooded the earth.  The idea is that God was revealing to Job in poetic form scientific facts about oceanography that would not be discovered until thousands of years later.  The problem with this kind of interpretive method is that Job is not meant to be read as a primitive science textbook.  It’s epic poetry, and ought to be read as poetry.  A literalistic style of reading ancient Hebrew poetry is typical of creationism adherents.  My guess is that YEC folks are guilty of this misinterpretation more often than old-earth creationists.

Still, if you can handle these weaknesses, CLE can be a useful resource for marveling daily at God’s creation that displays his glory everywhere we look—high and low, big and small, general and biblical revelation.

Resources

Search for the Truth Ministries (book publisher)

Search for the Truth Ministries (Facebook)

Reviews

Amazon

Goodreads

Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus

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