Sunday, December 11, 2016

Good Ideas That Would Benefit From a Good Editor

Human Origins and the Bible:
A Bold New Theory Relating Genesis Origins to Science
Author: Myron G. Heavin
Publisher: Redemption Press, Enumclaw, WA, 2016 

Okay, I better come clean at the beginning of this review. I am an evangelical Christian with, up to now at least, some very traditional views on the origin of mankind. Second, I did get this book free for purposes of reviewing it. Third, the author is a solid Christian to the best of my knowledge, but he is also an engineer (with 50 years’ experience at Boeing) who, using his graduate degree in Christian Apologetics, now teaches and leads Bible studies. These were the facts under which I commenced my reading and hence my review of this book.
The book is all about how “humans came to be” and Myron Heavin does a great job of presenting the alternatives. He takes both Scripture and nature seriously, because he believes that God wrote both ‘books’. For the most part he does not get into the debate on creation (Genesis chapter 1) but focuses on the origin of man (Genesis chapters 2 – 5).  There’s an excellent treatise of various types of Scriptural writing, their differences, and their best uses, in order to best deal with problems that arise from text to text. Being a Bible study leader, at the end of each chapter he provides thought-provoking discussion questions.
To help us best understand Scripture, he calls for our study of it, to the extent possible, in its original languages, Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New. Doing so, he believes we will soon learn that it “is wrong to take poetry and treat it as scientific literature, for poetry is totally true images too vivid to be expressed as scientific fact.”
Heavin takes particular issue with those (usually Christians) who add things to Scripture that Scripture does not say. And throughout the book, he cites several examples of people doing just that.
It’s at about the one-quarter way through the book, that the author starts to lose me – or at least where I start to take issue with some of his comments and style.  For example, he is so excited about his arguments (being an engineer) that he jumps around from thought to thought without being careful to take his reader with him.  This often results in his making sound conclusions in his mind, but not ones easily seen or followed by the rest of us.
He too easily adopts the position that science “totally supports” the claim that the scientific Eve (the one woman that science believes we all came from) lived from 50,000 to 150,000 years ago. The Bible seems to point to an Eve that lived 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. He justifies the difference between the two by saying people existed longer, but only the Biblical Adam and Eve “became aware of good and evil” and thus it was then that “men started to call upon the Lord.” It is at this time that “culture” truly began according to Heavin and thus sin could be conceived and eventually had to be dealt with.
His solution is rather simple, “Scripture and nature” cannot disagree as God wrote both of them. Where we have differences, he implies, it must be because we are reading Scriptural poetry (e.g. parables) as scientific fact.  Then he carries that argument just a little far (although perhaps justifiably) by arguing that if we don’t take that position, our “children” will laugh at us or discredit us when our belief system (based on our interpretation of Scripture) does not fall in line with the science that they learn. That is assuming, of course, that not having our children discredit us is the sole basis on which to form our own beliefs.
Heavin’s book is greatly in need of a good editor.  For starters he uses acronyms like MT, SP, and LXX without explaining what they are – just assumes we all know.  [MT stands for the Hebrew Masoretic Text; SP stands for the Samaritan Pentateuch; and LXX stands for the Greek Septuagint – I actually had to look them up.]  He argues that because two records of genealogy differ, we can assume that Scripture genealogies have “literary features” rather than factual ones. Not sure all scientists would arrive at that conclusion in an unbiased fashion, unless they were trying to prove a premise with which they were starting. In fact, he calls those who make science and Scripture agree, the “mature” Christians. Doesn’t say much for the others – those who have Scripture trump science, or those who say, “we don’t have all the answers yet; I’m sure one day we will; and we just might all be surprised.” Heavin seems to be preferring “compromise” over other approaches.
Another reason, albeit minor (but very annoying), I believe the book could have benefited from better editing, is that throughout the book there are many grammatical and/or spelling errors.  I ignored them for the first half of the book, but started keeping track in the second. There is also the use of some diagrams and charts that are referred to but their content is not fully explained. Perhaps scientists (not the target audience) may be able to fill the mental gaps that he seems to expect us to leap across.
Finally, Heavin’s style leaves me at best very confused. I never knew if he was sincerely asking a question, or if he was being facetious. Maybe that’s my naivety, but it certainly does not win me over. Throughout the book it is difficult to know sometimes whether he supports a position held by others or he is just representing their viewpoints, only to knock them down, or so it seems, in the next paragraph, often without telling us he is doing so.
He ends chapter 6, entitled, Fossil Hominid Record, by writing, “Scripture clearly states, we were designed in the image of God. The sure scriptural statements seem to be in sharp contrasts to scientific speculation.” Great. Now where does that leave us, or, his solution of fully reconciling scripture with science? He never really lingers there long enough to tell us – at least not this reader.
Lest you may think I have little use for the book, let me say that the author makes some great theological points with which I fully agree. For example, “Whether there was a literal Adam or not, the main point is Christ died for our sins, not that Adam sinned.” While we can argue on the existence of the Biblical Adam, we can’t argue on the need, as the author says, for Christ’s death to save us from sin. And it is true that we often make too much of the fact that “Adam sinned”.
In conclusion, Heavin examines and rates various alternative theories and positions. He ends his book with, “See how each of the various viewpoints were ‘somewhat true’. This book suggests taking the best of all of them, assembling them together, so now the larger picture makes sense and better fits together.” If you can benefit from that kind of conclusion, and can “assemble” the best of the lot together, for what you believe, then this is a great book and you need to read it.
As for me, because I believe he has much to offer, I would love to see the well-meaning author take another crack at this – with a great editor and testing each chapter with a small group of non-scientific readers. Nevertheless, having said that I found myself filtering much of what was said in church today through Heavin’s ideas having just read the book.  That alone made it all worth it, even if I don’t buy all of his thinking hook, link, and sinker.

by:  Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, December 11, 2016.

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