The Christian Evolutionist Dilemma
Imagine that a builder constructs a quaint house that, potentially, could fit in well with its surroundings. Now, imagine that he decides that rather than building complex foundations underneath it, he will build them on another site, yards from the house itself. Some passers-by comment on the foundations, whilst more wonder why on earth they are only included as a 'footnote' to the actual building. One day before long, an unknowing passer-by will see the house left in ruins, and the foundations reduced to a modern art installation up the road. This serves as an appropriate metaphor for this book.
Gascoigne describes the aim of Impossible Theology on page 3: to deal "with two opposing theologies... the Real Gospel and the Pseudo-Gospel, followed by some practical considerations... to theological study in churches and home-based groups". This is an admirable goal: to present the true Gospel, creation included, which will speak against many godless ideologies that are all too prevalent today. However, Gascoigne compromises this aim almost immediately:
"The appendices, which take up as much space as the main text, are about philosophical and scientific issues. I have included these because it is necessary to show that there is scientific support for creationist theology. There are many other books that I could refer to on these issues, but I felt it was right to give my own interpretation of science, so that the issues are discussed right here, and the reader does not need to go and look at another book."
It is one thing to simplify highly academic material in a book aimed at the general public; it is another to relegate such material completely into detached appendices. Without its inclusion in the argument itself, one only has the skeleton of an argument. As such, Gascoigne's hope that a reader "does not need to go and look at another book" seems both contradictory and arrogant, especially when one would likely find creationist arguments elsewhere that sought to tackle such issues head-on.
A further problem with the book is Gascoigne's adherence to a misconception. The book argues from the standpoint of a literal reading of Genesis 1-3. Whilst I don't hold to this, I can admire someone who does. What I cannot stomach is Gascoigne's idea (proposed in the introduction, p.2, then throughout "the Pseudo-Gospel") that anyone who believes in evolution - God-initiated or otherwise - holds to a "liberal" and "incomplete" interpretation of the scriptures. If you're going to say that, I want proof; indeed, sources left-right-and-center argue otherwise.
In writing this book, Gascoigne has a respectable aim: to present the full gospel. However, his assertion that "the Gospel stands up if you believe in (seven day) creation, and falls down if you believe in evolution" (p.2) is a false dichotomy, and his disclaimer -- "The scientific arguments are given in the Appendices, to help those who doubt, although basically it's a question of whether we believe the Word of God or not" (also p.2) -- is just plain arrogant.
Mark Burnhope, June 2004
Mark Burnhope is a graduate of London School of Theology. He is a 'trying' novelist and poet with a Masters Degree in Creative and Transactional Writing from Brunel University, and an alternative worship/emerging church obsessive.Order from www.christianbookshops.org