Book Review: Creation, Fall, Restoration by Andrew Kulikovsky
The full title of the book is Creation, Fall, Restoration – A Biblical Theology of Creation (CFR).
I originally became interested in CFR because of the promise it offered as a commentary on the relationship between science and scripture, and as a survey of the historical interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis. And with chapters such as Scripture, Science, and Interpretation, Creation and Genesis: A Historical Survey and two chapters covering different aspects on The Days of Creation, I was not at all disappointed. Andrew Kulikovsky demonstrates his depth of knowledge in these areas, bringing all of the relevant pieces together into one volume that is relatively easy to read.
Similarly, Bob McCabe in a recent review of CFR, says that Kulikovsky “provides a readable text that is a basic exegetical and theological explanation and defense of the biblical text, as well as refuting common evangelical interpretative schemes that undermine the traditional reading of Genesis.”
That is not to say that the material itself is easily understood. In fact, I spent quite a bit of time re-reading some sections of the book and I think that is simply due to the nature of the topics being covered, together with my lack of prior knowledge on the subject matter.
In the first chapter, Kulikovsky acknowledges the concept (originating with Francis Bacon) that “God has revealed Himself in two ‘books’ – general revelation and special revelation” (p.18) but spends the first two chapters distinguishing one from the other, recognizing the unfortunately all too common habit for Christians to, either explicitly or implicitly, give general revelation an equal or higher position than that of special revelation. He rightly points out that whenever the two books seemingly conflict, “Such conflicts are nearly always resolved by simply reinterpreting the special revelation in Scripture … implying … that the two are not equal.” (p. 18-19). Similarly, “The truth claims of science always seem to trump exegesis, regardless of how thorough it is and how well done.” (p.41)
When discussing general revelation, Kulikovsky observes that “It is quite common for theologians and scientists to view science and general revelation as one and the same thing.” In attempting to address this mistaken view he cites Robert Thomas, who describes general revelation as “information that is common knowledge to all … and impossible for mankind to avoid” and that the “subject of general revelation is God Himself … [and] not the physical world” (p.22) Kulikovsky subsequently argues that “the physical world is not a second book of revelation from God, but a signpost pointing to God the almighty Creator.” (p.25)
The book also highlights a major problem in associating general revelation with scientific knowledge about creation; “if general revelation [i.e. our scientific knowledge about nature] … has been wrong many times, then how can it be viewed as authoritative, let alone infallible?” (p.22)
The appropriate relationship between special revelation and general revelation is addressed in one of the longest and challenging chapters in the book, Scripture, Science and Interpretation. The ideas presented in this chapter were extremely helpful in providing a platform for clear thinking about the “two books” concept and the arguments of those who promote the view.
For example, one of the arguments made by those who oppose the “two books” approach is that like mankind, the object of scientific study – the natural world – is also fallen, and therefore general revelation will always be marred by fallible men with biases and agendas living in a cursed world. However, Kulikovsky says that supporters of the “two books” scheme (such as Roger Forster and Paul Marston) claim “that both books (the Bible and nature) are true and infallible, but their human interpretations are not. In other words, interpretation occurs in both theology and science, which means there is also a possibility of making interpretive errors in both fields.” (p.29).
Kulikovsky answers this challenge in a number of ways, drawing on a range of arguments throughout the first two chapters, some of which include:
- General Revelation ≠ Scientific Knowledge (ch.1). Any misgivings we have about the inability of science (i.e. human interpretation) to provide infallible knowledge has no consequence for general revelation, properly understood.
- Nature is not propositional; it does not interpret or speak for itself. Terms such as “true” or “infallible” do not apply to nature because it makes no propositions. Instead, propositions are made by fallen men and women dedicated to the study of the natural world.
- The propositional nature of special revelation makes it readily communicable. God chose to communicate specific truths to mankind and employed common human language to do so. “The biblical account of creation does not discuss the question of whether God can meaningfully speak to mankind or whether mankind can understand God. It is simply assumed as ‘self-evident’ that God and mankind could engage in meaningful linguistic communication.” (p.30). The same cannot be said of nature.
- Article IX and XII of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which recognizes and elevates God’s written revelation above all else. (p.28-29)
Surprisingly, the chapter that I found most interesting was Creation, Preservation, and Dominion, which looks at the relationship between God, man, and his environment, and the ways in which environmentalists have distorted God’s intentions for us as stewards over His creation. The key point for me in this chapter was that although caring for the environment (including the plants and animals) that God has provided is very important, a biblical view of creation means that ultimately, “…the needs of human beings surpass the needs of any other creature or plant.” (p.259).
Kulikovsky frames the debate this way: “…is it acceptable to set aside vast tracts of land for agriculture and/or housing in order to provide food and shelter for hundreds of thousands of people, in exchange for the loss of a particular species of parrot or lizard?” The answer, he says, “depends on the relative value one places on human beings compared to other creatures.” Is it right that human beings fulfil their own needs in these situations, or should they sacrifice these needs for the sake of some plant or animal? “For many environmentalists and conservationists, it is human beings who should submit.” (p.258-259)
This chapter also includes a very interesting section on the history of DDT. Andrew writes, “One of the greatest … environmental frauds of all time is the banning of, or restriction of, the use of … (DDT)” (p.262). I was always taught at school DDT=BAD. But Andrew says, “The truth is that DDT has been comprehensively tested and demonstrated to be a safe and effective chemical pesticide.” (p.262).
The book has a thorough bibliography and scripture index, but it lacks a topical index. Perhaps I just have an unnatural fetish for topical indexes, but I cannot count the number of times I went flicking despairingly through the back pages only to be reminded of its absence. I suggest a topical index would be a valuable addition to subsequent editions, but others may find the extremely detailed table of contents sufficient for their topical searches also.
While there are many good books available by creationists on a range of topics, CFR is one of the few books available that provide a thorough summary and defence of biblical creationism. I recommend it to anyone wanting to avoid the straw man caricatures of creationism that I have discovered in a range of other publications.
- Kulikovsky: “Hugh Ross considers nature to be just as inspired as Scripture – a sixty-seventh book of the Bible – and he appeals to Psalms 19 and 50 for scriptural support.” (p.18)
- Kulikovsky also cites what he believes to be a classical definition of general revelation by Bruce Demarest and Gordon Lewis: “[T]he disclosure of God in nature, in providential history, and in the moral law within the heart, whereby all persons at all times and places gain a rudimentary understanding of the Creator and his moral demands.” (p.19-20)
- My intentions for purchasing the book had little to do with a Christian perspective on environment and stewardship, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is a great complement to the book.
- For example, see my two-part survey of SALVO Magazine’s Issue on Intelligent design: Part 1, Part 2.