[The Southern Presbyterian Journal, October 22, 1958]
CREATION AND EVOLUTION. Jan Lever. Kregel’s. $39.5
This book differs in several important respects from Clark’s [Darwin: Before and After by Rober E. D. Clark]. It is more detailed and technical. Chapter IV. The Concept of Species and the Problem of Origin, is so cluttered up with information, not too obviously systematized, that an ordinary reader has trouble threading his way through it. Chapter III, however, The Origin of the Types of Organisms, is quite good, in spite of the technicalities.
A second difference from Clark’s book is that the English is atrocious. No doubt Lever wrote good Dutch, but the translator was incompetent. The English version abounds with the idiomatic Dutch already; deducted takes the place of deduced; the position of adverbs, direct objects, and other points of syntax follow the Dutch and not the English order.
The aim of the book is to harmonize creation with evolution. Lever is quite good in showing that there is no scientific evidence on the origin of man; what evidence there is, however, dates man as 500,000 years old. Lever even seems to incline toward the view that life developed out of inanimate matter. That is to say, creationism and the Bible do not prevent us from accepting a universal or almost universal evolution.
The harmony is accomplished by a definition of creation plus a neo-orthodox view of the Bible. In several passages Lever looks askance at creation out of nothing. “By creationism we understand here every biological approach to the problem of origin which, issuing from the central credo of the Christian church, wishes to confess also in science the creation of this reality and the daily direction of all processes through God” (p.26). These vague words, interpreted by other passages, seem to amount to no more than a vigorous repudiation of atheism with the converse that God has something or other to do with nature.
As for the Bible, Lever correctly protests against imposing on it the scientific concepts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Nor would anyone assert that the Bible contains graphs, tables, charts, and other scientific notations (p.21). He also makes telling points against some commonly held, fundamentalistic exegesis. But from this does it follow (1) that the days of Genesis 1 do not indicate time or succession at all (p. 16); (2) that the contents of revelation have no concrete contact with scientific investigation (p. 21); (3) that Scripture does not give us date that we could find out for ourselves (e.g. the existence of a fish that could swallow a man) (p.24); and (4) that God’s breathing a soul into the body of man is pure eisegesis? (p .197).
Futhermore we must take most definite exception to Lever’s repeated assertion that the Bible gives us no historical information. Apparently we cannot learn from Scripture that David was King of Israel or that Christ and the Pharisees ever lived. At any rate Lever says, “We can never derive from Scripture exact physical, astronomical, and biological knowledge, and thus also not exact historical knowledge (pp. 21 and 171). His examples are: “When the writers of Scriptures saw the fragments of happenings of the hoary past … through lack of knowledge and imagination he, as it were, contracted these to a level dating of only a few thousand years ago … Consequently the genealogies similarly have not the same historical correctness as e.g. the family tree of the Royal House of the Netherlands, as it is found in the history books” (p.177).
This clear exclusion of historical information from the Scritpure, with the result that Scripture is less accurate than Dutch history books, will be of interest to those who have been told by certain people in America that the Free University of Amsterdam is the center and apex of all good Calvinism. Professor Dooyeweerd and his colleagues have been advertised as the leaders of contemporary Reformed though. A few of his most ardent American supporters would be glad to see Dooyeweerd’s position made a requirement for ordination. But in the Gordon Review (Sept. 1956) in an article on Cosmic Time, I pointed out that Dooyeweerd, though more cautious in his language than Lever, seems to imply a rejection of the verbal inspiration of Scripture. Lever’s clearer language is evidence that I may not have been completely mistaken.