This is a book about science in a Christian context aimed at children aged around 7-11. It aims to show that science, and scientific enquiry, do not need to be opposed to Christianity. It has lots of fascinating scientific facts along the way, but at the heart of the book is a conversation that develops between Sam and his Uncle Jack around discussions at Sam’s school when his teacher invites Sam’s Uncle Jack, a physicist, to speak to his class. Uncle Jack describes how the universe began with a ‘big bang’, and upsets some parents who think he is denying the Genesis account of creation. Uncle Jack, however, is not only a believer in the ‘big bang’ (and evolution), but also in the God of the Bible, and a firm believer that this God created the universe.
The book explores how this can be true in a very accessible and entertaining way, ideal for children (road tested on our 9 year old, who laughs out loud frequently when reading it). I love the way that the book exudes a real sense of wonder both at creation, and at the creator, and a sense of joy in scientific enquiry and endeavour.
I know that some reading this may have severe reservations about this book because of your convictions regarding Genesis 1-2. It may be that you understand them as ruling out some things modern science teaches – evolution and the Big Bang. To explain why it is that I would feel able to recommend such a book I thought I’d give a bit of background to my own understanding.
I know I had books in my childhood that had the same basic understanding as Science Geek Sam (although not quite with as much humour), and looking back through them at Mum and Dad’s recently I was struck by how good they were.
Having grown up with that understanding I can then remember the difficulties I felt as a teenager being exposed to some very strongly convinced young earth creationists, for whom the only possible view point was that the earth was created in 7 periods of 24 hours each exactly as laid out in Genesis 1, and that the earth was only around 6-10,000 years old. At the time it was their science that struck me as somewhat problematic.
I remember a presentation at my church youth group by one such person, and I remember the grilling he got from the group, and the non-Christian friends who had been brought along. I felt distinctly disturbed both at what he had tried to claim, and at how he had tried to claim it. The youth group leaders clearly had a similar sense, because soon afterwards they got one of the church leadership to lay out his view that believing in a creator God and in evolution could sit happily together.
For many years I decided to be thoroughly contrary and believe both that the world was around 4.6 billion years old, and that evolution was probably not true – that wasn’t my own invention, it is the thesis of a book that I read as a teenager and enjoyed. I found especially striking the way it demolished the arguments that the earth was very young. More recently I’ve come to have less and less problems with the idea that evolution might well be the way that God created Adam and Eve.
To believe that evolution may well be the way God created people has in no way lessened my belief in the authority of the Bible, nor does it mean that I think the Bible is in any sense in error in Genesis 1. I just don’t think Genesis 1 has our modern scientific questions of ‘how’ in mind at all. It is much more concerned with ‘why’ and ‘who’ questions than ‘how’. It tells us that God made this world good, and ordered and that he made us in his image to look after the world. Genesis 2 zooms in to look in more detail at the first human couple, Adam and Eve and explains the role they were given.
I think the rest of the Bible demands that we see Adam and Eve as real human individuals – I’d struggle to see how Romans 5:12-21 makes sense without a real Adam, for example. But as far as I can see it doesn’t actually matter for the rest of the Biblical story whether Adam and Eve were created out of dust, or were two homo-sapiens that God breathed his life into, meaning that homo-sapiens was now a creature made in his image. (Something like this was John Stott’s view – see his BST on Romans, was Derek Kidner’s view – see his Tyndale commentary on Genesis, and is J I Packers view – none of whom can be accused of not taking Scripture seriously). Even if there were several thousand hominids at this time Adam and Eve could still have been made representatives of the whole human race (and we’d have an answer to who Cain married…). It would still be Adam’s sin that is decisive, because it was when Adam fell that we all fell, and became subject to death.
Death. That is the other objection to evolution. How does death before the fall square with the world being ‘good’? How does death before the fall square with Romans 5 (death entered through one man), and Romans 8 (all creation groaning)?
To take the first question first, the world before the fall is described as ‘good’ and ‘very good’, not ‘perfect’. It is fit for purpose and as God intended, not incapable of improvement. Genesis 1-2 is the starting point. Perfection only comes in Revelation 22 – and even then I assume that our experience of that reality will go on getting better and better. The world is created with an intricate web of interlocking creatures who rely on each other for survival, and on people to make sure that the balance is kept in place. Death enters the world through Adam’s sin in the sense that death as separation from God enters the world (which seems like a natural reading of Genesis 2’s ‘in the day you eat it, you will die’)
This I think gives a clue to how Romans 8 should be read when it talks about creation in bondage to corruption. It isn’t that the fall somehow created death in animal life, plate tectonics, volcanoes and even entropy. Instead the fall means that human beings are now radically affected by sin in every area of our lives and that we radically affect creation in everything we do and so this planet is in bondage to our sin. We no longer steward the world as we should.
Rather than acting as guardians of creation we instead pillage it to satisfy our cravings. (I don’t think this is my idea – I’m pretty sure that Chris Wright in ‘The God I don’t Understand’ says something similar to this.) It is us creation is now in bondage to, and it is sinful people that creation will be liberated from, when it is set free and transformed at Jesus’ return, and when we return to our intended role as good guardians of a good creation.
It is for those reasons that I think books like Science Geek Sam are really valuable – hopefully helping new generations to see that scientific endeavour can be a way of understanding more clearly God’s way of creating and sustaining the universe, and that God’s Word is not a science textbook for the 21st century, but his Word for all people everywhere that shows us who and why and for whom he created the world.
The book ends with Sam thinking these thoughts:
“Perhaps for God it didn’t matter how long it all took. Just thinking about all this made me feel slightly dizzy. Bigger than the sun. Bigger than our universe and all the other universes put together. Bigger than everything. And still so very close. So close that he could hear me. ‘Hello God,’ I whispered. ‘I love the way you made everything in this world. It’s totally awesome.”
If you want to follow up more on these sort of questions then I’d recommend these organisations/websites as having helpful resources/pointers (obviously it goes without saying that I may not agree with everything on any website I point to – ‘test everything, hold to the good’ – 1 Thessalonians 5):
UK based is:
In the US there is:
At a slightly more academic level (but some really good events for those interested in thinking more deeply) is: