You need to read Faith, Reason, and Earth History. More than that, you want to read it. Elders face many challenges in ministry, but none is greater than what Ellen G. White calls “strange forms of error, religious and philosophical combined, to expose which requires a knowledge of scientific as well as Scriptural truth.”1 The supreme strange form of error among intelligent educated people—even some church members—involves rejecting the biblical record of history in favor of theories presented as scientific. Lay people generally think of this in terms of science versus faith, or creation versus evolution.
This error involves an origins story in which organisms appeared and diversified over eons of time as a result of unguided natural processes. It is a multifaceted error, so addressing it comprehensively in a single book seems an overreach. In reality, the authors—Leonard Brand and Arthur Chadwick—take on even more, making a central thesis of the idea that creationists can be and are productive participants in the scientific endeavor (p. vi). Surely that is too much! But it isn’t. In fact, this could be a major strength. Instead of trying to exhaustively refute every current materialistic origin story for this, that, and the other thing, Brand and Chadwick make a persuasive argument for an understanding of nature informed by the Bible.
More than anything else, Faith, Reason, and Earth History presents a biblical way of thinking about origins. This means that even those who do not grasp every scientific detail can appreciate the philosophy. Faith, Reason, and Earth History is understandable to science students, but also to accountants, farmers, doctors, shopkeepers, theologians, businesspeople, and people from every walk of life who are eager to rationally appreciate reality from a biblical perspective.
This understanding is essential when helping young people who are being pulled away from the church and their biblical faith by materialistic views pervading secular schools and society. In other words, this is a book that elders from diverse backgrounds can use to help inform their understanding and avoid many of the pitfalls awaiting those who seek to serve congregations struggling with origins questions, and to honor our Creator effectively with a positive, sound, and rational perspective.
While its philosophy and approach to science is the most valuable contribution of Faith, Reason, and Earth History, it isn’t just a book of big ideas uncoupled from the thrilling, fascinating, and sometimes higgledy-piggledy world of practical science. As active scientists themselves, the authors are impressively prepared to engage current scientific understandings. With his Cornell University PhD in evolutionary biology, numerous peer-reviewed scientific publications, and years as chair of the Loma Linda University Department of Earth and Biological Sciences, Leonard Brand knows what it is to be a scientist, to participate productively with scientists who have different beliefs, and to do so in ways that build friendships and collaborations. Art Chadwick, research professor of biology and geology at Southwestern Adventist University, shares a similar academic pedigree and has led research for decades on one of the largest dinosaur bonebeds in the world.
Is this book perfect? For perfection we will have to wait until heaven, but imperfections do not detract from the fact that Faith, Reason, and Earth History is immensely valuable and will generously reward anyone who reads it. What might have been done better, or at least more according to my taste? While different ideas and those who embrace them are generally dealt with in a kind and factual way, there are times when the terminology used can make the logic stumble over itself. Here is an example: “Some creationists have a tendency to be sarcastic and talk down to evolutionists. Scientists are portrayed sometimes as being very stupid to believe in evolution” (p. 254). What’s not to like about this? First of all, I’ve observed the kind of talking down mentioned here, and I’m very glad it isn’t exemplified in Faith, Reason, and Earth History—in fact it is discouraged. The problem is that in this example, you see “creationists” being treated as one category and “scientists” as another. That can leave some cognitive dissonance when a central thesis is that Bible-believers can be just as much scientists as anyone else. I know what they are saying, but I wish they had used more precise language—as they do when their use of “interventionism” is explained.
Possibly the biggest news about Faith, Reason, and Earth History is now in its third edition and free to anyone with internet access. The best place to download and read it is www.eldersdigest.org. There is also a Spanish version, and even short videos featuring Leonard Brand explaining important concepts.2 So, there are few if any barriers to anyone benefiting from Faith, Reason, and Earth History. It is the best start possible on gaining a biblical understanding of creation that will allow us to serve our church more effectively—especially educated, professional young church members studying and working in secular settings.
1 Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1915), 81.
2 Videos, created by Leonard Brand, explaining important concepts in Faith, Reason, and Earth History are available at “Faith, Reason, and Earth History,” Videos, Geoscience Research Institute, accessed May 6, 2022, https://www.grisda.org/audiovisual-media?album=6517045.
Timothy G. Standish, PhD, is a senior scientist at the Geoscience Research Institute in Loma Linda, CA, USA.