[asa] Review of Beyond the Firmament

From: Jon Tandy <tandyland@earthlink.net>
Date: Fri Jan 04 2008 - 08:16:14 EST

Below is my review on Amazon of Gordon J. Glover's book, Beyond the
&s=books&qid=1199452476&sr=1-1). Thanks David O. for the recommendation. I
put it on my Christmas list!
Jon Tandy

There are loads of books on all sides of the Bible/science controversy, but
I can say without exaggeration that "Beyond the Firmament" ought to be at
the top of the required reading list. It is down to earth and easy to grasp,
giving a good summary of the scientific evidences for the antiquity of the
universe and biological evolution, and why Christians ought to care about
these things, while maintaining a faith-affirming interpretation of the
Bible. Whether you agree or disagree with the author's approach or with the
evidences, there are still critical questions that are often left un-asked,
which the author does a good job of conveying to a primarily non-technical

The book is particularly styled toward conservative Christians, who tend to
be the ones demanding scientific precision from ancient Biblical texts. The
author, who once held this view, has been where many Christians fear to
tread -- honestly investigating the scientific evidence of "the other side."
He has returned, bringing an honest and forthright testimony that believers
don't have to choose between accepting faith or the scientific evidence of
the natural world. He holds that the Bible can be literally true (according
to its intended message), while not necessarily being scientifically
accurate according to science's limited knowledge in any given generation.

His main conclusion is that God's purpose in the Bible was to give timeless
principles, in particular to the original Hebrew exiles from Egypt. They
came out of a polytheistic culture, and needed to have reestablished in
their minds the transcendence of a monotheistic Hebrew God. God chose the
Ancient Near East (ANE) cosmology as a familiar framework for transforming
the polytheistic views of the ANE into the monotheistic religion of the
Hebrews, and to answer the questions important to them, such as who is God,
and does he have all power over creation? God did not choose a 20th century
cosmology as the literary framework for answering modern-day creation
science questions, such as how old is the universe, or what physical
mechanisms led to the present biological diversity? Requiring scripture to
answer these questions is anachronistic, and does injustice to the timeless
themes God intended to convey, in favor of timely questions that have only
been important to Western scientific culture in the last few hundred years.

Be sure to see the introductory videos on the author's Web site,
radict-the-bible/. These contain the same basic information as the early
part of the book, but present it in a succinct and visually appealing

Just a word about a few of the weaknesses of the book, aside from the
occasional glaring typo. Technical readers may complain that the scientific
portions gloss over too much of the scientific technicalities, but this is
not the goal of the book. In the section on DNA, the emphasis on the
staggering numbers of various potential genetic sequences are a bit too
technical for the general audience. In the end, the conclusion for why this
necessarily looks more like common descent than common design is less than
convincing, at least on my first time through. He may be 100% correct, but
as a non-specialist in genetic science, the conclusion here seemed to be
reaching a bit.

The book uses primarily cosmological history to address why we shouldn't try
to use the Bible as a scientific text, but doesn't really deal with the
difficult theological problems of how to handle such questions as death
before the fall, Adam and Eve and their descendents, or Noah's flood
(although the ANE firmament cosmology should provide the reader a basis for
reexamining traditional assumptions about the flood). For these questions,
you'll have to look elsewhere.

Gordon Glover isn't the first to propose a framework interpretation of
Genesis 1, but he does so in such a way as to be accessible to the average
reader, and maintains a high view of scripture in the process.


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Received on Fri Jan 4 08:18:26 2008

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