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Charles Foster, The Selfless Gene (Hodder, 2009)


£ 11.99, 270 pages

Buy: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Selfless-Gene-Charles-Foster/dp/0340964367

Author details: http://www.charlesfoster.co.uk/


How can Christians reconcile a loving God with the theory of evolution, and its seemingly selfish and painful mechanism, natural selection? Charles Foster sets out to address this challenge while taking both the Bible and modern biology seriously.

Foster’s criticisms of modern biology are not directed at the science of evolution, but rather the negative slant so often given to it by some biologists. Doubtless suffering and self-preservation are involved in natural selection, and we need to work to reconcile this with our view of God, but natural selection is more than this. There is a clear drive towards complexity, altruism, and cooperation in nature that natural selection alone does not explain. Something else is at work, which scientists need to examine.

Foster then argues that the reason for suffering in the process of evil is due to the fall of Satan before the creation of this world. He explains that Satan is a malignant force who has been attempting to work against God even as God creates, but God has used his bad works for good and beauty. God created Adam (humanity) to tend and subdue the rest of creation which was rebelling against God under Satan’s guidance. However, humanity opted to throw in their lot with Satan, instead of God, and thus the fall of humanity. So without the fall of man, Foster thinks, there would be no Hitler, but no Bach either – the whole of civilization is simply a result of mankind joining Satan’s rebellion.

The exegesis that Foster uses to back up his claims is not immediately convincing and conclusive, but raises some interesting points worthy of discussion. For instance, Foster argues that the creation story in Genesis 1 is attempting to put across the idea that creation is in rebellion against God. Foster sees evidence for this in the fact that when God commands grass to grow, instead the earth puts forth grass – thus commandeering the divine prerogative, and that when God commands the waters to swarm with sea creatures, we are then told that God creates them – because, Foster infers, the waters had refused. However many biblical scholars read Genesis 1 as a statement of God’s complete and unopposed power over creation and see the examples Foster sites as commentary on the way that God works in the world, rather than a creaturely rebellion against God.

Foster’s main point – that Christianity and science fit well together– is excellent, and his recollection of the idea of the angelic fall is also useful because it has historical roots in Christianity, and therefore deserves consideration.

This book is a very good and interesting contribution to current discussions on evolution and Christianity. Anyone who is involved in these discussions and able to enter the theological debate should read it.

Difficulty: In Depth