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Schroeder continues to amaze with the growing scope of his work
on July 8, 2009
I've been a fan of Gerald Schroeder since reading "Genesis and the Big Bang" about three years ago. Immediately after finishing that book, I had to have his other two, and was amazed how much his wisdom, vision and grasp of the issues seemed to grow with each book. This book continues that pattern, and does so in an amazing fashion. However, the approach of this book might not meet the expectations of those expecting another book based largely on science. While this book opens with a scientific analysis, the bulk of the book is devoted to a philosophical and theological treatise on the true nature of God.
While he often touches upon the same "origins" questions in each book, the manner in which he does so reveals a surprisingly sharp uptick in his growing breadth of knowledge. Many scientists seem to fall into a comfortable groove at mid-life, as evidenced in their writings, but Schroeder's understanding seems to be growing in leaps and bounds, and shows little sign of slowing down. This is a good thing...a Very Good thing. I continue to read a number of authors who deal with the harmony of Genesis and Science, and among them, Mr. Schroeder has risen like cream and sits atop the heap. I should note that I'm typically stingy about heaping praise on anyone, if for no other reason that I don't want to contribute to a complacency that might cause them to "coast" a bit, but I don't think that's a possibility here.
As my own understanding of these scientific/theological issues has grown over the years, I have often found myself reluctantly letting go of traditional beliefs I held dear, and embraced new ideas. It's difficult at times, but ultimately rewarding as these new ideas open up a fresh understanding of God and how He operates within this realm. I was therefore very surprised and happy to see him discuss an observation that I had arrived at on my own just a few years ago.
The issue is the parallels between science and the Torah with regards to the birth of the Universe, the arrival of the species and the arrival of self-aware Homo sapiens. All three of these issues are problematic for anyone building a case for a purely natural universe, as they present origin problems that cannot easily be addressed with scientific facts or testable models. These three issues have strikingly clear parallels in Genesis with the creation of the heavens and the earth, the arrival of the first complex life in the oceans, and the arrival of Adamic Man. The Hebrew word "bara," which describes a unique creative act of God, is only used on these three occasions, and nowhere else in the first chapter of Genesis. Coincidence? I think one would have to be willfully self-deceptive to not see the clear parallels. You're free to disagree with Schroeder's conclusions, but it's difficult to ignore the fact that these scientific and Biblical parallels exist.
But by far the most important issue in this book is how it shapes (and hopefully, reshapes) our flawed image of the Almighty. Yes, He is omniscient and omnipresent, but does not interfere, in general, with how things operate. We have far, far more control over the situation than many believers would be comfortable with should they choose to accept this image of God. Once again (and probably why I enjoyed this book so much), I have come to much the same conclusions myself. The God of the Bible and the God of modern western Judeo-Christian civilization just don't seem to be the same God. For the first time, and just in time, it seems, someone has presented an image of God that is completely consistent with His revealed nature found in His word, and not the one that has been cobbled together from idealistic and unrealistic cultural influences.
Lastly, I would like to say that I truly appreciate Schroeder's approach to dealing with Scripture in that he shows an abiding respect for the Christian perspective as well as his own Jewish one by quoting parallel passages from both Old and New Testaments when discussing particular issues. The Old Testament prophets clearly identified the Jewish faith as the faith that would be proclaimed to the Gentiles, and he appears to respect Christianity as being the "Gentile version" of Judaism that was preached to the rest of the world. I wish more Christian writers would make more effort to better understand the Jewishness of their faith, and see it as part of a whole, as opposed to something separate. Some conservative and literalist Christian denominations see the Jews as separate from Christianity, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The Apostle Paul, a devout Jew if there ever was one, spent the entire 11th chapter of Romans assuring his Gentile readers that God's promises are irrevocable, and that all Israel will be saved after the fullness of God was delivered to all the nations of the earth. I enjoy Schroeder's books precisely because He works so diligently to understand the true nature of God, and wants the rest of us to come to the same knowledge.