Back in August I wrote a four-part post series in which I critiqued the “book review” of Elizabeth Mitchell from Answers in Genesis on Peter Enns’ book, The Bible Tells Me So. You can read my posts, beginning here. I ended up writing four posts on Mitchell’s “book review” because I felt it necessary to correct the host of mischaracterizations and misleading statements Mitchell made—and there were a lot of them.
Well, Elizabeth Mitchell and AiG are at it again. This time, in a November 11th post entitled “Evaluating Giberson’s Book Saving the Original Sinner with Scripture and Science,” Mitchell has put another favorite whipping boy of AiG in her crosshairs: Karl Giberson and his new book, Saving the Original Sinner. Like her “review” of Peter Enns’ book, Mitchell’s analysis of Giberson’s book isn’t so much of a book review, as it is a hit piece. If you first read my review of Giberson’s book, and then read Mitchell’s assessment, you won’t believe they are both about the same book.
Mitchell has achieved something truly amazing: she has written a book review in which you do not actually learn anything about the book she is reviewing. What you do learn instead is that AiG has an amazing ability to engage in character assassination for one sole purpose: to scare its followers so much that they never actually pick up and read a book like Giberson’s, and thus be challenged to think critically about both the Bible and science.
Allow me to illustrate a few examples from the first part of Mitchell’s “review” of Giberson’s book.
The first tactic Mitchell uses is made blindingly obvious in the first two paragraphs of her review. Without saying anything substantial about Giberson’s book, Mitchell launches into a litany of condemnation and inflammatory language in an attempt to convince her readers up front that Karl Giberson is an enemy of the faith. In addition to accusing Giberson of trying to “destroy belief in the biblical Adam,” and calling his book “a surgical strike on the Old Testament’s first couple,” Mitchell says things like:
- “he attacks belief in the historicity of Adam”
- “he considers Adam irrelevant”
- “belief in Adam is a stronghold that evolutionist Karl Giberson assaults with this book, hoping to precipitate a crisis of faith in biblical creationists.”
In contrast to Mitchell’s fear-mongering, if you read my review you’d find that the purpose of Giberson’s book is to provide an overview of how Christians throughout Church history have read, interpreted, and used the story of Adam and Eve. By doing so, the book is obviously a challenge to the young earth creationist claim that their claims have been the dominant view throughout Church history—the basic facts of history conclusively prove that such a claim is false. That is why Mitchell is obviously doing her best to scare her readers so much, that they never even dare to pick up Giberson’s book—history shows that one of the fundamental claims of the YEC movement simply is not true.
Troubled Evolutionary Byproducts
After her opening salvo, Mitchell then jumps on Giberson for is his belief that evolution is the means by which God creates everything in the world, including humans. Now, Giberson makes it clear that, although he is convinced that Adam and Eve were two historical people, the point of the story of Adam and Eve is obviously that human beings are sinful. Sin is a fundamental reality and that human beings are clearly a “trouble species in need of salvation.” Whether or not one agrees with Giberson’s view of Adam and Eve, one has to agree that Giberson’s point is clear: human beings are sinful and in need of salvation.
Well, Elizabeth Mitchell doesn’t interpret his comments that way. Instead, she characterized his comments in the following manner:
“Don’t be fooled by this book’s title into thinking it teaches about salvation from the penalty and power of sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ has no place in this book. Dr. Giberson’s portrayal of the Bible as a collection of myths and human-derived philosophies rather than as the divinely inspired Word of God leaves him with no authoritative solution for sin.”
I find such a comment astounding. Giberson had said something that every clear-thinking person will undoubtedly agree with: even if Adam was not a historical person, that wouldn’t negate the clear fact that there is obviously sin in the world—it would be foolish to think such a thing. And yet, somehow, Mitchell accuses Giberson of holding to the very position he just clearly refuted.
In addition, contrary to what Mitchell claims, Giberson never says that the entire Bible was a “collection of myths and human-derived philosophies.”? He said that he believes that Genesis 1-11 belongs in the genre of ancient myth. Even if you disagree with him on that point, you have to admit that to accuse him of saying the entire Bible is a “collection of myths” is, to put it kindly, rather misleading.
The Last Adam’s Answer
Mitchell goes on to mischaracterize Giberson’s treatment of Paul. Giberson stated that Paul used the figure of Adam to argue the theological point that Christ had come to save all humanity. That is abundantly true: Paul does use Adam to make that theological point. Amazingly, that’s not how Mitchell sees it. She says, “[Giberson] admits no divine inspiration in Paul’s writings or the rest of the New Testament. Since sin and death would be the natural result of evolution, he considers Adam neither real nor theologically important, a mythical figure we do not need.”
None of what Mitchell says here is true. Giberson never denied divine inspiration of Paul’s letters or the rest of the New Testament. How Mitchell can accuse him of that is simply baffling. In addition, the figure of Adam is tremendously important for theology. I have no doubt Giberson would agree. What Giberson’s book conclusively proves, though, the historicity of Adam has never been a fundamental tenant of any Christian creed.
Yet for some reason, Mitchell can’t grasp this.
Gone With Adam
After accusing Giberson of “dispensing with Adam’s importance in the New Testament and his theological connection to Christ,” Mitchell then criticizes Giberson of “spending a lot of ink describing how ancient Jews, classical pagan philosophers, medieval churchmen, and modern Christians have viewed man’s sin problem.” Such a criticism is astounding, given the fact that “describing how ancient Jews, classical pagan philosophers, medieval churchmen and modern Christians have viewed man’s sin problem,” is the very point and purpose of the book. Giberson’s purpose was to answer and refute the young creationist claim that everyone throughout Church history had viewed Adam as a historical person and the earth as 6,000 years old. All that “ink” about Jews, pagans, medieval churchmen, and modern Christians, proves Giberson’s point: the young earth creationist claim is false.
I want to emphasize this point: the entire aim of Giberson’s book is to provide an overview of how Christians throughout the past 2,000 years have read and understood the story of Adam and Eve. Yet the above quote is really the only thing in Mitchell’s entire “book review” that even hints at what the majority of Giberson’s book is about—and even that is disparaging and dismissive. She doesn’t engage and assess the book’s actual argument, but instead cherry-picks and distorts random statements ripped out of context.
Such is the modus operandi of AiG’s “apologetics ministry.”
Mitchell also accuses Giberson of “attacking the biblical writer” of Genesis by claiming that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are “contradictory.” Yet Giberson doesn’t say that. Rather, his point is that if you insist that the early chapters of Genesis are “God’s eyewitness account of creation” (as young earth creationists do), then you have a problem, because then you are faced with obvious contradictions. For example, you cannot reconcile the fact that Genesis 1 has plants made on day 3 and human beings made on day 6, whereas Genesis 2 says that human beings were made before plants.
Giberson’s point, though, is that there aren’t “contradictions” between Genesis 1-2 because (a) neither chapter is attempting to give a blow-by-blow historical/scientific account, and (b) they are in fact two separate stories addressing two separate theological points. The first century Jew Philo pointed this out 2000 years ago.
Again, Mitchell cannot see this. If Giberson is “attacking” anything, it is the YEC claims that do not make sense. But he’s not attacking the Bible.
In my next post I will conclude going through Mitchell’s high questionable assessment of Saving the Original Sinner.