I was pleased to read your book, The Quest: Exploring Creation’s Hardest Problems. Indeed, I enjoyed it so much I read it twice. Young age creationism books abound in today’s evangelical world, however The Quest is different than anything I’ve ever seen. It is a frank discussion of the challenges facing the young earth movement. You pull no punches. You are not hesitant to admit that at present the odds seem(!) to be stacked against the movement’s success. That doesn’t faze you, though. Indeed, it inspires you, and in this book you succinctly lay out the biggest challenges facing the next generation of young earth creationists. The Quest has a similar style as other books in the same vein: Letters to a young Calvinist by James K.A. Smith, for example, or even Letters to a Young Scientist by E.O. Wilson. You challenge the reader making him or her sense that although the task, in essence, is sort of like trying to climb Mount Everest, it’s a journey well worth taking. In this case, the rarified air at the top thins out not because there is little oxygen up there, but because it approaches the domain of God himself. Indeed, this book taps into the sincere desire that both of us share—our supreme longing to draw closer to God. Having spent almost six years now thinking and dialoging with you in public and private, I know that there is nothingmore important to you than that. You are motivated by your love for God and nothing is more central to your life’s mission than your desire to understand God and God’s ways better.
Compass Classroom, 2018
As you know, Todd, even though we have discovered through our conversations that we look at God and the Bible as a whole in similar ways, we interpret both the scientific data and Genesis 1–11 in a vastly different manner. The basis of this gulf is nicely laid out in The Quest. The hard problems for young age creationists that you outline in the book include the fact that the speed with which we know light travels implies that the universe is billions of years old when you think it is only thousands. You sincerely admit that “as far as you are aware there is no solution to this hard problem that all creationists agree on,” although you encourage your readers not to be discouraged and point them to what you think are some fruitful possibilities. A hard problem? Yes, but not insurmountable, you suggest.
You fully acknowledge that despite the fact that dating mechanisms don’t always yield exactly the same age for rocks, fluctuation around a mean is to be expected in science and you point out that “rocks dated with multiple methods yield dates that are very consistent . . . radiometric dating can tell us which rocks are older and which rocks are younger.” You then go on to suggest that the decay rates used to be much higher than they are today, even as you also acknowledge a particular problem with this hypothesis that still needs to solved. I note your enthusiasm in congratulating those who have worked on the problem so far. “Bravo!” you tell them even as you go on to say “Now keep going! The quest isn’t finished yet.” A hard problem? Yes, and you can be certain that nuclear physicists would assure you that it is not close to being addressedI appreciate the fact that you intersperse your narrative with your love for creation. in a scientifically meaningful manner yet, but you lay out some ways in which you think young earth investigators are on the right track even as you fully admit there is much to be done.
You choose, Todd, not to address my first love, genetics. Mutation rates and what they have to say about the age of ancient DNA and, by extension, life’s diversity, is another hard problem and one you don’t mention. But that’s okay you can’t cover them all in an introductory little book. You make up for it by moving on to other hard problems and do so in an equally forthright manner.
I appreciate the fact that you intersperse your narrative with your love for creation. I am not sure if anyone I know well has a better or deeper knowledge of biological diversity than you do, so your book is filled with marvelous little factoids about the beauty of creation and what it has to say about the God who is responsible for it all.
Your discussion of why you subscribe to a plain, literal account of Genesis 1–11 is clear. These chapters mean exactly what they say, you believe. It is this, your straightforward interpretation of these chapters, on which you base all of your scientific work. Your well-described reasons for being committed to this particular interpretation of these chapters defines the basis of the hard problems laid out in the Quest, and it is this to which your life is dedicated. I remain an admirer of your sincerity and diligence to the call you sense on your life and consider this book an outstanding summary of your perspective on the road ahead.
You and I have spent enough time together for you to know that as much as I appreciate you, your skills as a communicator, and your heart for doing what is right, that I think the hard problems are hard for a specific reason. I think they are hard because the evolutionary process itselfAs you know from our discussions Todd, I think that when we are confronted with a mass of brick walls—one right after another—we ought to carefully consider whether we are on the right track. is—at least in broad terms—emphatically correct and not, as you think, emphatically incorrect. I think they are hard because the framework for the hypotheses they are testing is wrong.
As I see it, it is God’s processes that scientific investigations have been discovering over these past couple of hundred years and I am every bit as excited about trying to understand them as God’s processes, as you are about trying to understand how they are not. Your book encourages others to confront each brick wall (i.e., each “hard problem”) as an opportunity to find a way to tunnel through it or to find a ladder that will take them up over it. As you know from our discussions Todd, I think that when we are confronted with a mass of brick walls—one right after another—we ought to carefully consider whether we are on the right track. My concern with The Quest is that it provides little guidance on how to determine when one is wrong. It talks about being humble and admitting when you’re wrong—but how would you know? Won’t there always be one more tunnel you can dig or one more ladder that you can throw up? How would you know?
You and I have had many discussions over these years. It’s been a joy to be together because our times have always been enshrouded in the Spirit of God and I know that we are both grateful to The Colossian Forum for providing the opportunities for us to experience this commonality. We are members of the same Body, each carrying out our calling in the best way we know how. Those discussions have led to our co-authored book, The Fool and the Heretic which features the many things we have in common in Christ despite our differences. We now have a different task in front of us, one that I think becomes especially clear in the light of how you lay things out in this book: Are the hard problems hard because they’re simply hard, or is it because they are wrong? And how would we know?
Thanks, Todd for your friendship and for consistently allowing me to be honest with you. It is a privilege to be your co-laborer in Christ.
Three Letters, Two Books, One Interview