351 footnotes will either make or brake a 100-page book. In this case, it is the footnotes (which document the many quotes) which make the book so interesting. The books full title is Reclaiming the Two Books of God: Restoring Moral Sanity to the Church. And the book’s author is Don Sailer. Some of you might recognize the author’s name from his interaction in the comment threads over at Sharper Iron. Yes, he is a fundamentalist, but he also has a doctorate from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently pastors an Evangelical Free Church, so he is not your ordinary guy.
And it takes an unordinary guy, sometimes, to take on an unpopular topic. His book focuses on the widespread rejection of Biblical authority in both church and mainstream culture. He traces the issues which led to the abandonment of Biblical inerrancy and one by one, all the cardinal doctrines of Christianity.
For such a difficult topic, the book is helped immensely by the opening discussion of the Scopes’ trial. With that colorful event as a backdrop, Sailer moves on to tackle the growth of modernism and the advancement of Darwinism. He then details both the fundamentalist defense of the Bible’s authority in the face of modernism and the extreme humanist reaction against naturalism. In all of this, Sailer is sounding a call for today’s church to return to a firm position on the Bible’s authority.
While there is obviously much that could be said about these subjects, Sailer focuses in on the intersection of the two books of God: Creation and Revelation. Using the Puritan imagery of two books, Sailer discusses how science and the Bible complement each other. He focuses on the arguments that stem from the Darwinian view of science — ultra naturalism, if you will. And he contrasts that view with the Fundamentalist view of Scripture.
Sailer aims to accomplish his impossible mission through the use of numerous quotes. These often help the book, by letting historical figures speak to the issues themselves. He quotes, for instance, many of the leading fundamentalists and modernists of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sometimes, though, I must admit, the quotes tend to weary the reader. And at times Sailer seems to jump from contemporary authors to those of yesteryear without properly alerting the reader. All in all, though, the value of the book is in the many quotes.
A secondary main point of the book is to demonstrate how the two books of God do not contradict each other. Rather than attempting a full fledged creationism discussion, Sailer focuses in on one key point: the age of the earth. Leaning heavily on Gorman Gray’s book The Age of the Universe: What are the Biblical Limits?, Sailer presents a strong case for a mediating position. He defends six literal days of creation, but claims that the universe and the planet earth were actually created before those six days: there is an unspecified amount of time between Gen. 1:1-2 and 1:3ff, he argues (cf. Is. 45:18). He also notes that Scripture merely teaches that God created and ordered life on earth in the six days. This position avoids the problems of the Gap Theory (death before Adam), and joins youn earth creationists in denying evolution and affirming a literal view of Genesis. At the same time, it allows for the scientific findings of the speed of light in relation to the size and age of the universe.
I must admit that two things struck me as odd in Sailer’s discussion of the age of the earth. First, I could see how strict Biblical literalists who claim the chronology in the Bible would point to the earth being only at most 10,000 years old, would argue that Don is doing the same thing the modernists did with science: accomodating his view of Scripture to science’s claims. Second, I thought it odd that the book which had hitherto spoken largely in generalities and affirmed all those who resisted modernism, now became so specific as to dismiss old earth creationist views (like the Day Age theory) and strict young earth views out of hand.
Yet this view of creation appeals to me. I admit that I can see how astronomical and geological claims for the age of the earth and universe would be a stumblingblock to people’s faith if they are told the bible teaches expressly a young earth. But the Bible does not teach this directly, and so it is a needless stumblingblock. (I know evolution vs. creation is a big enough stumblingblock of its own, but lets not discuss this here.) So I can see how this view does much to “reclaim the two books of God”. I haven’t come to a definitive conclusion on this issue yet, but if you are interested in a short article defending a Day Age view of an old earth, check out this one by Justin Taylor. And then check out Gray’s book (the first few chapters of which are online).
In conclusion, I would heartily recommend Don Sailer’s book. It is only 109 pages and is quite easy to read, and the historical quotes he pieces together are worth the price of the book. Consider, for example, this gem from William Jennings Bryan:
They first discard the Mosaic account of man’s creation, and they do it on the ground that there are no miracles. This in itself, constitutes a practical repudiation of the Bible: the miracles of the Old and New Testament cannot be cut out without a mutilation that is equivalent to rejection…. (pg. 18)
His discussion of the Scopes’ trial is enlightening, and you will be fascinated by his discussion of the age of the earth. Through it all, Sailer stresses the importance of Biblical inerrancy and succeeds in making his case that we cannot abandon the Bible’s authority, or else we are left without any Christianity at all. And considering the issues facing today’s church, this is a case worth hearing.
Note: This book was provided for review from the author, Don Sailer. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review. Furthermore, I am unaware of any place where you can now purchase this book, as the author’s website is currently down.