Book Review: Reclaiming Genesis by Melvin Tinker

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Paul Taylor reviews the book Reclaiming Genesis written by Melvin Tinker and offers advice on how to truly reclaim Genesis.

In the preface, Tinker claims that interpreting Genesis involves a “complicating factor”—“how are the early chapters to be ‘squared’, if at all, with the findings of modern science.” With this statement, he highlights the error that he and other theistic evolutionists make (including all those giving commendations to the book) in approaching the subject. His ultimate authority on understanding Scripture is man’s faulty interpretations of evidence, which are trumpeted as “modern science.” Yet he claims that his expositions “can be read and valued whatever one's starting point, whether ‘young earth’ or ‘complementarian.’” However, this statement is both fallacious and illogical.

So where does Tinker’s theistic-evolution starting point influence his exposition? His exposition of Genesis 1 begins with the misconception that Genesis is supposedly just a polemic for “Putting down Paganism.” In so doing, he misses the purpose of the historical narrative. So when he proceeds to the account of Adam in Genesis 2, we have no idea whether he considers Adam to be an actual historical figure, as theistic evolutionist John Stott does, or if he considers Adam to be merely a myth based on the Babylonian exile of Israel, like BioLogos contributors Peter Enns or NT Wright.

The question of whether Adam was a real person is of crucial importance if one is to understand the connection Paul makes between Adam and Jesus in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Tinker touches on these topics, but he cannot satisfactorily expound on them. Concerning Genesis 2, Tinker makes no comment on the fact that Eve was created from Adam’s side, rather than created separately from dust, as Adam was. Eve being taken from Adam enables her to have the same Saviour as Adam, which would have been impossible had Eve simply been made from more dust. Tinker’s use of quotation marks around the word dust on page 65 implies that he rejects the reality of the dust, which Tinker sees as merely molecules that “are the same as those of a stick of rhubarb.”

Another place where Tinker's theistic-evolution starting point prevents the correct interpretation is in his treatment of Genesis 4. Jesus described Abel as a prophet (Luke 11:49-51), even though we have no recorded words from the mouth of Abel. The reason for this is because Abel’s prophecy is his blood: “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10 ). This prophetic blood only has significance when we realise that it is the first ever human bloodshed. But Tinker’s theistic evolutionism prevents him from believing that there had been no human death before this point.

Indeed, in common with all compromisers of Genesis, Tinker’s theology of death and sin are weak. He claims in his section on Genesis 3 that “the Bible doesn’t attempt to answer the question of the origin of evil.” Yet that is, of course, precisely the purpose of Genesis 3. Furthermore, Tinker believes that physical death has always been around, so it is not the result of the original sin of Genesis 3. Consequently, 1 Corinthians 15 , and the whole purpose of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, is belittled.

The danger of Tinker’s approach is apparent from his preface: “While the Bible’s authority is recognized as ultimate, as it expresses God’s authority (and there is no higher authority than that), a more cautious [read: liberal] approach is encouraged, along with a more positive interaction with science” (page 17, emphasis added).

The church has been here before. For all his protestations to the contrary, Tinker has, indeed, placed another authority higher than that of Scripture, and therefore, by his own definition, higher than God. It is the authority of human science with which he feels the need to “square” his interpretation of Genesis. In the past, Tinker has expressed admiration for and claimed influence from the great twentieth-century preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones. However, in his book What Is an Evangelical?, Lloyd-Jones says that part of being an evangelical is an acceptance of the historical grammatical approach to the early chapters of Genesis. Do Tinker and those who have endorsed his book meet Lloyd-Jones’s criteria for being evangelicals? Sadly, it would seem that their claim that “the Bible’s authority is recognized as ultimate” is not what they write or preach.


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