I recently received this book, by James Stroud of Logos Research Associates, the group John Sanford runs, and started working through it. I feel like I need to review this book twice: once for the content and once for the egotistical tone of the book. The content is not bad, but the snide comments, personal attacks, and general egotism, as well as some poor writing practices of the author make the book a slog to get through and limit its usefulness.
I want to speak first to some questionable ethics on the part of the author. He includes a lot of commentary at the start of the book from a wide range of people, including Lawrence Krauss, Penn Jillette, Kent Hovind, Hugh Ross, Michael Licona and Walt Brown, among others. While he does, at the end of the section, qualify that these are not necessarily endorsements, presenting them upfront as an example of how his approach appeals to everyone is pretty disingenuous. The book does not get better.
Stroud comes across as an intellectual elitist. He name drops people constantly whom he has talked to and quotes from personal conversations extensively. While the occasional quote from personal conversation is not bad, Stroud over uses it. Much of the book feels like Stroud flexing at the expense of those of us unfortunate souls who will never have the access he claims to have. He claims to have been friendly with people as various as William Lane Craig, Hugh Ross, Walt Brown, and Lydia McGrew, among others. He repeatedly calls on the YEC camp to be humble, yet comes across as personally very egotistical and proud of his ability to interact with the celebrities of the Christian world. The self-aggrandizement will turn off many readers before they even get to the meat of his content.
Worse is his barely disguised contempt for major creation ministries like ICR, AIG and CMI. Particularly nasty are his comments about Ken Ham, who he accuses of being divisive and sloppy with facts. Yet Stroud himself plays fast and loose with the truth when it suits him. He cites Ham being kicked out of a homeschool conference for criticizing a speaker at the conference. Turns out, the man he criticized was Peter Enns, a supporter of BioLogos who openly says for parents NOT to teach their children about sin. Answers in Genesis has more than adequately responded to this issue, something Stroud ignores. Interestingly, Stroud quotes Enns in the book, favorably. Stroud’s primary goal seems to be to criticize young earth groups, particularly AIG, for being too dogmatic about the age of the earth. I find this claim bitingly ironic given he is dogmatically opposed to anyone being dogmatic. Stroud is the prototypical Evangelical: more than happy to surrender truth for the sake of unity.
Stroud also openly admits to trying to “play for a draw” with the OEC crowd and draws an analogy from Star Trek. With all due respect to Stroud, he clearly has never had to plan strategy for anything. The only time you play for a draw is if you have a very weak position and are simply trying to hang on. Yet Stroud claims he believes the YEC position is strong. So why play for a draw? If the position is strong, play for the win. If YEC is true, (and it is), then by all means advocate for the truth. None of this “play for a draw” nonsense. Truth does not have wiggle room.
Regarding Stroud’s content, much of what he says about the old earth position is good. He spends the first part of the book debunking much of the old earth view. It is mildly annoying how much he quotes from other people. Sometimes whole pages are blockquotes from other people. Again, quotes are not bad, but Stroud overuses them. He also has a tendency to quote from secondhand sources, without verifying the authenticity of the quote. His analysis of the old earth arguments tend to be good, but because he refuses to commit completely to a young earth view, he can’t drive home his points as strongly as he could have.
Stroud spends the second half of the book expounding his preferred model of the young earth. As expected, he is quite partial to Sanford’s genetic entropy model (which we are as well). He spends quite a bit of time discussing the various models of YEC cosmology and discussing the pros and cons of each. Even here he takes a snide shot at AiG astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner for supposedly “losing” his debate with Hugh Ross. Problem is, the judges were exclusively old earth. So of course Faulkner lost in their view! They don’t agree with him! (This is just one example of the many snide shots Stroud takes at AIG and their associated scientists, all the while footnoting how much he respects them. He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth).
Stroud spends a chapter looking at the implications of the flood model. He walks through the three major models, including the mostly discarded canopy theory. The actual geology in this section is not bad. He lays out the hypotheses and the evidence for and against them. However, again, he uses the section to take snide shots at a major creationist group, this time ICR. He makes a claim I’ve never heard before, that Henry Morris of ICR fired Walt Brown because Walt Brown would not sign on to support the canopy theory. He makes the claim with little supporting evidence. Given Brown has long accused Steve Austin of plagiarism and John Baumgardner of slander, if Brown is Stroud’s source, take it with a heavy heavy dose of salt. I bring this up because it typifies how Stroud approaches the major creation organizations. Anything he can spin as negative about them, he brings up. Given his partiality to Brown’s hydroplate model, and his blatant bias against ICR and AIG, anything he says about them should be taken loosely.
Stroud concludes the book with a section on genetics and baraminology. The section on genetics is pretty good and he lauds Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson without ever mentioning that he works for AIG. A significant oversight given he blasts AIG frequently in the book and makes a point of mentioning AIG’s scientists associations when he thinks they are wrong. His section on baraminology is lacking, as he uncritically accepts everything Todd Wood and his colleagues say as factual. However, I don’t get the sense that Stroud has an in depth understanding of science, which may explain the massive quotes. It is much easier to quote someone else explaining a topic than try to explain it yourself if you do not completely get it. Obviously science is not for everyone and Stroud is trying to cover a wide range of disciplines so it is not a fault that he may not have an in depth understanding, but it may explain why he does not question anything Wood says.
Summarizing a book that covered such a wide variety of topics is almost impossible. Rather than try, I will simply give you my remaining thoughts on the book. Don’t waste your time with it. Stroud offers nothing new, simply repackaging of existing ideas. If you want detailed discussions of say, genetic entropy, simply get Sanford’s book. There is no reason to get Stroud’s book. Further, his tendency to disrespect people who disagree with him is off-putting. While his worst comments are directed at William Lane Craig, he does not spare the YEC community either, accusing Ken Ham of being unwilling to think critically as one example. While calling for humility, he demonstrates an expansive ego, and a desire for attention that belies his words. While I will be the first to argue for reading past an irritating tone, the arguments under the tone are simply not worth the time and almost all have been presented elsewhere.
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