Saturday, June 13, 2009

Who is Dennis Petersen?

A reader wrote the following note:
A customer brought his big glossy Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation book to our store for us to consider carrying it. In talking to her and glancing at the few pages I did, I could tell it was a YEC book. Afterwards I told a coworker that I decided to hold my tongue and just nod and smile. Some battles are unwinnable from the first breath. The sad thing is, I know the customer and she's a wonderful Christian. She even read Francis Collins Language of God book but returned it afterwards saying that she couldn't recommend it for the church library. Aargh! Anyway, thanks again and God bless!
So, who is Dennis Petersen? He is the creator and head of the Creation Resource Foundation, a group based out of El Dorado, California. This is their mission statement:
The Creation Resource Foundation is devoted to giving families helpful "tools" to build a confidently Bible-based "world view." This is done through multi-media seminars, newsletters, media interviews, and field trips.

Our desire is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator to Whom every human being must be ultimately accountable.
The "Confidently Bible-based 'world view'" is certainly oriented toward the YEC model, as the reader clearly indicates, based on the encounter. There is not much to the site other than the advertisement for the book, some opportunities to line up speakeers, and some articles. The copyright note at the bottom of the page is "2004." There are eight short pieces in the "articles" section, one of which is "Why teach a GENESIS VIEW OF ORIGINS?" His position is pretty clear:
Why Should You Teach A Genesis View Of Origins?

1. It is the primary truth targeted by the enemy to undermine confidence in God's nature and His Word (2 Corinthians 10:5).

2. Jesus recognized the singular essential for belief to be absolute confidence in the foundational writings of Moses (Luke 16:31).

3. A study of created things in an atmosphere of reverence for God is essential to avoid ultimate condemnation at the judgment (Romans 1:20).

4. We are assigned the responsibility to train our children to know about and praise the works of God (Psalm 145:4; 66:3, 5).

5. An abundance of public information is either subtly or blatantly salted with atheistic, anti-creation approaches that deserve explanation and exposure.

6. Since one important activity of believers is to guard against deception, we must be specially diligent to teach regarding known popularly circulating lies (Colossians 2:8).

Note this well! Evolution is not only the most widely spread deception the world has ever known, it is also the MOST DAMAGING deception the modern world has ever encountered.!!

Evolution is the foundational secular world view for every subject of study!

It is the atheistic religion of modern scholarship!

The interesting thing is that just about every Christian on the planet agrees with the sentiments behind the six points he lists. They are foundational to the faith, although I would quibble with some of point five. The problem is that he then goes off into left field with the evolution bit. Of course, not a bit of evidence is provided for that.

As far as the book is concerned, here is a review by the Twin Cities Creation Association. This is their take:
So brace yourself. This is not just a "good" book that will be used by a few students or perused by the casual reader and later discarded for pennies at a garage sale. It will become a mainstay and hold a prominent position on the living room table or bookshelf in any home that takes God's word seriously concerning the evidence for a Bible-based world view. Its quality of presentation makes for a gift that will be cherished for many years to come by any reader (regardless of their faith) and will have a lasting impact on their life--perhaps even an eternal impact.
It was extremely hard to find a review of the book from a secular source. Answers in Genesis has reportedly reviewed it, somewhat negatively, according to some sources, but they have since taken down that page. The NCSE sheds some light on this by recounting an Answers in Genesis/ Creation Ministries International split in 2006:
There were a few clues available about the AiG/CMI split in early 2006 — on the groups' respective websites, in a mailing from CMI, and in the AiG–US Form 990 filings with the IRS, which I noted on my blog in a March 3, 2006, posting about the split (Lippard 2006a). The biggest change on the websites was that information critical of certain other creationists (such as Kent Hovind and Dennis Petersen) disappeared from the AiG website, but re-appeared on the CMI website. The CMI mailing stated that "the US ministry withdrew themselves [sic] from the international ministry group (with the exception of the UK) with an expressed desire to operate autonomously, without e.g. website content being subject to an international representative system of checks/balances/peer review involving all the other offices bearing the same 'brand name'."
So this, at least, explains why the review is gone. CMI wrote a review of the book that is very unflattering:

Despite its good intentions, it seemed to be focusing heavily on material that was incorrect, outdated by many decades, speculative, poorly documented, and usually not peer-reviewed by the creationist scientific journals. And it was precisely because the book was so well presented that we feared greatly for the many Christians who would be misled into thinking that at least most of its evidence and arguments would be sound.

We also became concerned at the surprising lack of discernment from many creation-oriented ministries, who were saying things like ‘every Christian home should have one’ and that this book is set to become ‘the new standard for creation material’. All this—and the fact that we keep getting asked about it—was ultimately why we have taken the unusual step of releasing an edited cut-down version of our inhouse review notes, which follow. These notes are a compilation of input from a number of scientists and researchers active in the creation movement (who do not all work for CMI, incidentally).

This release is not coupled with ill will of any sort. We sell many materials from various authors and organizations. If it was a matter of some minor disagreements on a few issues, we would simply not stock it. But we believe that this book has the potential to set the creation movement back by many years if we do nothing, and if undiscerning creationist groups promote it uncritically.

Note that this is neither a formal review nor a full one, these are just a few of the many problems, i.e. a sample of the main reasons we cannot recommend this book.

For another YEC organization to say this is nothing short of astounding. CMI is Carl Wieland's group, which also includes Jonathan Sarfati. The irony in the above passage is the "lack of discernment" comment, given some of the writings of both Wieland and Sarfati. Sarfati, in particular, is a supporter of the global flood. After Mark Isaak wrote his "Problems with a Global Flood," Sarfati produced a response that Kevin Henke took apart with a fine-tooth comb. For an organization that, ordinarily, has a hard time with established scientific findings, to trash a YEC-oriented book must say volumes about the book, itself.

It is also extremely troubling that this "lack of discernment" is so widespread and permeates the homeschool market, which is filled with well-meaning educators who do not have the background to evaluate a book like this.

The other question is I would have to the person who walked into the bookstore is "What was wrong with the Francis Collins book? How was it not scriptural and biblical? And how is it that you cannot recommend a book produced by an extremely well-respected scientist who was the director of the Human Genome Project but can recommend a book written by someone who's highest educational credential is a masters degree in history from the State University of New York?" I would love to see the answer to that question.


  1. Wow. Thank you so much Jim! This is more than expected. I'm impressed that you got a YEC critique of the book! I think my customer who read Collins' book said that she thought the theological content was weak. I haven't read his book myself, so I can't speak to that. I understand his science to to be impeccable. My guess is that she is most concerned with the historicity of Adam and the fall and issue of when physical death began. I could be wrong, but I think it's that. I'm sure she'll be in this coming week to pick up the book she left off, so I'll try to find a diplomatic way to ask her what her specific critique is of Collins' book. On a side note, I had a similar issue with Karl Giberson's book Saving Darwin. His science was spot on, but his theology was very weak. Although he affirms his own orthodox Christian beliefs, the basis for that comes simply by his self affirmation. I don't think he wrestled with the tough issues adequately. Denis Alexander on the other hand dealt with each and every issue in detail as it relates to traditional Christian orthodoxy and the scientific record. His book is quite simply masterful. I'll see how open my customer is to talking about the scientific issues involved. On a not so unrelated note, my pastor this morning asked how many members had visited the Creation Museum and about a sixth of the attendees raised their hands. He had asked me a while back for some help on creation/science/evolution issues, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I think I need to at least start a conversation about it, and soon. BTW, my church is OPC, so they don't have an "official" position on evolution, but since it's such a conservative denomination, the majority seems to be YEC. At least in my own church I know I'm a party of one! Again, thanks so much and God bless!

  2. Hey Jim, I just wrote an essay relating to what you wrote to me. Let me know what you think.

  3. As far as the OPC having no "position" on evolution, you might want to read this, involving the heresy trial of Dr. Terry Gray at the hands of the OPC. It is a bit dated and their position may have changed but it left lasting scars.

  4. I have not had a chance to read Dennis Alexander, although I have heard absolutely nothing but glowing reviews of his work.