It's released by Concordia Publishing House, official publishing arm of America's second largest Lutheran body (2.5 million members), the Missouri Synod. Here's how they are currently promoting it on their website.
So we're not dealing with backwoods snake handlers. Indeed Fange boasts a PhD. from the University of Alberta, and is a former professor at Concordia College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.In Search of the Genesis World: Debunking the Evolution Myth strengthens readers' knowledge of creationism, offering a well-researched, Christian response to the origins of the world and the universe.The Bible is shown to be a faithful framework for the study of the ancient world....In Search of the Genesis World examines the sciences that treat the ancient world. It seeks to answer the important question: How does the Bible hold up against 'science'? Obviously, the search must be conducted in a responsible manner. We must distinguish carefully between fact/truth and "spin".Prepare to respond to evolutionary theories withIn Search of the Genesis World.
So I settled down and diligently worked my way through the nearly 400 pages with a highlighter and a notepad at my side. I've got to concede that it's a remarkable book, though perhaps not quite in the way that Dr. von Fange intended.
The first thing to note - in view of the many "gap theory" aficionados who might frequent this blog (and you guys know who you are!) - is that Fange is an unapologetic Young Earth Creationist (YEC). But, wouldn't you know it, a certain Ambassador College graduate and Plain Truth writer comes into his account, and he's cited as an authority!
So let's dig in. We'll travel to Tonga, climb aboard the great Andean mountain elevator, turn popular journalists into evolutionary experts, try to find Rhodesia on a map, rub shoulders with Erich von Daniken, speculate on the lost continent of Mu and - especially exciting for a New Zealander like myself - discover fascinating, previously unknown details about Maori culture.
Into the Pacific
It must be a bother having to write a book about evolution when your own belief system allows only a few thousand years for the history of the universe. This probably explains why Erich von Fange spends so much time tip-toeing through some particularly vacuous material, like a rag and bone merchant on the prowl, that has seemingly little or nothing to do with his subject (see below on von Daniken and Mu.)
It also gives us an opportunity to check out von Fange's capacity for elementary-level research; the kind you'd expect of a competent twelve-year old. This isn't an unreasonable expectation given that Dr. von Fange's area of expertise is education (oh come now, you surely didn't expect it to be biology, palaeontology or geology did you?)
Before 2000 BC almost every corner of the world had been visited by people who possessed amazing technical skills. They erected vast astronomical instruments... They are found on remote uninhabited islands as well as on the continents and major islands... On remote Tonga island a massive stone lintel atop three huge stone pillars has two incised lines that indicate winter and summer solstices. (p.275)
|Ha'amonga 'a Maui|
Fange's unique expertise also extends to New Zealand geography and history.
Before and during the Golden Age, small bands of the curious and adventurous, the rebels and the ostracized, left or fled the Iranian Highlands for the great unknown world, much like the defeated Maori rebel or chief who fled with his followers to find another island home or perish in the sea. (p.326)I wonder just how many islands Fange thinks make up New Zealand? I wonder whether he knows the difference between the designations Maori and Polynesian? I wonder whether he did any serious research at all? The Maori are the first people (tangata whenua) of New Zealand. There are two main islands, bearing the highly original names North and South Islands, and most of the population prior to the arrival of Europeans lived on the North Island (and in fact still do). Evidence of atoll-hopping refugees? Zero. Certainly Maori arrived from elsewhere in the Pacific, but after settlement (and becoming the people referred to as Maori today) there is little or no evidence of return journeys. The sole exception might be the colonisation of the Chatham Islands by the Moriori, but I doubt Dr. von Fange has ever heard of the Chatham Islands, let alone the Moriori.
He has heard of Rhodesia though, and seems to think there is still a country bearing that name (p.301) - which is a bit weird if he bothers to even occasionally follow the news.
But then, if you're prepared to state that "there are good reasons to suppose that at least some dinosaurs were on the ark," (p.57) without providing a scrap of evidence for these "good reasons," or even the barest of footnotes, presumably ancient Tongan astronomical observatories and imaginary sea voyages by unhappy Maori chiefs are small change.
You have to wonder what Concordia is doing, promoting this stuff. Does anyone there actually edit for something other than spelling and punctuation?
The Scientific Genius of Robert Gentet
I'd like to say that this kind of nonsense is the exception, but unfortunately it isn't.
One moment you're reading a Young Earth Creation text from the Missouri Synod, then zap there's a flash of recognition: the author is citing a WCG writer. (For those unfamiliar with the acronym, WCG refers to an apocalyptic Adventist sect that has now largely sunk beneath the waves; the Worldwide Church of God.)
Thomas Lapacka I knew about. The former Pasadena WCG minister traded in his suit and tie for the clerical collar of a Missouri Synod clergyman some fifteen years ago, and went on to write a book about it. But I didn't know about Robert Gentet.
Dinosaurs Before Adam? which first saw the light in 1963, then achieved "reprint article" status as the definitive word on the subject for church members.
Obviously Gentet was a major promoter of the "gap theory," which is anathema to YECs. But Fange's approach is "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," so that wasn't too much of a jolt (he also cites ID gurus Behe and Johnson without indicating that their position is very different to his.)
But no, it seems Gentet had a Damascus Road experience on creationism - or perhaps St. Louis Road - for he returned to his LCMS roots after leaving WCG and, failing to find a job in the oil industry, went on to be ordained as a Missouri Synod minister. Along with this metamorphosis, Gentet completely abandoned the pre-Adamic theory of creationism which he had previously espoused, and adopted a variety of YECism (the "CCC" model). He now runs creationhistory.com - where you can find his potted bio.
Fange cites Gentet as an authority to back up his own views. Two dilettantes are, apparently, better than one.
Both of these illustrious gentlemen have the hard task of explaining how the planet came to be as it is in just a few thousand years. Noah's flood comes in handy here, and both of our geniuses seem to have been influenced by Alfred Rehwinkel's 1950s book called (not surprisingly) The Flood. I had a copy of this opus on my bookshelf as a teenager. Rehwinkel was yet another dilettante (his degree was in theology), LCMS member and - like Fange and Lapacka, his book appears under the Concordia imprint.
So, how do you explain, for example, those big, pointy things made of rock? The Andes mountains for example?
What is surprising is that the earliest intensive agriculture in South America is believed to be east of the Andes in the Amazon lowlands before it was carried over the Andes, perhaps even before the Andes existed. Much of the Andes chain is very recent - shockingly recent! (p.218-219)Do tell!
The Andes rose abruptly in historical times when man was already sailing ships. There was a sea harbor in Lake Titicaca. (p.219)Well, land sakes, who'd have thunked it! But then, this is the same guy who writes:
Our belief in a young earth is founded on the Bible, and there is nothing in the way of evidence to shake that belief. (p.289)Can we hear an Amen! from Brother Gentet?
Honestly, one could rabbit on about the gaping holes in Erich von Fange's book for months, and not exhaust the possibilities. Could it get any worse?
The striking fact is that natives never seem to discover a new idea for themselves, nor do they modify anything in the slightest. When change has come to a community, it came from the outside. (p.47)What racist drivel. Fange wisely omits to define what he means by "natives," but I suspect he has people of a different skin colour to his own in mind. On page 212 he gets explicit by referring to Africans as "natives." Why not blond Swedes? The truth is that all of us can trace our origins back to tribal communities: Angles, Saxons, Goths... The statement is garbage, and inherently illogical.
And let's be upfront about that term "natives." It's insulting and demeaning in contemporary usage. Only a moron in a hurry would use it in a serious work of non-fiction.
Racism seems to be an undercurrent in Fange's world-view. He clearly doesn't like the work of ground breaking French Jesuit scholar Teilhard de Chardin. Fair enough, that's his right. But when it comes to blaming someone for the Piltdown hoax, Fange has Teilhard collared right from the start. Why Teilhard and not one of the English suspects?
The whole business seems contrary and out of character for an Englishman. (p.157)Yes, it has to be the greasy little Frenchman according to the von Fange logic. One can only observe that Herr Doktor von Fange can't have met a great many Brits in his travels. At times Fange seems to have "lost it" completely.
Fange doesn't endorse von Daniken, but he does spend a lot of time trawling through the guano trying to pick a pearl or two (p.299-308). His conclusion: "The point of our discussion is that interesting and useful facts may indeed be found in some very peculiar sources..." Perhaps if he spent more time reading Scientific American rather than a tattered copy of Chariots of the Gods he might have learned something more useful. He then goes on - heaven knows why - to commit another four rambling pages to the literature on the lost continent of Mu. This in a book with the subtitle "Debunking the Evolution Myth"?
Fange constantly divides the world up into Christians and humanist liberals. In fact, the only reason evolution exists is that "the evolution belief system is designed not to explain the world, but clearly to attack and erode the faith and values of Christians." (p.265)
To put the kindest construction on this statement, one could call it myopic.
[I]f in the future Christians are burned at the stake, evolutionists will light the matches. (p.265)Is this really the best that Concordia and the LCMS can up with as a popular Creationist text?
(Note: rhetorical question.)
A version of this article appeared here in four parts in 2010.