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Osborn does not claim to have solved this problem. He merely claims it is at least as great a problem for literalists as it is for all others who believe in a good Creator. Osborn probes this problem in several ways. He meditates on Job. He takes up C. S. Lewis's speculations about animal suffering as part of a primordial Satanic oppression. He considers how reading the creation story through the life of a self-limiting, suffering Christ—reading backwards, as it were—affects our understanding. As to what humans should do about animal suffering, he ends with a meditation on the Sabbath. In all this he is thoughtful and provocative.

The teeth of his argument, however, is against the literalistic readings of Genesis. He does not indulge in character assassination, but I could wish that he were more generous in his approach. For example, while pointing out how little literalists have done to defend animals from suffering, he might have pointed out that they have done more than most to defend babies from premature death.

That said, he meets young-earth creationists on their strongest ground, that of the Bible. He writes well, he loves the Bible and reads it insightfully, and he appears to be as orthodox as they—more so, he would claim, given his readings from Calvin and Augustine. It will be interesting to see whether they feel a need to answer. A simple assertion that anybody who believes as Osborn does cannot believe in the Bible will not do. He is too obviously a man of Scripture for that assertion to stick.

Tim Stafford, CT editor at large, is the author of The Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Who Held on to a Strong Faith While Wrestling with the Mystery of Human Origins (Thomas Nelson).

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Reading Genesis, Red in Tooth and Claw