Third of three parts; (click here to read part 2)

In late July 1996, Mike Behe sat down in his office, flicked on his computer, and began paging through his e-mail messages. It had been an exhilarating month: his book was finally rolling off the press. He was excited about how well his half-day press briefing had gone in Washington, D.C., in front of dozens of intellectuals and media persons. While vacationing at the Maryland shore with his family, he had received an overnight package from Free Press that contained a copy of his literary first-born. Then, a few days later, word had come that a review would appear in the New York Times Book Review. That news brought excitement mingled with dread: he felt like celebrating, but he wondered if he should brace for an attack.

As Behe scanned the e-mail list, he spotted a message from Phillip Johnson. As he clicked open Johnson's message and scrolled through it, he smiled at his pep talk: "Don't worry, Mike. Even if the Times bashes you in their review, a cultural earthquake will take place [in the United States] on August 4 when they publish it."

A few days later, Behe received an early copy of the review and typed an e-mail report that popped onto computer screens of several dozen colleagues in the design movement: "Good news—I just got the New York Times review. Not bad. Not bad at all. On a scale of one to ten (ten being ecstatic praise, one being a total bashing), it's an eight." Behe could already feel the distant tremors.

As Behe lectures, one of the first questions asked is "What do Darwinians say about your book?" He ticks off three or four recurring responses. A few simply label him a "creationist" and dismiss his arguments without a careful hearing; but that is not the typical response. Almost all reviewers have admitted that Behe has the facts right. Biochemist James Shapiro said that Darwin's Black Box had actually understated the complexity of the cell's systems, while James Shreeve conceded that "Behe may be right that given our current state of knowledge, good old Darwinian gradualist evolution cannot explain the origin of … cellular transport."

Nevertheless, Shreeve and others say the professor from Lehigh simply has given up too soon. Many add that science simply cannot entertain such unscientific notions as "intelligent design." Behe considers this objection a transparent attempt, based on philosophical bias, to set limits on science.

Some critics have sought refuge in the new mathematically based ideas of Stuart Kaufmann, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who uses computer models to simulate what he calls "spontaneous ordering of life." Behe critiques Kaufmann's ideas in his book, pointing out that a recent article in Scientific American described Kaufmann's work as a "fact-free science." Behe emphasizes that Kaufmann's models never refer to real chemical or biological data and have produced no laboratory experiments. Thus, he concludes, Kaufmann's ideas offer no hope as an escape route for the Darwinians.

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After reactions to Darwin's Black Box had poured in from professional biologists, Phillip Johnson noted, "All the criticism of Behe's book so far doesn't challenge the truth of what he says. It just reflects how unhappy it makes the Darwinists to see the scientific evidence and their materialist philosophy going in opposite directions."

This unhappiness was evident at the recent University of South Florida lecture. The professor who teaches the university's undergraduate course on evolution objected, "You're giving up too soon. Biochemistry is in its infancy. These systems were discovered just 20 or 30 years ago. Within the next few years, we may begin to figure out how all these systems evolved."

Behe replied, "Actually, many of these systems have been fully understood for 40 years or more, and not one explanation has been published offering a plausible scenario by which they could have evolved. Any science that claims to have explained something, when in fact they have published no explanation at all, should be brought to account."

Michael Behe really wants to be nothing more than a biological accountant, initiating a long-overdue audit of the Darwinian books. The world is watching the results.

-Tom Woodward teaches at Trinity College of Florida, where he also directs the Center for University Ministries.

We asked some of our readers to recommend a book (published in the last year or so) worthy of bringing to the attention of other CT readers in this Annual Books Issue. Their refreshingly eclectic responses follow. One book, Lewis Smedes's The Art of Forgiving, is mentioned twice. That emphasis suggests, perhaps, how much we all need to practice this art (and how routinely we ourselves need to be forgiven), but it also is a reminder of the graceful wisdom we can confidently expect to find in any new book by Smedes.

-James D. Berkeley, senior associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Bellevue, Washington.

For more than 35 years, church consultant Lyle Schaller has examined, cross-examined, analyzed, compared, grilled, repaired, directed, advised, and even knocked churches upside the head when necessary. With humor, insight, a remarkable grasp of church culture, a broad curiosity, more pertinent statistics and benchmarks than you can shake a stick at, and a traveling case full of penetrating questions, Schaller has changed the American church.

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In his new book, The Interventionist (Abingdon), Schaller divulges his methods, detailing just what he does when he visits a church—especially the questions he asks. Pastors, seminary students, congregational leaders, and aspiring consultants will all find encouragement here to think innovatively about ministry.

-Virginia Stem Owens, director of the Milton Center at Kansas Newman College and author most recently of Generations (Lion; UK only), a novel.

Janet Peery's novel The River Beyond the World (Picador USA), set in my native Texas, chronicles the lives of two women from my mother's day, a generation that has not been given enough credit for their grit or for their intelligence. Money and poverty undergird much of the plot, important because of how they affect the soul, not because they are "social issues." Unlike many novels today, this is a shapely book, built on moral suspense. Peery's story makes deception, grace, and forgiveness as breathless a struggle as car chases and terrorist bombings—a real triumph for a "literary" novel.

-Philip Yancey, author of The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan).

It was every missionary's fantasy. In 1837 a Chinese national falls ill, slips into a coma, and has a vision in which he is taken up into heaven. Upon recovery he reads a gospel tract that seems to explain his dream. He converts to Christianity and becomes leader of a millennial movement that sweeps through six provinces of China.

It was every missionary's nightmare. Hong Xiuquan believes himself to be the younger son of Jesus Christ. He rewrites the Bible to fit his own beliefs, and his movement mutates into a regime combining the worst elements of Oliver Cromwell and Chairman Mao. Soldiers must recite the Ten Commandments each day, listen to daily sermons from their sergeants, and abstain from all contact with women (anyone who sleeps with his wife risks beheading). Ultimately, 20 million people die in the terrors of the Taiping rebellion.

In God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan (Norton), Jonathan Spence, Yale professor and author of The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, gives an in-depth portrait of one of the most bizarre movements in modern Christian history. God's Chinese son turned out to be David Koresh and Jim Jones raised by an order of magnitude.

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-Sondra B. Willobee, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church, Farmington, Michigan.

The Scriptures are clear about Jesus' command to forgive. Less clear, however, is how to do it. Ten years after his Forgive and Forget, Lewis Smedes offers a clear, practical, and discerning guide in The Art of Forgiving (Moorings). His clarifications are tough-minded and comforting.

Forgiveness is not tolerance, reunion, or restoration, Smedes says. Forgiveness is a God-modeled remedy for intolerable wrongs. In the right time, forgiveness allows us to rediscover the humanity of those who wronged us, let go our right to revenge, and wish the other well.

-Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Consulting the Faithful: What Christian Intellectuals Can Learn from Popular Religion (Eerdmans).

While intermarriage and assimilation are eroding Jewish identity in many quarters, Robert Eisenberg observes in Boychiks in the Hood: Travels in the Hasidic Underground (Harper San Francisco), the worldwide Hasidic movement is growing at a rate of 5 percent a year. This means, Eisenberg opines, that Hasidism could well be the primary manifestation of religious Judaism a century from now. Eisenberg is a secular Jew who set out to explore his family's Hasidic roots, visiting communities in the United States, Eastern and Western Europe, and Israel. His report is both entertaining and highly informative. If Chaim Potok's The Chosen was your last (or only) literary encounter with the Hasidim, this book will teach you many new things about this vibrant movement whose members out-kosher other Jews and who believe that it is blasphemous to establish a Jewish state before the Messiah appears.

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