I grew up in the home of a pastor. I learned early that unless you wanted to sit for an hour and listen to your dad talk, you don't ask complicated questions. I was reminded of that feeling while reading "The Genesis Factor."
Written by two pastors, "The Genesis Factor" touts its intended audience as "seekers," and uses the example of college students wrestling with questions of origins and meaning. The authors liken the quest for answers to a discussion around a dinner table, where the voice of the Bible, and more specifically, Genesis, is ignored as an implausible tribal myth. The purpose of their book, therefore, is to examine the Biblical text to see if it is, after all, a credible voice that deserves to be heard.
A fine proposition. And they do a fine job of explaining the first three chapters in Genesis from a solid, Christian standpoint. I was especially impressed with the broad use of writings other than the Bible-from literature to science and philosophy-to raise questions and illustrate mankind's various solutions.
The weak point of the book was in its organization. Like the trailing explanations I received as a child, "The Genesis Factor" answered more than it asked. Helm and Dennis based their organization on the order of the Biblical text, working verse-by-verse, and sometimes word-by-word, through Genesis 1-3. This is certainly a familiar method for experienced exegetes and for pastors who frequently consult commentaries arranged in just that manner. But for a work such as this it presents two main problems. First, for the intended audience (those who have ignored the study of the Bible all their lives), reading a Biblical commentary is a foreign concept. And, second, it tempted the authors away from answering their questions by allowing them to discuss words and phrases not critical to their main point. For example, noting that the description of the six days of creation is arranged in a beautiful parallel pattern does nothing to answer the question of the origins of man.
A stronger organization would have been to divide the book into three parts, each answering one of the three fundamental questions raised by the authors. The Biblical text could have been applied where appropriate within the three parts, and needless tangents could have been avoided.
I would recommend this book mainly to Christians looking to answer the tough questions of their friends or seeking to clarify their own beliefs. It would be difficult for a non-Christian unfamiliar with the conventions of Biblical commentary to find what they're looking for in this book.