Trevor Watts' 'God's Fingerprints' - Sincere, Honest, But Possibly Missing the Mark

SENIOR PERIODONTOLOGIST MAKES AN INTERESTING ENTRY INTO CHRISTIAN WRITING

A Review of 'God's Fingerprints,' a 197-page paperback published in 2008 by Lulu. ISBN: 978-1-4092-4809-5.






T his is a very sincere book of an evangelistic nature produced by a consultant in periodontology at Guy's Hospital, London, England. A Church of England reader of great experience, Watts gives his 'take' on a helpful approach to evangelism.



Trevor Watts' intention is to show the reader that the existence of an omnipotent God can be plainly shown simply by working outwards from ourselves on the most basic level of 'naive experience.' We human beings obviously exist, we have flesh and blood, reasoning brains and various life experiences, we set foot into this life, having every confidence that we live in a world which operates according to predictable laws; putting everything together, one may produce - indeed, without too much difficulty - very substantial evidence that the universe must have an all-powerful Creator and Sustainer God. The writer is, of course, perfectly correct, this is what has been known as 'natural theology,' largely abandoned by theologians even while being clearly upheld by no less than the Apostle Paul, who wrote:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:18-23, NIV).

There might be even more to Paul's words than immediately meets the eye. Is it not strange how Paul states that those who reject divine creation, taking refuge in human intellectualism, come up with something which places the focus on the creature rather than the creature's Maker? Rather than giving glory to an immortal God, plainly revealed in His works, they would come up with something which concentrates on "...a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles." While ancient pagan idol worship, pantheism and naturalism are all here, are we not blind if we do not also see the godless evolutionary theory which they would lead to? Personally, I cannot read these words of Paul without seeing those absurd old 'scientific charts' which (supposedly) illustrated man's gradual development from crouching apes to an upright, fully-evolved human specimen. I am told that less honest teachers on evolution still use them.

The atheist, of course, refuses to consider the absurdity of their atheism, yes, atheism truly is absurd, yet we do indeed live in a wonderful and majestic world which - no matter how hard they may try - cannot be explained by the purely naturalistic tools which they (atheists) are forced to employ. The non-believer is forced to focus on matter, on the creature and on the theory of evolution, shot through with holes though that theory plainly is. Of course, these theorists cannot explain where all the matter came from in the first place. The Creationist can explain this and, indeed, comes up with a teaching which is far less far-fetched and much more believable (for the unprejudiced mind, that is) than macro-evolution. Neither can the atheist explain the presence of information, the miracle of consciousness (quite a separate factor from the brain), and the fact that we live in a law-abiding universe. Oh well, as the saying goes, 'don't get me started on that!'

Okay, let me initially stand back a little and look at how Trevor Watts has arranged his book. The book is arranged in three sections, they are, A. Tools and Constraints: Fingerprint Powder, B. Phenomena of Naive Experience: The Fingerprints, and finally, C. . Implications For Life: From Fingerprints to Identification, Within these 3 overall parts we have a total of 22 sections, these are not numbered as chapters, although the writer often refers to something he has mentioned in certain "chapters," hmmm, I'm not too sure about that; if chapters are not stated as such, can they still be chapters? Anyway, let us not get too pedantic about this.

I would love to state that this was a great read, it saddens me that to say so would be less than honest. Trevor writes in a somewhat bitty, 'a byte here and a byte there' style which seems calculated to hold the interest of people with short attention spans. He frequently returns to points he has already touched upon, perhaps following his own logic of layout but this is frustrating for the reader used to a 'deeper' read. Having said that, he does make some excellent points along the way, however, I found the approach a little patchy. Trevor, apparently, has been a reader in the Church of England for over forty years and, with all due respect, I'm afraid that it shows. Perhaps he needed to widen his compass and take in a wider span of reading before writing this book. Don't get me wrong - the book has some real highspots - but that organisation's openess to scientism (that is: philosophical naturalism rather than strongly-evidenced science) and to liberal theology at its very worst, reveals itself in certain compromises which the writer is willing to make. For sure, Trevor would probably place himself on that organisation's evangelical, or Bible-believing wing, yet the influence is unquestionably there.

Overall, I found too much respect for what one may call, 'establishment science' in the writer's approach. On page 161, for example, Watts states,

"...over the twentieth century there has been a long period of consolidation during which much scientific knowledge has been confirmed and counterchecked in many ways."

I disagree with that as a fair assessment of the facts on modern science and its overall behaviour during the twentieth century. In my opinion, this obviously deep respect for modern science compromises the approach. This leads to this:

"In short, if it is true, the Bible needs to be internally consistent, it needs to be consistent with any external evidence we have, and it needs to tell us things in agreement with our naive experience." (p. 164).

The Bible is certainly internally consistent but what is meant by "consistent with any external evidence we have"? How may such 'evidence' be evaluated? Is it unbiased evidence or evidence prejudiced in favour of naturalism? This is quickly very dangerous because what goes under the umbrella of 'modern science' has been wrong on many counts - despite Watts' p.161 assertion that "over the twentieth century there has been a long period of consolidation during which much scientific knowledge has been confirmed and counterchecked in many ways." This also affects the writer's initially hesitant approach to divine creation, an approach which seems to become increasingly hostile to Creationist teaching as this book progresses. Such is the bitty 'a bit here and a bit there' approach of the book that the writer's overall approach on the creation/evolution question is never all in one place.

So Watts returns to Creation and to the early chapters of Genesis several times. In my opinion, in doing so, he weakens the overall strength of his arguments. For sure, God created the universe (according to the writer) but exactly how and to what degree evolution was employed, well, he is desperately vague on that. Surely far better to state that God created the universe - full stop! The believer may also state that Micro-evolution (natural selection, variations in kinds) is plainly biblical (and plainly allowed for in Genesis), but that Macro-evolution (we all gradually evolved from primitive slime many millions of years ago) is utterly absurd and runs against all of the evidence, however, Watts continually backs off from doing this and eventually makes an attack on the belief in six literal days of creation (p. 171-175). Might it not have been far better to lay out the three or four main viewpoints which Christians hold on the creation/evolution question? It seems clear to me that, prior to writing his book, the author has not considered this whole matter in depth but is stating where he stands. For Watts, the construct of seven literal days is "clearly poetic" (p. 174), even when the insistence on literalism and on seven literal days is so remarkably clear in the text. Why would the Scripture regularly return to the 'and there was evening and there was morning - the fourth day...' (Genesis 1:19) type-construct unless it wished to be clear on literal days? Oh yes, there is marvellous poetry here but the text does not give the slightest clue that it is not also literal, in fact, the literary construction insists on literalism. Mr Watts disagrees because of his 'it needs to be consistent with any external evidence we have' approach. In short, he places evolutionary teaching first in authority. Indeed, he writes,

"To believe in a literal seven days creation, as I have already hinted, is to misunderstand what is actually written in Genesis, the first book of the Bible." (p. 171).

Yet no evidence is produced for this strong assertion. The one or two points which are raised in opposition to a literal six day creation have been explained many times. Yes, the word 'day' can be used differently in Hebrew (as Trevor Watts points out), but is this not why Genesis is clearly insistent on six literal days in the creation account? To say that the creation construct is purely poetic and not literal when its insistence on six literal days is so striking (as even hardened sceptics and liberals have often admitted) really will not do.

My criticisms should not lead one to the conclusion that I think this book has no value - far from it. I think that the real value of this book may be as a proto-evangelistic overture to place before those steeped in intellectualism. I think that Trevor's style and approach may well get such people really thinking. So the approach is to employ natural theology (too long neglected) allied to a philosophical, 'who am I, what am I doing here' position. Interesting. Watts states,

"One of the inevitable questions facing everyone is "Why?" Why is there anything at all? That there is something, is an irrefutable naive experience. As we have seen, there are other such experiences: order, unity and diversity, sequence, personality. The belief that no answer can be given to the question "Why?" is totally without evidence. Indeed, what evidence there is runs wholly in the opposite direction: we live in a universe of logical causes and effects..." (p. 133).

This is sound and helpful and should provoke questions within the unbiased mind. It is in such areas that Watts is occasionally very good. The book has several such highspots.

Do I give this sincere and evangelistic little book a clean bill of health? Lamentably, no. Yet, as I have already suggested, the book is not without value and may certainly be the 'kingdom bait' for some.
Robin A. Brace. August 30th, 2011.

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UK APOLOGETICS