The Challenge of Creation


Author: Rabbi Natan Slifkin

General Information

SCIENCE: Do scientific explanations of phenomena remove the need for a Designer?

COSMOLOGY: How can the scientific account of the development of the universe be reconciled with Genesis?

EVOLUTION: Can Judaism accept the idea that animals and man evolved from lower forms of life via natural selection?

The Challenge of Creation is a completely revised and vastly expanded edition of The Science Of Torah. That work was widely hailed as the best book of its kind for its honesty and thoroughness of approach. The Challenge of Creation builds upon its approach, covering more issues and in greater depth. Carefully, methodically, and eschewing sensationalistic or dogmatic claims in favor of reasoned analysis, it shows how some of the greatest Jewish thinkers explained Judaism and Genesis in a way that complements modern science rather than conflicts with it. The Challenge of Creation is an invaluable resource for anyone grappling with conflicts between science and religion. It is a profound work that is sure to become a classic.

With a foreword by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president, The Orthodox Union (download foreword here).

Praise for The Challenge of Creation

“This work demonstrates that grappling with issues such as evolution, the age of the universe, the literalism of our sacred texts, miracles, divine providence, and the scientific worldview in general can result in a new appreciation of the breadth and depth of our Torah… Seekers, whether new to the Jewish observance or born into the Orthodox fold, will find in this work a model of honest confrontation with serious challenges. The Challenge of Creation spells out these challenges articulately, analyzes them keenly, and refers to impeccable and authoritative traditional sources to address them… Rabbi Slifkin is to be commended for his contribution to our abiding faith as well as for his courageous intellectual honesty.”

“Rabbi Slifkin’s book is hands down the best Orthodox work on the evolution-creation issue–and perhaps on Orthodox Judaism’s confrontation with modern science. Written with a marvelous lucidity, it removes a group of flawed but tenacious arguments from the table and develops a formidable if controversial alternative. That the book has provoked, and will continue to provoke, debate and disagreement testifies to its importance and to its sharp and clear formulation of the issues and challenges.”  

“In this revised edition of The Science of Torah, Rabbi Slifkin addresses creation and evolution with courage and integrity. Eschewing apologetics, Rabbi Slifkin sets down a highly sophisticated and deeply religious account of how an informed contemporary Jew is to think about the biblical story of creation. Clear, cogent, and philosophically convincing, Rabbi Slifkin’s The Challenge of Creation is an intellectual kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s Name).”

The Challenge of Creation is a wonderful and important book. Rabbi Slifkin demonstrates that cosmology and evolution are not a threat to religion and that Orthodox Judaism should not be hostile to modern science. On the contrary, educated Jews should embrace scientific progress as giving us a better understanding of and appreciation for the glory of God. Rabbi Slifkin writes with clarity and logic and with a firm grasp of the scientific issues. He provides extensive references to a wide range of Torah giants whose interpretations show that cosmology and evolution are not alien from our tradition. It is an invaluable resource for those of us in communities where the scientific ideas described in this book are known to be firmly established and where students, friends and colleagues constantly question us about traditional Judaism’s views on modern science.”

“No one could read this book without being aware of the author’s deeply spiritual nature and his absolute devotion to the faith of his fathers. At the same time, one meets a man for whom the world is God’s creation and it is for us, made in God’s image, to go forward bravely exploring and trying to understand this creation. Rabbi Slifkin shows us that modern science is in the end a wonderful hymn to what God has wrought, and its appreciation enriches our lives and makes possible an even greater respect for, and love of, the Author of all things.”

Reader Feedback

“Dear Rabbi Slifkin, I am baal tshuva, and have not had an extensive education on Jewish thought, so it felt to me like a bolt of electricity to discover the Torah’s relationship with nature. I have been embarrassed to ask much about the inconsistencies I recognize between science and Torah teachings; although for sure the rebbaim seem quite knowledgeable, it was always my understanding that we had to have a leap of faith to embrace much of what is taught. The Challenge of Creation opened my eyes that it was never necessary to ignore scientific discoveries, in fact it is modern science which illustrates the most fascinating facets of HaShem’s work. Not only have I been impressed by your resilience to the pressures from the ban and the campaign against you, I am even more in awe of your understanding of the necessity of certain groups needing to separate from some ideas in order to exist. Truly, you are an example of how we must show love and understanding of one another. I must thank you beyond your teachings of biology and zoology; the greatest lessons I believe come from your middot.”  
“Rabbi Slifkin, I would like to thank you for writing “The Challenge of Creation”. It was probably the first book that I have ever read which honestly dealt with the issues of science and Torah without making weak arguements or assuming that science was fundementally wrong/flawed. I especailly appreciated how you made reference at parts to opinions which disagreed with your views and explained why you felt your approach was better. I found that it was very respectful to the reader as it let him draw his own conclusions as oppose to telling him which is the correct perspective.”
“Dear Rabbi Slifkin, A breath of fresh air and logic and reason! I’m reading your book, The Challenge Of Creation and loving it…loving the logic and the intelligent, respectful handling of a hot topic.”
“Dear Rabbi Slifkin, I have just finished your book and wanted to tell you that I found it to be absolutely wonderful. I have a Ph.D. in Semitic Languages, and teach in the Hebrew department of Hebrew University, with a specialty in Biblical Hebrew. I have been thinking about the issues discussed in your book since a very young age, and this is the first time that I have read a book that discusses modern science in a way that actually enhances ahavat Hashem, as opposed to presenting apologetics for the religious world view. It is great to have all the rabbinic sources you have assembled in an organized essay that can be used for repeated reference… I think that your bold approach to the interpretation of Breishit is the only one that really works, especially with regard to the evolution of the human species… Thank you.”
“Thank You, Rabbi Slifkin, for your wonderful book, The Challenge of Creation. I am of your target audience, a scientifically knowledgeable Orthodox Jew who has been troubled by these questions for much of my life. It’s the first book of its kind that didn’t push me away from Orthodoxy (and I’ve read tens of these books). In fact it gave me new hope that Orthodox Judaism might actually survive modernity… all in all, I absolutely loved this book.”
“You really have done a fantastic job on this new edition. I enjoyed The Science of Torah, but this one is a masterpiece of research and emunah and crystalline thinking. Thanks for writing it.”
“I bought the book “Challenge of Creation”, I am in middle of reading it. It is really a great book. It is impossible to read the book without growing in emunah. Thanks!! One more thing, as a Charedi, I can tell you that a large percentage of the Charedi community fully support your approach regarding evolution and Chazal’s knowledge of science. Every year the percentage of Charedim who subscribe to your approach will grow. I am certain that the younger generation of Charedim are more supportive than the older generation, which shows that ultimately the vast majority of the community will support your approach. Although it took a long time for the frum community to accept heliocentricity, however due to the internet – the information age, I think it will only take 20 years for it to gain majority support in the Charedi community. Just my 2 cents!!”
“Dear Rabbi Slifkin, I greatly enjoyed the “Challenge of Creation.” What is especially remarkable is that you were able to summarize and tie together historical developments in such a broad range of key areas, including the Philosphy of Science and fundamentals of Jewish belief. Best wishes and congratulations, – A.M., Baltimore”
“Hi R. Slifkin, I just wanted to complement your new book: “The Challenge of Creation”. I enjoyed it immensely. Your published works have helped me to understand more fully both Judaism and Science. I’ve been interested in understanding the issues you’ve written about for years. I’ve found them so thought provoking, I even went on a dinosaur dig in Malta, Montana. It was truly an incredible experience. – David Ilan”
“Shalom u’vracha! I recently purchased the book “Challenge of Creation” (it was nearly impossible to track down a copy as it has been sold out everyone I checked in Yerushalayim) and was pleased to see that such a sorely needed book has finally been published to quench the needs of the educated Orthodox population. The book articulates many ideas I have myself speculated upon, and answers questions I had yet to crack. I only hope that this is not the last of such publications for the modern-Haredi community; since the necessity for them only grows. – D., Kiryat Sefer”



Full title: The Challenge of Creation: Judaism’s Encounter with Science, Cosmology, and EvolutionHardcover / 360 pp.

Table of Contents

About This Book

Foreword by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb (view as a PDF)

Part One: Science

Chapter One: The Theological Foundations of Science
Chapter Two: The New Teleology
Chapter Three: Miracles and Nature
Chapter Four: The Particulars of Providence
Chapter Five: The Importance of Natural Law
Chapter Six: Approaching Conflicts
Chapter Seven: Departing from Literalism
Chapter Eight: Conflict and Reinterpretation

Part Two: Cosmology

Chapter Nine: Evidence for an Ancient Universe
Chapter Ten: The Chaotic Approach
Chapter Eleven: The Prochronic Approach
Chapter Twelve: The Prior-Worlds Approach
Chapter Thirteen: The Day-Age Approach (view as a PDF)
Chapter Fourteen: Departing from Concordism
Chapter Fifteen: Genesis as a Theological Text
Chapter Sixteen: The Content and Sequence of Genesis
Chapter Seventeen: Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters

Part Three: Evolution

Chapter Eighteen: Untangling Evolution
Chapter Nineteen: The Origin of Life
Chapter Twenty: Common Ancestry
Chapter Twenty-One: Evolutionary Mechanisms and Intelligent Design
Chapter Twenty-Two: Darwinian Evolution and God’s Attributes
Chapter Twenty-Three: The Ascent of Man
Chapter Twenty-Four: In Conclusion


NOTE: This book was written for those who are committed to the tenets of Judaism, but also respect the scientific enterprise and possess an advanced education in the natural sciences, and who are therefore disturbed by the challenges that are raised for their understanding of Torah. It addresses these challenges by following the approach of Rambam (Maimonides) and similar Torah scholars towards these issues, which, while firmly within the framework of authentic Orthodox Judaism, is not the method of choice in many segments of the ultra-Orthodox community. But many have found that no other approach works as well in solving these difficulties.

Other people may not possess as extensive a background in the sciences or may dispute the validity of the modern scientific enterprise. They may therefore simply not be bothered by the questions discussed in this book, or they may have different ways of dealing with such conflicts. Such people are not the intended audience of this book and they are advised not to read it.

3 reviews for The Challenge of Creation

  1. David Klinghoffer, “The Human Factor,” in The Weekly Standard

    “…Offers a sumptuous variety of theological and philosophical approaches to reconciling Darwinian evolution with religious faith…fascinatingly rich…” (full review)

  2. Jennie Rothenberg, Moment Magazine

    “…A clear-eyed vision of the natural sciences as seen through the lens of Jewish tradition… His intended audience-religious Jews facing crises of faith-will be hard-pressed to find a more carefully crafted book of ideas.” (full review)

  3. Paul Shaviv, The Canadian Jewish News

    “…closely argued and well-written, and not without flashes of humour here and there… powerfully and rationally argues that to be Orthodox need not—indeed, must not—mean abandoning reason, nor need it mean rejecting science… the most intelligent and interesting [book] I have read on the subject… civilized, respectful, erudite, well-argued, beautifully structured…” (full review)

Add a review

Your email address will not be published.