Science in Christian Perspective

Book Reviews


JASA Book Reviews for December 1979

Table of Contents
THE HUMAN PUZZLE: PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH & CHRISTIAN BELIEF, by David 0. Myers. New York: Harper & Row, 1978, 278 pp., $5.95
ETHICAL REFLECTIONS by Henry Stob, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978, 255 pp. and xii. $6.95.
ETHICS IN SOCIETY AND BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH, by E. Diener and Richard Crandall, Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1978, 266 pp. $17.00
ON BEING HUMAN: PRINCIPLES OF ETHICS, by Andrew C. Varga, S. J., New York: Paulist Press, 1978, viii & 151 pp. $2.95.
COLORS OF THE MIND, by Fred R. Skaggs and William L. Trimyer. Richmond, Virginia: Skipworth Press, 1978. 179 p.p., $3.95, paperback.
THE EVANGELICAL CHALLENGE, by Morris A. Inch, Philadelphia, Pa: Westminster Press, 1978, 153 pp., $4.95
HOW TO THINK ABOUT EVOLUTION AND OTHER BIBLE-SCIENCE CONTROVERSIES by L. Duane Thurman. Downers Grove, Ill., InterVarsity Press. 1978. 144 pp. $3.50 (two reviews)

THE HUMAN PUZZLE: PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH & CHRISTIAN BELIEF, by David 0. Myers. New York: Harper & Row, 1978, 278 pp., $5.95

A most auspicious beginning to the series "Christian Perspectives in Counseling and the Behavior Sciences," to be published Harper & Row in association with The Christian Association for Psychological Studies, comes to us in the form of this scholarly work by research Psychologist and author David G. Myers. After using the book in an undergraduate psychology seminar, we two reviewers have pooled our experiences and now join in chorus to praise author, publisher and sponsor for contributing something new and significant toward the integration of psychology and Christian belief.

A telling reflection on Myers' approach, in contrast with that of most other psychological integrators with whom we are familiar, is that we both learned psychology from reading the work. We did so because an essential part of the book consists of coherent syntheses of current research in several diverse areas of psychology. Myers' radical openness to the current knowledge explosion in psychology makes good his prefatory argument that the interaction between psychology and theology must work in both directions. Myers the theologically interested Christian and Myers the professional research psychologist are not dual personalities, but one person struggling to find the essential unity underlying both the discipline and the faith. We found a willingness to explore areas of apparent tension and some suggestions for taking a "second look" at traditional interpretations of Scripture in the light of psychological research. Overall, a view was reflected of both theology and psychology as human activities subject to the distortions and biases to which both Scripture and psychological research reveal that man is susceptible.

In this review we can only suggest the richness and depth of scholarship we found in the book. We learned early that Myers is skeptical of all kinds of dichotomies: mind/brain, soul/body, faith/reason, etc. One chapter synthesizes a vast body of research in the field of bio-psychology pointing to an intimate, complex interrelationship between brain states and man's behavior and mental life. The following chapter suggests many ways in which the holistic image of man conveyed by current psychology is essentially the image of man in the Bible. We sometimes encountered startling conclusions in Myers' "second looks" at traditional views of Scripture concerning the resurrection of the body, the nature of faith, and the efficacy of prayer. Although not necessarily persuaded to adopt all of these perspectives, we were continually challenged and impressed with the author's intellectual fairness. His copious notes at the end of each chapter also helped us to follow through on points which challenged us. There is grist aplenty for the mills of both psychological and theological scholars.

But equally so, the book should be helpful for Myers' "other audience," undergraduate psychology students. We found the book useful in breaking down the persistent dichotomy in our experience between intellectual activity and Christian commitment. One of us found help in overcoming a paralysis of faith occasioned by intellectual challenges to our faith. We can hardly think of a better reason for recommending the book for advanced undergraduate psychology classes.

Reviewed by Dennis R. Ridley and Susan M. Grippo. Department of Psychology, Houghton College, Houghton, New York 14744

ETHICAL REFLECTIONS by Henry Stob, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978, 255 pp. and xii. $6.95.

Stob's essays make a compelling case for an ethic of principle. His arguments advance rigorously from one point to the next, carefully bolstering the position presented. The author is a Calvinist scholar, rooted in the best moral thought of the medieval and reformation periods of Christian history. As a consequence, the book's strength is its
clear, almost painfully precise presentation of principles.

However, moral principles are not works of art to be admired for their proportions, nor even their depth of insight. Human beings test them in their daily lives, struggling to know and to do what is right and good while avoiding what is evil. The author believes solid ethical principles should permit men and women of conscience to live the good life. For that reason, it is surprising that less than one-third of the book applies those carefully hewn principles to the problems of society. The reviewer found that portion of the book to be the weakest and, hence, believes the principles are less polished than they first appear to be.

For example, Calvin, according to Stob did not "absolutely proscribe" revolution. However, he did teach that "private persons may never revolt." Stob endorses Calvin's solution that "representative functionaries or subordinate officials" are to protect the people from the license of tyrants. Contemporary crises in Uganda, South Africa, and Iran testify to the inadequacy of such a thesis, even though it is the sort of principle civilized people would want to be true.

It may well be, as Stob states, "that everybody holds his possessions by a dispensation of God." However, if God is the one who despenses property, one must seriously ponder why those with whom God has been so generous have been so penurious with the abundance so graciously received. Even more perplexing is the bloody way in which God has taken wealth from the Indian, the Inca, and the Jew and confided it to others. Those who have much are too often ready to believe what those who have nothing find absurd. After all, our God "executeth judgment for the oppressed; giveth food to the hungry." (Ps. 146: 7).

Finally the author's treatment of abortion is to be noted because here he softens priniciples by applying them to selected situations. Liberals will criticize him for not going nearly far enough; conservatives will fault him for endorsing abortion in any way. However, what is striking is that the absolute principles which governed his treatment of both private property and revolution are here abandoned in favor of a sliding scale.

Reality cannot always be made to fit into even the most carefully reasoned moral synthesis. The major weakness of this book is the author's failure to test theory with fact. The failure is more serious in that the author stated that a moral principle must "face the static structures of the cosmos and describe them, and it must face the flowing life at the surface of existence and prescribe for it... A principle which fails in either one of these functions is. . .a pseudoprinciple." The judgment is admittedly harsh and softened only by the fact that the author himself had the insight to make it.
Finally, a non-Reformed Christian hesitates to make this sort of criticism but must nonetheless. Stob's ethic too often ignores the Word of God for human insight. Those insights lack the cold pragmatism of the secular mind without challenging human mediocrity with the written and incarnate Word of God.

Reviewed by William J. Sullivan, S. rD., Associate Professor, Religious Studies, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York 14618

ETHICS IN SOCIETY AND BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH, by E. Diener and Richard Crandall, Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1978, 266 pp. $17.00

Diener is Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois, Champaign and Crandall is Associate Professor, Institute of Behavioral Research, Texas Christian University.

Ethical issues in behavioral and social science research have become of increasing concern to the community, but especially to the sensitive scientist, As more knowledge about life is obtained, the methods of gaining further information impinge more intimately on the personal lives of our populations and thus get involved in ethics. Biological, psychological, and social sciences reach into the family and/or personality of the individual in intimate and selfrevealing ways.

It behooves each researcher to investigate the effects of his study on the personhood of those being studied. Hidden effects created in the ones experimented on may become unintended disturbing factors involving ethics. Diener and Crandall have done an exceptional job of reviewing the ethics of research, including the obvious as well as the less obvious factors. Many cases of research are cited which give direct and practical reference to the matter under consideration.

The book is divided into five section: I. Ethical Treatment of Participants; II. Ethics Related to Non Laboratory Approaches; III. Professional Issues; IV. Science and Society; and V. Ethical Suggestions.

The book is an excellent introduction and its applications cover the whole scientific areas of research though written by psychologists. The authors offer guidelines which allow the researcher to extrapolate the effects of his study rather than offering rigid and solely moralistic rules of conduct. This approach allows the scientist more flexibility, but also places more responsibility directly on the researcher.

The area of deception in research serves as an example. On pages 87-88, the authors discuss the effect of deception on the researchers themselves, an effect not often considered. Some effects are: seeing people as objects to be manipulated, guilt feelings about misrepresenting themselves and the materials, the tendency to view the research as a game, etc.

Protection of subjects should be of great ethical concern to all researchers. This topic is presented thoroughly and well, with attention paid to the hidden effects and the debriefing of the subjects after an experiment. Informed consent is also a factor in ethical research. The hue and cry against manipulation, and the answer that deception is necessary for a study somehow has to be balanced. This matter with all of its ramifications, is discussed in the differing parameters of research. The final answers to specific research methodology may have to be left to a panel of expert peers who could render judgment as to the ethical usefulness and reliability of the study.

An interesting addition to the book are the appendices which give the codes of ethics of the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Sociological Association. Although the price of this relatively short book seems high, its value as a reference book cannot be underestimated. Anyone doing research in social and behavioral areas would appreciate a copy for reference and as a guide to responsible ethical research.

Obviously, such a book does not cover any distinctively Christian applications. Is the Christian researcher guided by a different set of ethical principles-perhaps more specific? If so, we may need another book or addition to this book for further clarification. The primary difference may be the presuppositions on which the ethical principles are based and not the principles themselves.

Reviewed by Stanley F. Lindquist, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, California State University, Fresno, and President, Link Care Foundation.

ON BEING HUMAN: PRINCIPLES OF ETHICS, by Andrew C. Varga, S. J., New York: Paulist Press, 1978, viii & 151 pp. $2.95.

Varga's work blows a refreshing breeze into the sultry air of relativistic pluralism, mindless determinism, and behaviorism extant in considerable portions of our contemporary ethical theoretic atmosphere. He writes not only for students but for the educated general reader as well, and does not leave his readers without guidance in the structuring of an ethical system. Accept or reject the principles by weighing the arguments pro and con, he urges. But he leaves no one wondering about the foundations of morality. For him, they are natural law foundations residing in human nature. "The main objective of the book is to show that morality is based on human nature." (p.viii)

The Fordham professor sacrifices but little as he takes the reader through concise discussions of principal themes including meanings of "good," the notion of rights, the nature of tree will, etc. In his search among the major ethical systems from the times of Plato to our own times he examines "the different criteria or norms" applied to the question, "What is the perfection of man?" Apparently, for Varga, the search itself is an ethical matter.

It is our personal duty to search rationally for that factor in an action that makes it good or bad, and to establish our own well reasoned norm of morality. We can be helped in this task, but ultimately it is a personal rational judgment for which we bear the responsibility as we have to be intellectually honest in this search. (p. 31)
Thus he leads the reader into the longest chapter in his book, a cursory but nevertheless significant historical and evaluative overview of major positions. If this were the whole of the book it would justify the price of this paperback, especially for those who have read little or no ethical theory. Varga claims to find a common thread running through the fabric of various theories-the promotion of human well-being. "Morality, then, seems to mean that man ought to be what he is by reason of his nature." (p. 79)

His theory of natural law morality is spun out without dodging basic concerns about changes in human nature, about changes among human relations, about the relation of means to ends, about rights and truth-telling, and other issues central to a responsibly stated position. Natural law precedes any positive law, and our knowledge of natural law depends on our ability to know our own changing natures in the light of the basic unchanging characteristics we have as rational, free, and responsible beings. (pp. 110, 111)

For all its strengths, Varga's book seems weaker than it would be if he had more clearly marked off his position from natural law advocacy as found in some forms of Utilitarianism, Marxism, and Social Darwinism. He leaves this reviewer wondering whether or not he wishes to couch his position in a theologically neutral humanism. It seems that he might wish to do so because of the omission of any reference to biblical passages that set forth human nature as containing certain moral deficiency resulting from the fall. And in the concluding chapters as he discusses the role of conscience, he omits any reference to the possibibility that moral judgment made out of conscience might not promote human well-being as it is understood biblically. Paul's letter to the Romans (2:12-16) indicates that the requirements of God's law "written on their hearts" may have a consciencebearing witness but that human thoughts may either accuse or excuse one from God's law.

Nevertheless, Varga's book is worth the money and the time it would take to read it carefully. The bibliography increases its value.

Reviewed by William J. Kinnaman, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Rhode Island Junior College, Warwick, Rhode Island 02886

COLORS OF THE MIND, by Fred R. Skaggs and William L. Trimyer. Richmond, Virginia: Skipworth Press, 1978. 179 p.p., $3.95, paperback.

Colors of the mind are emotions. A variety of emotions are displayed throughout this book for the viewing of the reader. Drs. Skaggs and Trimyer, Baptist pastors, intend the book as a devotional resource for ministers and lay persons. They say that in their "devotional lives they have often found refreshment for (their) spiritual and emotional needs through reading what others have experienced and shared through writing." Through sharing some of their personal experiences, Skaggs and Trimyer seek to become "transparent selves" in the manner of Sidney Jourard (The Healthy Personality, 1971) who wrote, "When a man does not acknowledge to himself who, what, and how he is, he is out of touch with reality and he will sicken... And it seems to be another fact that no man can come to know himself except as an outcome of disclosing himself to another person." This quote from Jourard seems to embody the authors' two main assumptions-that all emotions are valid and that emotions are best handled by recognizing and expressing them. These assumptions trouble me.

First, are all emotions valid? The authors seek to legitimize, sometimes even illogically, the open expression of all emotions. For example, in Trimyer's treatment of anxiety he writes, "Jesus said, 'Take no anxious thought."Yet, in the next paragraph Trinlyer says, "There's nothing wrong in feeling anxious; we must own our feeling!" To experience anxiety is certainly human. But recognizing the universal existence of anxiety does not mean there is nothing wrong with feeling anxious especially in light of the biblical directives to exercise faith in God as an alternative to anxiety (Mark 4:40; Mark 5:36 b; Phil. 4:6-7).

Second, is self-disclosure the best way to handle anxiety? Apparently the authors think so. This is conveyed both by their choice of counseling excerpts (in which they rely on the nondirective listening of humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers) and by the structure of the book. The authors discuss one emotion per chapter. Skaggs begins each chapter by relating a personal experience involving the emotion, spiced occasionally with "inspirational" quotes and sermonettes. Trimyer relates a similarly formatted experience. Then, the authors give a prayer that someone feeling the emotion might pray. The one who prays generally expresses the emotion openly to God and recognizes that God is with him or her, even in the midst of emotional turmoil. Sometimes, God is asked to help rectify the situation leading to the emotion. The authors conclude each chapter with two or three quotations in which a biblical author expresses the emotion.

There are at least two dangers to this approach to emotion management. The first danger is that when selfdisclosure to God, to others, and to ourselves is our primary focus, the real healing power of God may not be invoked. The second danger is that viewing awareness and expression as the ways to handle emotion may hinder the use of cognitive and behavioral emotion management methods which are consistent with Scripture. Emotional self-disclosure is important, but it is not everything.

Reviewed by Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Assistant Professor of Psychology, Virgianta Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia 23284

THE EVANGELICAL CHALLENGE, by Morris A. Inch, Philadelphia, Pa: Westminster Press, 1978, 153 pp., $4.95

In the Preface and first chapter of his book, Inch tries to lay out some of the scope of his subject and some historical background of the term "evangelical." Using Karl Barth's definition, he states that the Reformation was an "evangelical event" from which the contemporary evangelical traces his roots. In addition the modern movement is a direct reaction to the influences of the Enlightment, but a different reaction from that of the fundamentalist (one who believes "that in a particular period in the past the full revelation of truth was completed") or the liberal (one who "closed the book on seventeen centuries of conviction. . . and then attempted to make peace with the contemporary era").

In a chapter on the theological definition of "evangelical" Inch stresses the necessity for adhering to orthodox Christian positions on key doctrines (as summarized for him by the Apostles' Creed) in order to be considered a member of the evangelical circle. These orthodox beliefs must be supplemented by a view of the Scriptures as infallible and normative for living, and by a burden for evangelism and missions. Finally, the modern evangelical has a concern for regenerative social action, action always preceded by learned understanding and conditioned by expected limited results.

Each chapter conveniently concludes with a summary listing the points covered in it. Each paragraph of the typical summary is numbered, and is a concise statement of what the theses of the chapter have been. Such clarity, however, is not always true of the chapters themselves. Especially the opening theological chapters seem to be rhapsodies on evangelical doctrines rather than documentaries on the validity of his contention that "evangelical" and "orthodox" are synonomous. The reader is left with the uneasy feeling that he has seen the writer's personal beliefs but not advanced his own understanding of the modern evangelical movement.

This feeling is further intensified by a look at the scholarship which underlies the book. Most of the material seems to be drawn from histories rather than from primary sources written by those who would be called evangelicals. The notable exceptions are the quotations from such men as Carl Henry and Kenneth Kantzer and the long discussion of Senator Mark Hatfield's political position. But the conspicuous absence of Francis Schaeffer and others in InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, and Youth for Christ movements seem to indicate a lack of investigation of the evangelical himself and a greater concentration on what others say about him.

Finally, the first chapter's opening promise of an increased understanding of the historical background of the movement is limited to a sprinkling of allusions to the fundamental/liberal controversy. There is no further elaboration on the Enlightenment's influence or on actual roots of evangelical beliefs.

In short, the book is more of a composite than an original study, more of the author's personal confession of faith than a piece of scholarship.

Reviewed by Carol L. Veldman Rudie, Logos Book Store, CO-Manager, 1005 Walnut Street, Elmira, New York 14901

HOW TO THINK ABOUT EVOLUTION AND OTHER BIBLE-SCIENCE CONTROVERSIES by L. Duane Thurman. Downers Grove, Ill., InterVarsity Press. 1978. 144 pp. $3.50 (two reviews)

This is a paperback written by a botanist on a difficult subject. The famous botanist Stebbins has also written books dealing with evolution, so from this point of view Thurman is in good company. There are so many books in this area that one wonders why another one is needed. This book is different, however, because one is continually admonished to read, get the facts and then make a judgment. Some quotes illustrate this: "I make no firm choice of any of the popular models for origins;" "It is good religious practice but poor scientific method, to insist upon only one alternative;" quoting Dr. J.D. Thomas, "Any faith that constantly fears its destruction by new discoveries-is not satisfactory because it can be overthrown by mere enlightenment;" "Christian Theism does not stand or fall on whether one can prove that the Bible is right about origins.''

Interesting quotes here and there in the book also illustrate the dogmatism of both scientists and religious folk. There are also quotes showing that many in these categories are not dogmatic but understand our lack of knowledge.

A few points of contention: on page 95 it is stated that new characteristics do not appear in hybridization, but my studies have shown that new ones do appear, probably due to the formation of new enzymes in the recombinants. On page 103, the implication is made that there are no fossils in the Precambrian, but bacteria and algae are certainly found there. Transitional forms are not there, it is true. On page 133 it is stated that those who believe in macroevolution have faith in natural laws but lack faith in God. This to me is an oversimplification of the problem. There are atheists who hold to law but deny God; there are some Theists who hold to law but who believe in a God who can exercise Divine Providence should He so choose; then there are Deists who welcome the workings of God's laws but who deny special interventions. It is said that Deists have no personal God but this is erroneous because at least some Deists pray to a personal God for forgiveness of sins and also thank God for the wonderful work of creation. This type of Deism is certainly more satisfying to a scientist than is Theism.

Just what does Dr. Thurman believe? Not everything is clear on this point, but I gather that he is definitely a Theist, that he holds an open mind on many scientific subjects, that he sees a difference between what the Bible says and what clergymen say it says, and lastly that he believes in microevolution but he has great reservations about macroevolution.

I do believe that the book is worth reading and I recommend it to our readers.

Reviewed by Irving W. Knobloch, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Each generation of students reads differing viewpoints on the relation of science to the Scriptures. This book does not tell a student what he should believe but rather gives him methods of evaluating the ideas he encounters. One chapter deals with the analytic approach, how to define the problem and the terms and recognize assumptions. Another treats science and its methods, including logic and faith in science and the limits of science.

The book begins with a comprehensive review of the renewed controversy that has occurred because pressure groups have convinced some states to teach creation as well as evolution or at least include creation in textbooks. A comparison is made with former controversies, such as the Scopes trial, and an analysis of the responses of the scientific community is given.

The author, L. Duane Thurman, had his graduate work at Berkeley and teaches at Oral Roberts University. He treats microevolution as the type which is factual and considers macroevolution as theoretical. Sections are devoted to the origin of the universe, origin of life, and origin of groups above the species level. Interpretation of fossil evidence by both creationists and evolutionists is presented. The author has read widely to give the reader insights into why people differ in their beliefs regarding origins.

The concluding chapters on "Creation" and "Your Approach to Controversy" not only show a student what has been believed about such topics as the age of the earth but also give guidelines for dealing with Bible-Science conflicts. In conclusion the author writes, "We should listen to others, Christian and non-Christian alike. We should be wary of those who make one theory the test of whether one is truly a biblical Christian. It is important to know how to discuss the creation-evolution issue intelligently, but it is not the most important issue in a Christian's life."

Reviewed by Russell L. Miner, Department of Biology, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois 60/87