COSMOS by Carl Sagan, Random House N.Y. (1980). 365 p.
Beginning in the Fall of 1980, it was my pleasure to be the television instructor of record for Mesa College's offering of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. The course was offered under both a Humanities and Physical Science course number. The text by Carl Sagan was not avilable at the time the course started, and for administrative reasons never became a required text. I am confident, however, that it is a very valuable supplement to the television series. The text is larger in scope than the series, containing considerable material not shown on television. To grasp some idea of the importance and magnitude of the project, one needs only to be aware that it had aprojected world-wide audience of 140 million.
Sagan's ordering of topics is logical, not chronological, so stellar evolution and the big bang aren't developed until Ch. 9. The theme of Cosmos is evolution. For Sagan, evolution is fact, not theory. From the opening of the T.V. series through the program dealing with stellar evolution, it is the dominant motif on which events are hung, or predictions made. The T.V. sections on the function of DNA are the best, for a general audience, I have seen. Because of evolution and a law-abiding universe, Sagan is free to speculate about evolution elsewhere, and he chases his favorite, extraterrestrials, at the end of his overview7chapter on biological evolution. Here he imagines "Hunters and Floaters" on a Jupiter-like planet. In the T.V. series, I believe too much time is spent in speculating about these huge imaginary monsters, although I admit the medium lends itself to Sagan's fantasies.
With reference to evolution, Sagan is at his best in Ch. 7, "The Lives of the Stars." (p. 218)
To make an apple pie, you need wheat, apples, a pinch of this and that, and the heat of the oven. The ingredients are made of molecules-sugar, say, or water. The molecules, in turn, are made of atoms-carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and a few others. Where do these atoms come from? Except for hydrogen, they are made in stars. A star is a kind of cosmic kitchen inside which atoms of hydrogen are cooked into heavier atoms. Stars condense to form interstellar gas and dust, which are composed mainly of hydrogen. But the hydrogen was made in the big bang, the explosion that began the cosmos. If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must invent the universe.
He then proceeds to do so, discussing stellar and cosmic evolution.
Another theme of humanist Sagan is the glory of intellectual freedom and human progress. This is illustrated by his comments about Immanuel Velikovsky and about Christian Huygens, as well as the Ionian philosophers. With Velikovsky, he begins by reviewing his ideas and then says, (p. 91)
But science is a self-correcting enterprise. To be accepted, all new ideas must survive rigorous standards of evidence. The worst aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that his hypotheses were wrong or in contradiction to firmly established facts, but that some who called themselves scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky's work. Science is generated by and devoted to free inquiry: The idea that any hypothesis, no matter how strange, deserves to be considered on its merits. The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or politics, but it is not the path to knowledge: it has no place in the endeavor of science.
In talking about Huygens, Sagan glories in the free intellectual climate that was Holland's in the 15th century. It is clear, after paying tribute to Huygens' many intellectual accomplishments, that Sagan believes they were made because Huygens thought, "The world is my country, science is my religion."
In the chapter, "Backbone of the Night," Sagan begins with his speculations of what primitive man might have thought about fire and the sky. From here it is a stepping stone to the gods and that leads to real science, the Ionian philosophers. This is yet a third theme of Cosmos: the greatness and sufficiency of science. Thales, Anaximander, Empedocles, Democritus, etc., are all given good coverage and appropriately lauded. The treatment of Pythagoras, who was a mathematician as well as a religious mystic, reveals Sagan's bias once again. (p. 185)
They did not advocate the free confrontations of conflicting points of view. Instead, like all orthodox religions, they practiced a rigidity that prevented them from correcting their errors.From my perspective, much more objective reviews of the Pythagorians are given by Bertrand Russell or W.T. Jones in A History of Western Philosophy.
If Pythagoras, is under attack, watch out, Plato! Sagan accepts B. Farrington's reasons-slavery and a failure to appreciate manual work as a reason for the demise of the Greek science. In addition, religious views of the Greeks transmitted to Christianity caused the early church to be other worldly- centered. So science, man's true savior, languished.
Sagan has a varying style, but has been roundly criticized for his early shots of his profile smiling into space in his space craft. Rightly so. The monitoring screen-on which the important stuff is taking place-was about the size of his nose. At other times, excellent use was made of his medium, as in the mentioned DNA activity.
His writing style is chatty and casual, often with personal reminiscences. Again, he can be quite poetic. (p. 265)
There is an idea-strange, haunting, evocative-one of the most exquisite convections in science or religion. It is entirely undemonstrated, it may never be proved. But it stirs the blood. There is, we are told, an infinite hierarchy of universes, so that an elementary particle, such as an electron, in our universe would, if penetrated, reveal itself to be an entire closed universe.
While his style is poetic, what stirs his blood is interesting and makes orthodox Christian and Jewish theology seem pretty plausible.
Very early in the series, the humanists and religious members of my class, as well as their instructor, became offended by Sagan's scientism. Later on in the series, and in Chapter 10, Eastern religions are given a favorable view. (p. 285)
"There is the deep and appealing notion that the universe is but the dream of the God who, after a hundred brahma years dissolves himself into a dreamless sleep. The universe dissolves with him-until, after another brahma century, he stirs, recomposes himself and begins again to dream the great cosmic dream ... It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that Gods are the dreams of men."Sagan much prefers cosmic eggs to creatio ex nihilo.
"But this is mere temporizing. If we wish courageously to pursue the the question, we must of course ask next where God comes from. And if we decide this to be unanswerable, why not save a step and decide that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question? Or, if we say God has always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always existed?"
Instead of seeing each answer as perhaps equally powerful, his anti-Hebraic bias runs rampant. And he in no wise answers Kant or the Jewish or Christian mystic.
Sagan's bias against western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) begins early . . . and is shown on p. 29, where he talks about fossil evidence for evolution.
The fossil evidence could be consistent with the idea of a great designer; perhaps some species are destroyed when the designer becomes dissatisfied with them, and new experiments are attempted on an improved design. But this notion is a little disconcerting. Each plant and animal is exquisitely made. Should not a supremely competent designer have been able to make the intended variety from the start? The fossil record implies trial and error, an inability to anticipate the future, features inconsistent with an efficient designer (although not with a designer of more remote and indirect temperment).
It is clear to any Christian who believes in evolution, and it is consistent with evolutionary theory in general, that the forms that existed in the past fit that environment, and as the environment changes so did the life forms. This idea is consistent with western religion as well. If, on the other hand, Sagan is asking why the Creator didn't just zap today's world into existence, that too is answerable from a Hebraic perspective. The Hebraic God is the God of history, and He works in linear time. The absence of time would result in revelational problems.
While on the topic of evolution, one must also question Sagan's assertion that evolution is fact, not theory. From this reviewer's perspective, theories are what science is all about. Theories answer, within a mechanistic framework, why laws operate the way they do. They are conceptual models or even mathematical models that explain or picture. Almost all philosophers of science agree that theories cannot be proven true and that their usefulness to science is key, as is their method of testing, which includes falsifiability. For Sagan, for reasons only he knows, to assert that evolution, the central and grand theory of biology, is a fact, is disturbing. His very dogmatism is reminiscent of the religious groups that he opposes. By extension, would Sagan be willing to assert that the big bang theory is now fact, since the discovery of the 3 degree background radiation? I trust not.
When talking about Newton, Sagan quotes from Keynes, who emphasized his religious heterodoxy. (p. 68) When describing his later life, he mentions his work on alchemy and in the Royal Society, avoiding his great love of theology. I must conclude that either this is deliberate on Sagan's part or he is uninformed.
While the text and T.V. series had much to commend
them, they were marred by an "intellectual ham" who, too
often, wanted his profile in everything. In addition, they
were marred by his anti-western religion bias. In his view of
history, he finds not one good thing to say for the most
powerful book whose religious view is the view of his
culture. The biblical world view allows for science, while
Eastern world views do not. But Sagan can't deal with that.
Consequently, his book's value to humanities classes is
Reviewed by Fred Jappe, Mesa College, San Diego, California.
SPACE, TIME AND INCARNATION by Thomas F. Torrance, Oxford University Press (1969). 92 pp., $2.50 paperback
This small volume consists of three lectures which Torrance, a professor of Christian Dogmatics at the University of Edinburgh and author of several works on the relation between science and theology, delivered in 1968. The book was originally published the following year and re-issued in paperback in 1978. Although the physics of space and time has undergone tremendous advances in the years since the original lectures, the ideas presented here have lost none of their initial relevancy.
The first two lectures examine the role of spatial concepts in the formulation of the Nicene Creed, in the development of Reformation Theology, and in modern liberal theology. Chapter I describes the Nicene concept of a space which is closed on the human side while remaining infinitely open on God's side. The next chapter traces the rejection of this concept in favor of the Aristotelian "receptacle" view which, according to Torrance, led to a fundamental dualism in German Protestant theology that culminated in the modern "antithesis between phenomenal events and eternal ideas" (p. 42). It is the author's contention that when the incarnation is regarded only as the entry of the Son of God into a finite receptacle, or even when God himself is viewed as the receptacle (Newton), one is led logically to qualify the reality of Christ's human nature and/or to apply to humanity in general his divine attributes. Historically, both situations developed. In German theology particularly, the divine attributes of Christ came to be regarded "only as a special and exemplary instance of man's own capacity for the divine" (p. 41). "The very thing that Luther feared and fought against so hard, the transmutation ... of ontological relation into symbolic relation came about" (p. 42). Such transmutation is exemplifies in the "demythologizing" of Bultmann, where historical facticity was rejected as having no place in the foundation of faith.
In temporal terms, Torrance continues, a receptacle view of space led untimately to a God who had no existence independent of human conciousness; Christ became abstracted from space and time and was understood only as a "thing for us" (p. 42). Thus modern theology was forced to discard the past as meaningless to an individual in the present. Similarly, such a theology had to deny the individual any future existence, and thus any hope of a resurrection. Trying to understand God solely in terms of human logic within the framework of the receptacle model of space is demonstrated to have resulted in an interpretation of the present as a "timeless instant", so that the only thing that really matters for the individual is that which is "for me, here and now" (p. 49).
After tracing the logical consequences and failure of theology based on the Aristotelian model of space, Torrance proceeds in the third chapter to suggest. . . Now that the receptacle notion of space and time has broken down, although the confusion to which it gave rise, not least in the understanding of history, is still rife, we need to rethink the essential basis of Christian theology in the relation of the Incarnation to space-time, and to think completely away the damaging effects of a deistic relation between God and the Universe (p. 59).
In the concluding pages, the author outlines how this might be accomplished, proposing that the key to such rethinking is to be found in the relationship of God to both the creation and the Incarnation:
. . . Instead of the false dualist approach in which we would be forced to interpret the space-time of the Incarnation in concepts that we had already developed independently in some area of natural knowledge, we must seek to build up a specifically theological interpretation ... within the unitary interaction of God with our world in creation and Incarnation, and within the unity of the rational structures that result from that interaction (p. 70).
Since in Jesus Christ the eternal Son has entered within the contingence of the created order, making it His own, He may be known only in and through its creaturely freedom and spontaneity, and therefore not in any a priori manner; yet since His created actuality in this world results from the transcendent freedom of God in condescending to become man, we cannot know Him truly except in accordance with that divine movement in the Incarnation and on the ultimate ground of God's unconditional self-giving in Jesus Christ. It is out of His fulness that we receive, grace for grace (p. 74).
Torrance likens the problem of overcoming the apparent dualism between the spiritual and material realms to that of resolving the paradox of simultaneous particle and wave properties in quantum theory. The confusion and irrationality of modern theology is, in the author's view, due to an attempt to apply the language and methodology of a theologically "particulate" theory to an essentially "field" phenomenon. Just as a full understanding of the behavior of matter requires an extension of classical physics to quantum theory and relativity, so Torrance argues that theology must not only be coordinated with everyday experience but must at the same time also establish its formal proofs in wider, higher formal systems.
It is now recognized that any logical system which claims to be both complete and self-consistent must, as a consequence of Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem, be meaningless in the final analysis. Theology, like any other formal system, must contain undecidable propositions and must, therefore, find its ultimate meaning through reference beyond itself. Theology must test the empirical correlates of its basic statements for truth or falsity "within the organizing principles of the higher level over those statements which it shares with the level below it and which are not absolutely decidable within it" (p. 90). Thus God himself becomes the touchstone of truth, which is just what orthodox Christianity has always maintained.
Although this book lacks the technical detail of such works as Cosmology, History, and Theology (Yourgrau and Breck, Ed.) or Philberth's Der Dreieine, some background in modern physics is essential for readers if Torrance's arguments in the third chapter are to be fully appreciated. Occasionally the author seems to misconstrue some of the implications of the Einstein field equations. For example, on page 68 be falls into the common error of making the theory of relativity say that neither space nor time are absolute. The point is that although observers in different reference frames obtain different values for the spacial and temporal quantities that characterize the phenomena they observe, when these quantities are interpreted from the proper perspective, all observers agree. This, is the essence of the General Theory of Relativity which Einstein originally called "Invarienten Theorie") and also, it seems to me, of Torrance's fundamental thesis.
The title might lead a reader to expect a treatment of both space and time, but the analysis is in fact confined almost exclusively to the former topic. This is to be regretted, since many of Torrance's ideas about space have profound theological implications for the subject of time also.
The third chapter is essentially a program for action, and its implementation is reflected from time to time in the articles that appear in the pages of the Journal ASA. There is, however, a wealth of ideas remaining to be developed more fully. In particular, Torrance's view of an "upward open" epistemology would seem to have important implications in the current debates about inspiration and inerrancy. Although not everyone will agree with all of Torrance's ideas and interpretations, anyone seriously interested in the interaction between science and Christian faith should read this book.
Reviewed by Stan Wineland, physicist and research engineer, 172 Dogwood Drive, Thornville, Ohio 43076
ROOTS OF WESTERN CULTURE: PAGAN, SECULAR, AND CHRISTIAN OPTIONS, by Herman Dooyeweerd, trans. by John Kraay, ed. by Mark Vander Vennen and Bernard ZyIstra, Wedge Publishing Foundation, Toronto, 1979, xii + 288 pp., $12.95.
Anyone who has encountered the writings of Herman Dooyeweerd knows how impenetrably dense they can be. His monumental A New Critique of Theoretical Thought is painfully abstruse and his North America lectures, In the Twilight of Western Thought, though less weighty, still confront the reader with a net of obscure neologisms. One suspects there are golden insights to be had but is often pressed by time to forego the effort.
Then there is this volume. Here is Dooyeweerd at his most accessible to North American readers. The book consists of fifty-eight articles originally published in the weekly Nieuw Nederland between the years 1945 and 1948. They were intended as a call to the post-war nonacademic Dutch community to begin dialogue on the task of reordering the whole of social life according to biblical directives. A tall order, but Dooyeweerd entered the exchange with a passionate commitment to Christ and cogent intellect.
After an introductory essay calling the public to dialogue, Dooyeweerd launches into what might be called a philosophy of Western civilization from the early Greeks to the twentieth century. It is Dooyeweerd's conviction that Western culture has been oriented by four basic "ground motives": the Greek form-matter, the Medieval naturegrace, the humanistic nature-freedom, and the biblical creation-fall-redemption. These ground motives have been, in his words, "the deepest driving forces behind the entire cultural and spiritual development of the West" (p. 9). While the biblical ground motive offers an ultimate harmony in the eschaton, the others will necessarily generate "polar tensions." The bulk of the book is thus taken up with illustrations of these tensions in Western history.
Throughout Dooyeweerd develops the social-political and medieval political models and modern brands of absolutism and democracy. His final discussion exposes the nagging dilemmas of sociology's development as an academic discipline with sidelight observances on the social sciences in general.
One would think the urgent and provincial intent of these essays would constrict their broader utility. They are, however, suprisingly wide in scope and fluid in application. Dooyeweerd's views are extremely important, not only for discerning the relation between theoretical thought and its social matrix, but for probing the meaning of such abstract realities as "the state," and related matters.
Dooyeweerd claims to be presenting a consistently "biblical" way of looking at such things. All readers will want to pause and reflect at the threshold of such claim: In what way does he mean this to be a "biblical" view? In a textual fashion or by way of principles? Dooyeweerd seems to answer sometimes with the first, other times with the second. Such duplicity, though a barrier to ongoing dialogue, only underscores the complexity and challenge of his task. It is a persistent question to which his followers must still work out a satisfactory answer.
Notwithstanding, this is a valuable book, amply endowed with imaginative insight and charged with spiritual fervor. For anyone with an interest in history, sociology, politics, or philosophy this volume will contribute liberally to your curiosity.
Reviewed by Peter W. Spellman, History Department, Boston College (graduate fellow), Salem, Massachusetts 01970
LONELINESS by Craig W. Ellison, Christian Herald Books, Chappaqua, New York, 240 pages, $8.95.
This book considers the dimensions of loneliness including kinds, causes, and cures. Loneliness can attack all ages. It can be caused by a host of villains. Since everyone is lonely, everyone must learn to deal with loneliness if a reasonably satisfying life is to be achieved. The cures require a clear thinking, assertive person willing to assume responsibility for loneliness and to cope with it in an active, creative way. A spiritual orientation that is based on Scripture is especially useful.
Ellison is a trained psychologist and he uses his background to supply a lot of interesting empirical information. This sets it apart from a collection of sermons. While there is a good deal of Scripture included, it is deftly worked into the topics in a relevant and useful way.
Many illustrative facts are included: there is one divorce for each 1.8 marriages, 50,000 suicides occur yearly, a million teens are alcoholics, and half of all children born will live in single parent families. These statistics point to the problem of loneliness.
Ellison is very quotable: "We have to go through a more stringent test to get a driver's license than we do to get married or have kids" (p. 182); "The notion of planned obsolence has spread from cars to spouses" (p. 139); "Many Christians try to run a spiritual Cadillac on a thimble of gas" (p. 59).
The book has some minor imperfections. For instance, the rhetoric on page 10 states that loneliness "is talked about practically everywhere," while on page 17 the reader is told that "nobody talks about it." The grammar is recurringly incorrect (pp. 105, 113, 133, 139) and there is a good deal of topic redundancy. The generic use of "man" is not congruent with its elimination from all American Psychological Association publications.
It is obvious that the author knows a lot about lonely people and cares deeply about their plight. His book should be widely circulated among Christians and non-Christians for it can be helpful to everyone.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, Department of Psychology, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas 72761.
The author of this book is professor of English at William Peterson College in New Jersey and author of Women, Men, and the Bible. These three topics continue to capture her attention in this book. She elaborates on them and some related topics including liberal arts, homosexuality, pluralism, sexism, and sexuality.
Mollenkott has a flair for writing illustrated by her selection of words, analogies and metaphors. She deals with a good many controversial topics and therefore will alienate some of her readers. Favorable comments are rendered about ecumenism, the ordination of women, and the equal rights amendment. Disturbing to Mollenkott are fundamentalism, the nuclear arms race, and sexists such as Phyllis Schlafly, Marabel Morgan and Bill Gothard.
Perhaps Mollenkott's most controversial ideas relate to homosexuality. She believes that the Bible is silent about the homosexual orientation and homosexual love but rather addresses exploitative sexual acts. One chapter is entitled, "The Divine Worth of Gay Persons." Social scientists will be skeptical about her claim that "scientific findings" have shown the homosexual orientation to be niether sin nor sickness. Science, of course, makes no such value or moral judgments.
Reared in a fundamentalist environment, Mollenkott grew up exposed to ignorance, intolerance and bigotry. In addition, she has known the loneliness of divorce and obesity. Out of these experiences she has evolved her cycle of faith characterized by speech, silence and action. She writes candidly and warmly and her book will interest those seeking fresh perspectives on the meaning of Christian wholeness.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, Department of Psychology, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas 72761.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE PAST. by Roy Swanstrom. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1978. $3.95, 137 pp.9 ISBN 0-87784-581-6.
History in the Making is a succinct, readable discussion of the nature and study of history from the Christian perspective. It is intended specifically for the beginning college student, although any layperson desiring a basic understanding of the interaction between Christianity and history would gain much from this book. It also serves to warn those who might be misled by simplistic or manipulative uses of history. Since Christianity is a faith "wrapped" in history, it behooves Christians to be especially knowledgeable about the nature of history.Swanstrom analyzes the role of history and the historian who is seeking to answer the question "What is history?" He briefly discusses the sources available to the historian and how the historian uses the available information subject to his or her perspective of the past. For a beginning student overwhelmed with different theories of where history is going, Swanstrom offers some helpful historiographical discussions on different theories of history from a cross section of historians such as Karl Marx and Thomas Carlyle. He also analyzes the cult of progress that became popular in the nineteenth century and had such an impact on modern technological society.
The author believes that one's adherence to the Christian faith helps in the study of history, but he also points out the failures of some Christians' approach to history. Among these failures have been the willingness of Christians to perpetuate historical untruth and a readiness to believe anything that might appear to have a divine cause. He also feels Christians must guard against a preoccupation with religious factors.
This is a book that deserves a wide reading in the Christian community especially since modern culture has such a non-historical perspective. If Christians truly believe their God is a God involved in history, it should not just be the Christian historians who are concerned with the past.Reviewed by Paul Kubricht, Associate Professor of History, Le Tourneau College, Longview, Texas 75607.
WHAT IS SCIENCE?: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STRUCTURE AND METHODOLOGY OF SCIENCE, by V. James Mannoia, University of America Press, 1980, 149 pp, $7.25
V. James Mannoia's book is a philosophy of science text designed for undergraduate use. Its use requires neither a background in philosophy nor science as it is very much an introductory text. Dr. Mannoia addresses the problem of the "Snow Gap;" that is the cultural gap between science orientated people and humanities oriented people as described by the late C.P. Snow. In particular two attitudes that reinforce this gap are examined. One is the fear or fascination members of the liberal arts community often have of the science community due to the latter's very visible fruit. The second is the attitude of superiority some scientists have, believing their's to be the one truly objective field of study. Mannoia's solution to the "Snow Gap" is to bring both sides to a better understanding of the scientific process. To this end five chapters have been written to cover five aspects of scientific ideas, i.e., the formation, development, nature, use, and limitation of scientific ideas.
The whole of the book is well organized and composed, containing many understandable examples and illustrations. The first two chapters are particularly well done, showing clearly the distinction between scientific method as practised by individuals and the development of ideas by many people through time. The first is psychological activity, the second more sociological. Students using the book will be helped by the outlines at the end of the book. More serious students of the philosophy of science will find the book too cursory. However, for its intended audience the text is quite satisfactory.
Reviewed by William W. Cobern, Science Education and Culture, University of Sokoto, Sokoto, Nigeria.
PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY by C. G. Jung, Princeton University Press (1980). Paperback, 571 pages. $8.95.
Carl Gustav Jung's achievement stands as a unique monument to the possibilities of human self-understanding. His psychology of the unconscious has revolutionized many of the basic assumptions underlying western thought-in turn providing us with new perspectives from which to view man and culture. Perhaps the discipline to experience Jung's impact most acutely, outside of psychology, was that of the phenomenology of religion, that is, the history of religion and comparative religion. Jung's efforts have equipped the historian of religion with a new mode of critical analysis that can be brought to bear on the multitude of religious symbols, images and rites previously inaccessible.
Psychology and Alchemy stands at the heart of Carl Jung's analytical psychology. The book examines how the symbols, images and ideas surrounding arcane alchemical processes had been brought together-unknowingly-to form a primitive psychology. Just as Freud discovered that dreams described the inner psychic states of the dreamer, Jung herein holds to the idea that alchemical symbols-also appearing in dreams-arose from deeper, archetypal layers of the psyche.
The first part of Psychology and Alchemy is a major introduction to the massive tome that follows. Part II has as its binding theme an objectively solicited dream series, whose material is then subjected to the process of amplification. Relevant meanings and associations are explored in detail and related to ideas current in the alchemical traditions. In the process, Jung reveals how developmental psychical components express themselves oneirically, while demonstrating his famous method of working with dreams, visual impressions and hypnagogic visions, and using their images as raw data. From the beguiling pattern that forms, Jung offers as a hypothesis his controversial unconscious structure of the human personality, along with its underlying dynamic towards maturity and wholeness. This topic is specifically covered in the sections on the mandala.
The third part of the book, entitled "Religious Ideas in Alchemy," deals more directly with parallels between alchemical processes and human psychology, highlighting such themes as the Lapis-Christ parallels and the Unicorn as symbol.
This volume is of interest to Christians not only because of the staggering scope of its scholarship and the colossal breadth of its erudition (this edition contains 270 illustrations from a variety of alchemical sources), but also because it focuses on the creative current at the core of religion and religious experience, and indicates the guises this elemental impulse has taken in the past. Scientists materials scientists in particular-should take note of this work, regardless of how unsystematic and disorderly the material is presented, because it reveals how the religious quest was the true goal of the alchemist's labors to turn lead into gold.
Reviewed by Glen S. McGhee, Member, C. G. Jung Foundation, 90 Blydenburgh Avenue, Smithtown, New York 11787.
KARL MARX: A CHRISTIAN ASSESSMENT OF HIS LIFE AND THOUGHT by David Lyon, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois (1979) 192 pp. $5.95
In an age in which Christian social activists like the martyred-priest-cum revolutionary are accepting Castor's thesis that revolutionary Christians should form a "strategic alliance" with revolutionary Marxists, it is important for all Christians to consider carefully the philosophical underpinnings of Marxism. This book, difficult though it is, performs an important service in contrasting Marxism and Christianity.
First, it is necessary to recognize the fundamental distinction between Marxism and Christianity. In Lyon's words, "Here is the titantic atheism of Marx in a nutshell: man can remake himself, he is his only sun." Marxism lies squarely in the camp of humanism and thus is inescapably opposed to Christianity. Both Christianity and Marxist-humanism purport to deal with what Francis Schaeffer calls the "totality of reality." Both cannot occupy the same space.
Within the Marxist concept of the totality of reality is the
answer to all moral issues. Lenin denied that morality could
be drawn from some conception beyond man, beyond class
summing up morality by stating "good is what advances
the cause of revolution." Lenin taught that "Every defense
or justification of the idea of God, even the most refined, the best intentioned, is a justification of reaction."
Marx gave a religious meaning to revolution. Through revolution Marx looked for the general regeneration of mankind. Through human independence from all rules and structures, a regenerate man will create a new society in brotherhood. But Christians know that regeneration can come only from submittal to the perfect law and structure of God.
Marxists increasingly recognize the need for a "new man" to achieve their economic and social goals. Mao was trying to create a selfless people in China; he wanted to change human nature as well as economic conditions; under Khruschehev, the Communist Party USSR set as a high priority the training of "men in the spirit of communist morality" and recognized that it must "renew them spiritually and morally." But as Lyon points out new people do not appear spontaneously and evidence suggests that no socio-economic change can produce them.Lyon quotes Josif Ton, a Rumanian Baptist, as saying:
Reviewed by David C. Hjelmfelt, Attorney at Law, 634 So. Mason, Fort Collins, Colorado 80524.
OUR FRAGILE BRAINS: A Christian Perspective on Brain Research by D. Gareth Jones, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515, $8.95 1981, page 278.
My first introductory physiology textbook was British-the Winton and Boyliss text which at the time was quite small by today's standards. I learned then and have respected since the British as authors in general, especially for their easy reading style and the comprehensiveness of their writing matched by none in the world. That few American (or other) writers are capable of writing with such clarity of thought, simplicity and ease of communication and comprehension has continued to impress me since those early days of my professional education. I find Dr. Jones' book no less than my best expectations. It contains few Briticisms which would make for difficult reading for the cultural American more used to the stilted styles of our works.
From the beginning with an overview of the historical perspective of the development of the concepts that bring us to our current knowledge and understanding of brain structure and function, Dr. Jones has produced a book that anyone interested in the neurosciences can understand and comprehend in both its vastness and its beauty. He gives a good discussion of language development from a semi-evolutionary perspective and a fairly thorough discussion of the brain's part in "being human." Humanness is a function of normal structure and normal balanced biochemistry. This leads into a discussion of damaged (structurally altered intentionally or accidently) brains and personality, including many aspects of personality and personhood that are frequently quite difficult conceptually for the Christian raised in our sometimes quite narrow "biblical" perspective, managing all the while to do just that-maintain a thoroughly sound Christian perspective.
He discusses the complex societal and ethical issues of brain control including psychosurgery, violent behavior and modification of personality and behavior with drugs and Pavlovian techniques. He then flows very smoothly into environmental influences such as nutrition (and malnutrition) and the "new age" counterfeits, then on to contemporary dualism and human dignity most eloquently and appropriately.
This small book has a vast potential audience especially among health care personnel of all ilk. Certainly even physicians will find areas that will inform and broaden their perspectives because few of us have had the breadth of experience or training to make this book superfluous. Those not even in the health related professions will find this work virtually seminal for the Body of Christ for practically all the discussion parallels Scripture-though it does not always explicitly say so; but, then, why should it?
This book is especially valuable in the perspective it puts on the problem of responsibility of the individual after brain damage, including a balanced approach to psychosurgery. There are few failings in the book and the only one of importance-and I did not find it much detracting for I feel it too often is used as a cop out for ignorance or laziness-is that there is no discussion specifically about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
If you are a Christian or a non-Christian seeking the truth that it might put things in proper perspective, this is one book that you should read.
Reviewed by Donald C. Thompson, Private practice of Whole Person Medicine, 828 West Fourth North Street, Morristown, Tennessee 37814.
DON'T LET YOUR CONSCIENCE BE YOUR GUIDE, by C. Ellis Nelson, New York: Paulist Press 1978. Paperback, 100 pages, $1.95.
This is a dandy little book which should be thought provoking to many readers of this Journal. Any assessment of the book must keep in mind that it was written as a general outline, without much documentation or elaboration intended, and that it was written "for ministers and seminary students with a theological background and some knowledge of the social sciences." The author, who is president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has the goal of allowing the reader to "decide quickly on the merits of the overall argument," and so important details at times "lie hidden in the text." Hence, what might seem to the knowledgeable social scientist as a shallowness in places is a consequence of the author's conscious goals and choices.
Nelson's purpose is threefold. First, he seeks to show that conscience is an unreliable guide to Christian faith because it is formed during infant and child socialization. He sketches a theory of how the conscience is formed that recognized the importance of both the "negative conscience" (with guilt central) and the "positive conscience" (ego ideal).
Second, the author seeks to show that the "negative conscience" often leads not to faith in God, but to several patterns of "religious behavior," which are directed primarily at relieving the guilt that is at the basis of the negative conscience. These patterns are developed and illustrated, and include avoidance, reassurance, fear masquerading as good behavior, and casuistry (rationalization). In each, the renewing and regenerating force of the positive conscience is operating only minimally, being significantly overshadowed by the negative conscience.
Third, Nelson argues that a true faith in God develops from an "inversion" of the power of the negative and the positive conscience. Renewal is possible with the positive conscience more in control because it is expansive and more open to education and rational control. However, true inversion must move the person to "an emotional attachment to Christ which will yield a desire and motivation for righteousness as the specific way to avoid being ashamed, a major motivator for the positive conscience." The author affirms the uniqueness of historic Christian faith (a unique object: God; a unique goal: communication with God; and a unique program: righteousness). Further, he asserts that the inversion characterizing true Christian faith can come only by God "breaking through to give individuals a new lease on life and a concern to change the society in which they live." Nelson closes by quoting Ephesians 2:8-10. While this might seem to leave humans nothing to do, he makes several practical suggestions regarding how to expedite growth in faith. These suggestions can serve as im-' portant guidelines to Christian educators.
The book is well written and well organized. The author uses numerous examples of normal and (sometimes) of abnormal behavior to illustrate his points, both in and out of the church. Further, he draws adequate support for his views from the Scriptures and from various psychological theorists. While the flow of thought is fairly straightforward, this reviewer did experience some confusion toward the end of the book. In particular, a reorganization of the material of inversion might have increased clarity. In spite of these difficulties and the limitations mentioned earlier, the book is well worth reading and applying to concrete, practical ways.Reviewed by Steven P. McNeel, Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota.
The book is intended to bring a message of hope, but to quote E. Stanley Jones in reference to illness, "the final result depends on how we take it." The book is depressing at times, as people describe how life has gone wrong for them. The overall impact of the book, however, is one of faith and hope. The viewpoint presented is a kind of Christian Stoicism, i.e., suffering is ultimately for our good and God's glory.The author's goal is to help the reader transcend tragedy when it strikes personally or hits a loved one. His confidence is that through faith in Christ the believer can find the resources to overcome whatever tragedies life brings. While there is no new ground broken in explaining the traumas of life, this book illustrates the overcoming faith with which Christians have faced tragedy. The same peace and joy they experienced is offered to all those who find meaning in the Christian faith in this valley of tears called life.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas 72761.
CHRISTIANITY CHALLENGES THE UNIVERSITY, by Peter Wilkes, editor, Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1981, 98pp., $3.95 paper.
This little book is the record of an effort made by five believing professors at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to communicate their faith in Christ to their University community. They had been meeting regularly for prayer and felt called to make a public statement of their fatih. The book consists of a brief introduction and the texts of the five lectures they presented on successive Mondays in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union during the lunch hour.
The titles of the lectures give a clear idea of the content of the book. They are: "The Christian World View-A Radical Alternative", by Peter Wilkes, Professor of Nuclear and Metallurgical Engineering; "Man: Naked Ape and Nothing More?", by Wayne M. Becker, Professor of Botany; "Christian Doubts About Economic Dogmas", by J. David Richardson, Professor of Economics, "The Reliability of the Scriptural Documents", by Keith Schoville, Chairman of the department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies, and "Christianity, Modern Medicine and the Whole Person", by A.A. MacKinney, Professor of Medicine. The book concludes with an invitation, presumably given at the end of the fifth lecture, by Wilkes, to seriously consider the radical alternative of Christianity and to begin by reading the Gospel of John.
The reader should not expect comprehensive treatments of any of the subjects in this book. These were public lectures and intended to be challenging overviews and not the ultimate treatments of individual topics. For this reason, each chapter is followed by a short bibliography of works that cover the subject in greater depth.
What is here is an intelligent presentation of the Christian world view and how it approaches certain subjects of particular interest to thinking men and women. The Christian world view is presented as, a radical alternative to secular humanism. Both Wilkes and Becker contrast their presuppositions (God, man created in God's image, fallen man redeemed by Christ, etc.) with those of Jacques Monod as expressed in his book Chance and Necessity, catching him neatly as he falls into secular humanism's islought trap of the basis of morality. In a world that happened by accident there is no such basis. In a world created by a Holy God there most certainly is.
Well, ought one to read this book? I certainly think so. It is worthwhile as a brief introduction to some issues important to intelligent Christians, but its chief value lies in the example it records of the public witness of five of our brothers, I close with a quote from Peter Wilkes' introduction:
"When it was all over we came to the conviction that what we had done could be done at any university. When a group of professors, including distinguished scholars, takes the opportunity to speak out in the university, others will listen. We acknowledge that the step was a small one, but it is our hope that by many such small steps the journey to the kingdom may be made."
Reviewed by Robert H. Seevers Jr., Department of Chemistry, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Ave., Argonne, Illinois 60439.
CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE by John Penter, Faraday Press, 1487 Noe Street, San Francisco, CA 94131 (1981). 144 pp. $11.95.
It is good for Christians to get hold of a book like this once in a while, a book whose purpose is to parade all the reasons why Christianity should be rejected. It could be profitably used in mature discussion groups to help clarify the faith. The greatest danger is that it may make Christian apologists overconfident! Here is every anti-Christian cliche' of the past few hundred years, presented as the reasoned summary of modern wisdom and knowledge. We are told that the author "devoured more than 900 books, giving equal time to apologists and skeptics." In an Epilogue he tells us his own purpose: "I am not attacking religion ... I have no quarrels with religious people ... Religion should remain private." The book suggests otherwise; it misses no opportunity to argue against the validity of the JudaeoChristian faith.
In six chapters the author discusses the basic subjects of the origin of religion, the proof of God's existence, the universe and its origin, miracles, Jesus Christ, and the consequences of religion itself. It is written in a very easy to read style, consisting of fictional dialogues between the author and such characters as Archaeologist, Historian, Mentor, Astronomer and Biologist, as well as Josh McDowell, Thomas Paine, Julian Jaynes, St. Anselm, Gaunilo, St. Thomas Aquinas, Leibniz, Kant, Hume, Mortimer Adler, William Paley, Einstein, Henry Morris, Alan Hayward, C.S. Lewis, Andrew Dickson White, William Nolen, Albert Schweitzer, Bertrand Russell, and Katharine Tait. Lest the inclusion here of prominent Christian apologists should seem misleading, the author assures us himself: "This book is by no means a balanced treatise ... I only want to bring out what is not generally known-what we have not been told, yet should have been." The jacket blurb confirms this: "In uncomplicated language he cuts through legend and myth, probing into the sources and reliability of the Old Testament, the philosophical proofs for the existence of God, miracles, our real knowledge of the life of Jesus and the development of Christianity."
In the discussion of the origin of the Judaeo-Christian religion, a learned Historian assures us that the religion of the Old Testament, like all early religions, stemmed from fear of the environment. Yahweh, we are told, "was initially just one of many gods. He was the god of lightning and war and received human sacrifice, especially first-born male children." Moses, it turns out, really "was an Egyptian priest who went along" with the Israelites when they left Egypt "as a missionary." Josh McDowell is allowed on the scene at this point to protest, but he is quickly put to route by Thomas Paine who presents some commonly known instances in the first five books of the Bible where information is given that indicates other authors than Moses alone. This information is sufficient to silence the fictional McDowell, who "got up and walked away." The Historian goes on to assure us that "almost all of the stories in the Pentateuch can be traced to earlier civilizations ... We have known this for a hundred years." Having thus demolished the authenticity and reliability of the Old Testament, Penter offers instead the theories of Julian Jaynes as the most likely real explanation for the origin of religion: the occurrence of schizophrenic hallucinations that were interpreted as revelation from the gods.
The rest of the book continues at this same level. The author warns the unwary reader of the philosophical sophistication of the chapter on philosophical proof, but the argument is simply based on the abstract nature and ultimate insufficiency of the "classical proofs" for the existence of God. It is amazing how persistently the naive thinker clings to the notion that being unable to prove the existence of God is somehow a damaging weakness-not realizing that it is impossible to prove anything in or outside science beyond formal logic and mathematics.After treating the reader to a lengthy summary of modern scientific ideas about the origin of the universe, the learner Astronomer holding the floor bursts out,
"Why would God single out this insignificant planet? If God made man the center of creation, why would he create the universe and then wait 15 billion years to create man? And why would he create man several million years ago, but not contact him until 3500 years ago? And why does this contact coincide with the start of writing? And why is there all this violence in the universe? ... And why is the story of creation so wrong in Genesis of the Old Testament? ... And why is the story in Genesis so much like one an ancient, ignorant man would imagine the universe to be?"
This sophomoric outpouring of questions is biblically responded to in what is perhaps the oldest book of the Bible, Job; implicit in the questions is the assumption that the judgment of the questioner takes precedence over all else.
The naivete of the author is nowhere so evident as when he encounters Einstein (a fictional Einstein, of course). Einstein tells him, "Ah, here is a serious flaw in the teachings of both Judaism and Christianity. If you say that God is omnipotent, has created everything, yet rewards and punishes us, he would be passing judgment on himself, wouldn't he?" The author's response is astonishing: "I had never thought about that." He leaves Einstein, "a sad old man," who missed the boat on modern science because he would not accept a statistical approach to the universe "mainly because of (his) belief in the existence of God." Einstein had rejected a personal God, but his remnant religion still did him in, we are to believe.
The classical argument from Design can be expected to meet its fate at the hands of the theory of evolution, and it does. Worse than that Christianity is blamed for holding up the beginnings of modern science; "For more than 1600 years after the beginning of Christianity scientific progress was at a standstill." Falling victim to the usual fallacy that the development of a biological description makes a theological description invalid and unnecessary, the learned Biologist tells us that "a reasonable explanation for the entire existence of life without having to resort to the existence of God," is now at hand.
It is no surprise that Henry Morris is dismissed quickly, and even C.S. Lewis's defence of miracles is discounted as circular reasoning, for which the traditional argument of Hume is much more compelling. Of course much is made of Andrew Dickson White and his well-known one-sided discourse in The History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, and in fact White is the only "witness" called upon to appear twice in the book. The credibility of miracles is given its coup de grace when the author treats faith healing, psychosurgery and other such parapsychological phenomena as obviously bearing on the same question.
One might hope that the treatment of Jesus Christ himself might be spared this one-sided myopic treatment, but all such hope is quickly dashed when the chapter starts with the unquestioned acceptance of the opinion of Schweitzer that "In the gospel of John, Jesus is a freely imagined person. This gospel is almost entirely legend. Luke is very doubtful wherever it goes beyond Mark and Matthew. And in Matthew the first two chapters are almost certainly fiction." Schweitzer concludes, "What is important about Jesus is the amount of influence over mankind his doctrine of love has won. It is the spiritual and ethical truth of Christianity that has remained the same throughout the centuries, not dogma." A Critic is then allowed to run rampant through the gospels, interpreting every departure from absolute literal identity between the gospels as evidence of error. The celebrated passage in Josephus about Jesus is dismissed as an obvious insertion "later by a rather inept Christian." The Critic then proceeds to give his own life of Jesus. He introduces it with the words, "My story will contain guesses, inaccuracies, my own bias, I admit it; but my story comes much closer to the truth than what we are still being taught in countless religious books and from the pulpit every Sunday." He is able to categorically conclude that Jesus certainly was not the son of God, because he was mistaken about the time for the end of the world.
As a final nail in the coffin of historical Christianity, the author turns to the excesses of religion and lays them all at the door of Christianity. His first witness is none other than Bertrand Russell, whose anti-Christian convictions are well known, although less well known is the naivete of his reasons. He denounces the concept of "righteousness," for example, because then there must also be "unrighteousness," which according to Russell (a la Penter) is "simply behavior of the kind disliked by the majority." He also argues that "In the Christian view the virtuous man is one who retires from the world." Finally White reappears to make his major summation of the fact that "Christianity has retarded the progress of mankind greatly." Every controversy of history is given its simplest misinterpretation. Granted the abundant errors perpetrated throughout history in the name of Christianity, the case for Christianity, deserves better than that provided by the Defender in this mock trial stage by Penter. "The judge looked at the Defender, who had his elbow propped on the table, supporting his chin with his hand. After a few seconds he said: 'No questions.' " The Prosecutor continues for several pages, finally arriving at his climax, "During the time when the Christian religion reached its peak of influence, Europe was a hell-hole!" The Defender lamely tries at this point to reply in one paragraph about the good that Christianity has done, arguing that Christianity should not be blamed for merely human folly. But the prosecutor will have none of it. "It is not human folly I object to, but human folly-committed in the name of God!"
The value of this book lies in the fact that it summarizes the popular philosopher's attack on Christianity. it is the very stuff that characterizes the everyday cultural presuppositions of a secular society, which has been misinformed, misled and misguided in its concept of Christianity. The challenge is to face up to these arguments and show the flimsy historical and philosophical base upon which they stand.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.