Science in Christian Perspective



JASA Book Reviews For September 1961
Table of Contents
Hooykaas, R. Philosophia Liberia, Christian Faith and the Freedom of Science. London, Tyndale, 1957. 24 p.
Hooykaas, R. The Christian Approach in Teaching Science, London, Tyndale, 1960. 20 p.
Science, Technology, and the Christian, by C. B. Coulson Abingdon Press, New York, 1960; 111 pp., $2.50.

Hooykaas, R. Philosophia Liberia, Christian Faith and the Freedom of Science. London, Tyndale, 1957. 24 p.

Reviewed by James E. Berney, Research Asjistant, Agricultural Engineering Department, Oregon State University, Corvallis.

Hooykaas states the threat to the freedom of science. He shows how men in authority in the past have suppressed freedom of science by their intolerant views. He elaborates on how John Calvin was one of the first to put forth the idea that science cannot be built upon special texts from the Bible. His thesis in the paper is, that the inner freedom necessary to scientific work is fully guaranteed by a Biblical religion. He backs his thesis with a fair amount of evidence.

I would recommend this paper to anyone. I personally f eel that we need to know the concepts set forth in this paper.

Hooykaas, R. The Christian Approach in Teaching Science, London, Tyndale, 1960. 20 p.

Reviewed by James E. Berney, Research Assistant, Agricultural Engineering Department, Oregon State University, Corvallis.

This paper elaborates how science has become very objective; not allowing theology or even philosophy to be admitted in any textbook of science and technology. He then goes on to show how complete objectivity in this realm is impossible. He reviews the Greek concept of man and explains how this view limited their investigation of science. He shows how the Biblical view of man led to widening of scientific investigation. The three points that he brings out for Christian science teachers are:

1. The teacher must be of the highest technical level.

2. The teacher must strive to develop the critical sense in pupils.

3. The teacher must point out where philosophical and theological views have influenced science.

I recommend this paper to anyone interested in the teaching of science.


Science, Technology, and the Christian, by C. B. Coulson: Abingdon Press, New York, 1960; 111 pp., $2.50.

Reviewed by Walter R. Hearn, Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Iowa State University, Ames.

I was prepared to like this book in advance by my admiration (from afar) of Coulson's work in theoretical chemistry and by my appreciation for his Christian viewpoint expressed in his Science and Christian Belief (Fontana Books, Collins, 1959). Dr. Coulson was formerly professor of physics at Kings College, London, and is now Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University; he is also a lay preacher in the Methodist church. He has written this little book in a popular but dignified style to challenge his fellow Christians to wake up to their responsibilities in the modern world, a world dominated by emphasis on a technology based upon science. His purpose is to provide a broad picture of the influence of technology in human life, illustrated by some specific problems, as a background for understanding and action by Christians.

A statement from the introduction summarizes his viewpoint: "Someone must claim that the Christian, just because he believes that this is God's world, must state his case, and show how the interpretation of some of the great Christian principles of conduct bears on such matters as the control of nuclear power, the implications of automation or the feeding of a huge and hungry world. If it be asserted that the Christian, as such, has no special knowledge of science, or technology, or of the politics which will be necessary in order to translate them into action, I shall reply that the politician can do nothing until he is supportedand often gingered-by a lively and informed public opinion. Every Christian should have his part to play in forming this opinion. Do we not claim that God's revelation in Jesus Christ gives us the clue whereby we understand God's will for the world? How then do we dare to keep silence when the scientists and technologists are fashioning the tools for a new earth?"

In Chapter One, the first and second industrial revolutions are contrasted, the principal difference being that the technology of the pre-1900 revolution was derived largely from traditional practice, while today's technology (and especially tomorrow's) springs from a rapidly expanding body of scientific knowledge. The author shows that much of the modern world's feeling of "lostness" comes from this unprecedented loss of tradition. The Christian is in a better position to minister to his contemporaries if he understands this clearly. In Chapter Two, the moral responsibility of scientists is discussed, and the point is made that although the frightening results of technology based on science have driven scientists to agree on negative aspects of their personal responsibility to a very great extent, "agreement on a positive programme is only possible among people who share the same inner convictions out of which action grows." Believing that the Christian faith provides this conviction, Coulson urges that we understand the scientist's dilemma and show him that we share in his responsibility, rather than merely blaming him for opening Pandora's box.

The next two chapters deal with the relation of technology to Christian faith, first in a general way and then with particular examples. Christians should be ashamed of fearing technology and the rapid changes it is causing in our world: "We do not need to be suspicious of it as it must inevitably wean us away from the faith; we do not need to imagine that it has now made God unnecessary, nor that it is without any excellence of its own; we do not need to think of the machine as our implacable enemy. For if we understand our Christian doctrine of creation, the material things of earth may become the vessels in which we handle the things of heaven: and the greater freedom we enjoy-freedom to choose, freedom from oppressive physical labor, freedom to accept or deny the responsibilities that arise in all industrial production-may become one of the ways by which we fulfill God's destiny for us, and glorify Him in our daily work. Of course there are risks. But if it were not so, there would be no reward for reaching out. Our God is a refining fire." The specific problems he calls to our attention are the unequal consumption of energy throughout the .world, the problem of food production and the population explosion, the changes in family life brought about by industrialization, and finally the kind of education needed for an age of technology.

In the final chapter, the possibilities of either science or technology as a unifying principle in the world are discussed. Science alone cannot serve as the cohesive force in the modern world because it is too refined and esoteric, and because the kind of "scientific humanism" which springs from it can be weighed and shown to be wanting. However, a better case can be made for a "technological humanism" as a cohesive force, even between the opposing cultures of East and West. "What is the Christian commentary on this claim for technological humanism? In a single sentence it is this, that technology does indeed provide some basis for joint action, but that because the diagnosis of our society which the humanists propose is not deep enough, technology alone is not sufficient." A special plea is made for young people to consider technological work in underdeveloped countries as a Christian vocation: "There could scarcely be a finer vocation than to see that when it (technology) comes, it comes supported and interpreted by the best spiritual insights that we have."

In an epilogue, Dr. Coulson suggests three ways in which a Christian can help to fulfill his responsibility: First, we must see and understand what is happening. Secondly, we must see our current industrial revolution as a spiritual one as well as a material one. Finally, we must set the pattern of thought against which decisions and action may be judged. The emphasis throughout the book is on the need for creative imagination in blending our spiritual insights and Divine motivation with intelligent and courageous action, expressing the love of God to man through our science and technology rather than standing in reactionary opposition to them.

I was stimulated by this book because I found many things I have long thought about expressed with clarity and conviction. I feel that this is the kind of positive approach toward "reconciliation" of science and Christian faith in which the A.S.A. can take a leading part; the program of our 1961 Annual Convention encourages me that we are already moving in this direction. I find it as distressing to see the majority of Christians handicapped by misunderstanding and fear of science as it is to see my scientific colleagues living one-sided lives devoid of the joy of knowing God in Christ. Here is the real "gap" for us to bridge with all our hearts and souls and minds; and who can do it but we who are citizens of both communities?