Science in Christian Perspective
Response of the Press [to The Christian View of Science and Scripture]
Ann H. Hunt
Eli Little Research Laboratories
From: JASA 31 (September 1979): 189-190.
When The Christian View of Science and Scripture was published in 1954 I was almost old enough for Junior High; I certainly was not reading books on the relationship between science and Scripture. I still have not read a great deal in this area, primarily because I have felt the relationship to be clear-the relationship which Ramm describes by saying
If the Author of Nature and Scripture are the same God, then the two books of God must eventually recite the same story.1
The necessity for studying both "books" is emphasized by one of Ramm's reviewers:
Natural and special revelation are complementary. It is the twin task of the sons of the Covenant to probe both sources of knowledge. To be sure, God chose not many wise. Yet that provides the servants of Christ no excuse for lethargy in prosecuting the cultural commission along with "the great commission." 2
None of the reviews which I have seen contain objections to the
validity of probing
both sources of knowledge, though several take issue with Ramm's
methods for making
the two sources recite the same story.
In reading through more than twenty reviews one observation that stands out is the frequency with which this work is specifically praised for its sanity: "sane, objective, instructive, scholarly, and biblical;"3 a Christian, rational approach;"4 "informed, thorough and, above all, sane;"5 "a valuable and sane critique of scientific theory;6 "an
eminently sane book on a significant subject; "7 "the perennial problem of science and religion receives a fresh, sane treatment." 8 That sanity should be an attribute to be praised rather than to be taken for granted is also a revealing comment about the general level of the science-and-religion discussion at the time.
Ramm speaks from a position on the conservative side of the theological spectrum, and it is not surprising that most (but not all) of his reviewers reply from somewhere on the same side of the scale. His vigorous reaction against some of the more hyperorthodox attempts to bring about the harmonization of science and Scripture has been widely noted: "Indeed, one of the sad things in his book is the exposure of great quantities of nonsense that have been spilled forth in misguided attempts to defend evangelicalism;" a "strong, almost bitter, reaction to this attitude (hyperorthodoxy);"2 "a hostile attitude toward fundamentalism."3
All reviewers seem willing to grant that Ramm has a broad and adequate appreciation of the scientific material which he discusses; the fundamental point by which they judge the value of his contribution is theological-their opinion of his attitude toward scriptural authority. Attacks come from both right and left. On the one hand: "Good old-fashioned Bible believers will be disturbed to see the concessions the author makes. . . the present volume is not safe to put into the hands of unbelievers or immature Christians;"9 "a book which. . . shows the way to a low, neoorthodox doctrine of Scripture. . . It embodies a number of drastic departures from the standard of faithfulness to the Word of God. . . All things considered, this is a desperately bad book."10
While on the other hand:
His rejection of the dialectical position of neo-orthodoxy leaves him unable to retain his orthodox faith and still harmonize it with the conclusions of modern science. . . If Dr. Ramm could emancipate himself from propositional orthodoxy into the more maneuverable orthodoxy of living encounter with God in Christ, his position would be easier. His view of revelation seems to be. . . in line with the idea of infallibly true theological doctrines being conveyed by Holy Scripture. . . (The book) has so many good things and yet it is so perverse.6
The majority of reviewers, however, found it to be neither perverse nor desperately bad:
He believes in the full inspiration of the Scriptures but recognizes latitudes of interpretation. . . This book will not receive wholehearted commendation from conservatives or moderns; that is equivalent to saying that it has something to say to both;11
the book has been too severely criticized by some orthodox reviewers and indiscriminately praised by others. It should be regarded as a genuine contribution; 12
should be collateral reading for every high school and college student. . . Here all obscurity is banished and fundamentalism is faced with a competent critic who still embraces an authoritative Bible;3
excellent book-the best I know of its kind;13
a splendid book that deserves wide reading by evangelicals everywhere;7
a strategically important volume for evangelical scholars of all disciplines;" a monument to a new era of evangelical thinking;14
sets out a position which is loyal to traditional orthodoxy and at the same time respectful of science. . . a work that may be unhesitatingly recommended;5
this book should increase any Christian's confidence that the foundation of faith is the Word of God, which standeth sure;8
the most important discussion of the problems involved in the vast and difficult subject of modern science and the ancient Scriptures that has appeared in this country in the last fifty years.15
Since The Christian View of Science and Scripture is still going strong after twenty-five years, one reviewer's opinion has been proven correct: "This new book. . . blessed or damned by its reviewers. . . seems destined to be read.16
1Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture. Wm, B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids: 1954), p. 25. 2Meredith G. Kline, Westminster Theological Journal l8:49-55 (Nov. 1955).
3Harold J. Ockenga, Christian Life (May 1955).
4Henry Weaver, Jr., Gospel Herald (March 6, 1956).
5Francis 1. Andersen, Reformed Theological Review 14:92-93 (Oct. 1955).
6F. C. Rust, Review and Expositor 54:130-131 (Jan. 1957).
7Culbert G. Rutenber, The Easterner (Nov. 1955).
8Delbert R. Gish, The Seminary Tower (Spring, 1955).
9Sunday School Times (May 7, 1955).
10Arthur W. Kuschke, Jr., Sword of the Lord (June 10, 1955).
11J. M., The Society for Old Testament Study (Book List, 1956).
12The Christian Beacon (Oct. 20, 1955).
13Howard H. Charles (Book Review Service, Mennonite Publishing House; May 30, 1955).
14Christian Living (April 1956).
15Wilbur M. Smith, Moody Monthly (Oct. 1954)
16Robert D. Culver, Journal ,A.S.A. 7:7-10 (Dec. 1955).