Book Reviews for June 1993
AND REALITY: The Relationship Between Science and Theology by John Polkinghorne,
Philadelphia, PA: Trinity Press International, 1991. 104 pages, notes, bibliography,
index. Paperback; $13.95.
John Polkinghorne, a former Cambridge Professor of Mathematical Physics and currently President of Queens' College, Cambridge, should need no introduction to the members of the ASA. He continues a succession of perceptive British authors who have written effectively on the interaction between science and Christian theology over the last few decades. This brief book contains eight chapters, the first six of which are based on invited lectures given by Polkinghorne in 1990 and 1991.
In "Rational Inquiry" Polkinghorne considers the claim that there is a kinship between the two disciplines of science and theology, and lays the basis for his position of critical realism. In "Rational Discourse" he explores the necessity for the use of model and metaphor in both science and theology and responds to some of the criticisms of a complimentary view of these two disciplines.
In "The Nature of Physical Reality" he suggests that one should think in terms of emergence not only as a one-way process, "by which the higher whole arises from the complex organization of its lower parts," but also possibly as a two-way process reflecting the apparent "existence of a degree of reciprocity between levels. Results involving chaos are particularly suggestive, as Polkinghorne writes,
The general picture resulting from these considerations is that of deterministic equations giving rise to random behavior; of order and disorder interlacing each other; of unlimited complexity being generated by simple specification; of precise equations having unpredictable consequences. (p. 37)
In "Reason and Revelation" he argues for a view of revelation "as the record of particularly transparent moments of encounter with the Divine, not the issuing of guaranteed and unchallengeable propositions." "ttempts to impose theological constraints on science at the one extreme (creationism), or to impose scientific constraints on theology at the other extreme (scientism), are both rejected. He concludes by saying, In both science and theology we are seeking a scheme of understanding in which interpretation and experience match with the most satisfying consonance and economy.
In "The Use of Scripture" Polkinghorne starts with the premise:
"Because revelation is the encounter with a Person and not the deliverance of a set of propositions, the Bible is not our divinely-guaranteed textbook but a prime means by which we come to know God's dealings with humankind and particularly his self-utterance in Christ."
It follows that the Bible does have an evidential role to play for supporting Christian claims, that a human being cannot come to know Christ fully without reading the Gospels, and that "the Biblical text mediates not information or opinion but encounter." In keeping with his critical realist position, Polkinghorne rejects both the propositional-cognitive view of theology at the one extreme, and the cultural-linguistic view at the other.
In "Cross Traffic" the author considers interactions between science and theology as they offer descriptions of the world. His position is summarized:
"What theology can do for science is to provide answers to those meta-questions which arise from science but which are not themselves scientific in character...What science can do for theology is to tell it what the physical world is actually like."
In "Quantum Questions" Polkinghorne again strives to avoid extremes.
"...the discrete and episodic picture of physical process presented by A. N. Whitehead's event-dominated philosophy is as much a half-truth as is the attempted assimilation of quantum theory to Eastern thought by Fritjof Capra and Gary Zukav."
He provides some useful insight into the central quantum problem of basic interpretation: the problem of "the collapse of the wavefunction" at the moment of measurement. He discusses the significance of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect and the test provided by the Bell inequality. One conclusion is that it is by no means clear that one would have the kind of situation described by the wilder flights of an alleged "observer-created reality." The more modest phrase of an "observer-influenced reality" would be a more appropriate account.
He rejects the claim that "the doctrines of traditional Christian theology need remodelling and simplifying to bring them into line with 'what an educated person might be expected to be able to accept'."
In the final chapter, "The Fall," he addresses the problem of evil, and draws a sharp distinction between "natural evil" and "moral evil." The existence of "natural evil" is identified with the gift of freedom from God in the physical creation, the existence of "moral evil" with human rebellion against God. Thus he proposes that "the whole universe is fallen physically but only part is fallen morally." The end times consist not of an abolition of the old creation but its transformation. The author is humble in his claims, and concludes by saying, "I offer the discussion simply as an exercise in attempting to hold together the insights of science and the Christian tradition, both of which I wish to respect."
It is evident that Polkinghorne in this little book has dealt with every major issue involved in the relationship between science and theology. Many patterns for this relationship have been suggested and adopted by large contingents of the human race, both Christian and non-Christian. The perspectives espoused by Polkinghorne appear to be central for those who appreciate the significance of authentic science and authentic theology.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
Sandemanian and Scientist by Geoffrey Cantor. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press,
1991. 395 pages. Hardcover; $45.00.
"This was a very private space for Faraday and we should tread carefully, not only to avoid breaking the delicate glassware that lines the shelves, but also because this is where Faraday communed with God's creation. Reverent silence is as appropriate here as in the Sandemanian meeting house."
This description of his personal laboratory in the basement of the Royal Institution is also in a way a reflection upon the person of Michael Faraday. One of the most prominent scientists of the 19th century, Faraday was also a member of an obscure group known as the Sandemanians, or Glasites, which sought to restore Christianity as it was practiced in the first century. This aspect of Faraday's life, which has often been overlooked by biographers and historians, is the theme of Michael Faraday: Sandemanian and Scientist. Written by science historian Geoffrey Cantor, this book explores the relationship between faith and science in the life of Michael Faraday. It is the major premise of the author of this book that Christianity, or more specifically, Sandemanianism, was the central strand in Faraday's life. He argues that it is not possible to fully understand the person of Michael Faraday without considering this aspect of his life.
In the early chapters, Cantor describes the Sandemanians and places this group within the social, economic, and religious environment of the time in which Faraday lived. He discusses Faraday's relationship within the Sandemanian fellowship and also explores the various ways in which his religious faith molded his thoughts and actions in other areas of his life.
A large portion of the book is given to discussion of Faraday as a scientist. In these chapters the author seeks to illustrate how Faraday's faith strongly influenced his scientific work. For example, in one chapter the author examines Faraday's concept of nature as the Creation, and another chapter contains a discussion of Faraday's view of the scientific method. Cantor correctly points out that although he was no doubt familiar with natural theology, Faraday did not view nature in this manner. For Faraday, the Sandemanian, nature was a revelation and science was but the humble attempt of God's servants to understand his creation. Faraday would never have exalted human reasoning above that which had been revealed in nature or in Scripture.
Much has been written about Michael Faraday, including biography, history, and scientific analysis. This book certainly is the most thorough study of the religious aspect of Faraday's life. It should be pointed out, however, that this is not an apologetic work supporting some particular "Christian view" of science. It is, however, a book which could be very useful to someone wanting to know more about science and faith. As a Christian and a scientist, I found this book to be not only informative but enjoyable. It was very easy for me to identify with Michael Faraday as he tried to live a life of faith in a very secular world. This book is "must" reading for anyone wanting to examine the relationship between science and the Christian faith.
Reviewed by Phillip Eichman, University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande, OH 45674.
TO THE UNIVERSE: Explorations on the Frontiers of Science and Spirituality by Fritjof
Capra and David Steindl-Rast with Thomas Matus. San Francisco, Harper, SanFrancisco,
1991. 217 pages, index. Hardcover; $18.95.
This book is presented in the form of a trialogue script between Fritjof Capra, physicist and author of The Tao of Physics (a popular book seeking to show the compatibility between interpretations of modern physics and Eastern religion), and David Steindl-Rast and Thomas Matus, both members of the Camaldolese Benedictine community in Big Sur, California. Much of the discussion centers on a list of changes in traditional thinking as the shift has been made to new paradigms, both in science and in theology. "n indication of the general thrust of the book is indicated by the conclusion of the preface,
"We like to think that the Earth, our Great Mother, is present on every page of this book...Gaia, the living Earth, is the silent source of everything we say in these conversations. She gives us the context for the new thinking about God and Nature."
For a book promising to deal with a new paradigm in Christian theology as described by Christians, it is perhaps noteworthy that among terms missing from the index are atonement, sin (except for a single mention of "original sin"), holiness, justice, and forgiveness.
Capra describes himself as one who grew up as a Catholic but who worked out a spiritual path for himself influenced by Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism, but until recently, very little by Christianity. Steindl-Rast indicates that he recently carried out a baptism that was both Christian and Buddhist, and states that "these two traditions are perfectly compatible when rightly understood." The authors on both sides, therefore, hold a strongly egalitarian view of all religions.
The subtitle of the book is Explorations on the Frontiers of Science and Spirituality. The central thrust of the book can be seen in a brief listing of the paradigm shifts considered.
(1) Science shifts from "Part" to "Whole;" theology shifts from "God as Revealer of Truth" to "Reality as God's Self-Revelation."
(2) Science shifts from "Structure" to "Process;" theology shifts from "Revelation as Timeless Truth" to "Revelation as Historical Manifestation."
(3) Science shifts from "Objective Science" to "Epistemic Science;" theology shifts from "Objective Science" to "" Process of Knowing."
(4) Science shifts from "Building" to "Network" as the metaphor of knowledge; theology makes an identical shift.
(5) Science shifts from "Truth" to "proximate Descriptions;" theology shifts from focus on "Theological Statements" to "Divine Mysteries."
These are difficult propositions to assess. "s they stand, most of them could be quite acceptable, describing certain changes that have occurred in both scientific and theological thinking. Reading through the book as these propositions are explored by the authors uncovers many statements with which one could readily agree as correcting previous misunderstandings or inappropriate applications of both science and theology. Other suggestions may seem problematic at first, but are capable of shedding light on the current situation if carefully interpreted. But at the same time, the authors appear to be willing to dispense with major elements of historic Christianity.
A fairly accurate description of science and its limitations is given. Science is recognized as just one way of knowing among several, and both science and theology are seen to provide insights into an understanding of reality. Neither give a total understanding of absolute truth. In a traditional statement, the authors agree that science provides the "how" whereas theology deals with the "why." Faith is seen as a matter of existential trust, existing to some extent in both science and theology. There is no expectation of deriving meaning or morals from science.
On the other hand, a number of other statements are given that indicate a fairly radical departure from historic Christianity. It is claimed that the Trinity includes you and me, because this doctrine was formulated to guarantee the "total divinization of every single human being." The Gospel of John is cited as evidence that each follower of Jesus can say, "I and the Father are one." The possibility of pointing to the resurrection as evidence for Jesus' deity is disclaimed as old-paradigm thought. In new-paradigm theology, "the cosmos, God, and humans are all interrelated...you cannot speak about God except in the context of cosmos and humans." The world is seen to be a living system with its own intelligence, its own mind. In the new-paradigm, there is a switch from salvation-centered theology to creation-centered theology. If we believe that the fullness of divinity dwelt in Christ bodily, then we should discover that same divinity in the humanity of my Muslim brother or Hindu sister. Jesus does not stand on his own charismatic authority, nor does he base his claims directly on God's authority, as though God were standing behind him; rather he appeals to the divine authority in the hearts of his hearers.
The casual reader might conclude from this book that modern science and Christian theology agree in viewing all religions as essentially equivalent, differing only in emphasis. At one point Capra tries to press the issue by pointing out the apparent contradiction that Christianity presents salvation as a gift of grace from God, whereas Buddhism pictures Buddha as dispensing important advice to be followed in order to save oneself. The Benedictine respondents, however, do not agree to the difference and suggest instead that both Buddha and Christ save by empowering the individual.
For a reader interested in the effects of modern scientific thought and philosophy on comparative religion, and with the discrimination adequate to sort out the variety of claims and counter-claims made here, this can be a fascinating book. Perhaps it could serve as the basis for a study group seeking to understand some of the thinking prevalent today and how it relates to the Christian faith.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
THE MIND OF GOD: In Search of the Principle of Universality by James Trefil. New
York: Charles Scribner, 1989. 232 pages. Hardcover; $18.95.
If nowadays an experiment or an observation is conducted by a scientist, then it is always implicitly assumed that the laws of nature observed on earth can also be applied to the most remote corners of the universe at any point of time. This is the essence of the principle of universality. The same general laws can be found across the entire universe, and, in principle, there is no restriction to their applicability. However, this methodological outlook is of relatively recent provenience, and the purpose of Trefil's book is to trace the origins of this principle.
Until Newton, the laws governing the motion of planets had been held to be different from the laws of motion operating on earth. That is where Trefil begins his story, although occasionally he mentions some other historical figures living before Newton, like Copernicus or Kepler, who shaped science and the modern understanding of the universality principle. After presenting Newton's contribution to science and the emergence of the universality principle, Trefil describes Halley's application of Newtonian physics to predict the return of "his" comet; next, Herschel's discovery of Uranus and of double stars; Fraunhofer's achievement in glass production, Kirchhoff and Bunsen's spectroscopic analyses; Lockyer's discovery of helium, Hutton and Lyell's impact on the development of geology, Kelvin's calculation's pertaining to the age of the earth; the discovery by Hubble of the expansion of the universe that led to the Big Bang theory; and, finally the theory of inflationary universe that opens the possibility of building a universe.
All this shows that the universality principle was extended first from the earth to the moon, then to all planets, then to stars and their make-up, and finally to the entire universe. However, what about the moment of creation? No problem, says the author. Before the beginning "the universe was a vacuum full of evanescent matter. Then, just by accident, enough fluctuations occurred close enough together to trigger the process by which energy is drained from the gravitational field...When the process of inflation was over, the Big Bang had begun" (p. 212). Matter is just a form of energy, and in creation no new energy is created. Matter (under the disguise of energy) is eternal and only occasionally appears as a universe. Such a philosophy is the price one has to pay for an undivided victory of the universality principle.
The author is an excellent writer and presents scientific material very clearly. However, the leitmotif of the book, the universality principle, is frequently buried in unrelated information. In his attempt to maintain a light style throughout the book, the author falls into a gossipy tone, overburdening the book with unnecessary facts concerning the personal lives of many scholars. There are also too many self-serving allusions to Trefil's own personal experience. Regrettably, Trefil almost invariably gives references to his own books, hardly a token of modesty. But despite these drawbacks the book is worth reading.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
ANARCHY AND CHRISTIANITY by
Jacques Ellul. (Translated from the French: Anarchie et Christianism by
Geoffrey W. Bromiley). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991. 109 pages. Paperback; $9.95.
Ellul's goal is to convince the reader that anarchism is a true path of Christianity. To him, anarchism, although defined as "an absolute rejection of violence" (p. 11) is much more than that: it includes total abstention from the political side of life, including non-participation in elections, conscientious objection to military service, "to taxes, to vaccination, to compulsory schooling, etc." (p. 15)...i.e., to everything that is imposed by the state. "We should lodge objection to everything...We must distrust all [the state's] offerings" (p. 16).
Ellul attempts to prove that the Old Testament is permeated by "an anti-royalist if not an anti-statist sentiment" (p. 52), that a typical attitude of Jesus was to devalue "political and religious power. He makes it plain that it is not worth submitting and obeying except in a ridiculous way" (p. 64). Ellul launches into an interpretation of many New Testament passages usually used in supporting the view that the authority of the state should be recognized. His interpretation is sometimes interesting, sometimes surprising, but other times disappointing, as it is the case with Romans 13. An attempt to explain it away failed; under authority of this passage he even says that "Christians must not refuse to pay [taxes]," (p. 81) contradicting his earlier statement (p. 15).
Sometimes, this attitude of total nay-saying smacks of elitism. For example, schools have to be organized by parents, "giving instruction in fields in which they are equipped and have authorization to teach" (p. 17). Putting aside a question of authorization (By whom? Certainly not by the state?), what is to be done if a community does not have sufficiently equipped parents?
Ellul says that he was driven to anarchism very early, and this book is a substantiation of his attraction to this movement. There arises an impression that Ellul did not want to relinquish either Christianity nor anarchism, so he attempted to blend them, relying upon his instinctive attraction to them. The result cannot be called entirely convincing or successful. There is very little room in his approach to a more moderate view, espoused, for example, by Francis Schaeffer, who states that "if there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, if has been put in the place of the Living God" (" Christian Manifesto).
However, Ellul's discussion is much needed and very useful. Anarchism has its place in contemporary society, which is driven by technological development so well analyzed by Ellul himself starting with his The Technological Society (1954) and ending with The Technological Bluff (1986). It can help people realize the traps into which society is falling, but also how the church has been misguided, and what the essence of Christianity is.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
STRUGGLE TO UNDERSTAND: " History of Human Wonder & Discovery by Herbert C.
Corben. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991. 398 pages. $29.95.
Herbert C. Corben, now retired, is a theoretical physicist who has worked in both the academic world and in private industry. For many years, Professor Corben taught one of the most popular undergraduate courses at the University of Toronto. The Struggle to Understand builds upon and expands the many fascinating lectures and research materials used in his course. (From dust cover.)
The course must have been a stimulating one. This book is wide-ranging in its coverage and lively in its presentation. It presents a panoramic view of the history of thought, both in the West and as influenced especially by Muslim thinkers and authors. It is written by one who is obviously deeply concerned about his material and about the presentation of it. He says that his book "is intended for those who would like to think with me a little about 'this restless and reckless passion to understand' and the excitement and pain that has come with it" (p. 13).
Unfortunately, I found the book to be disappointing in its progress toward these lofty goals. In particular, it soon turns to a denigration of belief in God and a condemnation of much of what has been done in the name of God. While what religious fervor has justified in the history of humankind is distressing, there is certainly more to intellectual history than that, but the author cannot seem to pass beyond this theme. He is particularly critical of Christianity.
Free enquiry was encouraged by some of the Muslim caliphs, who saw no conflict between science and their religion. The Christians, on the other hand, got so entangled in their theology and their struggle for existence that their leaders became intellectual dictators, as some of them still are today. It was, and is exceedingly difficult for free inquiry to take place in that sort of environment. (p. 152)
The church again missed an excellent opportunity to embrace, or at least not to suppress, the inevitable advance of science, against which it was to fight so fiercely during the centuries that followed. Some churches are still fighting it today. (p. 184)
The book is written not simply because of an interest in the past. The author sees events in history that he does not want repeated, so he writes about and teaches this material to avoid further problems in the future.
"[The growing fundamentalist movement's] intellectual fascism is a genuine threat to this country. It is easy to dismiss it as unimportant, noting that nearly all of these problems were settled during the nineteenth century conflict between religion and science." "Passions are very strong, and it would be a disaster if these people gained more political power." (p. 301)
It is clear that these well-meaning but thoroughly misguided Christians are regrouping, and will continue to push America into the straitjacket of their narrow views. Fortunately, they don't have the power of earlier religious leaders. They are forced to prosecute rather than persecute. (p. 305)
We have cited many manifestations of the growth of superstition and fundamentalism in modern times; there are very many more. Two reasons for this are that scientific details are too complicated for all but the experts to understand, and although scientific thinking may offer a solid anchor, for some it is lodged in shifting sands. The conflict is one of method. One could hope that religion and science would not overlap each others' territories, but those territories overlap naturally, and there is no way to avoid disagreement. (p. 339)
While the historical material in this book is valuable and easy to read, the evaluative framing around the historical material is extremely limited in its perspective. A reader can legitimately wonder why. There is little that is said about the author's personal experience, and it is certainly dangerous to infer from this paucity of evidence, but I wonder how much his reaction is shaped by the particular details of his own life rather than by an objective study of his material.
From a public elementary school and a Methodist Sunday School in then-isolated Melbourne, Australia, I came away with the impression that there were Jews in the early days, but that after Jesus came they rapidly became extinct and were replaced by Christians. There was also a mysterious group called "The Heathens," not to be confused with a place up in the sky called "Heaven," because they certainly weren't going there. (p. 137)
As he approaches the end of his book, Corben says: "It is often an aspect of human nature that, the closer you are to being 100 percent wrong, the more stridently you claim to be 100 percent right" (p. 296). The strident evaluations in this book should not lead the reader to conclude that Corben is 100 percent wrong.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
AND THE SOUL: New Cosmology, The Self and God by Angela Tilby. London: The Society
for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1992. 275 pages. Paperback; ,12.99.
This book is based on research for the BBC television series SOUL. The result is an easy-to-read book, which often lacks references needed to trace assertions. And since it was based on research for the British Broadcasting Corporation, it is very British: the modern age starts with Newton. Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation are mentioned as somewhat of a background. However, the important preparatory work and influence of 16th and 17th century continental philosophers and scientists is hardly indicated or omitted all together. Consequently, Newton's share in forming modern science with its beneficial and harmful effects is greatly exaggerated.
Newton is said to have not believed in the incarnation and deity of Christ (p. 53). Newton was a unitarian and an Arian. The source of that statement is not mentioned. Does it mean that Newton's discoveries were not influenced by Christianity though he studied and wrote often about the Bible? Tilby concludes that God became a distant controlling force due to Newton's scientific work. Religion changed from a source of "transcendent truth" to protection from the great emptiness of monistic atheism, a shelter from the harshness of the truth that science delivers (p. 56). Thus Newton is accused of causing a dichotomy which already existed for centuries.
Tilby asks in the concluding chapter: "What God 'fits' the cosmologies that have been described by the master scientists in this book?" (p. 235 and p. 180). She goes on to reject Western theology, but it is a theology many Western Christians do not recognize. Tilby wants to solve the problem she sees as due to an increase in knowledge, and asks: how do we see, or to use her word, "image" God? Tilby's conclusion is that God is the "soul" of creation. "Soul" is used here in a Greek sense, not as in the Old Testament, where "soul" usually describes the whole person. Thus God becomes part of creation, as in pantheism. True, she says that she is uncomfortable with that, but then she rejects an authoritarian, transcendent God, as if those are the only two possibilities. We only know God as he described himself to Moses: "I am who I am."
The book makes it clear that for many, the new discoveries have had an immense impact upon their faith. These discoveries appear to make the new cosmology a faith, a faith that contradicts the Bible. Christians should be well aware of this development, especially because many non-scientists (including the writer of this book, who was trained as a theologian) think that the "discoveries" are more certain than the proposers of new theories suggest.
In general, the writer wants to draw God into our sphere. She talks about the "mind of God," the "properties of God" etc. I believe that we are not allowed to do that. God is the Creator. We may worship him, pray to him, etc., but we cannot "define" God or eternity. Eternity is not just extended time. What it is, we do not know. "nother consequence of drawing God into creation is the denying of original sin (which Tilby does) (p. 249).
Despite many questions and disagreements, I do not hesitate to recommend the book to all who are wanting to study the relationship of faith and scholarship.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, Box 168, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
BLESSINGS: Faith Healing On Trial by Richard J. Brenneman. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus
Books, 1990. 390 pages, index, appendix, annotated reading list. Hardcover; $21.95.
Brenneman is a reporter and media consultant who has won several journalism awards. His book examines three controversial court cases involving faith healing.
The first case is about the death due to meningitis of the infant son of a young Christian Science couple. The parents did not seek medical help; instead, they relied on the prayer of a Christian Science practitioner. Consequently, they were prosecuted on the ground of negligence in a court battle lasting from 1984 to 1990. Finally, they were acquitted because the court decided that the death came quickly; even if the parents had decided to seek medical help, there would not have been enough time to save the child. The author described this case with much insight, because he had been active in the Christian Science church. He left the church when he failed to have his crippling rheumatoid arthritis healed. He gives a detailed history of the founder of Christian Science, Mary Eddy Baker. The main thrust of her teaching was that the same power which heals sin also heals sickness. Physical illness is not a reality, and the power of prayer will defeat falsehood.
The author makes the point that the reasons that Christian Science could evolve in the 19th century were mainly due to the pre-modern condition of medicine and the robustness of human health. God has given mankind a cultural mandate to "cultivate the earth" and God has also provided humanity the gift of intelligence. Human beings should diligently use the gift to discover and apply the scientific truths of the universe.
The second case examined in the book is about the quackery of a Filipino "psychic surgeon" who claimed that he could remove tumors without breaking the skin. The husband of a patient complained to the local law enforcement. The psychic surgeon, "Brother Joe," was put on trial. The case lasted from 1986 to 1990, and Brother Joe was finally sentenced to nine months in jail and fined $400 because of unlawful practice and serious injury. This fraud was related to the New Age movement; the healer claimed his hands emitted electromagnetic energy and attracted foreign matters in the body.
The third case involved a California psychotherapist who used drugs to cure psychological problems. She also tried mind control to achieve therapeutic goals. One of her patients died after a bizarre "hot tub" treatment, and the psychologist was taken to court. The case lasted from 1976 to 1978, and finally the judge revoked the psychologist's license and convicted her of gross negligence.
The author describes these three cases in vivid detail. This book is recommended for those who are interested in the interplay of law and medicine. For the general reader of this journal, this book provides examples of problems with Christian Science, the New ge movement, and the drug culture. The author seems to have a cynical view of all belief in the supernatural. t one point, he states that it's not so much what you believe as that you believe. Evangelical Christians obviously cannot agree with that statement.
Reviewed by T. Timothy Chen, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.
NEED PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY? by Don S. Browning and Ian S. Evison (eds.).
Chicago: Nelson Hall Publishers, 1991. 148 pages. Hardcover; $28.95. Paperback; $15.95.
Psychiatry is not just a science. It interfaces with philosophy, medicine, religion, ethics, and general society. One might picture a complicated Venn diagram with overlapping circles. This edited book represents a debate that seeks to identify the circles, argue about which circles should be included in the diagram, and define the overlapping and exclusionary areas among the circles.
The contributors are renowned experts on psychiatry and its interfaces with one or more areas. Don S. Browning wrote an introduction and a chapter on psychiatry and theology. Thomas Jobe addressed the interface between epistemology and psychiatry. James Drane explored the overlap between psychiatry and social ethics. Robert Michels examined medicine, psychology, and psychiatry. Edwin R. Wallace IV searched for a balance among psychiatry, epistemology, and ethics. Thomas Szasz argued that psychiatry functions more similarly to religion than to science. For the most part, the contributions are fresh and thought-provoking. ll are of high quality, scholarly, and well thought out, though some of the chapters are more interestingly written than are others.
For example, all agree that psychiatry is concerned with trying to help relieve suffering of individual patients. Yet, should psychiatry attempt to use its expertise to affect a suffering society? s an over-simplified analogy, let us consider an individual who is diagnosed as having anti-social personality disorder. That person is characterized by having total concern for his or her own welfare and little concern with the welfare of others. He or she has strong (but misplaced) values, valuing personal freedom highly and communal responsibility negligibly. Psychiatrists have no ethical difficulty in providing therapy for such a person.
For argument, could we imagine a society that is anti-social, valuing personal autonomy and freedom for all and devaluing communal responsibility? We might even evaluate modern United States culture to reflect such traitsCthough not all would diagnosis a pathology in the culture. But suppose psychiatry diagnosed the culture as pathologically anti-social. Should psychiatry intervene to rectify the pathology? The authors disagree. Drane strongly argues in favor of social activism among psychiatry. Michels argues that psychiatric expertise and social expertise are separateCthat when the psychiatrist speaks on social issues, he or she should disqualify himself or herself as an expert. Jobe, Wallace, and Browning adopt a perspective that accommodates the extremes. This issue is perhaps the most engaging of the book.
Another common thread throughout the volume is psychiatry's view of religion. The contributors almost unanimously agree that traditional religion has lost its normative power in modern society. They see health care as providing the new moral basis of society. It is physicians who now tell people what they should and should not do, not priests or even law makers. The concept of sin has been eroded until it is not a factor in directing life, except in conservative Christian communities, which are generally treated by the authors as being on the fringe of society. While some authors are more sympathetic to religion than are others, they are united in their belief that religion is peripheral to most people's lives.
The main strength of the book is its high quality debate over psychiatry's role in modern life. The main weakness, which is common among most edited books, is its lack of unified focus. In spite of Browning's excellent introductory chapter that spelled out many of the book's themes, the book would have been better if the debate had been focused on several central themes before the papers were written. Nonetheless, the book will interest readers with a philosophical bent who want to reflect seriously on psychiatry, society, and religion.
Reviewed by E. L. Worthington, Jr. Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, V 23284.
IN THE NINETIES: Stewardship of Creation by Loren Wilkinson, (ed.) Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1991. $19.95.
Loren Wilkinson, with other Fellows of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, have beautifully updated the classic 1980 Earthkeeping: Christian Stewardship of Natural Resources. The 1991 volume serves as an excellent introduction to Christian principles of the stewardship of creation. The improvements are significant and the book is worth looking at even if you have already read the 1980 version.
The enduring principles as well as the maturing and refinement of this book are reflected in the title change. Our human responsibility is still described not as rulership over nature, nor as oneness with nature, but as stewardship C taking care of something that belongs to our Master. But the original title of "natural resources" has been changed to "creation." In the text of both editions, the authors made it clear that God's creation is not "Nature" as a personified entity, nor merely "resources" which we can use. They wanted to make this point more clearly by taking "Natural Resources" out of the title.
The authors briefly survey "The State of the Planet." First, they describe how much fertile soil is being lost and why. Happily, they are able to include paragraphs about sustainable agriculture and minimum-tillage agriculture in this new edition. They explain what humans are doing to the other species of organisms that are "under our care." They describe the alarming growth of the human population (changing the original title "The Human Tide" to "The Human Deluge"). Some of the data is new, but some needs updating. They describe our depletion of energy and mineral resources. They have much more to say about the possibility of the greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, and acid rain as side-effects of energy use in this edition than in 1980. However, they can also report good news about Superfund and about alternative energy sources.
The 1980 version of the "State of the Planet" section ends with an entire chapter about "The Rich, the Poor, and Natural Resources," which has ben entirely omitted from the new version. It explained how our responsibility towards our poorer neighbors cannot be separated from our management of natural resources. Perhaps the topic was controversial, especially when it brought some criticism on multinational corporations, or perhaps the authors felt it was too far out from the main thrust of the book; but I for one was sorry to see it go.
They then present an historical overview of the development of our western attitudes towards the nonhuman universe. The Greek philosophers seem all alike to those of us who have not studied them, but I suppose Plato and ristotle might have been as different as Julian Simon and Carl Sagan. In this edition, the authors added a survey of the pre-Socratic philosophers, expanded their treatment of St. Francis, and added sections abut Celtic Christianity and Hildegard of Bingen. They summarize the history of science (in this edition separating out theology and philosophy as distinct influences upon that history), since scientific viewpoints so strongly influence our view and use of the nonhuman world. In the chapter specifically dealing with the environmental history of North America, they describe the conflicting influences of hostility and reverence towards the wilderness. In this edition, they also analyze the influence of the Protestant work ethic on American attitudes towards the wilderness.
The authors have added a chapter to describe the religious explorations that many environmentalists pursued in the 1980s, including Deep Ecology, the Gaia Hypothesis, and Bioregionalism. They do this specifically because these quasi-religious approaches may be the chief rivals of Christian environmental stewardship.
In earlier decades, environmentalism often involved the rejection of "economic" considerations in decision-making about the earth and its creatures. More recently, most environmentalists have realized that it is necessary to find economically feasible ways to take care of the earth and many economists have come to realize this, also. In recognition of this convergence of economists and ecologists, the authors have expanded the chapter in which they analyze the assumptions behind our decisions about how to use the resources and creatures of the earth, particularly pointing out the difference between price and value.
Many observers still consider Christianity to be perhaps the main culprit in inspiring environmental degradation. Others at least feel an uncomfortable tension between the Genesis command to have dominion and the concept of the stewardship of creation. The authors survey the Bible and examine Jesus as the perfect image of a ruler who is also a servant, which solves the paradox between dominion and stewardship. I consider these chapters to be among the best short treatments of this complex subject.
To address the question, "What shall we do" the authors have substituted the twelve philosophical models that they compared and contrasted in 1980 with a comparison among the concepts of "nature," "resources," and "environment." The list of suggestions for guidelines has been revised a little since 1980. The authors now identify world population control as a priority, and have otherwise made the list more concise and useful.
The main text originally ended with the report of a visit to a future earth, but this has been omitted from the new book, without significant loss of impact.
This book gives only a modest amount of information about what the reader can do to actually begin making daily decisions in an ecologically responsible fashion and become involved in environmentalism. Some readers might be more interested in this information than in anything else, but will have to look for it in Appendix, expanded little if any from the 1980 version.
Both editions have an annotated reading list, indispensable for the beginner. The new edition has an index, which was inexplicably omitted from the original.
I have heard that some people have criticized this book, at least in its earlier edition, for being not quite orthodox. There are a couple of tangential instances where the authors go a little too far, as when the refer to recycling as the "salvation and new birth" of minerals. But in every case where biblical interpretation really matters, the authors are very careful to demonstrate a thoroughly biblical basis for their conclusions. If someone asked me to explain to them why a Christian should care about this present earth and its creatures, I would have no hesitation in referring them to this book for a concise and accurate analysis. It is one of the best brief surveys of all aspects of the Christian view of how to care for God's creation.
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Department of Natural Resources, Huntington College, Huntington, IN.
AMERICA: Restoring Nature to Culture by Richard Cartwright Austin. Abingdon, VA:
Creekside Press, 1990.
This is the fourth and final volume of Environmental Theology. In the first two volumes, Austin aims at what is probably most important in the relationship between human beings and creation: that we love the things that God has created. Baptized into Wilderness describes those aspects of John Muir's experiences and writings that are consonant with Christianity, and Beauty of the Land expresses why Christians should "awaken their senses" to an awareness of the beauty of the natural world. In the third volume, Hope for the Land, he reviews a tremendous number of biblical passages to demonstrate that God gave rights to His non-human creation, and that it is not merely raw material for our use. In this volume, Austin presents a vision of how America could be transformed into a country that respects and loves the land as much as God wants it to.
In the first part, Austin describes how our founding fathers saw a strong connection between agriculture and liberty: free men were free when they could raise their own food. Free men were free when they could do good and lasting work, of which they could be proud. Jefferson, for instance, believed that every man should have access to his own land. There is a disparity, then, between the modern "free market economy." in which most land is owned by a few rich people, and the original ideals of the Founding Fathers. Austin urges us to return to living closer to these original ideals. Strangely enough, Japanese corporations (which rotate their workers among different jobs to keep their work from getting tedious) come closer to what Austin describes as "good work" than many American companies.
In the second part, Austin describes how agriculture can be transformed from being a destructive practice to being an activity that actually enhances the beauty of the heart. He outlines the history of how American agriculture changed from small independent farms to large farms owned by people who have little contact with, and may care little about, the land.
Strangely again, it is a Japanese philosopher who said, "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." Agriculture is not just a way of getting food but a way humans relate to the creation and its creator. Many modern farmers cannot take the risks that environmentalism requires, but as Amish communities demonstrate, when farmers help one another out, they can afford those risks. What Austin calls "moral agriculture" is thus a way in which humans relate to their fellow humans in community. The Old Testament gave certain rights (e.g. sabbath rest) to animals, and, says Austin. We have a responsibility to treat farm animals with respect, for instance, not shooting them full of antibiotics. He also explains, with facts and figures, why we cannot separate the agriculture of food production from the injustice experienced by the landless poor.
In parts three and four, Austin proposes specific, and radical, constitutional changes that would be necessary to bring our relationship to the land back into a biblical morality. Everyone should be guaranteed a right and realistic opportunity of access to wilderness. Large landholdings should be condemned and made available for homesteading, but only for people who have undergone a curriculum of training in sustainable agriculture. He extends "ldo Leopold's concept that the land and its creatures have rights." America is not yet the 'land of the free' when the earth itself remains enslaved," he says, and calls for the people in the churches to recognize the plants and animals of their regions as fellow members of the church along with them. In Chapter 15 he presents a fictional account of how a rural community could reclaim land that has been devastated, at the same time building a loving Christian community.
Earthkeeping in the Nineties, edited by Loren Wilkinson, calls for "stewardship" of the earth, because it belongs to our Master. In Reclaiming America, Austin calls for a lot more. Stewardship' is too constricted an idea to express the full moral relationship with nature that is conveyed by the biblical images of covenant, sabbath, and redemption. Nature is our partner, not our possession." says Austin.
It is possible that Austin's political suggestions are too extreme to work. I believe we should try more limited changes that our fellow citizens are less likely to reject. Small victories may be more valuable than large attempts that completely fail. But his personal suggestions are simple things that can be done at home...raise your own food, chop your own wood, do good and lasting work with which you can be satisfied.
But it is also possible that nothing less than the measures Austin suggests will be enough to save us from despoiling the earth. Certainly, if we do not approach the subject with the passion that Austin has, and love creation with the same intensity that Austin expresses, the earth will succumb to the abuse of those who are greedy, and the neglect of those who are not.
Some extremists suggest that human technology is not welcome on the earth, that civilized humans are a disease in the ecosystem. Austin, however, shows us how human activity can enhance the beauty of the land. We belong here.
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Department of Natural Resources, Huntington College, Huntington, IN 46750.
TO RESCUE THE EARTH WITHOUT WORSHIPPING NATURE: A Christian's Call to Save Creation by
Tony Campolo. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992. 200 pages, index. Hardcover.
How to Rescue the Earth Without Worshipping Nature is a major challenge to the Christian church in these last years of the twentieth century. Any discussion of this emotion-laden subject needs to consider several dimensions of the problems: Does the earth need to be rescued? From what? How? What is Aworshipping nature"? How do we avoid such worship? Tony Campolo, professor of sociology at Eastern College and widely known writer and speaker, tackles these problems in this book.
That the earth, God's creation, is deteriorating as a result of human abuse seems obvious to a growing number of people today. Campolo emphasizes this properly in his first two chapters. Here he reminds the reader of pollution and environmental destruction. Further on in the book (Chapters 8-12) he discusses some of the actions and attitude changes evangelicals must make to fulfill our responsibilities as stewards. While much of this material is not new, Campolo makes a strong case for evangelical involvement, in contrast to the greedy, uncaring, "slash and burn" pronouncements that have come from some evangelicals, including theologians and politicians.
In Chapter 13 he outlines four "warnings" to keep evangelical environmentalists "out of the New Age Movement. (1) "Make sure your spiritual exercises and worship are Christian;" (2) "There is a vast difference between sensing a unity with nature and advocating union with nature;" (3) We must not think that all life is of equal value;" (4) "Know that God, not humanity, controls the future of planet earth."
Unfortunately, it seems to this reviewer that there are numerous instances in Chapters 3 through 7 in which Campolo does not always heed his own warnings. Furthermore, many of his suggestions for our thoughts and actions appear to be based on some very selective manipulation of Scripture as well as reliance on considerable nonbiblical emotional mysticism.
In several places in the book he refers to John 3:16 and emphasizes that the "world" that God loved is the "cosmos," a Greek word that includes all of creation. He does not refer to the remainder of that verse, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Does Campolo want us to have plants and animals "believing" in order to have eternal life? On p. 127 he makes passing reference to Psalm 104 to illustrate that all God's creatures are called to worship him. But part of that worship (v. 21) is that "the lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God." Predation did not originate with Satan! On the other hand, he makes no reference to Hosea 4:1-3 or Jeremiah 12:4, which relate environmental degradation to specific human sins.
In Chapter 3 he blames science for an unfeeling attitude toward animals, as when frogs are dissected in a biology class. He objects to zoos and caged birds and even worries about worms feeling pain and plants that wither and die when surrounded by anger and hateful talk! Although he reluctantly admits that killing for food is permissible, he is much against hunting "for fun." There is no mention, for example, of the need for methods to control some deer populations because they no longer have natural predators.
Most disturbing to this reviewer are Campolo's violations of his Warning #3 that all life is not of equal value. He broadly condemns the use of animals in experimentation and suggests, "One of the ways Christians can demonstrate their readiness to be led by the Holy Spirit is by making a commitment to the animal rights movement" (p. 71). He does warn against extremists, but suggests that Romans 8:19-21 "sensitizes us to the agonies of animals." He admits that in Genesis 1:31 God called his creation "good." Then he recommends Eastern Orthodox theology, when it tells us, among other things, that "One of the consequences of Satan's work is that the evolutionary process has gone haywire. That is why we have mosquitoes, germs, viruses, etc. God did not create these evils. They evolved because Satan perverted the developmental forces at work in nature" (p. 38). This theology explains why there are so many "mean" characteristics in nature, and assures us that God didn't create them (p. 40). What about Psalm 104:21?
We need to be concerned with rescuing the earth. We will be held responsible as stewards for what we have done to counter the effects of sin on God's creation. We must attempt this "rescue" on biblical terms. "Nature" is God's creation, nature is not God. Mankind is to use but not abuse nature. In spite of his excellent title, Campolo's approach is too close to worshipping nature. For that reason I cannot recommend this book as a real contribution to the Christian approach to environmental problems.
Reviewed by Wilbur L. Bullock, Professor Emeritus, Zoology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH.
THE SILENCES: God, Medicine and the Problem of Suffering by Stanley Hauerwas.
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990. 151 pages, preface & index. Paperback; $9.95.
For Hauerwas, the most troublesome situation in facing pain, suffering and death is the apparent inexplicable and pointless death of the child, e.g., with leukemia. Using poignant stories of, and research on, dying children, the author exposes the reader to the full impact of the problem in a sensitive treatment which interacts with other current viewpoints. He finds the freewill defense coldly theoretical and inadequate. The often pious reasons given by well-intentioned friends to the anguishing parents "so that they could grow spiritually; so that God could be glorified; so that their values would be made more Christ-like; so that love and community would be fostered among believers; so that they would know how to help others who suffer" are false and "make God the ultimate sadist" (pp. 94-95). Parents eventually realize that "suffering is the result of the world we live in. God isn't doing it" (p. 95).
Hauerwas calls the Christian community to reclaim the use of the Psalms of lament to incorporate the disorientations of life into its experience. "One of the profoundest forms of faithlessness is the unwillingness to acknowledge our inexplicable suffering and pain" (p. 83).
In the final chapter, "Medicine as Theodicy," Hauerwas observes that we have lost a communal sense of a good death. Thus "we conspire to hide our deaths form ourselves and from one another, calling our conspiracy 'respect for the individual'" (p. 101). Medicine has joined this conspiracy, going to elaborate lengths to keep us alive; curing, not caring has become the primary end of medicine; what can be done medically ought to be done. The author calls us from a humanly extended chronicity of life to a narrative unity of life experiencing wholeness and completeness as redeemed creatures of a gracious God. One thinks of the description of Abraham's death where longevity, narrative unity and community are all reinforced: "Abraham, died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people" (Gen. 25:8).
In the Amharic language of Ethiopia (in the Semitic family similar to Hebrew) the word for salvation and medicine is the same. This book is a welcome effort towards narrowing the gap between a Christian response and professional medicine's approach to human pain, suffering and death. It merits your careful reading and reflection; if you do, you will be better able to name your silences.
I am writing this review two days before Easter, so Hauerwas' final parting shot comes with telling impact; "Everyone knows that there is no technology for overcoming death. Death is left for God's overcoming" (p. 151). He did it in the resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ!
While pain, suffering and death are our common lot in this present life (Rom. 8:18-25; 2 Cor.4:16 ff.), the Christian believer looks forward in hope to the new heavens and earth where these will be abolished (Isa. 65:17-25; Rev. 21:1-4). Suffering and death are not the end of our life's narrative. Herein lies our comfort.
Stanley Hauerwas is professor of theological ethics at the Divinity School of Duke University, Durham, NC. He has authored many articles and several books, including another similar treatment: Suffering Presence: Theological Reflections on Medicine, the Mentally Handicapped, and the Church.
Reviewed by Albert C. Strong, B.S., M.Div., Retired, Silverton, OR 97381.
AND THE PERSISTENCE OF EVIL: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence by Jon D. Levenson.
San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. xvi & 182 pages, indexes. Hardcover; $18.95.
Contrary to Qoheleth, there is something "new under the sun"; we have here a fresh approach to an old idea and a fresh look at data that have been known and endlessly discussed. Levenson sees three glaring deficiencies in past and current scholarship: 1) creation ex nihilo is "not an adequate characterization of creation in the Hebrew Bible" (p. xiii), 2) the connection of Gen. 1:1-2:3 with the Priestly theology of the cultus has not been adequately explored, 3) and the "vast amount of overlap between the idea of God as creator and the idea of God as lord in covenant needs to be exposed and explored" (p. xiv).
Levenson is well qualified to address these concerns. He is an associate professor of Hebrew Bible at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago and has authored An Entry into the Jewish Bible and Sinai and Zion as well as serving as associate editor of Harper's Bible Commentary. His writing style is lively and he has produced a well argued text. While he has largely succeeded in his goal of producing a book free of the normal jargon of the philologist and theologian, he has by no means given us a popularization.
Although the lack of chronologic certainty precludes writing a history of the idea of creation, Levenson gives primary consideration to the historical Near Eastern antecedents and to the Rabbinic successor of biblical Israel. He makes very extensive use of the pagan Near Eastern creation myths to elucidate the original meaning of the creation passages in the Old Testament. There is much that can be said for this approach. Language, unfortunately, is often very imprecise and what is obvious in one culture and era may give very erroneous meaning if interpreted in terms of a radically different milieu. Levenson's work is a valuable corrective to a great deal of the reading of modern approaches and ideas back into Scripture by many modern scholars and religious interpreters.
However, at times Levenson's connections of pagan myths and "myths" of the Bible get a little fanciful. We are never forthrightly told whether Levenson considers the Hebrew Creation account to be a theological statement using familiar ideas and phrases from the surrounding pagan mythologies as vehicles to express the inexpressible truths of God's activity, or he simply sees the Creation account as mythology that the Hebrews borrowed and adapted, albeit with some ethical and conceptual improvements, from their pagan contemporaries.
Nevertheless, there are many very provocative points made that will give the thoughtful reader a fresh start in seeking out the true meaning of the Scriptures. Not only does he provide fresh insights on the nature of Creation and the problem of evil, but his whole work can and should be carefully considered as a stimulus to a deeper understanding of the Scripture passages used by Jesus and the New Testament writers, either directly or as an assumed common knowledge, for their teaching on Creation. It gives us some theses to test in a fresh study of the Scriptures.
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, James ". Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639.
AND DEATH DECISIONS: Help in Making Tough Choices about Bioethical Issues by R. D. Orr,
D. L. Schiedermayer, and D. B. Biebel. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpress, 1990. 208
pages. Paperback; $9.95.
As suggested by its subtitle, this book sets out to deal with the subjects of infertility, abortion, birth defects, "IDS, caring for the elderly, artificial life support, euthanasia, and medical treatment options. Dr. Orr has had considerable experience in dealing with ethical issues and is currently Director of Clinical Ethics and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California. Dr. Schiedermayer is currently chairman of the Ethics Commission of the Christian Medical and Dental Society, and author of a regular column on "Biblical Perspectives in Clinical Ethics" for the Journal of that Society. Dr. Biebel is the New England Regional Director for the Christian Medical and Dental Society, and has fourteen years of pastoral experience.
The book is written in an informal style and features questions at the end of each of its eleven chapters for group discussion. The authors state that they "have not emphasized theoretical perspectives or philosophical arguments. Instead, we have focused on what is useful, practical, and rich in reality." The authors accept the four points of medical ethics usually dealt with: beneficence, nonmalfeasance, autonomy, and justice, and add to this list three others that might be included in the first four: confidentiality, veracity, and the sanctity of life. Consistent with its style, the book raises many questions for discussion, offers few guidelines, and provides almost no answers. It is left for a proposed discussion, for example, to answer the profound question of when an embryo achieves "the status of personhood."
Considering the expertise of the authors, it is sometimes surprising to find them dealing naively with terms that cry out for definition, and to make apparently different statements in neighboring paragraphs. Standard terms like "human," "life," and "person" do not receive the definitive treatment they need and deserve. In one paragraph the authors state that the fact that fetuses can be operated on, given medicine, and seen through ultrasound establishes that they have rights as persons, but in the next they indicate that we can't be sure whether the fetus is "human," or whether abortion involves the taking of "a separate human life." "positive aspect of their treatment is their repeated call for compassion and understanding between those who disagree: "This compassionate outreach would seem to us to be more Christlike than the strident condemnation often heard from well-meaning protectors of the unborn." (p. 58)
Sometimes the problems posed appear to be humorous. For example, it is apparently seriously asked what to do when a sick 6-year old boy with fever and sore throat refuses to open his mouth to allow a throat culture to be taken.
The authors call for a strict definition of euthanasia as deliberately acting to end a life that would not have ended at that moment, but argue that "withdrawing or withholding treatment or artificial means of life support in someone who is dying is not euthanasia at all." They label euthanasia as "evil," and argue that the term "passive euthanasia" should not be used. To support this absolutist position, they point out that "Those people who maintain that euthanasia should be allowed in those cases where there is intolerable suffering are saying, in essence, that the immediate absence of suffering is a higher good than liberty or life." (p. 160) They appear to confuse two responses to suffering: (1) my response to my suffering in which I may look for God to work something good, unless the suffering is destructive of my very faculties, and (2) my response to the suffering of others, in which it is seldom, if ever, appropriate to say to such a suffering person, "I will not help you alleviate your suffering, because your suffering is good for you." The authors make a very questionable statement, therefore, when they assert, "By rushing to eliminate pain and end suffering, we actually may be ignoring the grace and divine presence of God" (p. 190). One would be hard put to find a case where Jesus told someone who came to Him in suffering, that they should go away unhealed because the suffering was important for them. A more appropriate formulation would seem to be this: human suffering is a consequence of living in a fallen world; God allows suffering for His own purposes and can bring good out of them; our responsibility is to work for the healing of the whole person, never to considering healing to be working against God.
The authors do make a positive input by holding up the hospice movement as an appropriate way for Christians to deal with the sufferings of terminal illness. And they do provide a helpful list of "words of advice" at the conclusion of the book. The book concludes with a glossary of terms, and a recommended bibliography.
This book could be a useful study guide in the hands of a discussion leader who would supplement and sharpen its focus.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, C" 94305.
FAITH: Deciding the God Question by J. W. Montgomery (ed.). Dallas, TX: Probe
Books, 1991. 346 pages, index. Paperback.
This volume arises from The Cornell Symposium on Evidential Apologetics, held in Ithaca in 1986. The authors describe themselves as people who "became and remain Christians because the evidence for the truth of Christianity overwhelmingly outweighs competing religious claims and secular world views" (p. 9).
[The] purpose of the different arguments in this book is to justify the hypothesis that the God of the Bible does exist. Even if biblical Christianity has less than a one-in-ten-million chance of being true, we should believe it and live in the light of it because the possibility of an eternal hell is such a great torment. (pp. 306, 307)
Another example of what could be called the statistical argument is given elsewhere in the book:
Given that we have a limited amount of time in this life to study religions, we can dispense with those that offer us a second chance in the afterlife or which will reincarnate us if we make a mistake in this life, or which promise us that all will be well eventually no matter how we live now. Prudence dictates that we first ought to consider the claims of those religions which say that everything depends upon the decision made and lived by in this one life. (p. 175)
As stated in the subtitle, the goal of the writers is to "decide the God question" by looking at objective evidence that shows that the odds in favor of Christianity are much better than one-in-ten-million.
The book consists of 20 chapters written by 9 authors. Of the authors, 3 are specialists in science, 1 in philosophy, 3 in theology, and 2 are pastors. Of the 20 chapters, 11 are written either by Robert C. Newman, Professor of New Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, or by William J. Cairney, Professor of Biology at the United States Air Force Academy.
One approach to the goals chosen for this book would be to look at a variety of scientific, historical and philosophical evidences, which show that Christianity does not rest on non-existent, irrational or purely subjective grounds. Insofar as the book does this, it fills a continuing need for exposition of the evidence that demolishes the caricatures that are often constructed by non-Christians (and sometimes even Christians themselves) which hinder the defense of the faith.
This approach, however, is not really the one chosen by the authors of this book. Rather they seek to demonstrate that such abundant objective evidence exists that on the basis of it alone people should be convinced to become Christians. They follow the common modern trend that exalts the authority of science, so that the first step in establishing the truth of anything must be to argue for its scientific demonstrability. Thus they argue, "Show me that there is sound evidence that even a scientific mind can accept that the Bible is the actual Word of God, that it is accurate and authoritative in its assertions" (p. 19) . They seek to provide this evidence by showing that (1) the Bible contains "history written in advance," (2) accurate statements are found in the Bible "demonstrating scientific knowledge and concepts far before mankind had developed the technological base necessary for discovering that knowledge or those concepts," (3) historical assertions in the Bible are verified by continuing historical scholarship, (4) statements about people and places are made in the Bible that are verified by ongoing archeological research, and (5) the Bible contains "well-developed common themes and is internally consistent," "even though written piecemeal over thousands of years."
Most of these arguments could well be advanced positively to demonstrate that the Bible provides authoritative and reliable revelation and that Christian faith is a rational faith. But the authors have more than this in mind: they wish to set forth this "objective evidence" in such a convincing way that faith itself (personal commitment on the basis of strong but incomplete evidence) becomes almost unnecessary. Properly aware of the weaknesses of "blind faith," they often appear to advocate a position dependent on science for its credibility and on an intellectual approach alone to the Scriptures. They argue that there is no "scriptural basis for believing any inner feeling, conviction, or sense of peace is the voice of God" (p. 34). There appears to be no place for a personal response to Christ's love, only an intellectual response to scientifically testable evidence. How difficult it is to keep a balance in this matter, as in so many other matters relating science and Christian faith!
Space does not allow a description of the variety of different kinds of arguments advanced as evidence in the book. Some are valid and show good insight, others are based on faulty definitions or understandings. Perhaps the most questionable are those arguments based on the existence of "prescience" in the Bible. Almost everything we know about the nature of the biblical revelation as developed from its own character and purposes argues against hidden prescientific insights as the result of special revelation thousands of years ago. It hardly seems appropriate to cite Mosaic divisions of animals into clean and unclean as the result of prescientific divine revelation about sanitation (what happened to Peter in his vision before going to visit with Cornelius in Acts when this same distinction was discredited?), or to argue that Mosaic prohibition against eating fat was actually divinely revealed, prescientific understanding of the effects of cholesterol.
Potential harm for the cause of Christianity is unfortunately implicit in a claim repeated several times in the book. The accepted recognition that authentic science limits itself to interpretation in natural categories without reference to the supernatural as science is challenged without recognizing that this self-imposed limitation on science is the necessary prerequisite for science's reliability within its own sphere of reference. Ignoring the intrinsic differences between science and legal thinking, Montgomery writes in a final chapter, "Theological presuppositionalists tell us that there are no self-interpreting facts. We profoundly disagree; the very nature of legal argument rests on the ability of facts to speak for themselves" (pp. 334, 335). But one acquainted with the doing of science knows that facts do not provide their own meaning, and that every experiment is itself "theory laden" To deny this is to reject the very qualities that characterize authentic science as human interpretation of observations. It is not surprising that such advocates also frequently misunderstand the essential role of human interpretation in understanding the biblical revelation.
Some help can be obtained from this book in dealing with those who argue that Christianity has no rational basis. But the reader needs to be cautious about accepting all the arguments, and should supplement the treatment with a genuine understanding of personal faith and commitment.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
RIGHTS OF NATURE: A History of Environmental Ethics by Roderick F. Nash. Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. Hardcover; $27.50.
Roderick Nash, professor both of history and of environmental studies at the Santa Barbara Campus of the University of California, is perhaps best known for his book Wilderness and the American Mind, which outlined the history of conservation and wilderness preservation, together with its cultural background, in the United States. The Rights of Nature documents the history of the development of the concept of natural rights, with focus on religion, legal philosophy, and recent environmental activism. This book, in the series "A History of American Thought and Culture," is almost entirely limited to the Anglo-American tradition. The book is very well documented and interesting to read. It focuses on one main theme: the concept of "natural rights" has expanded through the centuries (rights were gradually extended to include women, nonwhite races, workers, etc.) and is now extending to include the natural world (sentient animals, all organisms, whole ecosystems). Therefore the demand of some environmentalists that nonhuman organisms be granted legal rights, a demand usually considered to be on the radical fringe, is actually the next step in the extension of civil liberties to oppressed parties. Nash considers radical environmentalism to be a continuation of rather than a departure from Anglo-American tradition. This seems to contradict his earlier book in which he implied that saving the wilderness required a departure from Anglo-American habits of thought.
In his earlier book, Nash made a clear and important distinction between two kinds of "conservation": the kind that insisted on conserving "natural resources" for future human use (the Pinchot concept), and the kind that insisted on protecting the natural world because of its right to exist, without reference to human utility (the Muir concept). In the current book he elucidates another important distinction: there is a fundamental difference between those who campaign for the rights of individual organisms to live (usually, individual animals) and those who campaign for the rights of species or ecosystems to persist; and these two campaigns have more or less separate histories. As a result, there are three different and sometimes conflicting views of conservation: 1) human use of "natural resources," 2) "animal rights," 3) the "rights of the earth" as a whole.
Nash's main theme is intriguing and nearly convincing, but there remains one problem. Liberating animals and rocks is not simply an extrapolation of the liberation of slaves. It was obvious to anyone who cared to look, even in ancient times, that slaves were people. Anyone who doubted this had only to consider the status of freedmen and of slaveowners' children born to slave mothers. It is equally obvious to everyone today that bacteria, oysters, and cats are not people. There is a vast gulf between person and non-person. Nash addresses this problem but does not emphasize what a big problem it is
When I was an undergraduate I took Dr. Nash's class in American Environmental History. He presented a brief and very opinionated case condemning Christianity for playing a major causal role in environmental degradation. In contrast, the first chapter of Wilderness and the American Mind presented a much more carefully reasoned argument for the influence of Christianity on environmental ills. And in The Rights of Nature, Nash was careful to leave aside his own opinions and, as an historian, presented a very fair and thorough review of the positive contributions made by Christians to not just the preservation of natural resources but to the appreciation of the rights of nature apart from humans. Certainly the discovery of environmental issues by the church (see Sheldon's article in Perspectives, 41 (3)) has impressed Nash favorably since I took his class in 1978. Some problems, however, remain. He documents the "greening of religion" that has occurred in the past few decades, but seems unaware that the Bible itself contains not only passages commanding humans to be good steward of creation but also passages that extend legal rights to components of the natural world (see Deuteronomy 22: 6-7 and Hosea 2:18, for instance). He also overlooked the possible historical role of Christianity in extending the circle of ethics to include slaves and women (first-century Christianity was derided by its enemies as a "religion of slaves and women"), and the possibility that the tradition of Christian martyrs may have influenced the choice of tactics used by some radical environmentalists today.
Nash credits Darwin with an important role in the origin of environmentalism. While it is true that modern ecology and population biology practically began with Darwin's experiments with earthworms and seedlings (see Harper, J.L. Journal of Ecology 55:247-270 (1967)), it is not clear that Darwinism can provide a basis for environmental ethics. Darwin's work toppled human from lordship over the universe; but Genesis 2, but saying that man was made from the dust, had already done this. Houston (see Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 34 (1)) said the Bible "out-Darwins Darwin." If Darwinism is used as a basis for ethics, then economic success is the only yardstick by which our actions can be measured; we should care no more about our environment than does a toxigenic fungus or an allelopathic plant. However, we cannot deny that many environmentalists, such as John Muir and John Howard Moore, did in fact take courage from Darwin's writings, even if they should not have.
Nash has documented the struggle that legal philosophers have undergone to define the limits to which ethics can be extended. There has even been serious discussion about whether variola, the smallpox virus, had a right to not be exterminated. Many environmental activists believe that humans have no more right to exist than the variola virus; indeed, some believe human extinction would only be a just punishment for our perturbation of the natural world. I had not realized before what a hopeless philosophical mess one can get into without the acceptance of an almighty Creator to whom all of the natural world is good, to whom we are accountable, but also in whose image we are made.
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Department of Biology, Huntington College, Huntington, IN 46750.
PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION by H.
Newton Malony, (ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991. 628 pages. Paperback.
Twenty-two authors who come from and work in different parts of the world have written essays for this collection. Each chapter presents a brief biography of a psychologist and two essays by that psychologist. Many of the articles in this book first appeared in a 1986 edition of the Journal of Psychology and Religion. The authors of these original articles have each added a new essay. In addition, articles by authors not included in the 1986 journal are included.
This book is the fifth in a series of books published cooperatively by Baker Book House and the Christian "ssociation for Psychological Studies. The topics discussed include religious experience, personality theory, psychopathology, research methods, social and clinical psychology, and the integration of psychology and theology.
The purpose of this book is to examine "19th- and 20th-century thinkers, from Freud to Fromm to Allport, from a new international perspective". "The result is a well-rounded historical and personal retrospective." This book is offered to those who want to know more about "psychological understandings of religion." It is appropriate for use in a psychology of religion course. Videotaped interviews with some of the authors are available.
Malony teaches in the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary where he directs the program in the integration of psychology and theology. He has written over a dozen other books which attempt to relate psychology and the teachings of the Bible.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, "R 72761.
THE LAW AND THE HUMAN EMBRYO by Michael J. Coughlan. Iowa City, IA: University of
Iowa Press, 1990. 112 pages, notes, bibliography, index. Paperback; $8.95.
The question of when life begins, or more correctly, when the human embryo or fetus becomes a person entitled to legal rights, is the basis of this compelling and comprehensive study. Examining the historical, philosophical, and theological basis of the Vatican's views on the origins of human life and procreation, the author draws upon numerous references to document his view that "the embryo, or early fetus, cannot be considered a person." He strongly objects to appeals by the Vatican authorities for civil legislation dealing not only with abortion, but also with artificial means of fertilization and birth control that would force upon non-Catholics values and principles that limit what he believes to be fundamental human rights.
The Introduction, a short ten pages, provides a readily understandable outline and summary of the book. This manner of organization is ideal for a book of this type, since the conclusion is already established and subsequent chapters provide detailed references and discussion. The rest of the book is not easy reading, except for those accustomed to philosophical discussions. Nevertheless, Coughlin's clear and deliberate style rewards the dedicated reader with logical and well-supported conclusions. The subsequent chapters cover topics such as:
(1) Catholic mediation theology in which God is revealed through natural media (i.e., popes and bishops, the scriptures, the sacraments, nature, etc.) and how the concept of natural law is derived based on the views of Saint Thomas "quinas."
(2) The concept of double-effect and the Pauline Principle, as applied to the value of human life. The principle as stated in the postconciliar Vatican Council II document Humanae Vitae, is "Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it." This statement has been the subject of numerous theological gymnastics and inconsistencies which are ably described by the author.
(3) The relationship of divine law to natural law and inconsistencies in the manner in which the Vatican interprets natural law in its moral judgements on contraception and killing.
(4) An examination of what constitutes a human being. The concepts of human versus rational nature are studied, as well as the inconsistent application by the Vatican of the concept of physicalism, where the morality of an act is defined only by the nature of the act and not by the circumstances associated with it. Physical tests to establish the existence of a "person," such as viability and brain activity, are discussed.
(5) The question of ensoulment. While scientific concepts are incorporated in some discussions, most material is of a highly philosophical nature, as it must be to deal with the complex issues and confront claimed inconsistencies in the Vatican statements.
If there is a weakness in this book, it is that no attempt is made to present the views of those within the Catholic church that oppose the Vatican positions, particularly in the area of artificial fertilization and contraception. In point of fact, the reader must understand that the author's reference to a monolithic Catholic point of view can only be expressed as the view of the Vatican and not of the entire church membership, particularly in the American Catholic community. Evidence presented by Greeley (The American Catholic: A Social Portrait, Basic Books, NY, 1977) indicates minimal difference between Protestant and Catholic attitudes on birth control, premarital sex, and abortion, none of which precisely follow the Vatican guidance presented in Humanae Vitae, Quaestio de aboru, and Personae humanae. It has been also been claimed that the majority of Catholic intellectuals are on the side of common sense and therefore in opposition to their church (Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY, 1990) on the question of contraception.
One can imagine a society where the question of abortion would never arise. A society where, among other things, a massive program of health care, day-care, and family-counseling was available to all. Unlike some who take the pro-life stand to the limit, and to its credit, the Catholic Church has paid far more than lip-service through social service programs to the aspects of such an ideal. So while The Vatican, The Law, And The Human Embryo should be required reading by everyone (particularly Catholics) who seek to fully understand the position of their church, it should not be used as a guidepost to Catholic thought on the questions of concern. That is too broad and diverse to be covered in 112 pages.
Reviewed by Michael Epstein, Research Chemist, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD 20899.
MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH by John B.
Co, Jr. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991. 122 pages. Paperback;
The author of this pocket-size book is Professor of Theology at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California, and has written two other books dealing with process theology. In addition to the title, the cover bears the words, 'The right to kill, the right to die, the right to live, the right to love." These are the four main sections of the book, dealing in more standard terms respectively with animal rights, the right to commit suicide, the right to have an abortion, and the right to have premarital sexual intercourse and homosexuality.
In the first two sections he argues that "there is no basis for an absolute right to either life or death. In the third he argues that "Love, then, expresses itself foundationally not in keeping people alive but in respecting their freedom and responsibility. He calls for a wider context. A consistent theme in this book is that a purely individual view of rights should be rejected. Human lives are so bound together that all decisions about life and death need to involve the others who are affected." He calls for an "advance, rather than the present polarization" in Christian thinking on these subjects.
The author approaches these issues openly and honestly, offering his own conclusions as his own conclusions, and in general seeking to steer a path between extreme positions. He frequently refers to the Bible for insight, and recognizes that his position is not the only possible Christian position. He indicates his indebtedness to the father of process philosophy, Alfred North Whitehead, who taught him "to reject dualism, anthropocentrism, substantialism and essentialism," as well as "to understand that God is in the world and the world is in God." His basic conclusions are that although humans do have dominion over other creatures, they must view their "right to kill" within "a much wider context of responsibility to contribute to the welfare of other creatures as well as of human beings; that if a person with a debilitating disease desires to die, then that person has the right to die; that the choice to have an abortion is a choice to prevent the development of a human being rather than to kill one, so it should therefore be planned for an early stage in the fetal development, and public policy should seek to maximize both personal freedom and community well-being; and that the ideal for sexual practice would be to exist only within committed relationships, but that every deviation from this form should not be viewed as "a violation of moral law against which rules and sanctions should be enforced."
If sometimes the theological foundations of the author's conclusions might be questioned, his overall perspective is in general a contribution toward working out several conflict areas. The book could therefore serve as a resource for group discussion on topics related to Christian ethics.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
MATTERS: How Mind and Brain Interact to Create Our Conscious Lives by Michael S.
Gazzaniga; Houghton Mifflin, 1988. 255 pages.
The thesis of this book is that the brain ("fluctuating physical-chemical state") interacts with the mind ("the interpretive state"). Mind is an emergent phenomenon, a higher level of description. The interaction is complex, and it is just beginning to be understood." "Thought can change brain chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can change a thought." The author describes the current state of understanding of this interaction in a wide range of areas of our conscious lives, including pain, intelligence, anxiety, addiction, love and healing. Accepting this interaction entails a view of the world that "shows the limits of the genetic imperative on what we turn out to be" and thus, of course, leaves room for both form and freedom, both a givenness of reality and a responsibility to live in a meaningful way.
The notion of levels of explanation of phenomena is familiar to readers of this journal. The interaction between the levels identified by the author is well documented here. The tension between determinism and significant individual choice is also a familiar one, both theologically and scientifically. Gazzaniga seems to say that the current state of scientific knowledge allows and even demands the recognition that an individual is not able to determine everything about life (brain structure) but is responsible for choices made (the mind state). For him, holding these in balance leads to "the good life." As Christians we must do more than hold these in balance, because for us the fulfilled life is found when choice is exercised in a way that aligns our lives with the revealed will of God.
The book is well written. It summarizes a great deal of research and experience in an accessible form. It should be of interest to those concerned about brain science and how this effects our thinking about a biblical view of humanness.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, Associate to the Vice-Principal (Resources), and Professor, Department of Computing and Information Science, Queens' University.