Science in Christian Perspective
Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith
Book Reviews for June 1999
SCIENCE INCARNATE: Historical Embodiments of Natural Knowledge by Christopher Lawrence and Steven Shapin, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 342 pages. Paperback; $19.00.
Science Incarnate is a collection of eight essays that examine how the process of thinking is affected by bodily influences. The chapters vary between examining a single famous individual in detail (Newton, Descartes, Darwin, Ada Lovelace) to surveying the effect of a particular physical regimen on a group of scholars (such as Victorian mathematicians at Cambridge who were expected to be great sportsmen). The examples are often humorous, making the book enjoyable reading while addressing an issue that effects all those involved in the pursuit of science.
Shapin's opening chapter draws from the old adage "you are what you eat." The abstemious diet of ancient Greek philosophers and the early church Fathers was generally thought to be conducive, if not essential, for intensive study. A correlation is developed between the absent- mindedness of some great thinkers and their indifference to food. Shapin recounts an incident where a friend eats Newton's dinner while waiting for Newton, and when Newton finally arrives he remarks "How absent we philosophers are. I really thought I had not dined" (p. 1).
While much of the book is interesting from a historical perspective, some of the authors fall short in the stated aim of connecting the relationship between a thinking mind and the physical body. For example, the excessive details of Descartes' life in "A Mechanical Microcosm" generate a chapter that meanders far from the main theme but is an interesting biography.
Lawrence directly addresses the relationship between brain and brawn. Early surgeons are portrayed as stout and strong men capable of the rigors of a demanding job, while their physician colleagues were regarded more as intellectual gentlemen. The numerous figures strongly support the butcher and gentleman thesis that Lawrence develops, although neither profession enjoyed particularly high success rates: "How merrily we live that Doctor's be. We humbug the Public and pocket the fee" (p. 181).
The chapters on Lovelace and Darwin both examine the relationship between thinking and illness. Darwin "suffered from incessant retching or vomiting, usually brought on by fatigue; and from painful bouts of wind that churned around after meals and obliged him to sit quietly in a private room until his body behaved more politely" (p. 243). Darwin's writing and public image were affected by his illness, but also used to his own advantage.
It allowed him to fall asleep during piano recitals and novel readings. It excused him from boring evenings at scientific societies [and in] these subtle ways, he let ill health carry the brunt of displaying a preoccupation with other more intellectual concerns (p. 248).
The style of this collection of essays makes them appealing reading for scientists and humanists alike. The chapters personalize many great scientists while making this reader, at least, think deeply about how the environment affects the way people think. Science Incarnate is a unique contribution for those interested in thinking about thinking.
Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
SUMMER FOR THE GODS: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion by Edward J. Larson. New York: BasicBooks, 1997. 336 pages, index, illustrations. Hardcover; $25.00.
Larson is a former associate counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. He is now a professor with a joint appointment in history and law at the University of Georgia. Larson has also written Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution; its readers' comments compelled Larson to write a book devoted solely to the Scopes trial. Summer for the Gods is the first new book on the Scopes trial in forty years.
The book is essentially divided into three major parts: before, during, and after the Scopes "Monkey Trial" which took place in the summer of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. The first part (chaps. 1˝3) delivers appropriate background for the controversy to come. Chapters four through seven offer an engaging description of what Larson called the "Trial of the Century." The final part (chaps. 8˝10) are in a way the most interesting, as Larson retells the tale and reminds us that the echoes of the Scopes trial are not as distant as we may initially believe. The book has an index, extensive endnotes, and several illustrations that are mostly photographs taken from 1925 newspapers.
Besides the breaking of an anti-evolution law, so much was at stake: academic freedom, the right of states and local bodies to control the content of education, the credibility of evolutionary theory in the wake of new discoveries, as well as the classic debate over science and religion. To reveal the behind-the-scenes trial action, Larson uncovers rare archival material, including scarce personal letters and papers, newspaper clippings, and minutes of backroom meetings. Larson carefully reconstructs the events surrounding one of the most explosive trials in the history of America's legal system. The author goes far beyond the courtroom in his analysis when he follows the players through the aftermath of the trial. Larson assesses why the Scopes trial became an American legend with an insightful retelling of the 1960 film version of the trial, Inherit the Wind. Discussion is also given to continuing legal battles over the teaching of evolution today.
The Scopes trial was about much more than the science-religion debate, and Larson has clearly done his research to make this point clear. The book's main strength lies in the detail of the accounts of events, attitudes, and thoughts of both the key players and the lesser-known figures. Chapters two and three were moderately dry, but the remainder of the book was excellent. After reading Summer for the Gods, I felt as if I had actually experienced the trial event in Dayton myself!
Larson does not attempt to sway the reader in either direction. He does not record any personal decisions, nor does he explicitly answer the question, "What should the schools be teaching?" Larson truly writes as an unbiased fact supplier. If reading Larson's book causes a person to change his or her mind about the teaching of evolution, it is merely a response to the retelling of a true story; the book could be labeled as neither "creationist" nor "Darwinist" literature.
In the preface, Larson says that the tale is "worth telling as [a] story of our time." He had access to new archival material about the trial not available to earlier historians, as well as additional hindsight. Larson easily succeeds in explaining how the effects and attitudes emanating from the Scopes trial have been immersed in the 1990s society. Plainly, science-religion issues have not been fully resolved. Summer for the Gods keeps the readers thinking about these questions and their application to their lives.
Larson's book is a detailed account of what has been left largely unsaid by the nation's media for over seventy years since the trial. Summer for the Gods would interest any historian who craves to know the technical details of the Scopes trial. ASA members undoubtedly welcome new insights into an episode which wasˇin theory, at leastˇgoverned by an honest and open study of God's dual revelation. Summer for the Gods is recommended for anyone who would like to wrestle with the timeless controversy of the intellectual freedom of human beings.
Reviewed by Ryan O'Connor, Graduate Student in Chemical Engineering, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455.
GOD, THE EVIDENCE: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Postsecular World by Patrick Glynn. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1997. 216 pages. Hardcover; $22.00.
Glynn is a philosopher who has been active as a politician, journalist, and TV commentator. He is currently associate director and scholar at a political institute in Washington, DC. Like many other young Christians, Glynn lost his faith during his university studies, and even became a staunch atheist and postmodern thinker. However, after many years of atheism and nihilism, Glynn found some scientific evidence that brought him back to the faith. Glynn's evolution is strikingly similar to C.S. Lewis's, who was raised a Christian, became an atheist at the university, and uncovered at a later stage in his life some evidence that led to his conversion.
In this breath-taking book, Glynn recounts his spiritual journey. With philosophical, scientific, and historical insights, he shares the evidence that convinced him. He covers different fields: the design of the universe, the correlation between traditional religion and psychic and physical health, near-death experiences, and the moral bankruptcy of atheism. His book has received praise from Sir John M. Templeton, who is well known to ASA members, and also of personalities such as Michael Novak, Hans KŞng, and George Weigel. I highly recommend this book to those interested in apologetics, or in matters of faith and reason. This book may also be a formidable weapon for those interested in spiritual warfare. I cannot think of a better initial evangelistic gift for agnostics, atheists, nihilists, or for those who are indifferent to religious questions. This book is not, however, a systematic presentation of arguments and counter-arguments, but is rather an excellent mind-opener that should be supplemented by the systematic apologetics works of Norman Geisler, Richard Swinburne, J.P. Moreland, and William Craig.
Reviewed by Bruno D. Granger, Patent Examiner, European Patent Office, The Hague, The Netherlands.
GALILEO: His Science and His Significance for the Future of Man by Albert DiCanzio. Dover, NH: ADASI Publishing Company, 1996. 389 pages. Hardcover; $38.50.1
DiCanzio writes about the science and significance of Galileo from the perspective of a "man in the street." He explains this phrase by describing himself as a "curious, literate, non-academic individual operating independently of any organization that dominates the thought processes of its members." While DiCanzio openly admits that he is not a historian, academic, or theologian, he does possess several qualifications for writing a book of this nature. These include his nine years of studying the science of Galileo at Jesuit institutions, his contagious enthusiasm for intellectual discovery, and the fact that Galileo is one of his personal heroes.
As the title implies, a good portion of the book is devoted to a presentation of the science of Galileo. After tracing the historical development of Greek science in chapter one, DiCanzio spends the next ten chapters relating the illustrious scientific career of Galileo Galilei. He describes Galileo's discoveries, inventions, and publications in great detail. Included in his presentation are a number of diagrams, mathematical equations, and quotes from translations of important historical Latin documents. DiCanzio has visited all of the significant historical sites associated with Galileo's life and scientific career and many of his own photographs are included at the end of each chapter. He also spends several chapters describing Galileo's confrontation with the Catholic church which eventually led to his trial and condemnation for defending a Copernican understanding of the solar system.
The past, present, and future significance of Galileo's science is the central theme of the last two chapters of the book. DiCanzio thinks that Galileo's contributions to science have been understated and even sometimes misunderstood. By linking Galileo's science to a multitude of more recent inventions and discoveries, he attempts to set the record straight. He begins by explaining how Galileo was instrumental in reshaping the "abstract clay of Aristotelian logic and natural philosophy" that had dominated western thinking in science for centuries. This revolution in scientific thinking was accomplished through his synthesis of inductive, deductive, hypothetical, and empirical methodologies. DiCanzio then relates some different ways in which the unfinished work of Galileo, particularly in the fields of dynamics and mechanics, laid the foundation for the discoveries of Isaac Newton. After making connections between the work of Galileo and the science of Albert Einstein, the author summarizes a number of other ways in which Galileo has impacted more recent discoveries in science. Included in this summary are Galileo's contributions to astronomy and the physics of black holes, his groundwork in the field of computing technology, and his application of mathematics to a variety of practical matters which foreshadowed the science of operations research.
In the epilogue, which is more than thirty pages in length, DiCanzio concludes his book by debunking seven present day "myths" surrounding the life and work of Galileo. Also included in the epilogue is a scathing attack on what the author believes to have been Galileo's most formidable foe: the indoctrination and inflexibility of the Catholic church. DiCanzio includes two modern-day case studies (one from his own experience as a student within the Jesuit educational system) that vividly illustrate the fact that institutional indoctrination and inflexibility is a threat to individual freedom of expression even today. The final pages of the book are devoted to a discussion of the current relationship between science and the (Catholic) church. DiCanzio applauds the recent efforts of Pope John Paul II, who is seeking to redefine the role of his church in a way that is consistent with Galilean philosophy. He writes of Pope John Paul II:
Of all Popes in history, he is first to issue a mandate for Church teachings to conform to scientific findings, one that is motivated by Galileo's philosophy of science. This is nothing less than a clarion call for the eventual abandonment of indoctrination (p.330).
In the author's opinion, Galileo is not only one of the greatest scientists of all time and a pioneer in the development of a rational epistemology, but he is also the supreme champion for the cause of individual freedom of expression.
This book is recommended to anyone with an interest in the history of science, to science instructors in general, and to those intrigued by past and present interactions between the disciplines of science and religion. DiCanzio's style of writing is informative, engaging and often interspersed with bits of humor. His thorough research is documented by the numerous footnotes which are found throughout the book at the bottom of nearly every page. Other important pieces of information are included in four appendices which are followed by a bibliography and an extensive index. While readers of this book may not always agree with the author's conclusions, they should come away with a greater appreciation for Galileo, whose work fanned the flames of the seventeenth century scientific revolution in spite of the vigorous attempts on behalf of the Church and the contemporary scientific community to stamp those flames out.
Reviewed by J. David Holland, Instructor of Biology, Springfield College in Illinois, Springfield, IL 62702.
1Subscribers who mail orders prepaid by check or money order to: ADASI Publishing Co., Dept. PSCF, 1465 Woodbury Ave. #261, Portsmouth, NH 03801 are entitled to an all-inclusive price of $29.50 and may return the book for a refund within 30 days if not satisfied.
EVANGELICALISM IN BRITAIN 1935˝1995: A Personal Sketch by Oliver Barclay. Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
Today's evangelical situation in Britain has changed dramatically from the late 1920s when Bishop Hensley Hensen described evangelicals as "an army of illiterates generalled by octogenarians" (p.9). No longer are evangelicals a beleaguered, shrinking minority, but a major force to be reckoned with in British Christianity.
Since 1938, Barclay, a zoologist and former General Secretary of University and Colleges Christian Fellowship and former Secretary of Christians in Science, has been an active participant in the life of British evangelicalism. Evangelicalism in Britain 1935˝1995 is an eyewitness account of many of the organizations, leaders, and events that have made evangelicalism a prominent movement within British Christianity. Although events and figures in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland are mentioned, most of the narrative deals with developments in England.
Barclay first seeks to define classical evangelicalism using four distinctives set forth by historian David Bebbington: biblicism (all of life is ruled by the teaching of Scripture); crucicentrism (the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners, the benefits of which are received by grace alone and through faith alone); conversionism (new birth by the work of the Holy Spirit); and activism (primarily in the area of evangelism). To these distinctives one more is added: evangelicalism is Christ-centered, "The cross can become a cold doctrine, the Bible a mere collection of precepts, and the new birth a merely psychological experience, if they do not depend totally on a personal relationship with the living Jesus Christ" (pp.10˝2).
Classical evangelicals are distinguished both from liberal evangelicals, who do not share the same commitment to the total reliability of the Bible or the substitutionary atonement, and from fundamentalists, whose corporate life is marked by withdrawal from, and not constructive engagement with, modern culture (pp.12˝3).
Barclay's reflections begin with the prewar period, which is described as the "doldrums." Evangelical pastors were a small minority in most denominations and evangelicals were declining in overall numbers. Only 3% of Anglican ordinands were evangelical (p.18). Evangelicals fought for survival. Theological education was neglected; preaching and teaching generally lacked depth of biblical doctrine; evangelical leadership was characterized by anti-intellectualism; and evangelicalism was often defined, for the most part, by its reaction against the prevailing scientific, moral, and cultural climate of the day (pp.42˝3). Yet, the strengths were many, too.
The ordinary members of the (classical evangelical) churches had a knowledge of the Bible that far surpasses ours in the 1990s. They also had a willingness to apply what they found, if need be, with a level of self-sacrifice that puts us to shame in our much more comfortable generation that will not risk careers, financial security, or comfort. Their vision may have been narrower than ours, but it went deeper in important ways. They would have thought of much modern evangelicalism as dangerously complacent and superficial. They knew that they were in a battle for the gospel nationwide (p.44).
Barclay chronicles the years during and following World War II which saw the emergence of a new generation of evangelical leadership marked by intellectual competency in the academic world (particularly in the area of biblical studies) and committed to a renewed emphasis of biblical doctrine. Expository preaching characterized the ministries of an increasing number of pastors, such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, William Still, and John Stott. Student ministries grew rapidly. InterVarsity and other evangelical publishers began to provide quality commentaries and Christian literature that would give direction to a new generation of students and future leaders. A renewed evangelical social activism began to organize and expand during the 1960s.
Observations are made on significant divisions within evangelicalism: the tensions between evangelicals who chose to remain in more liberal denominations, particularly the Anglican Church, and those who left; turmoil surrounding the emergence of the charismatic movement in non-Pentecostal denominations; and the theological division over social involvement that arose between evangelicals who acknowledged all acts for social good as manifestations of the kingdom of God, and those who refrained from using the term "kingdom" to describe "righteous acts done by unbelievers" (pp.110˝1).
If Barclay's story began with an evangelicalism that was small, besieged, and defensive, it ends with a present day evangelicalism that is increasing numerically and expanding in influence. As church membership in Britain continues to decline, many evangelical churches are growing. However, the growth is not without problems and challenges. It has the potential of leading to a dangerous triumphalism (p.114), and the "deficit of biblical knowledge" among younger evangelicals is alarming (p.115). Evangelical worship is increasingly marked by the methods of the entertainment world, and the seriousness of the Gospel can be lost (p.116). While short-term Christian service is popular, evangelicals of the 1990s, like the culture at large, are "not inclined to be committed to anything long-term, either in planning their future careers or in their friendships" (p.117). Concerns are raised about methods of biblical interpretation among more liberal evangelicals, for "in the name of hermeneutics, the ethical teaching of the apostles (as traditionally understood) on such matters as church order, male-female relationships in the home and the church, and more recently on homosexual practice, is set aside by some and treated as merely the first-century expression of practical policies that we can apply quite differently today" (p.122).
Barclay argues that evangelical reemergence in the 1940s and 1950s was due, in large part, to a recovery of love for biblical doctrine; to the development of a "whole biblical outlook that was derived from careful study of the text and focused in Jesus Christ;" to wonder before a God who is holy, majestic, and sovereign; and to a grasp of certain biblical themes that enabled them to grapple with the challenges of contemporary culture (pp.135˝6).
Evangelicals of the 1990s, Barclay concludes, need a widespread recovery of the final authority of Scripture, and its centrality in daily life.
There must be commitment to biblical Christianity in dependence on the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand the Bible, and to apply its teaching to ourselves and to the hearts and minds of believers and unbelievers alike. Given that foundation, it should be possible to recapture for a more nearly biblical position much more of the life and thought of the churches and, from there, of the life and thought of the community (p.142).
Several editorial blemishes need correction in future reprints. Chapter 5 is incorrectly denominated following its initial page. Names of several individuals referred to in the text are absent from the index.Books such as Barclay's are important companions to the works of professional historians. The mature reflections and thoughtful assessments of those who have been major participants in the evangelical struggle are invaluable. The book is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Charles Wingard, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church North Shore, Ipswich, MA 01938.
THE ROVING MIND by Isaac Asimov. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997. 350 pages. Paperback; $18.95.
Many readers of this journal will have read books by Isaac Asimov. His output of almost five hundred volumes (and thousands of essays) before his death in 1992 included many popular books about science, many collections of essays on a wide range of topics, and some of the classics of the science fiction genre. He was a biochemist but spent much of his life writing to make science widely accessible and influential, rather than doing scientific research himself.
This book is a re-issue of a volume first published in 1983. The new edition includes tributes by many well-known scientists and authors who were Asimov's friends or collaborators. The sixty-two essays here are arranged in seven sections: the religious radicals, other aberrations, population, science: opinion, science: explanation, the future, and personal. These essays immediately demonstrate Asimov's roving mind, his wit, his intelligence, and his directness of expression.
There are places in these essays where some of his musings about the future already seem limited, but that is the risk associated with prediction. And there are places where Asimov's commitment to a position makes him treat those committed to opposing viewpoints in a harsh or heavy-handed manner. He certainly did not believe in a Creator of the cosmos whose scientific study so captivated him. Nonetheless, this book can be recommended as a stimulating and entertaining diversion. And, I suspect for many of you, as for me, a source of insight into a complicated personality who was the author of many books that have been sources of fascination and delight.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, Professor of Computer Science and President, University of Regina, Regina, SK S4S OA2, Canada.
DARWIN'S LEAP OF FAITH by John Ankerberg and John Weldon. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1998. 392 pages, index. Paperback; $10.99.
Darwin's Leap of Faith is a very fine review of historic and contemporary source materials relevant to the position represented.
The stated "central thesis" of the book is "to show that the theory of evolution is scientifically in error and that, therefore, its overarching consequences are also in error" (p.17; emphasis mine). Accordingly, the authors claim that "the heart of this book" is "scientific evaluation" (p.18; emphasis mine). But in their introductory "Note to the Reader," they admit that they "are not scientists" and "do not have science backgrounds" (p.7). Thus predictably, the bulk of the book's presentation may be characterized as opinions of the authors integrating and summarizing assertions and opinions by scientists and nonscientists, supplemented by voluminous citations from secondary and popular sources. One searches in vain for actual "scientific evaluation" and just where "scientific error" is demonstrated may be entirely a matter of opinion. The authors rightly point out that " the interpretation of the data is the key issue. The same data can be interpreted either way, depending on one's assumptions" (p.286).
We recognize almost immediately a patient reworking of all the old standard young Earth, flood geology, recent creation, and anti-evolutionary arguments. These arguments are based on the convictions of the authors of these arguments which have been quoted in discussions of such matters for one hundred years. Included, however, are many more recent authors with supporting observations and perspectives. Ankerberg and Weldon do not seem to offer any original contribution of their own, but are very dependent upon their compilation of an overwhelming proportion of supporting citations. In most cases, references contained within the numerous quotations are neither cited anywhere in their bibliography nor in the thirty-eight pages of "Notes," thus limiting the reader's access to the alleged confining literature. Indicative of this marked dependency are the citations of one valuable two-volume work, for example, numbering over 130!
Ankerberg's and Weldon's position may be recognized by a few of the authors who are the most frequently cited in support: Bolton Davidheiser, 23 citations; Henry Morris, 31 citations; Duane Gish, 40 citations; Marvin Lubenow, 54 citations; and the Institute for Creation Research Quarterly and publications of allied societies, 76 citations.
Another revealing sequence is demonstrated in chapter fourteen, "More Monkey Business; Human Evolution and Missing Evidence," whose material this reviewer would know best. Almost every one of this chapter's fifty-five paragraphs deals with opinions or assertions from fifty-four citations and the authors' affirming commentary, yet with scarcely any attempt at analysis of data or "scientific evaluation."
But let us deal with a few less trivial observations:
(a) The discussion of the Genesis Flood (pp.301˝8) contributes nothing new and somehow manages to repeat the avoidance of the significant issues. The authors follow Morris here, even quoting his more vulnerable admissions as when he finds:
... many difficulties in applying Flood geology to the entire geological column. These become especially troublesome in trying to correlate all of the local columns of the world with each other and all within the context of one global flood... (pp. 303˝4).
The difficulty could hardly have been expressed better! I have always tried to point out in such discussions the simple observation that, though there are many great geological evidences of floods, there do not seem to be any cases where such a significant phenomenon may be traced with any continuity or correlation across or between continents.
Having stated the obvious fact of these "many difficulties" but, saddled with his basic assumptions, Morris is forced to simply decide that the Genesis Flood is not only Providentially, but geologically unique: "it cannot really be compared with later geological processesˇnot even other major geological catastrophes" (p. 304, emphasis mine).1
But there seems to be a hesitation on the part of Morris and all those who dogmatically stand with him to apply his concluding caution to themselves:
It is better to leave some geological problems for further study than to let uniformitarian [or Flood-based] pseudo-science and our own limited understanding dictate our biblical interpretations (p.304, bracketed paraphrase mine).2
The question (or issue) is, as has long been recognized, not primarily one of a local versus a worldwide flood emphasized by Morris, Ankerberg and Weldon, and others, but rather the assumed implications of how long ago a worldwide flood could have taken place. It is in this arena that the desperate manipulation of the interpretation of geological data and the conspicuous avoidance of Western Hemisphere archaeology and its documented, ancient continuity of human occupation is found. For if it included North and South America, humanity could only have reached there after the Flood of Noah.
(b) The much overworked argument of circular reasoning, that fossils are dated by their strata, and the strata by the contained fossils (pp.297˝8), is offered with no up-dated or improved insight whatever; only the same assertions from the same superficial observation and misapplied logic.
(c) On pp.142˝4, the authors present "logical fallacies" of evolution. It is obviously gratifying to illustrate 12 specific types of such fallacies. But to readers of either or any persuasion, it is perfectly obvious that most of them (in this case nine out of the twelve) apply equally to the arguments of the principal creationists!
(d) The categorical denial of the role of genetic mutations in evolution (pp.276˝7) brings the authors close to denying their role in the very process of the development of human races from Adam to Noah and from Noah to the present diversity of humanity. Here, again, the concern with the opposition to the larger philosophical issues clouds the handling of the factual elements.
(e) In their discussion of evolution being considered tantamount to a religion, the authors cite almost exclusively those anti-evolutionists who call evolution a "religion" or who cite those who do, with no reference to evolutionists themselves treating evolution as religion or embracing it or responding to it as "their own" religion.
In summary, if the references cited within the multitude of quotations of the book could be documented in the "Notes," this volume would provide a valuable compendium of resource materials for those of the authors' particular creationist interpretation of the Bible. However, for those creationists who do not share their interpretations, but who accept a more conventional view of an astronomical, geological, and palaeontological antiquity as compatible with the biblical text, this volume would probably have no value.
1Quoted from Henry Morris, "The Geological Column and the Flood of Genesis," Creation Research Society Quarterly (June 1996): 54˝7.
Reviewed by James O. Buswell III, Professor of Anthropology and V.P. for Academic Affairs, The Wm. Carey Intl. Univ., Pasadena, CA 91104.
THE CREATION/EVOLUTION CONTROVERSY: An Annotated Bibliography by James L. Hayward. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 1998. 188 pages; author, title and subject indexes. Hardcover; $37.50.
Hayward holds a Ph.D. in zoology and teaches courses in genetics, ecology, and the history of life at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. He has done research in the nesting ecology of ancient dinosaurs and living gulls.
This volume contains 447 annotated references that address the subject indicated in the title. Its purpose is to provide information concerning the various approaches vis-a-vis science and Christian faith.
Chapter one gives an introduction to the creation/evolution controversy. Discussed are the substance of William Paley's "argument from design" and the rejection of this view by Charles Darwin as well as the development of evolutionary thought and the creationist movement. In chapter two, Hayward includes historical references to the aforementioned subjects arranged chronologically by date of original publication. Chapter three offers works that detail the progression of the creation/evolution debate.
Chapters four through seven are divided into theistic and nontheistic works. Chapter four contains philosophical, theological, and general references and chapter five deals with volumes that address physics and cosmology. Chapter six deals with "earth science" which is " the view that huge crustal plates move around on the earth's surface║ " (p.164). Biology and anthropology are the disciplines addressed in chapter seven.
This book is "user friendly" in that the indices make it easy to find material addressing every aspect of the creation/evolution controversy. Each reference is accompanied by a concise description of the view presented.I found few errors. One worth mentioning is found on p.45 where Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is described as a "theistic evolutionist." He is more correctly identified as a "naturalistic creationist," after the fashion of Fred Hoyle and N. Wickranasinghe, who were pantheists (or panentheists). Works not included that come to my attention are Herbert Butterfield's Origins of Modern Science (1957), Aldert van de Ziel's The Natural Sciences and the Christian Message (1960) and Genesis and Scientific Inquiry (1965), and Michael Beauman, ed., Man and Creation (1993).
This work is highly recommended. It may be a bit "pricey" for individuals, but should be available in university and seminary libraries.
Reviewed by Ralph E. MacKenzie, 5051 Park Rim Dr., San Diego, CA 92117.
OBJECTIVES SUSTAINED: Subversive Essays on Evolution, Law & Culture by Phillip E. Johnson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998. 188 pages. Hardcover.
Johnson has become well known to the members of the ASA and readers of this journal. He has taught law at the University of California, Berkeley, for 30 years. His previous books include Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance, and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (all IVP).
This book is a collection of essays most of which have appeared in one or the other of two journals: First Things and Books and Culture. Part I includes nine chapters discussing issues concerning Darwinism and the physical sciences. Part II (22 chapters) involves the influence that Darwinism has had in law and cultural issues. Johnson points to divisions within the naturalistic campˇthe Darwinists vs. the Huxleyists. However, "both contending parties made it clear that what unites the warring factions of evolutionists is faith in evolutionary naturalism and opposition to the possibility of divine creation" (p. 17).
Chapter two, "What is Darwinism?" when originally delivered as a lecture provoked a furious reaction from theistic evolutionists present. Johnson defines terms such as creationism, evolution, science, religion and truth. He accuses Darwinists of "imperialism"ˇthe view that science can explain everything (p.24). Social Darwinism is covered in chapter three where Johnson shows how its innate racism and misogyny embarrasses the larger Darwinism community. In "Daniel Dennett's Dangerous Idea" (chap. 6), the point is made that in the academic world, "Darwinism is not merely a biological theory but a way of thinking about the world that generates powerful conclusions all the way up and all the way down" (p.57).
Chapter seven, "The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism," addresses the "macro" vs. "micro" issue and Johnson observes: "For scientific materialists, the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter" (p. 72). "The Gorbachev of Darwinism" (chap. 8) reveals the "in house debate" in Darwinism between Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. In chapter nine, the "intelligent design" thesis is addressed in "A Metaphysics Lesson." The philosophical naturalism which provides the underpinning for statements coming from the U.S. National Association of Biology Teachers is revealed and the resulting criticism forces Darwinists to attempt to put a "theistic spin" on their materialism.
Part II (chap. 10ˇ22) includes mostly book reviews dealing with the effect that philosophical naturalism has exerted on law and culture. "Engaging the Third Culture" (chap. 10) is a review of a book written by John Brookman, Engaging The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 1995). It is a collection of interviews with 23 scientists who, while representing different disciplines, share a belief in metaphysical naturalism. Johnson discusses the distinction between "methodological" and "metaphysical" naturalism; the former position held by theistic evolutionists causes some consternation between them and their "creationist" brethren. (Also see: "Appendix: Naturalism, Methodological & Otherwise" in Reason in the Balance.)
"The Law & Politics of Religious Freedom" (chap. 11) looks at the Supreme Court's decisions on religious issues in academic institutions. Johnson's conclusion: "Protestants are at last realizing what Catholics understood all along: the notion that a religion-free secular knowledge is all we really need is anything but neutral on religious questions" (p. 111).
"How the Universities Were Lost" (chap. 12) reviews two books: George Marsden's The Soul of the American University and Douglas Sloan's Faith and Knowledge, both of which "show how and why Christians forfeited their standing in the intellectual world" (p.114). (This same topic is addressed in James Turner's Without God, Without Creed [John Hopkins University Press, 1985].)
In "Wundergadfly" (chap. 13), Johnson examines the life and career of Paul Feyerabend. Feyerabend began his academic journey in physics, then moved into the study of philosophy of science. After beginning as a student of Karl Popper, he "became notorious as the leading voice for `epistemological anarchism,' the precursor of what today we call postmodernism" (p. 122).
"Gideon's Uncertain Trumpet" (chap. 14) concerns the options of Anthony Lewis, a garden-variety political liberal who writes for the New York Times. "Left Behind" (chap. 15) is a review of a book by Todd Gitlin, The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America is Wracked by Cultural Wars. Gitlin is a sociologist who was a founding member of the Berkeley "New Left" and bemoans the demise of the silliness that we now call political correctness.
In "Pomo Science" (chap. 16), Johnson looks at postmodernism which is the newest rage on the current philosophical scene. "Harter's Precept" (chap. 17) is an essay on the first principle all beginning scientists should heed: "You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool" (p.157). (Also on this topic, see Johnson's Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds [IVP].) "In the Circus of Death" (chap. 18), Johnson shows that ideology can affect the objectivity of the scientific community, in this case concerning the plague of AIDS. "Genius and Plot" (chap. 19) is an essay addressing the personal qualities that enabled Winston Churchill and Michael Polanyi to be successful in their respective fields.
"Facing Orthodoxy" (chap. 20) deals with the allure that Eastern Orthodoxy has had on believers from other communities. "The Law Written on the Heart" (chap. 21) is an examination of the doctrine of "natural law" which is the subject of a book by J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart (IVP, 1997). In chapter 22, "Making Law Sane," Johnson reviews a book by James Q. Wilson which deals with current criminal law.
Johnson has made a significant impact on themes addressing Darwinism, evolution, creation, and theism. He urges Christians to put our intramural differences (theistic evolution, young earth, old earth) aside and address the central philosophical premise that threatens orthodox Christianityˇnamely "Darwinian materialism." This book is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Ralph MacKenzie, 5051 Park Rim Dr., San Diego, CA 92117-1042.
SCIENCE FOR A POLITE SOCIETY: Gender, Culture and the Demonstration of Enlightenment by Geoffrey V. Sutton. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997. 391 pages, index. Paperback; $23.00.
Sutton earned a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from Princeton University. A postdoctoral appointment at the Bakken Library of the University of Minnesota and more permanent work running physics laboratories and demonstrations at Macalester College allowed him to expand his thesis research into the present volume.
The thesis of Science for a Polite Society is that entertainment in the form of popular lecture-demonstrations contributed much to the Enlightenment deification of science as the ideal pattern for human thought. Enlightenment was demonstrated in the lecture hall, and entertaining lecture-demonstrations convinced doubters and advanced the causes of science and liberal thinking. Sutton presents science as an important element of intellectual culture in post-Renaissance France. Organizationsˇmiddle-class as well as aristocraticˇsprang up for the discussion of natural and other philosophies. Everyday people expounded and debated important ideas in natural philosophy; the polite society of the title refers to the emphasis on politesse in speech and debate in these gatherings.
Sutton makes much of the fact that Enlightenment science was not acceptedˇcontrary to the science- historical mythosˇbecause of experimental results, but because of the way it dovetailed with current systems of thought. Based on the real situation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries AD, Sutton believes that several theories may be able to account for the same facts. His book concentrates on France, where until the mid-eighteenth century the Cartesian system of vortices and subtle matters dominated, and thinkers prided themselves on their ability to invent "pretty novels of physics."
For Sutton, since theory is underdetermined by fact, theory is an accident of society. While I cannot agree with Sutton's strong social constructionist view with regard to theory, he makes a very good case for experiment as subsequent, not antecedent, to theory during the Enlightenment. Yet the mythos claimed, and still claims, that theory was constructed from experimental results; in the teeth of the evidence around and within them, contemporary natural philosophers claimed hypotheses non fingo. Sutton makes a case for the adoption of Newtonian mechanics, not because it fit the facts betterˇmeasurement was not yet good enoughˇbut because it was associated with political liberalism. Partisans of the ancien r╚gime seemed to be largely Cartesian, while such radicals as Voltaire were convinced Newtonians because they admired English political liberality.
Instead of deriving theory from experiment, lecture-demonstrations and other experiments were used to confirm and explicate existing theory while providing public entertainment and overruling skeptics, very much in the manner of science educators, amateur scientists, and museum visitors down to our own day.1 For example, the cover story of the September 19, 1998, Science News (vol. 154, pp. 184˝6) points out that "people tend to use museums - to confirm or solidify ideas they already have."
Sutton presents a chatty yet careful exposition of the development of science, and more specifically experimental science, in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France. He documents the preeminence of female "amateurs" in Enlightenment science. Female-headed, fashionable salons were top-heavy with science demonstrations and discussions during the reign of Louis XIII, and the "amateur" ámilie du Chĺtelet produced a first-rate reconciliation of the competing Newtonian and Leibnizian systems in her Institutions de Physique in the mid-eighteenth century.One of Sutton's main theses is usually kept a closely-guarded trade secret: science is fun, and amateur scientists have just as much fun as professionals. They may even have more. As Mark Twain observed: "Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do." Professional scientists then and now would consider "electrified kisses," the rage in eighteenth-century salons, beneath their dignity, and many of the best experimental results in the new science of electricity were ignored because they smacked too much of sheer fun. Even the spectacular lecture-demonstration, beloved of the public for three hundred years and with the high goal of spreading scientific knowledge, has only recently been rescued from one and a half centuries of withering professional scorn.
Science for a Polite Society is an important addition and correction to the supposedly well-known story of the development of modern science from its Renaissance roots. More important, it's an entertaining read, and well worth a look by those interested in the history of science and in debunking the mythic superiority of scientific thought and practice.
1A good deal of the professional science of the modern age is also devoted to confirming and explicating existing theory, if only by pushing the theory until it breaks.
Reviewed by Daniel J. Berger, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Bluffton College, 280 W. College Ave., Bluffton, OH 45817-1196.
SCIENCE, THEOLOGY AND CONSCIOUSNESS: The Search for Unity by John Boghosian Arden. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998. 189 pages. Hardcover; $55.00.
Arden is the Chief Psychologist at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo and Vacaville, California. In this book, he makes the fundamental point that simple materialism or simple dualism is unable to adequately describe the nature of consciousness, but that one must take full account of the interconnectivity of human beings and the coevolution of their biophysiological and psychological processes. He also questions such terms as "determinism," "linearity," "objectivity," and "reductionism." He seeks to use a "multidimensional process in which multidirectional causal interrelationships occur." Also, he seeks to incorporate inputs from evolutionary theory, physics, theology, philosophy, and psychology. Unfortunately, he does this in a repetitive and multisyllabic formalism, which detracts from the readability of the book. His key word is "coevolution," which seems to occur on almost every page; the Index lists thirty-one references for "coevolution." "Because human beings coevolve with many dimensions in the environment we have constructed exceedingly complex coevolutionary relationships with one another. Human consciousness reflects the complexity of these coevolutionary relationships." His overall approach is summarized: "an evolutionary theology that includes elements of the perennial philosophy with new developments in science and the study of consciousness."
Although one might well agree with the general emphasis of the book, namely, the importance of complexity and interaction, it is difficult to see how this book could be directly helpful to one seeking to understand the interaction between authentic science and Christian theology in the search for an understanding of consciousness. "The antiquated belief that there is an objective reality out there about which all observers can agree conflicts with the contextual nature of all phenomena." His goal appears to be more consistent with a New Age approach: "one may envision an evolutionary theology in which the natural sciences, psychology, and the perennial philosophy achieve a coherent synthesis." In a chapter on the meaning of dreams, he concludes that "dreams represent a sensitive state of consciousness through which the dreamer may have psi type experiences." While he is inclined to reject reincarnation, he feels that "the preponderance of evidence suggests that some of these (psi phenomena) ║ may be valid." He indicates that "I view God as the totality of the universe itself."
His references to Christian theology are very limited. "Very few people achieve complete `openness'ˇChrist and the Buddha perhaps exemplify this extreme." He prefers to refer to "sociotheological systems" rather than to "theological systems." He separates world religions into three types. One is the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion in which "God is a hybrid, evolved over thousands of years as several cultures coevolved. It is an amalgamation of myths." The New Testament records can be considered "crude approximations and distortions of the message." The story of Jesus blends the themes of renewal, growth, and new life myths into the story of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The other two types of religion considered are the Hindu-Jainist-Buddhist spectrum and the Confucianist-Taoist-Buddhist spectrum. "Perhaps the energy of highly evolved individuals, such as Christ and the Buddha, is widely absorbed into the consciousness of others."
At times, the author's lack of familiarity with some key issues strikes the reader with surprise. In describing modern physics, he writes: "Particles, such as electrons, are neither just waves nor just particles, but a mixture of both in appropriate contexts. They are commonly thought to exist in a `wavepack' (sic)ˇa probability wave." Psi-phenomena "may also reflect a connection between the wave functions of matter and consciousness." "Because of the unfortunate concept of original sin, theologians needed to resolve the problem that this concept created." In referring to Teilhard de Chardin's concept of "the omega point," using the final letter of the Greek alphabet, omega, as the ultimate result of evolutionary process transforming matter to spirit to personality to God, the author writes: "The term omega point is derived from the Greek letter O. He added `mega' to denote greatness."
This may be a useful book in providing insight and information about how the viewpoint advanced by the author can be described and propounded. But it is not a useful book to help relate the relationship among "science, theology, and consciousness."
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Emeritus Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
LIMNING THE PSYCHE: Explorations in Christian Psychology by Robert C. Roberts and Mark R. Talbot, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997. 373 pages, including collated references and subject index. Paperback; $24.00.
Despite its puzzling title, Limning the Psyche comprises a stimulating and illuminating collection of essays reflecting on human nature and experience from a Christian perspective. According to the editors, Christian psychology needs to be nurtured by "interdisciplinary conversations" (p.19) contained in this book. Ostensibly, their intention is to model that important process and to contribute to the substance of those conversations. On both counts, the book is a success.
Although the seventeen chapters making up the book are written by fifteen different scholars (one of the editors contributes three chapters) who represent nearly a dozen institutions and four or five different academic disciplines, the overall message is remarkably unified. Several themes readily emerge. One is the crucial place of agency in defining human personhood. Although this theme is most fully developed in "Human Agency and its Social Formation" (chap. 8) in which Johnson links agency with qualities of embodiment, co-agency, inwardness, will, moral choice, and responsibility, it is also prominent in several other chapters (particularly chaps. 5, 6, 9, and 10) and implicit in all. A second strong theme is that of our interdependence upon and relatedness with each other. Prominent in several chapters (e.g., chaps. 2, 4, 5, and 11), this theme is particularly emphasized in Vitz's treatment of Christian personality theory (chap. 2). It contrasts sharply with the radical individualism of contemporary psychology. A third major theme is the pervasive place and influence of sin in human experience. This theme is central to the chapters entitled "Sin and Addiction" (chap. 13) and "Sin and Psychosis" (chap. 14) respectively, and figures prominently in chapters one and five as well.
Less explicit, yet still very evident, are several other threads running throughout the book. The call for Christians to apply biblical principles to psychology is emphasized in Griffith's essay, "Metaphysics and Personality Theory," and illustrated in several other chapters. We are urged to construct our psychology on the firm foundation of Christian theology and to make no apology for doing so. A related point is the acknowledgement of valuable insights which ascetic and spiritual theology traditions can offer to modern psychology, admirably illustrated in chapters 16 and 17 and alluded to in others. In addition, the very composition of the book recognizes the contributions of various disciplinary perspectives and historical periods to the creation of a broad and balanced Christian psychology. Finally, by their example, the contributors affirm the value of grappling with both large human nature questions and more focused topics, such as addictions, as part of our efforts to form Christian psychology.
In my view, the book has one nonfatal yet troubling weakness. For an edited work, its coherence and internal consistency are commendable. However, the ordering of chapters seems rather arbitrary and no real conclusion is provided. In general, the book proceeds from the broader framework of personality theory to more focused topics such as attachment, addictions, and gluttony, though even that pattern has exceptions (e.g., conflict resolution is the topic of chap. 4). Perhaps this is deliberate, and the editors hope to leave their readers eagerly engaging in further "interdisciplinary conversations" of their own. Nevertheless, having been deeply stirred and challenged, I was left dangling after the final chapter, wondering how to fit it all together. It seems to me that chapter two ("A Christian Theory of Personality") or chapter five ("Parameters of a Christian Psychology") would fit better at the end, since subsequent topics do not particularly build on them, and either of them could provide a measure of closure. I am still pondering this point.
Perhaps the aforementioned weakness is really a disguised strength. The task of exploring psychology Christianly is by nature one in which consensus will not readily be achieved, and may not even be desirable. The diversity of theological perspective, topical coverage, disciplinary angle, and even tone of writing represented in the book is a realistic reflector of the multitude of ways in which we, in our fallenness and fallibility, go about seeking truth. I expect that any reader will connect with the perspectives of some (but likely not all) of the writers. Indeed, while all the contributions are scholarly and credible, some include more personal reflections and insights as well. Two examples are Alien's description of his own struggles to manage anger (chap. 14), and Neal's suggestions about parenting sensitively in order to foster intelligent agency in our children (chap. 9). I found these and other insights to be of more than academic interest alone.
This book will appeal to thoughtful Christians wishing to deepen their grasp of the ways in which disciplines such as theology, philosophy, and history can enlighten contemporary psychology. If you would like to know more about how historic Christian faith enriches our psychology, and you don't mind having your thinking challenged, Limning the Psyche should definitely go on your reading list. If you need to (as I did), use the dictionary to find out what the title means!
Reviewed by Harold W. Faw, Professor of Psychology, Trinity Western University, Langley, BC Canada.
END-TIME VISIONS: The Road to Armageddon? by Richard Abanes. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998. 326 pages, index, notes, appendices. Hardcover; $25.95.
Here is a book that will appeal to academics who deal all too often with adolescents caught up in the frenzy of yet another end-times movement. At the least, this work ought to be in a nearby library; it is one which may find an honored place in your own bookshelf.
The author, a Christian journalist specializing in cults and new religious movements, focuses on society's obsessionˇapparently growingˇwith the end of the world. His treatment is broadly historical, includes several non-U.S. groups, and names names as he demonstrates, in a scholarly yet readable manner, how end-time movements are born, grow, and survive their inevitable falsifications.
Among the "prophets" exposed in this work are Jack Van Impe, Tim LaHaye, William Goetz, Pat Robertson, Hal Lindsey, and others, including several "prophets" of past generations. Excerpts from their writings are quoted to show how their messages change as the dates they confidently predict arrive and the events they expect are not manifested. In many cases, Abanes documents direct and blatant lies told by some of these "men of God."
The author concludes with a sober chapter on what Scripture clearly teaches about end times. That Scripture is found in Acts 1:7, as well as in other places.
This book is a "keeper" and is highly recommended to ASA members.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, 6731 CR 203, Durango CO 81301.
SKEPTICS ANSWERED by D. James Kennedy. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers Inc., 1997. 203 pages. Hardcover; $18.99.
Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has written more than thirty books, including Why I Believe, Evangelism Explosion, and What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? Kennedy earned a doctorate in comparative religions at New York University.
In this book, Kennedy attempts to answer common questions put forth by skeptics: "Why should I believe the Bibleˇisn't it just a bunch of myths?" (pp.19˝30), "How do we know Jesus really lived?" (pp.71˝8), "Why do Christians insist Jesus is the only way to God?" (pp.101˝10), and "If God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist?" (pp.111˝36).
This last question also covers human suffering as a result of natural catastrophes. Kennedy comments:
All of these terrible events ultimately are a consequence of human sin as well. In the beginning, God's creation was good. Humankind lived in paradise, but Adam and Eve traded it all away in a poor exchange with the devil. They were expelled from paradise. Furthermore, a curse is manifest in nature, which is now "red in tooth and claw," to quote Alfred Tennyson, but it wasn't that way in the beginning, and it won't be that way later when Christ returns (Rom. 8:21˝22). Meanwhile, we live on a planet that writhes under God's curse (p.133).
Kennedy tackles the most difficult questions put forth by skeptics with solid answers. However, the best strength of this book may be the revealing quotes from the skeptics themselves: Carl Sagan (p.60), John Stuart Mill (p.92), Thomas Huxley (pp.93˝4), H.G. Wells (p.95), H.L. Mencken (p.96), Bernard Russell (p.138), Robert Ingersoll (p.151), and Julian Huxley (p.154).
For instance, Kennedy quotes Will Durant concerning Christ. Durant writes:
The contradictions [in the gospels] are of minutiae, not substance; in essentials the synoptic gospels agree remarkably well, and form a consistent portrait of Christ. In the enthusiasm of its discoveries Higher Criticism has applied to the New Testament tests of authenticity so severe that by them a hundred ancient worthiesˇe.g., Hammurabi, David, Socratesˇwould fade into legend (p.78).
Durant was a historian whom skeptics respected. In fact, he received the 1976 Humanist Pioneer Award. Yet he admitted what most skeptics today would deny. Many of the quotes in Skeptics Answered are excellent and well documented with primary sources. However, this strong point does have some weak spots. For instance, Kennedy fails to give any source but attributes the following quote to Voltaire: "O Christ, O Lord Jesus I must die abandoned by God and man" (p.145). John George is author of They Never Said It! and an expert on fake quotes. Concerning this quote he comments: "Voltaire died rather peacefully and, indeed, when asked `Do you recognize the divinity of Jesus Christ?' the life-long deist replied: `In name of God, let me die in peace.'" George cites two sources: Jonathan Green, Famous Last Words (London: Omnibus Press, 1979), p.203; and Joseph McCabe, Biographical Dictionary of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Freethinkers (Girard; KS: Haldeman-Julius, 1945).
Also Kennedy relates the story told about "a man in 1895 who survived a day and a half in a whale's belly" (p. 33). However, Edward B. Davis, professor of science and history at Messiah College, Pennsylvania, completely exposed this story as a tall tale in his article, "A Whale of a Tale: Fundamentalist Fish Stories," (PSCF, Vol. 43, no. 4 [December 1991]: 224˝35).
Skeptics Answered is a good book for those who want short, easy-to-understand answers to difficult questions. I used the study guide in the back of the book for a lesson series with my ten- and eleven-year-old sons. They found it very interesting. Skeptics Answered has a few bad quotes, but the vast majority of the book equips Christians with intelligent answers for the questions skeptics may ask.
Reviewed by Everette Hatcher III, P.O. Box 23416, Little Rock, AR 72221.
THE ONE PURPOSE OF GOD: An Answer to the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment by Jan Bonda. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1998. 267 pages. Paperback; $25.00.
This book, written by a retired Dutch Reformed pastor and translated from the original Dutch, is a challenge to the historic doctrine of eternal punishment. It contains a full index of Scripture references and bibliography. The author admits that he has always been troubled by the question of how a loving God could predestine most of humanity to eternal torment in hell. This motivated him to search the Bible to determine if this doctrine was scriptural. Bonda is obviously a committed believer with a high view of Scripture. It was refreshing to see that this was no liberal who felt free to ignore difficult Scripture passages, but rather a person committed to Scripture and yet wrestling with it. One had the impression Bonda was a Jacob wrestling with God to understand what the church has always declared a mystery.
Bonda's main points are: (l) Eternal punishment has been taught from the earliest times in the church; (2) We are called not to acquiesce in the "lostness" of our neighbors; (3) God wants all to be saved; (4) Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to save the whole world; (5) God has not given up on the Jews; (6) Old Testament prophets speak about judgment and hope for salvation after judgment; and (7) The purpose of God's punishment is always to make people turn to him. He makes these points by examining the teachings of church fathers and especially Paul's letter to the Romans. Bonda believes that references to eternal punishment are in accordance with what the Old Testament prophets wrote about it: God's punishment of wrongdoing is complete. It does not mean that his punishment lasts forever. Bonda says there is no scriptural reason to believe that there is no chance to repent after death. In fact, the majority of the human race will not die as believers and will undergo purging punishment until they come to faith in Christ. This especially applies to the Jews who reject the Messiah. God's promise to them is that "all Israel will be saved" and it does not do justice to the context of Romans to spiritualize "Israel" to mean "all believers."
The book was very effective in making the case that we are called to work, pray, and hope for the salvation of everyone. It convinced me that the Jews are not rejected by God, but that Paul had hope they would come to faith in Christ. It also convinced me that the word "eternal" does not always mean "everlasting" in the Bible, but rather denotes fullness or completeness. The book's major weakness is that it tends to ascribe clear meanings to Scriptures that do not obviously contain Bonda's meaning (e.g., 1 Corin. 15:28 is interpreted to mean that "all in all" refers to everyone eventually being saved). He also misses the difference between Christ's victory over the first death and God's final judgment in the "second death" (1 Corin. 15:54˝55, Rev. 20:13˝15; 21:8).
I highly recommend this book to every adult reader. It will stimulate thought and help you realize that God actually wants us to wrestle with him over the hard questions! (See Gen. 18 and Exod. 32.)
Reviewed by David Condron, Aerospace Engineer, 11678 Melcombe Ct, Woodbridge, VA 22192.
THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BIBLE ANSWERS by Ron Rhodes. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997. 384 pages, index. Paperback.
Rhodes is president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, "a discipleship ministry that exists to help Christians grow strong in the Word of God and equip them to become knowledgeable in the application of biblical wisdom." He holds a Th.D. from Dallas Seminary. From 1988 to 1995 he was heard on Christian Research Institute's Bible Answer Man radio call-in show. He served as the associate editor of the Christian Research Journal, and wrote The Heart of Christianity, The Culting of America, Angels Among Us, and The New Age Movement.
The Complete Book of Bible Answers deals with three hundred of the most common questions raised by his radio audience. The questions are classified by subjects like Bible, God, Jesus Christ, humanity and sin, salvation, angels and demons, the future life, apologetic issues, and ethics. Rhodes answers each question with a definite yes or no followed by a brief explanation of his position. The bibliography recommends books by John Ankerberg, Norman Geisler, Josh McDowell, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, and Ron Rhodes (thirteen entries).
Bible Answers employs biblical rationalism as its method for defending the truth. Rhodes believes the Bible is God's Word offering clear coherent answers to most questions. He continues: "I believe that nature and Scripture, properly interpreted, do not conflict ║ Since both of these revelations come from Godˇand since God does not contradict Himselfˇwe must conclude that these two revelations are in agreement with each other" (p.19). Contradictions are apparent and explainable by clear biblical passages and use of the original languages (p.17).
Theologically, the book is Dispensational and will appeal to many conservatives in his audience. However, at several points his theological reasoning appears unreasonable. For example, Rhodes makes an inductive leap to prove that all New Testament writers knew their writings were inspired by God. He bases his conclusion on four verses from Paul and John (p.15). Rational coherence is further strained when stating that God's sovereignty controls all causes and effects (p.160). Therefore, lost persons who are not chosen by God still get what they deserve (pp. 195˝8). But what is objectionable about believing in the limited atonement theory (that Jesus died for the elect only) if God has chosen the elect (pp.199˝206)? As a theologian, I question this reasoning especially when coherence is his test for truth (pp. 302˝3).
Scientifically, Bible Answers follows the creation science perspective. Rhodes calls for a literal reading of the Genesis creation and flood stories. Were humans created or did they evolve from apes? After restating the account of Gen. 1˝2, the book outlines problems in the evolutionary hypothesis. No sources are cited. And there is no evidence that the author is aware of current developments in science. After reiterating problems with the missing links, he concludes: "You can't breed two dogs and get a cat" (p.154). I am not aware of any evolutionist who believes this. Furthermore, according to the original languages the flood of Noah in Gen. 7 covered the whole earth (pp.47˝8). Rhodes holds that the scientific evidence for the universal flood is based upon worldwide diluvian deposits and universal flood legends. His source? The Ryrie Study Bible.
Rhodes makes the correct observation that theological and scientific discoveries are fallible human interpretations. But his conclusion is incomplete: "Hence the secularist cannot simply dismiss certain parts of the Bible because science and the Bible contradict" (p.20). The belief that his biblical interpretations are more objective than most others is presumptuous (pp.33˝5). Readers who accept this false certainty will encounter a crisis of faith when thoughtful theologians or scientists ask the questions. That was my experience in graduate school.
Commendably, Rhodes seeks thoroughly biblical answers for important questions of faith. He supports many evangelical doctrines with quality biblical references. And the book has some helpful popular responses to the cults. Readers sympathetic with the work of Christian Research Institute will find quick answers to many biblical questions. Popular audiences will be attracted to his common sense biblical approach. However evangelicals more familiar with critical biblical scholarship and current scientific theories know better than to search in The Complete Book of Bible Answers.
Reviewed by Tony G. Hiebert, Steinbach Bible College, Steinbach, MB R0A 2A0, Canada.