Book Reviews for September 1993
BEGINNINGS OF WESTERN SCIENCE: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical,
Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450 by David C. Lindberg.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992. 474 pages, 116 illustrations, notes,
references, index. Hardcover: $57.00, paper: $19.95.
In his address to the ASA at the 1991 Wheaton meeting, David Lindberg sketched the relationship of science and Christianity in the Middle Ages through the question of whether Christianity was an obstacle to, or basis for scientific progress. Neither view stands up to recent research, he argued, and, without the time to go into much depth then, he mentioned he was writing a book synthesizing current research on the history of science from antiquity through the Middle Ages. Here is that book.
David Lindberg is the Evjue-Bascom Professor of the History of Science and director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Perhaps most widely known among Perspectives readers for the volume he co-edited with Ronald Numbers, God and Nature, Lindberg is an Advisory Editor for Isis and Vice President of the History of Science Society. He has written extensively, particularly on the history of optics.
He begins by considering the nature of science, and early ideas of nature. Since it is not just centuries of accumulated fact that set modern science apart, it may not be obvious how or even if science can be traced back to antiquity. Raised on technical articles of focused content and spartan style, we might be permitted a little skepticism toward the likes of Lucretius who chose On the Nature of Things for a topic, and wrote in verse. But finding portents of our own thought, Lindberg argues, is not what history of science is about, and if we want to uncover the ideas and practices that lie behind modern science, we must work with a broad definition. Methodological themes of this sort are important throughout. The section on prehistory (based, perhaps unavoidably, on ethnography) employs the insightful work of Jack Goody on the distinction between oral and literate culture. Lindberg argues that philosophy and science could arise only with literacy, and that the "Greek miracle" owes much to "the emergence of Greece as the world's first widely literate culture" (p. 13).
The early chapters (2-7) trace developing views of the cosmos from Homer and Hesiod through Hellenistic, Roman and early medieval science. Lindberg introduces many thinkers, but it comes as no surprise that Aristotle gets a chapter of his own. Important not just in late antiquity, Aristotle became central once again from the 13th-century to the Renaissance. Lindberg is an expert in medieval science, and this review of science in antiquity is especially valuable for anticipating what we will need to know to comprehend later debates. Following an important chapter on science in Islam, about half the book (Chps. 9-13) is devoted to the revival of science, and learning generally, in the Middle Ages. A final chapter addresses significance for today, including such debates as whether the relation of medieval to modern science was one of continuity or discontinuity (Lindberg leans toward a discontinuity view, believing that there really was a scientific revolution).
Lindberg has written for students, the educated reader and historians. The book will also be of value to scientists, and, as Robert Richards points out in his exuberant dustjacket comments, the book is for specialists as well as newcomers. It would indeed be good for classroom use, though I hesitate to call it a textbook. That word conjures up the image of a dry compendium of facts about what many of us imagine to be a dry period for science, but even a brief foray into this volume will reveal that neither image is accurate. In this book, the emphasis on context has ensured that the factual material all has place and purpose. While a student unfamiliar with the outlines of Western history might see it differently, I recall no point at which the text bogged down with names, dates, or details. Yet these facts must have been there in force, for I have emerged with a long list of scholars whose work I want to pursue further, a task made easier by the extensive bibliography incorporating many original works, referenced in English editions.
And as for ancient and medieval science, you will almost certainly leave this book convinced that it was a more lively, interesting, open and productive affair than previously imagined. This result is aided by the book's style. One challenge for the historian of science is providing explanations of scientific ideas, often rather foreign ideas, to readers not necessarily trained in science. Lindberg does this well, which I noticed because of his emphasis on questions now studied under physics and mathematics (thus less familiar to me than biology), and because I have read other works which did not succeed so well. I cannot stress too much how important this is to keeping the tale connected.
Because Lindberg covers so much (surprisingly, this is the first ever review of ancient and medieval science in one volume!), because of the institutional emphasis, and simply because of the great need for a better understanding of the history of science, this will also be useful for those interested in the encounter between science and Christianity. This is less a goal of the book than a consequence of the subject and of Lindberg's willingness to give due recognition to, rather than disparage, the religious context and content. Those of us unfamiliar with this history are here introduced to important and often quite unexpected strands of thought. For example, it happens that the exclusion of the supernatural from explanation is not a new phenomenon, but characteristic of Hippocratic writings (p. 115), and rather more surprisingly, writings of 12th century Europe. Another view widespread in the 12th century was that God created, then left further developments to natural processes (p. 246). And two centuries later, Nicole Oresme suggested that passages of the Bible which seem to argue for a static earth could simply be accommodation to standard usage in speech (p. 260). Have you ever heard an argument that assumes one of these ideas or approaches to be a purely modern invention? More widely recognized is the medieval preference for syllogistic reasoning (p. 361) over experimentation. But while this is often portrayed as self-inflicted ignorance or dogmatic pig-headedness, Lindberg shows how it derives from the philosophical position that sense perceptions are not to be trusted. To observe that this view is also central to "post-modern" thought is not, I suppose, sufficient to deny its naivete or pig-headedness. But as with the other examples, it does serve to illustrate how interesting and relevant the subject matter can be, and does suggest the importance of a knowledge of history to current debates in science and Christianity. Lindberg has done us a great service by packing so much information and so many valuable ideas into so interesting and accessible a volume.
Reviewed by Paul K. Wason, Bates College, Lewiston, ME.
AND THE NATURAL SCIENCES: The Range of Engagement by J. E. Huchingson (ed.).
Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich College Publishers, 1993. 402 pages, glossary,
This book is an assembly of 48 readings by 47 different authors in contemporary natural science and the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, assembled by J. E. Huchingson of Florida International University. The papers from which these readings were taken were published between 1940 and 1991. Each reading concludes with a section on Questions for Study, Questions for Reflection, and Suggestions for Networking between different papers. The first half of the book is "an introduction to the discussion of science and religion," while the second half "deals with specific issues that arise in the individual sciences, from astronomy and physics to biology and ecology."
The advantage of this format is that the book provides a rich variety of inputs from many authors including Ian Barbour (the only author of more than one paper), H. Richard Niebuhr, Langdon Gilkey, Martin Buber, C. S. Lewis, Karl Popper, Albert Einstein, Paul Tillich, John Polkinghorne, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Arthur R. Peacocke, to give a sample of the many well known authors. It can therefore serve as a typical sampler for more detailed discussion groups or seminars on science and Christian faith. The disadvantage is that the length of most papers is very short, giving only a brief encapsulation of the author's thought; only 9 papers are 10 pages or more long, whereas 21 papers are 5 pages or less.
A very wide range of perspectives is included. This could be an advantage if the book is used under knowledgeable guidance, but it could also be a disadvantage since the book is a sampler, not an integrator of the thoughts presented. I did a purely subjective evaluation of the various papers with respect to their general value for someone committed to understanding the interaction between science and Christian theology, giving grades of A (excellent), B (helpful to some extend), or C (not helpful, or raises more problems than it resolves); my scoresheet showed 9 A's, 20 B's and 19 C's.
Part 1 is entitled "The Range of Engagement" and includes seven papers on general issues involving the interaction of science and geology. The leading paper is an excellent summary by Ian Barbour on "Ways of Relating Science and Religion," which is 29 pages long, the longest paper in the book. Subsections deal with "Surveying the Possibilities," "Making Connections," and "Affirming Differences."
Part II includes five papers, is entitled "Words, Images, and Stories," and is intended "to clarify the specific tasks carried out in language in science and religion and to recognize their similarities and differences within each domain."
Part III includes nine papers and is entitled, "The Two-Storied Universe." Subsections are entitled "Principles and Problems," "Einstein and the Transcendent God," and "Miracles." It is directed toward exploring "the nature-supernature split and its implications."
Part IV includes eleven papers and is entitled, "The Cosmos," including subsections entitled, "Cosmology and Creation," "Universe by Design?," and "Microcosmos." The papers included here "are chosen to highlight several of the discoveries of twentieth-century astronomy and physics that have contributed to the dialogue between science and religion."
Part V includes nine papers and is entitled, "Life," including subsections entitled, "Creation and Evolution," and "The Approach of Sociobiology." The papers included deal with the explanation for life. Authors range from Duane Gish to Edward O. Wilson. "Is life more than or different from its material composition in that each of us consists of something that is simply not totally accounted for by physics and chemistry?"
Part VI includes seven papers and is entitled, "Ecos and Gaia." The main thrust of these papers is to "illustrate the variety of ways religion contributes to a constructive revision of our understanding of the natural world."
Overall this book would be a useful addition to a library on science and Christian faith. It could also serve as a fairly unique resource book in a course or seminar treating the various dimensions of this subject.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
NON-DARWINIAN REVOLUTION: Reinterpreting a Historical Myth by Peter J. Bowler.
Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988. 238 pages, index. Paperback
edition, 1992; $12.95.
Peter Bowler, a reader in history and philosophy at the Queens University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, has written four other books on Darwinism and the history of evolution.
The first five chapters of this book focus on the long struggle and great difficulty that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection experienced in being incorporated into evolutionary thought. The rest of the book has separate chapters on human evolution, social Darwinism, cultural revolution, and a new historiography of evolutionism. Bowler points out that "History is not an objective factual chronicle of past events; it is an interpretation of the past by people whose perception is shaped by their position in the present."
The Non-Darwinian Revolution is quite different from the usual historical treatment of evolution. Bowler's main message is that although most modern scientists accept Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, few of Darwin's contemporaries did. Darwin's theory was mainly a catalyst for a transition from special creation by God to a basically non-Darwinian evolutionism. This non-Darwinian revolution was revolutionary for creationism but was non-Darwinian because it preserved and modernized the old pre-Darwinian views of orderly, goal-directed, progressive evolutionism, often through comparison with an individual as it grows to maturity.
Most of Darwin's contemporaries enthusiastically accepted the idea of evolution but rejected undirected natural selection for something more humane than survival of the fittest. Even many of Darwin's supporters did not understand or accept undirected natural selection as the sole driving force in evolution and remained faithful to some aspect of the development view. Both proponents and opponents used Darwin's name and other parts of his theory to promote versions of pseudo-Darwinian, non-Darwinian, and anti-Darwinian evolutionism. Many early biologists adopted a combination of Lamarkianism, the recapitulation theory, and the idea of directed, linear evolution. The so-called Darwinian revolution was not completed until the new synthesis in the 1930's when Mendelian genetics finally eliminated the analogy between developmental growth and evolution. This cleared the way for acceptance of natural selection as its mechanism.
Bowler's examination of the many non-Darwinian aspects of evolutionism is extensive, detailed, and multi-faceted. His very thorough, careful reasoning is a strength but this much detail needed more organization to present a clear general picture. I found it more difficult to follow than other histories of evolution I have read.
This book will probably appeal more to science historians, philosophers, and sociologists interested in a detailed examination the mutual interactions between science and society rather than traditional field or lab scientists.
Reviewed by L. Duane Thurman, Department of Biology, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, OK 74171.
ORIGINS: WHAT IS AT STAKE? by
Wilbert H. Rusch, Sr. Terre Haute, IN: Creation Research Society, 1991. 71 + ix pages,
index. Paperback; $8.95.
The title of this book, written by a member of the Board of Directors of the Creation Research Society, suggests an attempt to focus on the basic issues of principle, both scientific and theological, which are involved in discussions about origins. A good treatment of those issues by a Christian opponent of macroevolution would be welcome. But the present book deals with them in a quite inadequate way and disappoints the hopes raised by its title.
Ruach begins by setting out what he sees as the scope of the question of origins, and then defines some basic scientific and theological terms. "The" scientific method is described, with Francis Bacon as the authority for it. If Baconian induction is the only valid approach to scientific knowledge, then clearly a lot of people today who consider themselves scientists are operating under false pretenses. But how many scientists, or philosophers of science, would accept such a limitation? The view of science presented here is quite dated.
One illustration of the author's narrow understanding of science is the assertion that past events cannot be observed (p. 19). This is wrong, as all modern astronomers know.
The deficiencies in the book's treatment of theology are even more glaring. One of the consequences of "a liberal interpretation of the Scriptures" is said to be that "except to the theistic evolutionist, God becomes unnecessary" (p. 20). That sounds dire, but it only means that people won't believe in God unless they believe in God! The author is not willing to engage in serious theological discussion of theistic evolution. His way of rejecting it is to show that people such as Huxley and Simpson didn't like it. It is not clear why non-Christian evolutionists should be regarded as authoritative when they criticize theistic evolution for being theistic, or describe the fearful consequences of evolution for Christianity.
But what is "the liberal interpretation of Scripture" which supposedly leads to atheism? It seems to be any way of reading the Bible other than as straight historical chronicle. One may, of course, conclude after study that the early chapters of Genesis are an account of "history as it really happened," but it is another matter not to realize that there are other ways in which they might be true.
The discussion of Acreation" itself is equally superficial. A look at the explanation of the First Article in Luther's or the Heidelberg catechisms will show that the limitation of creation to origination is not in accord with the Christian tradition. And what about the possibility that the Big Bang or biological evolution might be ways through which God has created? That is what should be "at stake" for Christians, but Rusch doesn't discuss the idea of mediated creation. For him the issue is simply "creation versus evolution" (p. 15).
There are serious theological problems which theistic evolution must face. One is to deal adequately with western Christianity's traditional ideas of original sin in an evolutionary context. The author sets out what he sees as "the most serious challenge to the whole body of Christian doctrine" in this connection (pp. 25-26). He overstates the case, however, by speaking of the fall of "perfect" humans, an unwarranted extrapolation from Genesis which has not been generally held in the thought of eastern Christianity. Furthermore, Rusch gives no hint that theologians who accept evolution have ever tried to deal with the related problems of evil, sin and death.
A variety of standard topics, including oddities of deposition, the definition of "species," fossils, apparent age, and the origin of life, is then discussed. Fossils are dismissed with the cavalier statement, on Sunderland's authority, that they "prove very little if anything" (p. 40). The "apparent age" idea is defended by arguments about what God can do, with no reference to questions about the goodness and intelligibility of the world which would be raised by spurious indications of age. The question of chemical evolution is disposed of with some assertions of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe.
Appendix G, on the history and work of the Creation Research Society, may be helpful to those interested in the creationist movement. The book as a whole is useful in showing the understanding of basic theological issues within that movement.
Reviewed by George L. Murphy, Pastor, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Tallmadge, OH 44278.
ECLIPSE OF DARWINISM: Anti-Darwinian Evolution Theories in the Decades Around 1900 by
Peter J. Bowler. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1983. 291 pages.
Index. Paperback. $13.95.
Merely glancing at the title of this book, one might think it to be another critique of Darwin's theory, but such is not the case. The Eclipse of Darwinism is a very scholarly account of the first several decades following the publication of Darwin's most famous work. Written by a historian of science, this book covers a period from about 1859 to the early years of this century. During this time there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the concept and process of organic evolution. It was not until the amalgamation of various ideas related to evolution, in the so-called "modern synthesis," that these controversies were, for the most part, laid to rest by the scientific community.
This paperwork edition is a reprint of the 1983 hardback edition. The paperback version is not a revision, but does have a new preface and a short list of works which have appeared since the original publication in 1983.
The book contains a very detailed study of this area. Topics such as theistic evolutionism, Lamarckism, orthogenesis, mutation theory, as well as others are discussed. The book also has extensive references which include almost 30 pages of notes and a bibliography listing 19 pages of primary and 9 pages of secondary sources. Detailed study and extensive references make this book an excellent beginning point for anyone interested in this part of the history of the theory of evolution.
Reviewed by Phillip Eichman, University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande, OH 45674.
BIOS, THEOS: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life and
Homo Sapiens by Henry Margenau and Roy Abraham Varghese, (eds.). LaSalle,
Il: Open Court Publishing Company, 1992. 285 pages, glossary, index. Paperback.
This book is a portfolio of perspectives on the relationship between the scientific enterprise and the religious view of reality. The approximately 60 scientists interviewed are for the most part theists or at least sympathetic to a religious view. The editors asked them specific questions about their approach to that relationship and their view on the origin of the universe, life, and man. Some answered by writing an essay; others gave their reason for not answering the questions, but most answered the questions as posed.
I was disappointed in the answers. Too many denied any relationship between religion and science. Only one, Edward Nelson of Princeton University, acknowledged the relevance of original sin in answering the questions the interviewers asked. Most who said they believed in the existence of God did so because everything fits so exactly together and there has to be a beginning which we can never investigate. The God we know in Jesus Christ appears to be absent.
For each contributor, birth-date, position, area of competence, and a short bibliography are given. Among the contributors are 24 Nobel-prize winners. The average age of the contributors is over 70 (68 if we allow two years for the preparation of the book). It is striking that among the writers younger than 70 more believe in a God than in the older group. I would have liked to see some indication of the church (or other religious group) to which each writer belongs.
Part III of the book is a debate between atheist Antony Flew and philosopher of religion H. D. Lewis, followed by remarks by professor Meynnell. Part IV contains concluding remarks by professors Stoeger and Wigner.
he book is worth reading. It may even help to formulate certain beliefs. However, I do not expect that one will learn much more than the view of particular scientists about the questions asked. I regret that nobody mentioned the future of which Paul speaks in Rom. 8:21, that the creation will be set free from its bondage to decay.
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.
RECONSIDERED: In Search of What Makes Us Human by Richard Leakey & Roger
Lewin. New York: Doubleday, 1992. xxii & 375 pages, 24 pages of plates. Hardcover;
Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, one of them one of the most well known palaeoanthropologists and the other an award winning science writer, bring us Leakey's highly personal memoirs and reflections. These prolific authors have collaborated on previous books, such as Origins and People of the Lake, and have individually authored numerous books: e.g. Leakey's The Making of Mankind and Human Origins and Lewin's Bones of Contention and The Nervous System. The present volume moves from a recounting of Leakey's pilgrimage through the fossil discoveries in Africa to his reflection on the meaning of worldwide palaeoanthropologic discoveries, primate research, genetic research, art, aesthetics, and psychology. While the book is a serious effort to present the full range of evidence for Leakey's views on the origins of humanity, it is obviously aimed at the "popular" market, in that there is no bibliography and no footnotes or traceable references of any kind. There is an extensive index, but the book would have been much more useful with full references somewhere in the work. Leakey summarizes his opponents' viewpoints, but concentrates on a positive presentation of his position. He claims the media has exaggerated his differences with Donald Johanson and, intriguingly, refuses to give us a reason for their original disagreement.
This book is billed as a reconsideration of Origins, published about 15 years ago, but is does so as an independent presentation of Leakey's present position, with little reference to the original publication. He still agrees that humans are not genetically driven to aggressive behavior; and denies that "evidence of bloody conflict" exists in the fossil record, at least until the rise of cities, agriculture, and accumulated wealth worth fighting and killing for. However, he notes that, after 15 years of experience, he is less inclined to defend truth and more inclined to search for truth.
Leakey confesses to a long-time passion to define and identify the origins of humanity. He rejects the current emphasis on a rapid, recent appearance of humanity in favor of a long, gradual evolutionary history and brings together evidence from fossils, genetics, the study of stone implements, art, behavioral studies of modern apes, behavioral study of modern hunter-gatherer humans, etc. into an integrated whole.
He emphasizes that evolution is entirely purposeless and by chance. There was no reason why humans, or any other particular form of life must have resulted; although he notes (pp. 212-3) that once human evolution reached a certain point, it "led irrevocably to humanity as we know it." Culture changed the rules of evolution.
This brings us to an interesting point. Leakey states (p. xv) that he is not religious, and he develops a totally atheistic viewpoint of the origins of even the highest and most creative aspects of humanity. We are "merely the end product" (p. 276) and are not special, although he does confess "humility at the power of the human mind." (p. 335). Often, he stresses feelings that I would term almost religious, occasionally, as when viewing the great cave art and when contemplating the human mind, definitely religious. Perhaps this is the reason for his qualification of not being religious with the phrase, "at least in the formal sense" (p. xv).
His argument on evolution of the mind because of social demands seems rather circular. The mind exists because social needs provided the evolutionary pressure; the social activity of the prehumans and early humans developed because evolution gave them the mind to do so. Since Leakey quite commendably recognizes that "Palaeoanthropology has a mixture of scientific and extrescientific elements" (p. xvi), including the philosophic, would it not be conformable to the principle of parsimony (invoked elsewhere) to simply recognize that the existence of a Creator God would answer the "Why?" and free the scientist to concentrate on the "How?" of the rise of humanity?
Nevertheless, Origins Reconsidered is an excellent book; anyone with an interest in the subject should profit greatly from reading it. Leakey's exposition is a thorough, well thought out, and highly entertaining synthesis and defense of the "Leakey position," as opposed to what we might call the "Johanson position," that presents a clear call for an equally comprehensive and thoughtful development of the theist position. Leakey's message can only challenge evangelical Christians to replace any simplistic, off the cuff arguments with the results of some serious thinking -a- valuable service, indeed!
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, The James A. Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80631.
MOVEMENT IN MODERN AMERICA by Raymond A. Eve and Francis B. Harrold. Boston:
Twayne Publishers, 1991. 234 pages, bibliography, index. Paperback.
Those who follow creation-evolution debate literature are accustomed to books which focus on the biblical and scientific issues involved. This new book, which is part of the "Twayne's Social Movements Series," approaches the debate from a different angle - the sociological standpoint. One author is an anthropologist, the other a sociologist, and both are from the University of Texas at Arlington. They have previously edited together a volume entitled, Cult Archaeology and Creationism: Exploring Pseudoscientific Beliefs about the Past.
While the book focuses on "young earth" creationism, with considerable emphasis upon its tactics and "Social Movement Organizations" (SMOs), it includes direct and indirect references to all creationists. The authors, for example, acknowledge that not all creationists believe the same things. They recognize that there are "old earth creationists" and "theistic evolutionists" (p. 4); yet, in the concluding summary of the book they refer to the "newest form of creationism," which is "more willing to accept an ancient age for the earth" (p. 191). This sort of inaccuracy could prove confusing to those who are unfamiliar with this territory. It also does a grave injustice to a long tradition of responsible scientists who believe in creation, but are not of the so-called "scientific creationist" school. This confusion is furthered by two references to Charles Thaxton. In one place he is referred to as "an old-earth creationist," "coauthor of The Mystery of Life's Origins," and a "fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation" (p. 130). Then later he is set forth as a prime example of "the new creationism" which is described as "calmer, less angry" and Amore willing to accept an old age for the earth" (p. 187). It is misleading to imply that creationists who accept scientific evidence for an old earth are a "new" movement.
Despite this confusion (a rather significant one in my mind), the book offers much that is interesting and informative. There are, for example, several statistical charts which summarize the rather significant influence of evangelicals and fundamentalists in American society. One will also find dispersed throughout the book interesting bits of information such as the following.
"25-30% of high school biology teachers believe in special creation" (p. 188).
"63% of 578 lawyers answering a survey circulated by the American Bar Association Journal, said that the First Amendment does not prohibit teaching creationism in public schools "(p. 164).
"The Rev. Carl Baugh (whom I have heard speaking with great authority on a Christian radio program) " claims a Ph.D. in anthropology from the College of Advanced Education in Irving, Texas. This Bible College is located on the grounds of the Sherwood Park Baptist Church in an old house. It has no library or research facilities" (p. 129). Note: this conflicts with the jacket of his book, Panorama of Creation, which states he has a doctorate in education from Pacific College of Graduate Studies.
What is the future of this debate? These authors predict that "the creation-evolution conflict will continue for years to come<|>C<|>in fact, we expect the conflict to escalate rather than abate" (p. 173). Carrying their prognostications further, they expect evangelicalism and fundamentalism to keep growing in America, which will in turn "bring many new adherents to creationism" (p. 189). Those of us who believe strongly in the value of responsible scientific literacy within a theistic framework cannot help but wonder what type of creationism will prevail in the growing evangelical movement. I would expect these authors to say (if questioned on this matter) that any movement which wants to significantly influence society needs to organize itself with SMOs and seek to reach people at the grassroots level. The "young-earth creationists" have been doing these things quite effectively, as this book adequately documents.
This is a significant book for those who are following the currents of contemporary Christianity in America, especially as it concerns evolution-creation issues. It would also serve as a reasonable overview of the practical side of the debate as it manifests itself in North America. It should be understood that it will not help anyone who is looking for a discussion of the actual biblical, theological and scientific issues involved; nor will it further anyone's understanding of the types of creationism which reject the "young-earth creationist" position.
Reviewed by Daniel E. Wray, Pastor, Kinderhook Reformed Church, Kinderhook, NY 12106.
THE INVASION OF THE
COMPUTER CULTURE by Allen Emerson and Cheryl Forbes. Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 1989. 179 pages, appendix, notes, annotated bibliography, index.
The profound impact of television on American culture in the 50s produced a response from a concerned Christian community as to whether TV was to be servant or master. Now, four decades later it is confronted by a growing computer mentality that not only threatens the traditional understanding of man as uniquely created in the imago dei but also his very humanness. This book responds to this new challenge (though the above comparison is not made) from a well thought out Christian perspective. Is the computer an extension of the mind or is the mind an extension of the computer? What do we need to know about the new world of computers we live in?
The co-authors are husband and wife. Allen Emerson teaches developmental mathematics at Calvin College and is a former computer analyst with Sperry Rand Corporation and the Cancer Institute. His wife, Cheryl Forbes, is the author of many books, including Imagination, Catching Sight of God and Backdoor Blessings: she also teaches writing at Calvin College.
Emerson and Forbes did not meet the computer mentality in abstract, philosophical terms, but by noticing the personality changes in their children after watching video games. "Our primary concern should not be whether computers can or cannot be made to think like people. Rather, the central issue is how computers are changing our thinking about thought, reality, ourselves" and how we relate to others.
"This book is not a polemic against rationality or AI (artificial intelligence). Our quarrel is with the computer mentality," which "ignores or denigrates the belief that humanity is made in the image of God and insists that program is the measure of all things." AI "as a science may have much to teach us and, as such, is not anti-Christian any more than is physics or biology. Christians can share in the AI enterprise and, indeed, will have no other choice if it is our intention to be educated and do business in the world."
After two excellent chapters on "The Computer and the Brain" and "Creating Intelligence" the authors introduce case studies from Brod and Turkle to show the disorders computers bring about in the emotions and minds of ordinary people in the chapter "Adjusting to the Age of the Computer." It concludes with a summary of computer mentality's intent "to prepare the way for the coming of the first man-made, inorganic species of life on earth machina sapiens."
The remaining three chapters formulate a strong Christian counter-position. In "Redefining Ourselves" the authors give careful critical review of Marvin Minsky's The Society of Mind to show its inadequacy. "As creatures, we are not unique by virtue of our intelligence alone, but the nature of our intelligence distinguishes us from both animals and machines" (italics added). This leads to a discussion of the role of language in understanding humanity, computers and reality, in the chapter entitled, "Standing by Words." "We become fully human only when we stand by our words. The computer mentality, however, cannot or will not take that responsibility." In the final chapter, "Preserving Our Humanity," the authors point out that computer mentality denies the existence of evil, turns the natural to the artificial, eliminates God and following the mind of Christ, deprives us of the personal relationships of life with others and fails to deal with the mysteries of life.
A concluding appendix gives some excellent practical suggestions on what we can do to counter the insidious intrusion of the computer mentality into our lives.
The authors present their position in an interesting and relevant manner. The factual material is up-to-date, well researched and fair in stating and dealing with competing views. The book is masterfully written. I highly recommend it not only for everyone who sits daily in front of a computer, but for parents, educators and pastors as well. It would make a thought-provoking text for small group study and discussion.
Reviewed by Albert C. Strong, Presbyterian minister, Retired, Silverton, OR 97381.
IN AN AGE OF TECHNOLOGY: The Gifford Lectures Volume 2 by Ian G. Barbour. New
York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993. 312 pages, index of names. Hardcover. $35.00.
Ethics in an Age of Technology is the second volume based on the author's Gifford Lecture series at the University of Aberdeen, England, 1989-91, complementing his earlier volume, Religion in an Age of Science (1990). Ian G. Barbour, Bean Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, Emeritus, at Carleton College in Minnesota, has written a challenging, interdisciplinary, and well-documented study on technology, values, and public policy. While the book lacks an index of subjects, it is well-organized and written in outline form, reflected in a comprehensive 4 page table of contents. The book is divided into three parts (Conflicting Values; Critical Technologies; and Technology and the Future), and nine chapters (Views of Technology; Human Values; Environmental Values; Agriculture; Energy; Computers; Unprecedented Powers; Controlling Technology; and New Directions). Each chapter is further subdivided into sections and sub-sections, with the first eight chapters offering brief summaries in the Conclusions. In brief, this is a college text par excellence. The author acknowledges that many of the book's topics were discussed in Carleton College's program in Science, Technology, and Public Policy.
The central thesis of the book is the need for a contextual approach to technology, human values, and public policies to encourage more frugal life-styles, intermediate-size technologies, and post-materialist values which would contribute to resource sustainability, social justice, and a more equitable distribution of resources as well as the costs and benefits of production and consumption. Barbour tries to steer a middle course between the views of technology as a liberator and a threat. Throughout the book, the author argues for the imperative need to redirect technology from large-scale, extractive, and manufacturing toward smaller- or intermediate- scale, using renewable resources, and oriented toward information and services in the industrialized world, and toward more labor-intensive inputs in the Third World. Barbour's assessment of three critical technologies - agriculture, energy, and computers - is finely-textured, insightful, and well-documented. Throughout the book, Barbour is concerned with both industrial and developing nations, and he offers analyses and recommendations for appropriate new technologies which take into consideration the basic human need for food, shelter and health, on the one hand, as well as the quest for community and participation, on the other. Barbour is very aware of environmental degradation, resource depletion, and the concentration of economic and political power inherent in large systems (e.g. nuclear plants). Hence, Barbour argues in favor of a mix of small, intermediate, and large-scale technologies, greater ecological awareness and cost calculation which includes resource depletion, and greater citizen participation in the choice and configuration of appropriate technologies based on conservation and sustainable development.
Barbour's interdisciplinary approach to technology and public policy is adumbrated further by biblical references to human nature and the created order via process theology. Throughout the book, Barbour tries to show how the biblical view of creation supports his thesis of the need for a new, more encompassing postindustrial paradigm in which technology is employed in the service of basic human needs without dominating or exploiting nature. Barbour combines the biblical themes of stewardship of the earth and social justice and peace.
In sum, this is a thoughtful book, indispensable for anyone concerned with the interfaces and linkages between technology, human values, and public policy. Yet, in reading this book, one gets the impression that its underlying assumptions are those of the 1960s and 1970s, that is, "Back to the Future." The book cites approvingly various National and World Council of Churches documents, and is reminiscent of the Catholic Bishops' Letter on the U.S. Economy (1986). These documents reflect a presumption in favor of distribution in contrast to wealth creation. Thus, Barbour argues consistently for the need for massive transfers from Western industrial nations to the Third World. "part from the question of the absorptive capacity for capital and technological know-how, the book fails to mention the social and cultural impediments to economic growth and modernization in the Third World. Barbour also favors the strengthening of the United Nations as a supranational force, which contradicts his thesis regarding the need for decentralization of both economic and political power.
Barbour's critique of Western materialism and consumerism leads him to such questionable prescriptions as the replacement of manufacturing by services and information. In fact, the United States (in contrast to Germany and Japan) is well on its way to becoming a second-rate power due to the erosion of its manufacturing capacity (steel, mining, automobiles, tools, machinery, appliances, electronics, textiles, etc.). The result is obvious: millions of well-paid manufacturing jobs were lost in the 1980s, even before the defense and aerospace cutbacks of the 1990s, compounded by corporate mergers, downsizing, and the transfer of manufacturing and assembly operations abroad. These well paid jobs were replaced in part by low-paying jobs in services and information. Barbour's own analysis shows that computer technology generates few highly-skilled (engineering, management), and many more low-skilled (operator), jobs. The human cost of U.S. deindustrialization has been enormous: an estimated 12 million unemployed (including at least 500,000 homeless); break-up of families; loss of home and hearth; impoverishment; ghost towns; increased crime and alcohol, drug, and child abuse; stress; anomie; and suicide. The closely-guarded secret of a "postindustrial" society is slowly dawning on Americans, including college graduates unable to find work: the much-touted high-tech economy means that we may shuffle paper or computer print-outs, flip hamburgers at McDonald's, or shine the shoes of visiting Japanese businessmen. A service and information society, indeed.
Barbour's concepts of social justice and egalitarianism may also be less than optimal since they lead necessarily to greater concentration of power in a central government authority, which in turn endangers individual liberty and privacy, as shown by a long line of thinkers from Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (1835-40) to Friedrich A. Hayek's Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973-79) and Thomas Molnar's Utopia (1990). Despite its sometime questionable assumptions, Barbour's book fulfills its purpose of presenting an interdisciplinary approach to the perennial human dilemmas of appropriate technology, human values, and public policy choices. Written in a clear, non-technical style, the book will appeal to wide audiences; academic, public policy decision-makers, as well as concerned citizens.
Reviewed by Oskar Gruenwald, President, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, 2828 3rd St., Suite 11, Santa Monica, CA 90405.
IN CONFLICT: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas by Ronald H. Nash. Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992. 176 pages, index. Paperback.
In this book the author seeks to make available the intellectual armor needed by Christians to participate successfully in the battle of worldviews, involving "ideas, theories, systems of thought, presuppositions, and arguments." He is particularly concerned about the two worldviews most opposed to the Christian worldview: naturalism and the New Age movement. Prof. Nash is Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, and a well-known author who has dealt with a rational defense of Christianity in over twenty other published books.
This book consists of ten chapters. The first six deal with the Christian worldview and the rational tests for an acceptable worldview. Then follow chapters on the competing worldviews of naturalism and the New Age Movement. The ninth chapter returns to the specific examination of the critical Christian beliefs of the Incarnation and the Resurrection. The book concludes with a summary chapter and suggestions for further reading.
A comprehensive worldview, according to Nash, must include beliefs about God, reality, knowledge, morality, and humankind. In dealing with the Christian worldview, he points out that "Christianity simply will not make sense to people who fail to understand and appreciate the Christian doctrine of sin."
Nash proposes three major tests to be used in the choice of a worldview: the test of reason, the test of experience, and the test of practice. His entire perspective is based on the deeply felt conviction that reason and the Christian faith are not only compatible, but are intimately related. He argues that "there may be no worldview in the history of the human race that has a higher regard for the laws of logic." He does not fall, however, into the mistake of arguing that we can rationally prove "the validity of Christianity," but states clearly, "Even though no worldview can rise above logical probability, it may still be believed with moral certainty. A single proposition or system of propositions that is only probable in the logical sense may still generate certainty in the psychological or moral sense" (p. 71). With his convictions, it is not surprising that Nash feels that many well-known Christian theologians who have claimed that religion is beyond logic, such as Barth, Torrance, and Dooyeweerd, have been guilty of "pious nonsense."
Nash considers in some detail two of the major rational arguments commonly leveled against Christianity: (1) the "alleged inconsistency between what Christians believe about God and the troubling presence in God's creation of all kinds of evil," and (2) the alleged contradiction between the claim that Jesus is both true God and true man. He then returns to consider a variation of the first of these arguments: If it cannot be established that the problem of evil makes theism logically false, it can still be argued that "evil tips the scales of probability against theism."
The author is careful throughout this small book not to stray too far into the quagmires of scholastic philosophical argumentation, and shows that he is consciously writing for a general audience. He concludes by saying, "I would like to think that this book will give you enough of a basic training in worldview thinking that you can at least hold your own in your first, faltering efforts to accomplish something in the world of ideas."
There are a few places in the book where perhaps the author's desire to simplify leads him into apparently incomplete formulations of some fairly basic ideas. He refers to two contradictory classes as being "complementary," whereas the term "complementary" includes paradox but definitely excludes contradiction (p. 81). In one particular extended discussion he writes as though to "offer enough evidence" were equivalent to "prove" (pp. 88-91). One needs also to be careful to distinguish between the use of the term "naturalism" to mean that God is ruled out of any activity in the natural world (as in the worldview of naturalism), and the use of this term to mean that our normal scientific descriptions of events in the world are to be properly carried out in natural categories without invoking a constant God-of-the-Gaps (as in the operation of authentic science) (p. 127).
With so much talk and publicity about non-rational approaches to religious faith in our present world, this book by Nash provides a needed and useful counter-perspective. It is also effective in avoiding the pitfalls often attendant on a rational approach to faith, in which the attempt is explicitly or implicitly made that the rational arguments for theism make any genuine personal faith commitment almost unnecessary.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
ENVIRONMENT AND THE CHRISTIAN: What Does the New Testament Say About the Environment? by
Calvin B. DeWitt (ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1991. 134 pages,
notes, index. Paperback; $7.95.
DeWitt is professor at the Institute for Environmental Studies of the University of Wisconsin, and director at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies. He is joined by five other authors in the presentation of papers originally written in the Au Sable Forum series. Recognizing that many standard environmental arguments with respect to the environment are derived from the Old Testament, the authors here seek to spell out the implications of the New Testament, to develop a specifically "Christian" basis for environmental concern and action, and to offer a rich and full alterative to the New Age movement.
DeWitt lays the foundation for the discussion by briefly describing seven degradations of creation and citing representative Old Testament passages that are relevant: (1) land conversion and habitat destruction; (2) species extinctions; (3) land degradation; (4) resource conversion, and wastes and hazards production; (5) global toxification; (6) alteration of planetary exchange; and (7) human and cultural degradation. He then asks in concluding this section, "What does the New Testament teach about choosing between life and death, between redemption and destruction, between restoration and degradation?"
In the following chapters, the authors discuss the effect of salvation as reconciliation involving the whole creation, as well as a personal transaction between individual human beings and their Creator; the calling of the New Testament message to a pervasive stewardship for all who are redeemed; the recognition of Christ's resurrection as the vindication of creation; the significance of the New Testament teaching concerning the Kingdom of God with respect to its implications for a Christian environmental ethic; and the politics of servanthood, exemplified in the life of Jesus, leading Christians to integrate the best features of contemporary movements into a larger and more powerful movement.
In the Epilogue, De Witt argues that the New Testament provides a single answer to all questions: "Seek the kingdom." To New Testament Christians, he advises, "Behave on earth (in such a way) that heaven will not be a shock. "Do not be numbered among those who destroy the earth!" To those of the Jewish faith, he advises, "Live in creation with the law written upon your hearts, so that everything is done in accord with God's ordinances for redeeming and healing humanity and creation." To those attracted to the New Age movement, he advises, "the New Testament provides a rich and full alternative, a 'new age' about which much has been written and believed over thousands of years, the kingdom of God." To secular readers, he advises, "Not only is the environmental crisis a human and religious one, but Christianity has important contributions to make toward the reversal of environmental destruction and establishment of ecological sustainability."
The book concludes with an Appendix giving a review of literature on environmental stewardship and the New Testament, compiled by David Wise, a graduate student in land resources at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wise is currently writing a thesis entitled "A Biblical Land Ethic." He concludes that the number of works treating the relationship between Christianity and the environment is increasing. This book would be a good resource for a group discussion of the implications of Christian faith for ecology. Well-intentioned attempts to bring out the implications of the New Testament message for environmental concerns may occasionally result in a somewhat forced or simplistic exegesis, but all can agree with the basic thrust of the book, "The presence of the kingdom means that Christians should order their lives in terms of the values and shape of the new and coming kingdom."
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
OF CREATION: A Bibliographical Study of the Church's Response to the Environmental Crisis by
Joseph K. Sheldon. Metuchen, New Jersey and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. and The
American Theological Library Association, 1992. 282 pages, bibliography. Hardcover.
Joseph Sheldon, a professor of biology at Messiah College (Gratham, PA), has done a great service to those interested in Christian responses to environmental issues by compiling this bibliography.
This volume is number twenty-nine in a series of bibliographies sponsored by The American Theological Library Association. It includes a brief thirty-eight page "Historical Overview" of "The Church's Response to the Environmental Crisis," followed by a topical index to entries, a listing of "Christian Organizations with a Focus on Creation" (which includes ASA), and a list of "Curriculum Materials on Creation Care." The bulk of the book consists of 218 pages of bibliography by author.
It should be noted that this is not a bibliography about science and faith issues, but rather it is about Christianity and environmental issues. Sheldon is an ASA member, and this journal is cited at least eighty-five times in the bibliography section.
Reviewed by Daniel E. Wray, Pastor, Kinderhook Reformed Church, Kinderhook, NY 12106.
50 WAYS YOU CAN HELP SAVE
THE PLANET by Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 1992. 144 pages. Paperback, $6.95.
Campolo and Aeschliman present 50 environmentally sound suggestions, most in common use by environmentalists for over 30 years. This book, however, differs from most environmental works by offering a different motivation and frequent counsel for carrying out these suggestions in a Christian manner. The authors start with "For the Love of Creation," which focuses on environmental care more as an act of worship to God and as a part of our Christian witness than on proper earth care to protect our own physical well-being or as an act of stewardship. They state that we even though "we cannot return to Eden" and that the earth will, according to prophesy ultimately be destroyed, we should do what we can.
The first of 7 sections following this introduction proposes 20 practical ways to recycle. Next are 5 suggestions each on how to be environmentally caring with water, energy, shopping, gardening, advocating proper environmental care, and resources for action.
These suggestions are practical and generally given with wise, common-sense precautions that repeatedly encourage careful research of any proposed environmental action before launching out. When working with others, including local governments and businesses, we are to "Try to understand the level at which they have grasped environmental concerns and aspirations that motivate fears that block their involvement." The authors stress that "all leadership is to be conducted in the spirit of compassion, servanthood, teachability, and camaraderie." We are to be "gracious but firm" while conducting ourselves "in a godly manner that is gentle and humble" whether or not others agree with our views. They suggest that if we start on a small scale, our plans are more likely to work well and attract others to join us. We are also advised to take photos and otherwise publicize the project and our reasons for doing it as part of our Christian witness.
50 Ways You Can Help Save the Planet is a companion volume to 50 Ways You Can Feed a Hungry World by the same authors. Campolo, a professor of sociology, has written several books, including How to Rescue the Earth Without Worshiping Nature. Aeschliman, a frequent speaker on environmental issues, has written books on apartheid and Christian healing.
Biologists will be surprised to read that "we exhale carbon dioxide, while trees inhale it." Campolo and Aeschliman's statement that "the near-overwhelming chorus of adulation from jungle creatures in the early hours of the morning renders our best choral attempts at praise insignificant" does not distinguish between our conscious choice to sign praises to God and the largely instinctive sounds used for territorial defense, mating, and alarm by insects, birds, and other jungle creatures. They do not say how they found out that "As many as one thousand species are being eliminated from the earth every day," a figure some will question. Their use of the term "toxin" was loose and overly inclusive several times, lumping the harmless with the harmful. If the alleged "toxins" in paint, fertilizer, and food are real, they have names that should be given.
In spite of these few blind spots, Campolo and Aeschliman have produced an inexpensive, readable book of practical suggestions that almost anyone can use to help improve our environment. More important than the suggestions themselves are the repeated encouragements to use careful foresight and an attitude of respect for humans as well as the environment when carrying out these suggestions.
Reviewed by L. Duane Thurman, Department of Biology, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, OK 74171.
ON THE WILD SIDE by Martin Gardner.
Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992, 257 pages. Hardcover.
Martin Gardner is interested in pseudo-science, he tells us. He thinks that most scientists have no desire to waste valuable time trying to combat it. That may be so for most scientists, but I am sure that scientists who belong to the Christian community are forced to fight one or another type of pseudo-science now and again. Gardner tells us that he was an "evangelical Protestant" in his youth (p. 7), but became a philosophical atheist (p. 114). Regrettably that became a bias which shows in the book in some places.
The book consists of 3 parts: Part 1, columns written in the Skeptical Inquirer; Part 2, Reviews; Part 3, Essays. The total is divided into chapters varying in length from 2 to 11 pages, except the last chapter, which goes on for 32 pages. The book is easy to read, and I enjoyed reading it despite myself. Gardner is very outspoken and he offends easily. Many chapters have an addendum of correspondence with people disagreeing with him.
Gardner has a tendency to generalize. For example, in chapter 4 he discusses an experiment to show the power of homeopathic dilutions, which, according to the evidence Gardner quotes, was not properly handled. Gardner shows that the proper controls were not in place for this experiment. But then in the middle of discussing this experiment he apparently uses the explanations of some homoeopathists to attack homeopathy in general. Is that fair?
I happened to receive an unpublished paper from a friend, a medical doctor with a degree from a "bona fide" medical school, who for years used not only the "generally accepted" medicine (if there is such a thing), but also homeopathic medicine. He admits that no good explanation exists for homeopathy, which is a method of treating sickness by using a chemical that normally causes similar symptoms. Homeopathy is to be distinguished from isopathy, the treatment with chemicals causing the sickness. Even though thus far no proper explanation for the healing exists, experience has shown that it works. He offers an explanation. I find it remarkable that he, a practicing physician, only talks about dilutions of at most 10 to the power of 24, while the experiment Gardner describes is about a dilution of 10 to the power of 120. The so-called explanations at the bottom of p. 32 are certainly not accepted by most, homeopathic doctors who had their training at a university. Gardner should have tried to find out what they say. The example of the daughter of a homeopathic doctor on p. 35 does not mean anything. To get the New Age involved here is not fair to the New Age nor to those who will fight the New Age on religious (Christian) grounds.
When Gardner suggests a war between science and Christianity he should be more specific. After all, ASA. consists of scholars who want to listen to God's voice in Scripture and Nature. To suggest that Christianity is divided between Catholics on the one side and Protestant fundamentalists on the other side (p. 76) reveals an unwarranted bias, unless by fundamentalists he means something other than what he himself appears to indicate. I do believe that God created the cosmos, that Adam and Eve were our first parents. Miracles did (and, maybe, do) happen. Does that make me a "fundamentalist"? Even when I agree that most likely evolution occurred, I definitely do not want to say that (macro-)evolution is a fact.
More weak points may be found, but the book should not be read as if it is scholarly work. I like to recommend this book for spare time reading if you can stand to be offended every now and again. It is not a scholarly book, but it may reveal weak points in our reasoning, and show us where we have to be particularly careful in dealing with students.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
FOR HEAVEN ON EARTH: The Theological Meaning of Economics by Robert H. Nelson. New
York: Rowman Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 1991. 378 pages, index. Hardcover; $24.95.
The late Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Seminary once remarked that the history of philosophy is an elaboration of the parable of the prodigal son. Nelson treats economics analogously; Nelson's thesis is that the history of economic thought is an elaboration of mankind's attempt to create the messianic age on his own. He sees the goal of economics as being utopian. "If economic rationality should actually come to prevail, men and women everywhere could hope to share in a happy enjoyment of the earth's bounties, then restored by the knowledge of modern economics"(p. 9).
Nelson asserts that economists are the new theologians. Economics deals with values and value judgements. And since economics also deals with production, Nelson contends that economists are best equipped to serve in society's new priesthood.
Nelson contends that the various schools of economics, whether Classical or Marxist, Neoclassical, Progressive or Keynesian, have as their respective goal the elimination of scarcity. He wrongly lumps together Adam Smith's concern for improving the lot of mankind (who for a millennium had been living largely in poverty) with Marx's professedly utopian vision of creating a new world order.
Nelson traces the philosophical foundations of the various schools, showing that while they may differ as to the nature of man or the role of government in society the aim is the same, eliminating economic scarcity. What Adam Smith attempted to achieve through discovering natural law, Marx sought through restructuring ownership rights. What the Neoclassicals attempted though laissez faire policy, the Keynesians urged through governmental management and regulation of the market.
Some schools are more blatantly utopian than others. In the case of the Progressives, Nelson observes that most of them grew up within the parsonage; they used scientific or governmental approaches to achieve the same postmillennial dream that their fathers sought from the pulpit.
But the urge of man to create utopia through government intervention into the economy remained unsatisfied. Although the Progressive movement was largely discredited by the wholesale destruction of World War I, Keynesian economics provided a new approach and rationale for government to direct economic activity towards utopia.
Nelson uses as a framework for the progression of economic schools the contrast between what he calls the Roman tradition (both in the ancient and the Catholic sense) and the Protestant Tradition (both in the Calvinist and the rebellious sense).
He defines the Roman Tradition to be where the world is rational, systematic scientific investigation is required to uncover the rational laws of natures, progress is found in a gradual movement toward a natural and rational destiny, life is lived to achieve happiness, private property is a beneficial instrument of the common good, and pursuing one's own interest is natural and just (p. 31).
What he calls the Protestant Tradition is characterized by the belief that the human condition in this world is deeply alienated from its original and true nature. Reason is unreliable, so the ways of the world are learned not through reason, but revelation. True progress demands revolutionary transformation of human existence (p. 53).
This main structural device, seeing the history of economic thought alternating between these two traditions is artificial, contrived, and confusing. Nelson's procrustean structure runs roughshod over historical facts in several instances. Adam Smith, for example worked out of a generally Protestant, albeit liberal, perspective. Yet Nelson, seeing Smith as conservative, places him within the Roman tradition. The atheist Marx and, later, the Social Darwinians are placed within what Nelson alludes to as the Protestant tradition.
Nelson, who got his doctorate in economics at Princeton is on the staff of the Department of the Interior. He has been a Visiting Scholar with the Brookings Institute, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Nelson's training is admittedly not in theology (p. xxvi). He apparently remedied his theological deficiency by reading theology, generally within the neo-orthodox tradition. His self-tutoring within theology is inadequate for understanding more than the main theological issues. He does a good job, however, of discussing the philosophical and theological roots of the various camps and schools of economics.
A discussion of how economics might be used within the framework of a society submitting to God's Word rather than in a pelagian manner is, unfortunately, beyond the scope of his work. Happily, he does show that the materialism we have unwittingly endorsed within our society is a result of human attempts to create utopia. Unhappily, he does not challenge the goal of material goods or present it as an idolatry in its own right. The book is a useful exposÈ of the secular civil religion guided by economists. We must be cognizant of the value structure underlying such a civil religion and contrast it to biblical religion.
Reviewed by Hadley T. Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Economics Huntington College, Huntington IN 46750.
MEETING OF SCIENCE AND SPIRIT: Guidelines for a New Age by John White. New York,
NY: Paragon House, 1990. 274 pages, notes, index. Hardcover.
The author of this book, John Warren White (not to be confused with the evangelical Christian author John White), is described as "an author, editor, and educator in consciousness research and parascience." He tells us that as a youngster in the 1950s he thrived on literature of all kinds, "especially, science fiction and fantasy." In 1963 he reports that he "discovered the human potential for growth to godhood through a spontaneous mystical experience. In a moment of grace, nirvikalpa samadhi happened to me. Time stopped. 'I' cease to exist" (p. 246). This disappearance of the "ego," the "I," is the ultimate goal of the New Age as described by White. (It is curious that in the twenty lines of text following this description of the cessation of "I," he uses the personal pronoun "I" or "me" some 15 times!)
For a Christian involved in authentic science to read this book from cover to cover requires a high degree of discipline. There is essentially no science in the entire book, but rather an attempt to recast some Christian concepts into the form of Eastern religion, with occasionally claimed support from various peripheral or pseudoscientific efforts. Typical is the introduction to the Appendix on "Biological UFOs" for which White claims the following "scientific" basis: "Basing his work on the etherian physics of Rudolf Steiner and the orgone energy discoveries of Wilhem Reich, Constable claims to have discovered and photographed a form of life heretofore unknown to of ficial science, although, he says, long known to occult science." So many statements in the book are simply incredible that a reviewer is tempted to simply give a list of quotes and let it go at that.
The book is divided into three main parts. Part 1 is "Science,the "scent of Humanity," which features such "scientific" topics as enlightenment, pole shift update, firewalking, UFOs and the search for higher consciousness, the physics of paranormal phenomena, karma and reincarnation, Yoga, kundalini (Sex, Evolution, and Enlightenment), and toward a science of consciousness. Part 2 is "Spirit, the Descent of the Divine," which features such "spiritual" topics as the sparkle of the spirit, channeling, gurus, the paranormal in Judeo-Christian tradition, enlightenment and the martial arts, the Judeo-Christian tradition and the New Age, the New Age and the second coming of Christ, and the meaning of the Christ. Finally there are five appendices with special topics.
It should not be concluded from the above remarks that White embraces all of the esoteric paraphernalia of the popular New Age movement. He is quite clear, for example, that "In its worst aspect, the movement is a grab bag of superficial, trivial, irrational, and even menacing ideas, attitudes, beliefs, products, and services, all of which amount to a sad caricature and prostitution of the real thing. There is a dark side to the New Age movement...crystal healing, aura cleansing, the Bermuda Triangle, gods from outer space, the hollow Earth theory, chakra balancing, the Harmonic Convergence, financial 'abundance' games, and pyramid prophecies" (p. xx). So it must be realized that the material described favorably by White, no matter how much it seems to be of the same stuff as these rejected aspects of popular New Age, belongs to a more sophisticated version of New Age.
White does not hesitate to state, for example, parapsychology has demonstrated that telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis are real phenomena" (p. 128). He repeatedly inserts snatches of Christian teaching identified as part of "universal" teaching and as identical with non-Christian, usually Eastern religion, teaching: "Other names for this state include cosmic consciousness, sarmadhi, satori, mystical union with the Ground of Being, the peace which passeth understanding" (p. 129). Elsewhere he states, "Human history is a process of ascent to godhead. That process is best described, individually and collectively, as evolution. "Discovery of 'God within' and the human capacity for cultivating that immanence is the principal theme of the New Age movement" (p. 149). In this way of thinking, Jesus Christ is only one among many.
"Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rama, and shortly after, Socrates, Plato, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Jesus, and others demonstrated self-transcendence to the point where they could say, as Jesus did, that "I and the Father are one."Such evolutionarily advanced people were so far beyond the understanding of the masses that they were perceived as incarnations of God (p. 152).
"But if the Son of Man showed us the way to that higher state of being, so have other enlightened teachers of humanity shown us the same beckoning evolutionary advance...We have been taught by the Buddha and Krishna, Lao Tsu and Moses, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Mahavira, Quetzalcoatl, Guru Nanak...They have differed in emphasis and cultural orientation, but the core truth of them all is the same; Thou shalt evolve to a higher state of being and ultimately return to the godhead which is your very self, your ever-present Divine Condition prior to all conditions, names, and forms...I'm sure Jesus the Christ would be in perfect agreement with Gautama the Buddha, who taught his followers to work out their own salvation by steadfastly seeking truth (p. 221-223).
One reason for reading this book is to become acquainted with the type of thinking involved in the "intellectual" New Age, so that witness to others may be more informed and effective.
But another reason is to appreciate a danger: the great temptation that such New Age thinking poses for modern religious people immersed in a scientific world. The subtlety of language, the ease of shifting from one perspective to another, the charm of incorporating new visions constructed from pseudoscience and pseudotheology, are all very much a part of the challenge that faces Christians in the future. When we read in the Christian literature such phrases as the development of the sphere of the spirit expanded by modern science, a new order in which science will enrich our spiritual understanding, or a new understanding of spiritual truths based upon discoveries of modern science, we ought to reflect on the similarity between these words and those of White in his current exposition of the New Age. He repeatedly calls for "a science of the spirit," an opportunity "to see Spirit through the light of science." Christians will wish to be very careful that their own will not be misunderstood and seen as the same as those used to support New Age thinking. They will wish to be very careful in maintaining clearly the definition of authentic science and authentic spiritual thinking.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
PSYCHOLOGY: An Introduction to Behavior and Health by Linda Brannon and Jess
Feist. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1992. 544 pages. Hardcover; $48.75.
A new subject has been added to what psychologists think an educated person should know. I just checked a half dozen introductory psychology texts written ten years ago and none of them had a chapter on health. By contrast, a half dozen published in the 1990s all had a chapter on health. This relevant and currently popular topic is a welcome addition to the subject matter of introductory psychology, the course most students take to fulfill general education requirements.
Not only do these introductory psychology texts devote a chapter of their valuable space to health, but a course has sprung up in the psychology curriculum given over entirely to this subject. This is not surprising with all the attention wellness and longevity are receiving in the media. The literature in this area has developed rapidly based on research done in psychology departments, medical schools, and physical education departments. Psychologists are interested not only in what people can do to promote health but in how psychology can help them do it. The high level of interest and substantial body of research on this topic justifies publications in this area.
The first edition of this book contained a rationale for the existence of the study of health psychology in the college curriculum. But, to quote the authors, "now no such rationale is necessary: Undergraduate health psychology courses have appeared at many" institutions of higher learning.
This book is not flamboyant. Its 16 chapters contain a few pictures, tables or figures, and these are all in black-and-white. Its eight-paged glossary has been placed at the end of the book (rather than in the margins), a place research indicates students seldom turn to. (The proofreader missed some spelling errors, e.g., "Each chapter beings with a lecture outline, p. xiii.) A measure of the vast amount of information available on this topic can be gauged by the 35 pages of references (over 1000 sources) which conclude the volume.
What sorts of topics might one expect to be included in a book on health psychology? Stress, pain, disease, exercise, diet, weight control, drugs. They're all here. Of course, you might expect to find these topics in books written by doctors or physical education scholars. The psychological angle on these topics is reflected in such chapter titles as "Identifying Behavioral Factors in Cardiovascular Disease." Included in this discussion are such factors as the type A behavior pattern and hostility.
There is a lot of useful information in this text, and it is clearly presented in just the right amount of detail. Anyone who becomes familiar with the information presented here will be quite knowledgeable about the factors related to health, wellness and longevity. Most of the students who take psychology courses or become psychology majors do not become professional psychologists. Therefore, an understanding of health psychology will probably prove more beneficial to them than an exploration of some of the other offerings in the psychology curriculum. This book provides a comprehensive and interesting guide to an area of study that is important to everyone. To quote the authors, "Nothing, not even wealth, equals health as a universal want."
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
QUALITY OF LIFE: The
New Medical Dilemma by James J. Walter and Thomas A. Shannon (eds.). New York:
Paulist Press, 1990. 357 pages. Paperback.
This book is a collection of thirty-two previously published articles and reports from various commissions and conferences related to the general topic of "quality of life" and medical ethics. It is divided into three parts. Part 1 (Definitional Issues) contains several articles written from various viewpoints, each attempting to define the term "quality of life." Part 2 (Applications) deals with various medical practices related to the "quality of life" of the patient. These include: Prenatal Diagnosis and Abortion, Imperiled Infants, The Permanently Unconscious Patient, Care of the Elderly, and Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. In Part 3 (Public Policy) the editors have collected several reports from the federal government, the American Medical Association, and other organizations on topics such as withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging treatment, treatment of permanently unconscious patients, and other related topics.
The subject of this book is certainly timely and of interest to many people, even those outside of the medical community. The authors of the various papers are all recognized authorities in the area of medical ethics.
Quality of Life has a definite theological emphasis. However, this leans rather one-sidedly toward Roman Catholic theology, and this would probably limit the use of this book by persons of other religious viewpoints. That is not to say that this book is not a meaningful contribution to this area of concern. Anyone interested in further study of medical ethics would find this a useful reference.
Reviewed by Phillip Eichman, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306-0440.
A CENTURY OF PSYCHOLOGY AS
A SCIENCE by Sigmund Koch and David E. Leary (eds.). Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association, 1992. 1008 pages. Hardcover: $49.95.
A Century of Psychology as a Science is a reissue of a publication meant to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Wilhelm Wundt's experimental psychology laboratory. Wundt's lab was established in 1879 in Leipzig, Germany and is generally viewed as the first formal experimental psychology research facility. Published first in 1985, this book got lost in one of the all-too-frequent publisher mergers and was not widely circulated. The American Psychological Association reissued it in conjunction with its centenary in 1992.
The book is a compilation of essays by renowned scientists and scholars on the history of modern psychology, and on the future of psychology in its second century.
Four sections divide this collection into meaningful units. Section I, entitled "The Systematic Framework of Psychology," outlines psychology's role as a science and its status as an academic discipline. The dominant systems of 20th century psychology are analyzed in this section which provides a convenient overview of the history of psychology. Section II is a collection of essays that outlines the development of psychology in several specific content areas such as learning, perception, personality, and social psychology. Section III, entitled "Psychology and Its Intersecting Disciplines," attempts to analyze the relationships between psychology and other related specialties like philosophy, neurosciences, evolutionary biology, and linguistics. Finally, Section IV, "Psychology in Relation to Society, Culture, and Sensibility," offers some interesting selections related to psychology's effects on society, and some rather non-traditional offerings like the chapter entitled, "Psychology and Poetry: The Uneven Dance."
Some of the highlights of this book, however, are not the aforementioned content, but the foreword, afterword, and postscript written by Sigmund Koch, one of the editors. Koch elegantly outlines some of the fact and legend associated with the "formal" founding of psychology by Wundt, and completes the foreword by tracing the development of psychology in America. He also manages, in the afterword and postscript, to "summarize" the book without merely repeating its content, and provides insight into the future of psychology.
On the whole, this book provides a good overview of the development of psychology as a science over the last 100 years. There are some fresh insights (e.g., Saul Rosenzweig's chapter that presents Freud's views on experimental psychology), as well as some traditional historical information. Those persons interested in the history of psychology will especially enjoy this publication.
Reviewed by David E. Johnson, Department of Psychology, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
IS IT RIGHT TO DIE? Suicide, Euthanasia, Suffering, Mercy by Joni Eareckson Tada.
Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1992. 176 pages. Hardcover: $15.99.
In a society in which medical technology has become awesomely spectacular, biomedical ethics has become increasingly complicated and important. Tada speaks to these issues with the perspective of someone who has been there. Joni is well known because of her courageous response to her quadriplegic status, which resulted from a diving accident in 1967. Many people are familiar with her autobiography, Joni. In this book Tada updates us on her continual struggle with her disability and then goes on to consider some of the difficult ethical dilemmas presented by modern medical technology as they bear on the subjects indicated in the subtitle of her book.
This book is not an ivory-tower discussion of ethics, but a down-to-earth presentation of what these issues look like from the perspective of people who have been there or who are still pondering the profound question of "When is it right to die?" With numerous real world, real people illustrations Joni introduces us to the world of the comatose, the wheel-chair bound, and the bedridden, as well as to the emotional suffering of victims, families, and friends of such people. She tells us of Bob, who, with his family, braved out Lou Gehrig's disease to a dignified end. And she tells us of Helen, who after a series of debilitating operations, finally asks for the respirator to be turned off. Joni sympathizes with both people, especially in the light of the contemporary proliferation of books and articles on the "right to die," publications that often reflect on and encourage suicides and euthanasia.
After a helpful presentation of definitions of various forms of "euthanasia," the author concludes, in agreement with Everett Koop, that use of a drug to alleviate suffering, even if it shortens the patient's life, is not euthanasia. However, other actions to end a life are at least questionable if not unethical. She has reservations about "slippery slope" arguments. For "right to die" issues, she expresses concern over the trend to go from unthinkable to tolerable to acceptable to legal to applaudable. For actual decision-making, she emphasizes that it is not just a personal matter. The decision concerns other people, God, and the devil.
In the concluding chapters of the book, Joni considers some of the thorny issues involved in sustaining life but not prolonging death. She concludes, again with examples of specific cases, that there are definite "do's" and "don'ts." However, we also need to consider the many different situations in which decisions must be made. For example, while life support systems are justified in many situations, there are cases where tube feeding may increase patient suffering without significantly prolonging life. She emphasizes the difference between being severely disabled and dying. Finally, she emphasizes the importance of supportive friends and family, and a faith that God cares.
This book should be read by everyone who has a loved one who is facing any of these medical/ethical situations. It is also a significant book for patients and others who are experiencing incapacitating situations. It should be in every church library. The personal testimony of an author who has been there, and still is, plus the numerous real life examples can really bring home some of the situations many people face in our time.
Reviewed by Wilbur L. Bullock, Professor Emeritus, Zoology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824.
TALK: An Honest Conversation On Critical Issues: Abortion, Euthanasia, AIDS, Health Care
by C. Everett Koop and Timothy Johnson. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1992. 138
The authors of this short book are both well-known Christian doctors: Everett Koop, former Surgeon General, and Timothy Johnson, medical editor for ABC News and founding editor of the Harvard Medical School Health Letter. Both are highly qualified to discuss the subjects indicated in the lengthy subtitle of the book. The format of the book is a series of personal letters alternating back and forth on each issue.
In the Preface to the book the authors write:
"We have come to respect and love each other even as we have learned that we disagree on many specific subjects relating to medical ethics. However, we would both acknowledge that we have learned from each other, and that we have grown in our understanding of the human condition because of each other. We also agree that too often persons of opposing viewpoints conclude that there is room in God's love for only one of them. We write this book to demonstrate otherwise: to suggest that it is possible to disagree, sometimes vigorously, and yet acknowledge that God loves all even while we are less than perfect in this human pilgrimage." (p. 7-8).
This statement sets the tone for the discussion of all four controversial issues. Both Koop and Johnson agree that a major feature of these controversies is the extremists on both sides that make it difficult to determine truth and to decide on action. Thus while Koop believes that abortion is a serious moral issue, he accepts compromise in the case of rape, incest, the severely handicapped, or when the life of the mother is threatened. Johnson considers abortion more a medical issue and is concerned that many "prolifers" are more "probirthers" who give little thought to the well-being of the babies after birth. Therefore, he considers himself anti-abortion but reluctantly prochoice. Both authors recognize that we should not necessarily prolong dying, but that there are difficult ethical decisions in putting this into practice with specific cases.
Koop and Johnson agree on the need for Christian compassion in dealing with AIDS, and this includes the treatment of the homosexual patient who is still involved in risky behavior. Koop argues against the importance of genetic factors in causing homosexuality, while Johnson, recognizing other factors, emphasizes its importance for an accurate understanding of sexuality.
Over one third of the book is devoted to their discussion of the health care problem. Both agree that the present system is unfair, especially to the poor. (The Bible passage they use to introduce this subject is Isaiah 10:1,2). However, when it comes to solutions, Koop recognizes the injustices of our present system but worries about the government involvement of proposed changes and the costs of these alternatives. Johnson is most concerned with providing basic care for all before we worry about high technology medicine for a few. Both authors recognize the role of human greed in the problem and the need for planning and resource allocation. Their differences center around who should be the planners and the decision makers.
The book is an excellent summary of these contemporary and serious problems. In contrast to the extremists on both sides of all these issues, Koop and Johnson recognize the need for moderation and for careful, compassionate searching for fair and just solutions. I believe this is a "must" for all who are concerned about these issues, especially from the perspective of Christian honesty. We need to appreciate the ethical and moral complexity of the problems and search for biblical justice in their solutions. In the few weeks after I first read this book, I have recommended it to more than a dozen friends when one or more of these issues came up in conversation.
Reviewed by Wilbur L. Bullock, Professor Emeritus, Zoology, University of NH, 03824.
TOWARD 2001: The Forces Shaping America's Religious Future by Russell Chandler.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, and San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. 367 pages, index.
Russell Chandler, religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, has crafted an extravaganza of facts, interviews, and speculations by informed experts about the future of religion in the United States. Eighteen well-known experts in American Christianity, from theologically liberal to conservative, endorse the book, providing a daunting array of opinion to entice the reader to high expectations.
In Part 1 of the book, Chandler surveys changes in demographics, technology, society, education, and the government as background against which to view changes in traditional religious bodies (in Part 2). The third part of the book describes interesting innovations in denominations, congregations, and ministries that are leading the church into the 21st century.
I found the wide-ranging scope of the book to be stimulating. Chandler has done an enormous amount of research, primarily a vast number of interviews, to amass an encyclopedia of interesting facts and speculations about United States religion. The book is written in an uncomplicated journalistic style that pulls the reader quickly from page to page. Lots of information is conveyed palatably and quickly. It's like going to an exquisite French restaurant and eating exotic dishes served with McDonald's-like efficiency. Chandler's style perfectly fits the fast-paced, quality-conscious lifestyle of the end of the 20th century.
I liked the book and recommend it highly. I have already passed it along to my pastor. However, just as everyone might not fully appreciate French food served with McDonald's-like efficiency, let me share some of my struggles with the book. I spent the entire book trying to figure out who Russell Chandler was. My main conclusion is that he is a consummate journalist, adept at presenting highly controversial and engaging topics with journalistic neutrality. He is (apparently) theologically moderate, and he walks a tightrope between conservative and liberal by describing some of the best of both sides without expressing his own opinion.
I kept asking myself, though, what is the main point? Is it simply to report the many options about religion that we are to expect in the future? Where is Chandler's personal preference? It was only in the chapter on world views (Clashing Cosmologies: Battle for the Worldview) that I felt Chandler ran up the flag that declares him a strong proponent of theologically moderate Christianity. True, he addressed religion sympathetically throughout the book, even Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, but the identification of himself with Christianity was muted and implied journalistic.
In the third part of the book, though, his message finally came through loudly: "More and more Americans are reaching outside the traditional, established denominations to find spiritual identification" (p. 282). He admonished the church through judicious journalistic reporting of successful case studies to adapt to the modern and eschew traditional forms of the Christian religion, yet embrace traditional middle-road values and embody them into modern forms of worship, service, and spirituality. Recommended trends that promise to be successful in the 21st century include a church that emphasizes relationships through small groups, is needs-oriented, meets the criterion of social relevance, and is aimed at helping people.
In this book, Chandler informs, stimulates, and (despite the seeming neutrality of the journalistic style) declares a moderate theological message through his choice of subject matter. By its focus on the positive, the book inspires the reader to think hard about how to mold Christian principles in a 21st century world.
Reviewed by E. L. Worthington, Jr., Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284.
AND THE MODERN MIND: A Defense of Biblical Miracles by Norman L. Geisler. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992. Paperback.
Geisler, dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary, is very well acquainted with the work of Thomas Aquinas, which shows in the book under review. I think Geisler stresses reasoning too much, and my first reaction was that the book was too scholastic.
The writer notes that much of the book appeared in an earlier form in Miracles and Modern Thought (Probe 1982). In the new book the material has been completely revised, updated, and extensively supplemented.
Geisler says in the introduction to the new book: "If historic biblical Christianity is to survive and make sense to the modern mind, it is necessary to provide a reasonable explanation of the supernatural." He then tries to show in the book how everyone who does not believe in miracles is logically inconsistent. Anyone who is on the point of accepting some philosophical argument against miracles finds counter-arguments here.
The book has 12 chapters, each headed with a question. In each chapter, after one or more philosophers are chosen as an example of the unchristian way of thinking, the writer shows how inconsistent that way of thinking is. Some scientists who made philosophical statements are also mentioned and discussed.
The trouble I have with this book is that it appears that one has to reject secularism because it does not make sense. But a person either believes the God of the Bible, or her or she does not believe Him. No amount of reasoning for or against it will change that. If we try to argue that Christianity an enterprise based on logic, we will lose Christianity and trust in reason. The result is as bad as the theories Geisler correctly rejects.
Even though I find the arguments mentioned not convincing for an unbeliever since he wants to reject Jesus, some doubting Christians may find material here to show the inconsistency of secular thinking.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, St. Michael's College, (University of Toronto), Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
THE DRAGON: Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition by Bernard F. Batto. Louisville,
KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992. viii + 248 pages, indexes. Paperback: $15.99.
Does the Bible use mythic language as a literary device or is the Bible mythic to the core? This is a fundamental question in our understanding of the Bible, and "never the twain [the two sides of this question] shall meet"except in mortal combat. However, a truce might be in order for this book.
Batto's thesis is "myth is one of the chief mediums by which biblical writers did their theologizing," and it "permeates virtually every level of biblical tradition from the earliest to the latest" (p. 1). He declares that "mythopoeic speculation" is used for some of their "most profound theologizing." While he does not deny oral aspects of myth, his approach stresses the "imaginative or literary aspects."
Unlike so many writers, Batto recognizes the ambiguity of the word "myth," extensively discusses its meaning, and gives his own definition: "a narrative (story) concerning fundamental symbols that are constitutive of or paradigmatic for human existence (p. 11, emphasis original)." Mythopoeism is mythmaking. By speculation he is emphasizing that it is a "conscious, reflected application of older myths and mythic elements to new situations" (p. 13, emphasis original). The myth makers were "involved in rethinking the basic values of humankind as understood from their societies' perspectives"(p. 40).
Batto assumes the basic validity of the Documentary Hypothesis although he admits that the "source" he is working with, the so-called Yahwist or J, is difficult to actually delineate at times. To his credit, he does avoid the old "cut and paste" approach that many still identify with the theory, stressing instead that P reused and reworked J into a new composition in which P is essentially the author (p. 74).
This is a scholarly book, with 43 pages of notes and 16 pages of indexes: Scripture, foreign words, authors, and subjects. The author is a well known scholar in the field. The introduction contains an extensive discussion of the history, definition, and nature of myth. The argument of the book begins with mythopoeic speculation in Babylon, and continues with "The Yahwist's Primeval Myth," the revision by the priestly writer (P), Exodus as a myth and the history of its development, and the use of Egypt and Gog as mythic symbols in Ezekiel. After a conclusion (summary), he develops his ideas that the New Testament is highly mythic also.
In contrast to the traditional interpretation of Gen. 2-12 as a fall from original perfection, Batto conforms it to the Babylonian Atrahasis as a story about "continuously improved" (emphasis original) creation by a inexperienced, fallible, and experimenting God who is forced to rethink and modify his efforts by the continuing failure and rebellion of the humans. The serpent is telling the truth and Yahweh doesn't want man to usurp divinity.
Unfortunately, this historical critical approach too often bears a striking resemblance to the "creation science" literature; there are numerous assumptions used as the basis for "scientific proof," and the most tenuous connections and similarities are triumphantly hailed as conclusive. For an excellent criticism of the underlying philosophy and methodology of the historical critical approach, (and hence the facile assumptions of Slaying the Dragon) see Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? by Eta Linnemann, the noted student of Bultmann who deserted that school for evangelical Christianity.
However, Batto has expertly presented a lot of incontrovertible data along with his liberal critical school approach. Conservative Christians shouldn't be entirely put off by Batto's assumptions that the meaning of the story is entirely what the human theological genius intended when he brilliantly reworked old myths to properly reflect the beliefs of his people. There are still a lot of insights and keys to understanding the text to be found. The suggestion that Adam and Eve's shame at their nakedness was because it put them in the same category as the lower animals is quite convincing. Another example is the play on words between the shrewdness ('arum) of the serpent and the nakedness ('arummim) of the people. Both are explained as part and parcel of their rebellion against God, and God addresses both in his judgment. Another point to ponder: could the figure of Gog really be intended as symbolic and not be intended to refer to a specific historical nation? That would fit in a book with lots of symbolism and would be consistent with specific points in the Biblical text. It would also wreck untold numbers of end-time scenarios being promoted by "prophetic" preachers!
All in all this is a very interesting and important book by an established scholar for those who have the background and will to engage it seriously.
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, James A. Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639
AND THE ONE BECAME TWO by J. Edward
Finn. New York: Vantage Press, 1992. 132 pages. Paperback; $10.95.
Finn retells the early chapters of Genesis as he interprets them in the light of his own speculation, with heavy reliance on the zodiac, number symbolism, the writings of occultic groups, and Egyptian religion, albeit Egyptian religion as he determines it "actually was." Although New Age devotees will feel quite comfortable with his approach, he takes a dim view of "these pretty wild denominations" (p. 74). His approach is well typified by Ch. 10 "The Tarot," in which he writes "the story of Osiris, was never found recorded in a completed state...with the Horus ending added...until now" (p. 105). He "discovered" it while studying the symbolism on a deck of Tarot cards only "last week" (p. 105)!
His main thesis is an amalgamation of Genesis and Egyptian religions, which were talking about the same events! The Egyptians dealt with principles, the Hebrews with people. Osiris was not a person, he was principle. Osiris represents the person or people from Egypt, whoever he or they were. "When Adam "screwed up," Osiris was killed. When Adam was later created in the image of God, Osiris was resurrected as the law for righteousness. The final return to the original state was the "seed" of Osiris and Isis (the woman) or Horus who was Christ" (pp. 48-49, emphasis original). Throughout this book, everything inconvenient in either Genesis or the Egyptian traditions is simply rejected as "not original."
The whole work is rife with uncontrolled and unverified speculation, confidently expressed as self evident fact; the yield is pseudoscience at its most obvious. You can safely pass this book up.
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, The James A. Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greenley, CO 80639.
ARCHAEOLOGY AND BIBLE HISTORY
by Joseph P. Free and Howard F. Vos. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House,
1992. 314 pages. Paperback.
The first edition of this book was written by Joseph P. Free and is dated 1950. This present volume has been expanded by one of Free's students, Howard F. Vos, and constitutes a third revision. Free was a teacher of archaeology at Wheaton College, and he also excavated the city of Dothan. Vos, a teacher of history and archaeology at The King's College, has written part or all of 23 books on archaeology. Both Free and Vos approach the subject from an orthodox Christian perspective which they identify as the "view of those who hold to the fundamentals of the faith."
In preparing this revision, Vos stuck to Free's outline, theological position, and chronological framework (from creation to the early church). Vos states that the bibliography which appeared in the fourteenth printing of the 1976 edition has been almost totally replaced. That being the case, it is somewhat surprising to discover that only 22 of the 85 bibliographical references (26 percent) have a publication date after 1976. The book's 29 chapters are helped by the inclusion of one chart, 11 maps, 49 illustrations, and an index.
As the title indicates, this book traces Bible chronology and shows how archaeological discoveries illuminate and confirm the events of biblical history. The main events from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the intertestamental period are summarized. The coverage is cursory and introductory rather than extensive and advanced. The book aims to be "practical and helpful" and will appeal more to pastors, Sunday School teachers, college students and laypersons than to professional archaeologists. Free's hope is that Bible teachers can more effectively deliver their messages by illuminating them with illustrations from archaeology.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.