Book Reviews for September 1994
IN THE HEAVENS: Rhetoric and Science in the Copernican Controversy by Jean Dietz
Moss. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993. 353 pages, bibliography and
The thesis of this book is that rhetoric was first used to advance scientific theories during the time of Galileo. The book is structured in three parts: AThe Celestial Revolution," "The Hermeneutical Crisis," and AThe Triumph of Rhetoric." The text is well indexed and contains a ten page bibliography.
The opening chapter summarizes the historical development of rhetoric and various technical terms that are used to analyze prose. Dialectical or probable reasoning, for example, is defined as reasoning that can not be demonstrated directly, but can be shown from known proofs, as opposed to rhetorical reasoning, which is used to persuade an audience about a particular proposition.
The book really begins in the second chapter with a comparison between Ptolmeys' "lmagest and Copernicus's De Revolutionibus. Most of the dialectical arguments contained in De Revolutionibus use geometric and mathematical proofs to refute the Ptolmeic model. Copernicus employed rhetoric only in the non-scientific areas, such as preface and introduction. Kepler followed a similar style, which the author contrasts with Galileo's prolific use of rhetoric. For example, Galileo is said to have used rhetoric in reporting the discovery of Jupiter's satellites ("the Medicean Stars") so that he could secure an academic position at the court of the Medici.
The second major section changes the emphasis from rhetoric in science to rhetoric in theology. The discussion begins with works by Zuniga and Foscarini, who reinterpreted scriptures that seem in conflict with a heliocentric universe. Following the writings of these two respected priests are those of Campanella, a blighted Dominican friar who sought to clarify "[w]hether the way of reasoning that Galileo practices is reconcilable with the Scripture or not" (p. 153), and Giordano Bruno. The author shows how Galileo's later works included stylistic elements used by both Campanella and Bruno.
The final chapter in this section analyzes Galileo's "Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany," and both the interplay among those who read the original letter and the letter's passage to the Holy Office. As the writings of Galileo become the focus of the book the author highlights the use of rhetoric and the adept way in which Galileo used analogy and dialectical reasoning.
The third section of the book begins with the Inquisition's conclusion (1616) that deemed heliocentrism contrary to Scripture and "therefore cannot be defended or held" (p. 217). However, a report of three new comets in 1618 showed that the heavens are not without change, although the location of the comets lead to a heated debate between Galileo and Orazio Grassi (a Jesuit at the Collegio Romano). The author covers enough of the reasoning used in the debate to convey the developments, and focuses on the more vitriolic examples of rhetoric that are employed.
The climax of the book is an extensive discussion of Galileo's "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems." Galileo used all the rhetorical elements he can to promote Copernicanism, while trying to convince the Holy Office that he was presenting both sides of the argument and so remain within the bounds set by the church. Galileo's work is seen "not only [as] an apologia for Copernicanism but a masterpiece of rhetorical literature" (p. 265).
As a kind of epilogue, the author examines the impact of Galileo's writings in England, through the writings of John Wilkins, a founding member of the Royal Society and later Bishop of Chester. Moss contrasts Galileo's provocative style with Wilkins' soft tone and impartial style, although a number of arguments put forward by Wilkins are derived from Galileo's books, suggesting that Wilkins was able to filter out Galileo's rhetoric from his dialectical reasoning.
The beauty of this book is the excellent background to the scientific and religious atmosphere, and the politics that occurs between the different characters. Consequently, we can better understand the subtleties and innuendo used in the various writings. Several chapters conclude with a summary of the way in which a particular writing style was used in the delivery of different ideas. Some topics that may be of interest to ASA members fall outside the scope of the book (for example, there is no analysis of Galileo's trial). The author is skilled in portraying the characters and has obviously expended a great deal of effort to see how different events effected the protagonists, making this lively and fascinating reading.
Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
SHOOTING FOR THE STARS by Ross
Clifford and Philip Johnson. Claremont, CA: Albatross Books, 1993. 224 pages,
appendices, endnotes. Paperback.
Look over there! It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it even quacks like a duck: it must be a duck, right? Well, not in this case. This book, Shooting for the Stars, is decidedly a "bird of a different feather" despite first appearances. The cover of this paperback looks like others on shelves of New Age literature. As you scan the table of contents and the headings throughout the book, you probably would still think you were about to explore human potential from a New Age perspective.
The authors of this book are Australians Ross Clifford, a lecturer in theology at Morling College, and Philip Johnson, a columnist for Australian Presbyterian Living Today Magazine and a part-time lecturer on cults at the Presbyterian Theological Centre. They have adopted the strategy of the Apostle Paul when he spoke with those who were "seekers" in Athens (Acts 17:16-23). In this book, which is directed to New Age devotees and seekers, they adopt Paul's conciliatory tone, and attempt to stimulate interest in exploring the Christian alternative even while operating within the non-Christian context.
In examining this book I was struck by the tone of the writing. Genuine respect is expressed for those who are searching for answers to life's deep questions and coming up with answers which fall outside the Christian faith.
It is apparent that the authors have a strong sense of security in their personal beliefs and in the authenticity of the biblical record. The book is written in a journalistic style and is based upon discussions which occurred between the authors and those they met at Australia's largest New Age festival. Over 60,000 people were in attendance at the Mind-Body-Spirit festival held at Sydney's Darling Harbour in 1992. Clifford and Johnson set up a booth at this festival and offered to pray for healing for those in physical need. They also provided a video on Jesus and entered into dialogue with all who showed interest in discussing their perspective.
This book discusses near-death experiences, astrology, reincarnation, and cosmic consciousness. It also briefly alludes to various "psycho-technological tools" such as alchemy, auras, channelling, clairvoyance, crystals, enneagrams, firewalking, geomancy, meditation, rebirthing and soul travel. In discussing healing through the use of different types of myth, they refer to the gospel in a way which reflects their style throughout the book.
" We explained that myths like Sleeping Beauty have an actual objective base. They are not just good internal realities, but are historical encounters. The champion (Master Jesus) actually did come into our dimension to rescue the princess (us) by a kiss (the cross) and restore paradise (heal our lost, soul-sorrow [sic.] lives). This brings a unique light to the Sacred Writings" (p. 125).
The main strength of this book is as a model for how it is possible to communicate the truth of the Christian message within the social context of a specific group.
On the negative side, the book frequently provides definitions of New Age terms which are so brief as to be of little value. Even some of the more strategic concepts alluded to are not defined at all. For example, in the introduction while describing the New Age festival the authors state "The exhibition incorporates 'Neo-Pagan' paths to recovery" (p. 9). The term recovery is used again several times, but the special meaning in this context is never discussed, let alone formally defined. The academic who may be interested in locating the source of some of the ideas in the text will be disappointed. Numbers in the text refer to endnotes which have only incomplete citations. When one turns to the bibliographic entries they are alphabetical, but only so within six different categories of books. You can find the material, but it seems to be unnecessarily cumbersome.
Reviewed by Craig E. Seaton, Associate Professor of Sociology and Psychology, Trinity Western University, Langley, BC V3A 4H9, Canada.
PROMISE OF NATURE: Ecology and Cosmic Purpose by John F. Haught. Mahwah, New
Jersey: Paulist Press, 1993. 156 pages, index. Paperback; $9.95.
Haight is a professor of theology at Georgetown University. In this book he asks if the religions of the world, in particular Christianity, have resources to contribute anything to substance to the resolution of our current ecological predicament. I regret that he often looked to non-Christian religions for the answer.
Haught looks at Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Lakota Indians, Taoists and others in the first part of his book. He says that all religions share the fact that they have an ultimate horizon or truth, indicated by Haught with the word "mystery" (p. 74). He goes on to say that to be wholesome this movement toward mystery has four distinct aspects: sacramental, mystical, silent and active. It is striking that he does not mention the importance of Holy Scriptures. Consequently biblical quotes are almost missing.
Excluding the work of other Christians had, for example, the unfortunate consequence that Haught did not acknowledge the work of Calvin De Witt of the University of Wisconsin, well known for his ecological work based on Christian principles. He also did not study or mention the "Report of the Committee on Creation and Science" to the 1991 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. There he would have found a theocentric vision, which sees God's hand in evolution, not chance, and that condemns the present ecological disasters and attitudes. We cannot agree with Haught and accept a "God of evolution" who "allows for the play of chance in the emergence of species" (p. 34). That is an unbiblical God.
Haught does make some good points. For example, it is true that an elevation of spiritual life at the cost of our daily life has been harming the environment. His stressing "sacramentality" is clearly Roman Catholic. That does not mean we (Cathoic or Protestant) should forget that God gave us the task to take care of creation. Ruling creation is serving creation, taking care of it.
Anybody concerned about the present ecological crisis may learn something from this book. Keep your Bible open, though, and do not depend on "human reasoning."
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), Box 168, 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
OF VALUE: Meditations on Beauty, Ecology, Religion and Education by Frederick Turner.
Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1991. Paperback; $12.95.
Some people see modern science, and even all of modern scholarship, including art, as value-free, as if there is no such thing as value, as if beauty is just the product of brain chemistry, different in each individual. Frederick Turner argues passionately that there are such things as real value and beauty.
Turner begins by reversing Freudianism: beauty is real, and sexual passion is derived from it. Beauty is a real entity, not a product of human imagination: why else, he argues, would poetry in all cultures have similar characteristics? A sense of beauty confers evolutional advantage. Therefore evolution will lead us, he says, to greater beauty, to "...the Son of Man - the daughter of humanity - toward whom we have yearned unaware so long." However, recent artistic trends have been towards the denial, even the destruction, of beauty. Turner suggests that these artists should study a little science. If they did, they would see with Schrodinger that randomness is not freedom, and with the astronomers that in the beginning "[t]he universe fled randomness as fast as it could...." At the same time that technology was wasting fossil fuels, the artists were strip-mining our artistic heritage, "laid down over past ages...of slow cultural fermentation," "tossed into the furnace" to release its stored energy, "a ship that tears up its own planking to feed its furnace." Randomness is no escape from determinism, "as if one were to escape death by claiming to be a stone, which cannot die." "Deconstructionism has now begun to turn its acids on itself; as it does so, it will encounter the paradox of what container to keep the perfect corrosive in."
He then applies his ideas to ecology. We belong on earth, he asserts; a wilderness area, without people, is artificial, and even eroded landscapes can be beautiful. He points out that, according to current geological theory, "our precious oxygen...is the toxic waste of the first polluters." Nature, whatever it is, is not innocent. Nor is it wise. "The flowers growing in the desolation of Mt. St. Helens testify to what in human beings we would call a lunatic hopefulness, the optimism of the amateur...Nature sends in the clowns." Therefore, Turner rejects both the polluter and the "ecology freak": "they both perpetuate a theory about nature that allows no alternative to raping it or tying it up in a plastic bag to protect it from [human] contamination."
Turner then turns to religion. He describes televangelists as junk religion, which people crave because humans have an innate hunger for true religion. "Genuine religion is playful, holy, reckless, and hilarious in all of its seriousness; the nature and meaning of the universe is risked, up for grabs, friendly only to the generous, the fools of god." Spirit is real, he argues; just as the existence of ears is evidence for the reality of sound, so the existence of religion is evidence for the reality of spirit. Greater religions than any the world has yet seen are in store, he promises. In another brief chapter, he says he solves the riddle of immortality: we live forever in the form of talk, of being remembered and talked about by people who outlive us.
He then makes some novel proposals for improving education by restructuring it to reflect the reality of the universe. Education should begin, he says, with exploring "the why of the world." One cannot draw lines between Adisciplines." AScience teachers ought to be poets; it goes without saying that poets have to be scientists." For instance, fiction can help us better understand history. Education ought to Aget those sweet and potent brain chemicals flowing." We are hard-wired to be infinitely inventive, he says. He considers his late father, Victor Turner, to be the ultimate educator, who Awandered over [the fragmented academic] landscape like some prophet of apocalypse." Victor Turner invited students to his house to discuss academic topics, and they sometimes stayed and argued all night. He wandered fearlessly across the borders of academic disciplines. If we followed his system, universities would abolish departmental structures altogether. Turner nearly convinces us to try this approach. But how do we get started? He does not give us clear instructions.
And so I finish the book, exhausted and elated from exploring these insights, and go right back to believing and doing what I did before. But I was glad to have read it. The book is not well-crafted and logical, but is a flood of insights. It has more philosophical one-liners than any other book I have recently seen. Like Birch and Cobb's Liberation of Life (reviewed in PSCF 40: 246-247), this book is about everything.
Perhaps the most interesting and valuable statement Turner makes in this book is one that is relevant to environmental ethics.
"That ecological modesty which asserts that we are only one species among many, with no special rights, we may now see as the abdication of a trust. We are, whether we like it or not, the lords of creation; true humility consists not in pretending that we aren't, but in living up to that trust that it implies by service to the greater glory and beauty of the world we have been given to look after. It is a bad shepherd who, on democratic principles, deserts his sheep."
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Department of Biology, Southwest State University, Marshall, MN 56258.
EARTH IS THE LORD'S: Christians and the Environment by Richard D. Land and Louis
A. Moore (Eds.). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1992. 207 pages. Paperback; $10.95.
The pantheistic and New Age excesses of non-Christians concerned about the environment often cause Christians to abandon this area of important stewardship. This book grew out of discussions at the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission's meeting in March 1991 entitled "Christians and the Environment: Finding a Biblical Balance Between Idolatry and Irresponsibility," and seeks in many ways to overcome this frequent challenge to evangelical Christianity. The first words of the Preface set the stage with a quote of Psalm 24:l: "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." In the Introduction, the book elaborates on this theme further:
"Christians must find the biblical balance or middle way between the idolatry that worships the "created things rather than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25, NIV), and the irresponsibility that assumes the right to treat God's creation as its own to do with as it pleases" (Luke 12:1321).
Editor Richard D. Land is Executive Director of the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Editor Louis A. Moore is Director of Media and Products for the Christian Life Commission. The editors have written an introductory section, and each contributes one of the chapters in the book.
The book is divided into five sections: Introduction, The Theological Imperative, the Ethical Application, The Homiletic Challenge, and The Practical Application. The four main sections consist of thirteen chapters by twelve different authors; two chapters are written by Millard Erickson, Research Professor of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Most of the authors have or have had an official position in one of the organizations of the Southern Baptist Church.
The biblical view of the environment is set forth in the first chapter by Land and is repeated for emphasis in a variety of forms in many of the chapters in the book. This biblical view encompasses: (l) God is the Creator, (2) the creation is valuable to God, (3) care for creation survives the Fall, (4) care for the creation has an eschatological dimension (Rom. 8:19-21), (5) God has placed human beings first in creation, (6) God is the Lord of creation, while we are vicars and vice-regents, (7) the role of human beings is to care for the creation on behalf of God.
Chapter 3 sets forth a more detailed "Biblical Theology of Ecology," and it is followed by a warning in the following chapter, "Humanistic and New Age Ideas and Ecological Issues." In this chapter, the author cautiously, but determinedly, sets forth the argument that the biblical perspective must be based on a literal, totally historical view of Genesis.
In Chapter 5, Millard Erickson effectively contrasts a legalistic approach to environmental ethics with a situation ethics perspective, and argues that a "principle" approach is superior to either of these. This leads to the positive statement, "This means that indeed an objective - good or bad, right or wrong - exists for each situation, but the rule expressing it may be much more complex than some have thought" (p. 74). Possibly more questionable is the suggestion that the Southern Baptist Convention take direct action in pronouncements and activities related to political as well as social action, protesting, for example, a polluting product through a resolution of its annual assembly, notifying the manufacturer of this resolution, and leading individual congregations to vote to boycott the product.
The New Age movement and its interaction with environmental concerns is treated again at some length in Chapter 6. After a useful and comprehensive treatment, the author states, "Planetary consciousness, defined earlier as the New Age term for a world view which places loyalties to all living beings, including the earth, above loyalties to self, individual people, groups, or nations, is one of the driving forces behind New Age practices" (p. 103). Understanding the implication of words is not always easy, but this statement of higher loyalties (corresponding to being a citizen of heaven) does not seem to be a good point to stress for differences with a Christian world view.
In the midst of excellent treatments, often repeating in different words points made in earlier chapters, there are occasional troublesome phrases that seem susceptible to misinterpretation. In the chapter on "Accepting our Responsibility," the author says, "and so, we are stewards with a message. I don't think our primary issue is Styrofoam cups" (p. 153). In a chapter on "Theology of Creation," the author says, "The creation is personal, not impersonal" (p. 161). An unfortunate typo appears in a chapter on "How to Deal with The Media on Ecological Issues," when the text in three different places refers to the famous quote from McLuhan, "the medium is the message," as "the medium is the massage." It may still be true, but ....
In a chapter on "Environmental Issues Around the World," the author gives a helpful and complete analysis of technical questions involved in environmental concerns. In the final chapter, "How a Local Church Can Begin a Recycling Program," careful consideration is given to a number of very practical efforts and programs that can be undertaken.
Overall this is an excellent contribution to the growing literature seeking to express, relate, and expedite a Christian awareness of our stewardship responsibilities for the environment. It would be a useful focus for discussion groups on this subject.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
WILDERNESS, AND WILDLIFE: The Original Desert Solitaire by Susan Power Bratton.
Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press, 1993. 350 pages, indexes. Hardcover, $49.50.
Although it would be an unusual course that could use Bratton's book as its main text, she still has produced an interesting and readable book. It is about spiritual experiences in the wilderness throughout history. As far as I know, Bratton has found a unique niche. I am not aware of any other books on this topic, and I don't think there are likely to be any more. This is not to say that Christianity, Wilderness and Wildlife is not a good book, or that the topic should be ignored, however. Her book deserves to be read by all Christians concerned about the environment, and this should include all Christians. Bratton has both the academic and experiential credentials to write the book, a rare combination. For example, she is on the editorial board of Environmental Ethics. Bratton intersperses her own wilderness experiences throughout the history portrayed in the book. She has obviously had spiritual experiences in the wilderness, and believes that this should be, and has been, the norm for Christians. She cites numerous examples from biblical sources and from Christian history. Because she finds wilderness a friend to Christianity, she does not agree with those who would blame Christianity for our current environmental problems, nor with any Christians who believe that the natural world is not necessary. To quote the last portion of Bratton's first chapter, an introduction:
"I hope this book enhances the reader's appreciation of wild nature as a work of God as creator and raises further questions about our treatment of our fellow creatures and our care of wildeness areas. I also hope it helps to unravel some of the confusion over Christian spiritual practice in wilderness and provides some guidance to individual Christians about the use of natural settings in pursuit of a deeper Christian spirituality....We will never understand our spiritual heritage unless we begin to appreciate the trials, the songs, and the victories of those who walked the mountains and deserts before us. "(pp. 25-26)
The text more or less follows history. It is obvious that Bratton takes the Bible seriously. There are references to twenty Old Testament books, one intertestamental book, and eight New Testament books. The first extensive discussion is of Hagar's experiences in Genesis 16 and 21. She considers carefully the meaning of the text. Her conclusion is that Hagar had a spiritual experience in the wilderness. I confess that it had never occurred to me that the location and the experience had any necessary relationship. This is from the Genesis chapter. There are also chapters on the Exodus; on David and Jonathan; on some of the poetic books; on Elijah and Jonah (who both found themselves in solitude, except for God); on later prophets; on Christ, John the Baptist and the time between the Testaments; on Acts and Revelation; on desert monasticism; on Celtic monasticism; on St. Francis; on the Reformation; on the present Christian experience in the wild; and on protecting the wild. I will let Bratton speak for herself on Christian experience in wilderness solitude:
"The wilderness sojourn has never been the predominant mode of Christian worship or of community interaction, yet wilderness spiritual experience receives a great deal of attention in the Bible and in early Christian literature.The necessity for wilderness is correlated to the potential of the national social environment to inhibit the execution of God's will or to mute God's voice, which, in the case of contemporary western culture is considerable. Wilderness spiritual experience does not require the natural splendor of Yosemite Valley, nor does it require the drought of the deserts around the Dead Sea. It does, for full development, require solitude, struggle, and contact with creation, and a place expansive enough for God to be God." (p. 277)
The book is well written and fascinating. There are abundant quotaions in the text. There are sixteen pages of notes, six pages of bibliography, an index, and over three pages of biblical citations.
Reviewed by Martin LaBar, Central Wesleyan College, Central, SC 29630-1020.
BILLION AND MORE: Human Population Regulation and Christian Ethics by Susan Power
Bratton. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992. 217 pages, index.
This book proports to be a Christian perspective on global population matters. It is also is a history of birth practices and population control measures from ancient times, particularly during the period of the Old Testament, and throughout the history of the church. The intent is "to bring the major issues to the attention of the Christian community and to precipitate thoughtful discussion" (p. 200).
The author, Susan Power Bratton, has been a Professor of Biology at Messiah College. She also has written other books and articles on ethics, biology, botany, and ecology.
Bratton states that a Christian ethic for human population regulation must have the following characteristics: (1) The ethics for individual families and local congregations must be consistent with policies for nations and recognize world concerns. (2) The ethic must involve social and economic factors as well as reproductive. (3) The ethic must be cross-cultural. (4) The ethic must be able to withstand changing social and economic conditions C it must be based on spiritual principles. (5) The ethic must be individual, considering the rights and feelings of the individuals. (6) The ethic must be just, which Bratton defines in contemporary economic terms, rather than biblical terms. (7) The ethic must be based on Christian values, but it needs to go beyond the Bible and Christian traditions in developing solutions for other eras (p. 26f).
In the stating of these criteria, Bratton is showing her hermeneutical bias. She is quite in danger of going beyond scriptural norms to create a "Christian" ethic. Specifically, her notion of "justice" finds its roots in the Christian left rather than in Scripture. There is a leap between the prohibition against oppressing the widow, the fatherless, the alien or the poor (Zech. 7:10) and allowing the poor to make their own decisions, without bearing the consequences of their actions. She is being consistent with the advocates of messianic government, where the government removes the consequences from a person's own faulty decisions. Scripture both teaches that a person suffers for his own sin, and presents the grace of God that provides healing. It is the grace of God that provides healing, not an all-pervasive government.
Since Bratton's expertise is in ecology, not in economics, there are several gaps created by her failure to understand the economic ramifications of population studies. She ignores that persons, given adequate information, will act in their own self-interest. Nor does she understand the basis of wealth. For example, she correctly observed that England was able to expand its wealth through conquest (p. 32). But she contends that Third World countries are not free to conquer other lands today, implying that the main source of wealth comes from exploiting others, rather than, as Adam Smith correctly observed, through production of goods and services. Hence, countries can use trade to provide those goods or services in which that country has a comparative disadvantage.
One would have expected a Christian work on population matters to reflect the three-fold work of God: creation, providence, and redemption. The first is not absent. The second work is woefully neglected. To ignore providential governance over human affairs is to opt for a neo-Malthusian solution. While Bratton is careful to distance herself from Mathus, she is not as careful to separate herself from Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb) or Garrett Hardin ("The Tragedy of the Commons"). True, she seeks to distinguish her position from theirs. But, lacking a truly biblical understanding of the providential role of God in human history, her position is inadequately different.
Bratton does raise many important issues; her book is important to read to raise the neglected issue of population concerns and to develop a Christian perspective. But more work is needed. Specifically, we need to think through the relationship between God providentially governing history and human affairs on the one hand, and our responsibility as bearers of the Gospel to influence our society and culture with the ramifications of the Christian message. Her well-researched presentation does not give the definitive Christian ethic on population regulations and control. But it does much to prompt further research and much-needed thinking on the issue.
Reviewed by Hadley T. Mitchell, Adjunct Professor of Economics, Huntington College, Huntington, IN 46750
EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF HUMAN ORIGINS by Piero and Alberto Angela. Translated from
the Italian by Gabriele Tonne. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1993. 328 pages, 3
appendices, bibliography. Hardcover; $26.95.
The authors have succeeded in writing a book that reads much like a detective story, as they intended to. The book, originally copyrighted in 1989, provides the reader with a bit of the flavor of trying to unravel a puzzle from rather scant evidence and of squeezing all the information possible from the evidence that is available. Piero Angela is a well-known journalist and bestselling author in Italy and the host of television programs on science. He is also the founder of Italy's Skepticism Group. Alberto Angela has a degree in natural science from the University of Rome and has participated in paleontological researches in Zaire, with Noel Boaz and in Tanzania with Donald Johnson. Together, the two seem quite well qualified to write a book of this type.
The book basically follows a chronological order, with a slight regression to pick up the evolutionary line again after the extinction of the Neanderthals. There are numerous excursions into an imagined day in the life of the particular hominid being discussed, which enliven the reading and seem quite plausible. The book also includes four appendices that are very helpful, particularly the one on dating fossils.
As one who has always been rather skeptical of the information related to the origin of humans, I must say that this book did little to relieve my skepticism. Throughout the book, the authors clearly indicate just how little evidence exists and why it is so frequently subject to reinterpretation. After estimating that perhaps somewhere between 2 and 20 billion individuals lived in Africa over the last 4 billion years, the authors state (p. 194),
"All the fragments of skulls, teeth, jawbones, etc., found up to now would barely cover the floor of a large room. How can the history of billions of individuals who lived over millions of years in very different places be reconstructed on the basis of such a meager quantity of data?"
This is precisely my reason for skepticism. I think this is a strength of the book because, so often, grandiose claims are made about the state of our understanding of human evolution. As a result, things are often presented in popular writing as if there are few questions left to be answered. Furthermore, such claims often violate the boundary between what is legitimate science and what is philosophy.
As one who is involved in a quantitative science, it troubles me that, for example, a skeleton can be reconstructed from a tooth or a piece of a jawbone. What assumptions does one make about the statistical distribution of the size of teeth in the population from which the tooth came? Is it assumed that this tooth represents the mean? What uncertainty should be attached to these assumptions? How does the uncertainty propagate through the reconstruction? How far along does the reconstruction progress before it becomes meaningless, with the uncertainty making any meaningful conclusions impossible? These are some of the thoughts I had while reading this book.
To the extent that it represents the current state of thought in the field of human evolution, the book is very useful for people like me who were unfamiliar with the field. I would recommend it to others in the same category.
Reviewed by David K. Probst, Assistant Professor of Physics, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, M0 63701.
GENESIS, CREATION, AND
CREATIONISM by Lloyd R. Bailey. Paulist Press: New York, 1993. 253 pages, index.
Lloyd Bailey is a biblical scholar and associate professor of Hebrew Bible at the Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. He holds an undergraduate degree in physics and is an author and editor of books and publications in religious studies.
In Genesis, Creation, and Creationism, Bailey writes that his purpose "is to investigate the message (agenda, goal) of the biblical story of creation in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, and to compare the result with the interpretation of that same story by "young earth" creationists." His conclusion is that the primary purpose of the Genesis text is "a sustained, although subtle attack upon polytheism. The mythology of surrounding cultures is brushed aside as their divine sources are reduced to mere physical processes." From this premise it follows that scientific creationism is in conflict with the theological purpose of Genesis (as well as with many claims of mainstream science).
Some excellent literature already exists on this subject: Conrad Hyer's The Meaning of Creation; Daniel Wonderly's Neglect of Geologic Data, and Van Till, Young, and Menningas' Science Held Hostage. Indeed, Bailey quotes extensively from these sources. What then does Bailey's book contribute to the dialogue? I found Genesis, Creation, and Creationism useful for two reasons, the first being that it contained sixteen appendices with titles such as "Ecclesiastical Statements Concerning `Creationism"; "Numbers, Sacred and Symbolic Usage"; "The Cosmology of the Ancient Semites"; and "Anti-Evolutionism and the Courts." The appendices also cover dating topics such as pre-diluvian ages, the date of the second temple, and the elapsed time from Adam to the flood.
The second reason I found Bailey's book to be useful was as a model for the theologian with scientific training who rejects not only "young earth creationism," but also any hint of scientific content in Genesis I. In his preface, Bailey asks the reader to read the Genesis "text carefully and without prior commitment for or against `the theory of evolution.' " His stated primary purpose is to "let the Bible speak for itself." In that he asks the reader to set aside preconceptions, I was interested to determine what alternate position or positions he would end up advocating for the "Bible believing" Christian.
The first strong clue to his position came in Chapter 6 when he opined (erroneously, in my opinion) that scientists agreed "about the eternality of matter." In Chapter 7, Bailey continues this theme with his version of the scientific creation story taken from his 1984 sermon given in the Duke University Chapel. "It began in a universe that contained huge clouds of formless matter ....About four billion years ago the carbon-based molecule had learned to reproduce itself and an elementary form of `life' had begun. A billion years later, and the first cellular organisms were on the scene. Another billion years pass, and the organisms had learned `the joys of sex.'" Following the standard geologic succession of life, we arrive at "a few million years ago, [when] human creatures emerged on the earth." The molecules in our bodies are, to quote from Cosmos, `made from star-stuff.' "This sequence is followed by laying our bent toward self-destruction at the evolutionary branch from reptiles.
This 1984 sermon is titled "An Immense Journey: From 'star-stuff' to 'Child of God', " and if some of the language sounds like Carl Sagan's version of evolution, this similarity appears to be deliberate. In fact, Bailey is forthright about his admiration for Sagan, stating near the beginning of the sermon that he will "quote with approval both the astronomer Carl Sagan and the author of the book of Genesis." It was interesting to see a scholar of Bailey's credentials giving an approval rating to Sagan equivalent to that of the author of Genesis and attempting to make their two versions of creation compatible. To my disappointment, he did not deal with how Sagan's creator gods of "natural (non-intelligent) selection" (Cosmos, p. 27) and "minor accidents in our immensely long evolutionary history" (Cosmos, p. 282) can be accomodated to his biblical assurance that creation "was not a meaningless, accidental, sequence of events, contrary to what some modern people think!"
How can ASA help theologians like Bailey understand that Carl Sagan's antitheistic agenda is incompatible with biblical theism? Our 1991 Executive Council Resolution, "A Voice for Evolution as Science," should provide a start toward dispelling confusion, especially if we could teach them to define that ambiguous, protean word "evolution," to separate evidence from inference, and science from scientism. We could also bring them up to date with the latest in cosmology, biochemistry, and paleontology through our Journal articles. In addition, we could attempt to teach them that they can reject young earth creationism without buying fully into Carl Sagan's creation story. In my opinion, there is a wide range of far more sound theological and scientific positions available. In any event, Genesis, Creation and Creationism should prove useful for its well-organized appendices and for analysis of an uncritical accomodationist position.
Reviewed by John L. Wiester, 7820 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton, CA 93427.
OF EVOLUTIONARY THEORY: A Christian View by Russell Maatman. Sioux Center, IA:
Dordt College Press, 1993. 318 pages, extensive references, indices. Paperback, $12.95.
Russell Maatman is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Dordt College, and well known to long-time ASA members, as he himself is a fellow of ASA and has been active for years. Author of The Bible, Natural Science and Evolution back in 1969 and The Unity in Creation (1978), this third book is the fruit of a lifetime of thinking about the interaction of science and Christianity, particularly in the area of origins.
The title may be somewhat misleading, as the book ranges more broadly. Maatman begins with some basic questions he will address. (1) Given that both creation and the Bible reveal God, how are these two modes of revelation related to the various sciences? (2) What is the Christian way to study science? (3) In what way does a Christian understanding of science differ from the commonly held view of science? (4) How do these different understandings of science result from different world views? (5) How do world views influence questions of origins, and therefore, one's understanding of the world today?
In succeeding chapters, Maatman sketches the rise of evolution from ancient roots and its interaction with Christian theology. He follows with a presentation of the design argument and objections to it, both from Reformed theologians and from an evolutionary perspective. Then comes a survey of the standard evolutionary scenario, followed by two chapters of scientific critique.
At this point Maatman turns to revelation: what is general revelation and how does it fit in with the special revelation of Scripture? What is science? Is the phrase "Bible and science" the proper one to use in this sort of discussion? Finally, in chapters ten and eleven Maatman gets to Genesis 1-2, sketching the importance of control beliefs and looking at seven different approaches to Genesis.
Chapters 12 through 14 actually are closest to the title, giving a brief tour of the influence of evolutionary thought on modern views of human behavior, both individually and collectively; of progress in religion, economics and history; and of how we humans view ourselves.
The last chapter looks at the enormous scope of the evolutionary paradigm and its recent influence in the feminist and animal-rights movements. Evolution posits a closed universe and a very different future than does biblical Christianity.
Maatman's book is well worth reading for its many insights. The scope is somewhat too ambitious for the space available and the treatment uneven in different areas; probably no one on earth has enough expertise in all the academic fields covered. Even if you do not agree with all the positions Maatman takes (Reformed; Christian science different from secular science; natural theology not possible since the fall; old-earth creation; real Adam and Eve; not descended from animals), it would be good to read the book to see how he argues each point and whether or how you can answer it.
Reviewed by Robert C. Newman, Director of the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, PA 19440.
FROM ANIMALS: The Moral Implications of Darwinism by James Rachels. Oxford
University Press, 1991. Paperback; $9.95.
Many evolutionists, including most Christians who accept evolution as part of God's created order, would agree with Stephen Jay Gould: AScience can no more answer the questions of how we ought to live than religion can decree the age of the earth." James Rachels disagrees. He insists that, if Darwinism has obliterated the biological distinctions between humans and the other animals, then it must also have obliterated spiritual and moral distinctions. If humans are not biologically special, than neither can we be morally special, he insists. His book argues cogently for this viewpoint, and is so brilliantly written that it is even fun to read. Those of us who disagree with him will have our own minds sharpened by it.
Chapter 1 is one of the best short biographies of Darwin and his contemporaries that I have read. In it, you almost feel that you know Charles Darwin as a friend. His ideas about evolution C and later, about the similarities of humans and animals C caused his very religious but faithful wife Emma much distress. To the very end of his life, Charles Darwin grieved that he had brought such trouble on his wife and family.
Rachels' purpose is to demonstrate that Darwin was willing to include not only man's body but his spirituality and morality as products of evolution by means of natural selection C as Darwin wrote privately, the soul is just a secretion of the brain.
Rachels then reviews various unsuccessful attempts to relate ethics and evolution C for instance, Spencer's writings, which were greeted with such enthusiasm in their day but which nobody reads anymore. He reviews sociobiology as one of these less than successful attempts. He says sociobiology fails for the same reason that "mathobiology" would fail. "'Mathobiology,' if it existed, could add nothing to our understanding of [mathematics]. It would be irrelevant to determining whether [a] proof is valid or invalid, because that is something that can be established only within the framework of mathematics itself." Biological heritage may constrain our ethical choices, but does not determine what is right and wrong.
Instead, Rachels focuses on the question of whether Darwinism had destroyed the concept of human dignity. It has, he says, and even T. H. Huxley did not realize this. It did not disprove human dignity, but it took away our reason for believing in human dignity. Rachels reviews the history of the idea of human dominion over the rest of Creation, including the concept of stewardship.
Next, Rachels asks, must a Darwinian reject religion? He, like Gould, notes that many scientists are religious. These scientists (including the entire ASA) are not fools, he says. But, notes Rachels, it would not be the first time a large group of scientists has been wrong. Rachels seems to demolish the Design Argument, in a manner similar to Gould. But he also rejects theistic evolution, precisely because it is unfalsifiable. He is correct that theistic evolutionists will just say "That's the way God did it, I guess," no matter what evolutionary discoveries are made. (He is right that people such as those of us in the ASA will believe that "God did it" no matter what scientific evidence is uncovered!) Rachels says, "This would mean that [God] has created a situation in which his own involvement is so totally hidden that the process gives every appearance of operating without any guiding hand at all. In other words, he has created a situation in which it is reasonable for us to believe that he is not involved ...If religious belief is reduced to this, is it worth having? ...The concept of God that survives is so vague that it is of little use in explaining either nature in general or human nature in particular" (p. 125-6). Can we answer him? It will sharpen our minds.
Darwinism led Darwin to agnosticism, however, primarily because of the "problem of evil." Rachels presents brief and powerful arguments against natural theodicy, rather discomfiting to those of us who have published articles on this subject (see PSCF 39: 150-157). It was the amount, rather than the fact, of evil in the world that made Darwin reject God: "There seems to me too much misery in the world..." both human and nonhuman.
Next, Rachels argues that humans and non-humans are not distinct. The belief that human life is sacrosanct but animal life is expendable is responsible for the meaningless death of thousands of primates, he points out. Darwin demonstrated, however, that nonhuman animals had what can be called the ability to reason C even earthworms have this ability, in rudimentary form, Darwin wished to demonstrate. In fairness, Rachels also dismisses the way some ethologists impute human feelings to animal behavioral patterns. Rachels further argues, as did Darwin, that humans are not the only moral animals. Rhesus monkeys can be trained to behave compassionately. He dismisses Christian love as an aberration: "If we start with the assumption that humans exhibit a kind of grand, Sermon-on-the-Mount altruism, and we then assume we are trying to explain that, then Darwin's suggestion might seem altogether too feeble...[but] our non-kin altruism is so weak that when an affluent American gives a few hundred dollars to support famine-relief efforts, while spending thousands to send his children to an expensive university, he is judged to be exceptionally generous. Truly disinterested, generalized saintliness might exist in a few people, but it is so rare that it may be regarded, in the naturalist's terms, as a mere 'variation'..." (p. 157-8). I suppose we must agree with Rachels that perfect love cannot be produced by evolution.
Finally, Rachels claims to derive a Amorality without humans being special." He begins by pointing out that, even though we claim "all men are created equal," it simply isn't true. But we still assume that we must treat everyone equally, unless there are differences among people that justify their being treated differently. Rachels simply extends this principle to animals. We should treat humans and animals the same, unless there is a good reason to treat them differently. For instance, animals cannot read and write, so it is quite fair to deny animals admission to universities. But animals can feel pain, so it is as wrong for us to make animals suffer as to make humans suffer. Chimps are intelligent, so it is wrong to confine a chimp to a boring, bare cage; but shrimp are not intelligent, so it is not wrong to confine shrimp to boring, bare tubs. He answers various objections to his position, for instance, the objection that we have no moral obligations to other animals because they do not treat us in a moral fashion. He bases his ethics on the assumption that "the value of a life is, first and foremost, the value that it has for the person who is the subject of that life. Our lives are valuable, not to God or to nature or to the universe, but to us" (p. 198). He uses this argument to conclude that, under some circumstances, suicide is moral. If in the process we lose our sense of duty to God, this may just be "a loss that humans after Darwin must live with." He does not state his opinion about how to apply this principle to every situation, although he clearly does not go as far as some extreme animal-rights activists. He hints at a few applications, however. He says that euthanasia is not as bad as making animals suffer for the safety testing of cosmetics.
Nor does Rachels claim that all species are of morally equal status. He does, however, object to humans having dominion over the other species. He would disagree with Frederick Turner, who wrote:
"We must take responsibility for nature. That ecological modesty which asserts that we are only one species among many, with no special rights, we may now see as the abdication of a trust. We are, whether we like it or not, the lords of creation; true humility consists not in pretending that we aren't, but in living up to the trust that it implies by service to the greater glory and beauty of the world we have been given to look after. It is a bad shepherd who, on democratic principles, deserts his sheep." (The Rebirth of Value, SUNY Press, 1991, p. 62)
Rachels would not expect those of us with religious beliefs to agree with him. "Even if every argument in this book were correct, it would be astonishing if readers simply accepted its conclusions," he concedes. But he has done the best job I have seen of drawing Darwinian evolutionary principles to their ultimate moral conclusions. The results are objectionable to the Christian, but not as horrible as we might have feared. It does not lead, as some preachers warn, to totalitarianism and a complete devaluing of human life. Rachels' excellent book gives intelligent readers a chance to sharpen their minds and examine their beliefs.
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Department of Biology, Southwest State University, Marshall, MN 56258
BIOLOGY AS IDEOLOGY:
The Doctrine of DNA by R. C. Lewontin. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.
128 pages. Paperback; $10.00.
This small volume contains several essays by geneticist Richard Lewontin. All but one of the essays are edited transcripts of radio programs which were broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The other essay originally appeared in The New York Review of Books.
The essays, although written in a popular style, contain a discussion of several issues related to the working of science in general and more specifically of modern biology. Topics in the book range widely from hybrid core to DNA fingerprinting and eugenics to environmental policy. Lewontin is very critical of two all too common trends in biology today C biological determinism and reductionism. He also raises some serious questions in regard to other areas of biology, notably the Human Genome Project and sociobiology, and the philosophy which underlies them.
The author has clearly cut through the rhetoric and has gotten down to the concepts which form the foundations of modern biology. Some scientists will strongly disagree with Lewontin's assertions. However, much of what he says is an accurate representation of modern biology and the "scientific establishment." The major thesis of the book can be summarized in the author's statement that there is "a particular ideological bias of modern biology. That bias is that everything we are, our sickness and health, our poverty and wealth, and the very structure of the society we live in are encoded in our DNA." As one might expect from the co-author of another book, Not in Our Genes, Lewontin is strongly opposed to such a deterministic viewpoint.
Although not necessarily a work on the philosophy of science, this book could be read within that context. Certainly anyone interested in the philosophical basis of biology today, especially as it relates to reductionism and determinism, would find Lewontin's thoughts worth considering. Those who look upon the universe in a non-reductionist and non-deterministic manner will find this book refreshing.
Reviewed by Phillip Eichman, University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande, OH 45674
FACTOR: Evolution, Culture and Religion by Philip Hefner. Minneapolis, MN:
Fortress Press, 1993. xvii + 317 pages, glossary, bibliography, index. Paperback; $18.00.
According to Hefner (Professor of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and Editor-in-chief of Zygon) this work is "theological anthropology in the light of the natural sciences" and is designed to provide illumination for "a dangerous confusion in our times about values and the moral life" (p. xiii). He calls it a "conversation between theology and the sciences" (p. xiv), but it might be more accurately described as a scientific philosophy.
Part I sets forth Hefner's theory of mankind as the "created co-creator," with nine auxiliary hypotheses. In his extensive discussion of the nature and purpose of theory, he strongly asserts that it is not necessary for a theory to be adequately substantiated or claim to be "unassailably true" (p. 17). Rather, the theory, to be successful, must be "fruitful" in challenging researchers, providing new insights into old questions, and raising new questions. The "hard core" theory, as in Darwin's and Freud's theories, is not falsifiable; rather, it spawns auxiliary hypotheses which are falsifiable. Parts II through IV take up the three themes of the theory: nature, freedom, and culture. Part V provides the Christian traditions and theology to which he connects his theory.
However, Hefner's philosophy is thoroughly materialistic, grounded upon evolutionary theory with no room for any supernatural (spiritual) elements. "In short, we are indissolubly part of nature, fully natural" (p. 65). His Hypothesis #6, states, "Homo sapiens is a two-natured creature, a symbiosis of genes and culture" (p. 45). All knowledge, including "revelation," comes from the study of nature by man, the creature and product of nature. Values, morality, even responsibility and all of culture have arisen as a result of evolution, and man's ultimate purpose on earth will be worked out by the evolutionary process. On page 72 he laments that "...we cannot represent to ourselves how the scientific message of our kinship with nature can qualify as the logos, the word, of God." Myth and ritual are essential to modern humans, but they have been worked out, invented if you will, by mankind to meet the need and must be revised and changed as needed. In most aspects of Hefner's philosophy, God could have as easily been called "Mother Nature."
Criticism should be directed toward his eclectic melding of ideas and the rather fuzzy connections between these ideas, as promised in the preface. Hefner admits that freshmen "may have found me unintelligible at times, while research professors of biology and philosophy found me to be frustratingly simplistic" (p. xv), and he confesses a "predilection for mixing different ways of thinking and for methodological opaqueness [stemming] from the context of my work and my discovery" (p. xiv). On page 255, he speaks of the reader traversing " difficult trail...(and) entering thickets that were only partially passable, and walking on paths that were often ill-marked." One cannot help wondering if it is, rather, merely fuzzy thinking.
One example will have to suffice: his concept of "what really is." The glossary indicates that it "is employed to denote the most fundamental reality or nature of things" (p. 287). Indeed, it is used in the text as if it were something objective, "out there," yet it seems to be the message of myths regnant for conduct of daily life and morality. Presumedly, if the import of the myth is changed as humanity progresses in knowledge, "what really is," i.e. "fundamental reality," changes as well!
Nevertheless, there are several aspects to this book that merit serious consideration. The stated purpose of his book is to be "fruitful." Judged by this standard, the book is, indeed, successful in opening up many questions for study and promising avenues of thought for this reviewer C even if the results of this study and thought would no doubt be unacceptable to Hefner.
He takes very seriously the biological nature and provenance of humanity as part of creation, yet ruler over creation. Sifting out, refining, and integrating the valid insights into a biblical understanding of man and God would be a very fruitful approach for evangelicals. He also does us a service by insisting that there is no way to separate the content of faith from the symbolic action of ritual and the practical action of everyday life.
This will be a very disturbing book for those on the conservative end of theological tradition, but a critical, thoughtful reading can be quite "fruitful."
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, The James ". Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80631.
CREATION: Perspectives on Science and Theology by Michael Bauman (Ed.). Hillsdale,
MI: Hillsdale College Press, 1993. 306 pages, index. Paperback; $9.95.
Man and Creation is based on lectures presented at Hillsdale College during a 1993 seminar. Michael Bauman is Associate Professor of Theology and Culture and Director of Christian Studies at Hillsdale College. The book includes papers by Bauman, Mark A. Kalthoff, Ronald L. Numbers, Richard H. Bube, J. P. Moreland, Howard J. Van Till, Craig Chester, Phillip E. Johnson, Richard Alexander, Owen Gingerich and Donald. B. Heckenlively. Its primary theme is a debate among Christians over two questions: "What is science?" and "How do science and theology relate?"
The book opens with overviews of the history of relations between science and theology by Kalthoff and Numbers. Kalthoff covers the period from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth century, while Numbers focuses on the development of modern creationism from the late Nineteenth century to the present.
Next Richard Bube describes seven categories of possible relationships between science and theology. The various categories are distinguished by whether science and theology describe the same or different entities, whether they ask the same or different questions, and in those categories where science/theology conflicts can occur, which is considered to have primacy. In his paper, "The Star of Bethlehem: Science of the Ancients," Craig Chester presents an intriguing example of how ancient records and astronomical knowledge may be used to establish candidate dates for Christ's birth.
The papers by Bauman, Moreland, Johnson, Gingerich and Van Till debate "Theistic Science," which Moreland defines as "" research program committed to these propositions: (1) God, a purposeful agent of great power and intelligence, has purposefully created and designed the world through direct agent causation and indirect secondary causation and has intervened directly in its development at various times; (2) the commitment expressed in proposition 1 can appropriately enter into the very fabric of scientific practice and the use of scientific methodology." Moreland claims theology makes predictions that should guide scientific experimentation. (E.g., purposes will be found for vestigial organs, the fossil record will have gaps, theories such as natural selection operating at the level of macroevolution will be falsified.) Bauman argues that theology should have greater credibility than science because it has remained rather stable since the days of the early church, while science is constantly rejecting old paradigms for new ones. Differences between the two fields which contribute to this disparity are not discussed. Johnson accepts conventional estimates for the age of the earth, and he accepts microevolution. However, he claims that, "Neo-Darwinian evolution in this broad sense [i.e. macroevolution] is a philosophical doctrine so lacking in empirical support tha Stephen J. Gould once pronounced it in a reckless moment to be 'effectively dead'." Why then do many scientists hold the doctrine of neo-Darwinian evolution? Johnson believes scientific naturalism demands it: "The problem with allowing God a role in the history of life is not that science would cease, but that scientists would have to acknowledge the existence of something important that is outside the boundaries of natural science."
Gingerich and Van Till believe that God works by formulating the laws of nature so that nature unfolds as he desires, and continues interacting at levels not directly observable. Van Till's "Functional Integrity" concept is the idea that God created a nature capable of executing his commands. Scientists study nature's execution and thus should find natural causes for observable effects C nature is "seamless" and has no gaps that must be filled in by God. Van Till finds support for his views in those of St. Augustine and St. Basil.
Papers by biologists Alexander and Heckenlively discuss the evidence for evolution and show how acceptance of evolution need not conflict with a biblical Christian theology. Alexander shows how some aspects of human nature evident in the human mortality curve can be explained using evolutionary paradigms.
Finally, Art Battson provides some thoughts on an agenda for research by "theistic scientists." He advocates the development of a theory of "macrostasis" - that is, a theory of the processes which prevent macroevolution.
This book is at once refreshing and frustrating. It's refreshing because it mostly avoids the issues creation-evolution discussions get bogged down in: flood geology, the reliability of radioactive dating, the second law of thermodynamics, etc. The debate among Gingerich, Van Till, Johnson, Bauman and Moreland is a debate among Christians, in which the issue under consideration is how should a genuinely biblical theology relate to science. Johnson, Bauman and Moreland seem to recognize that what theologians have to offer scientists is theology and philosophy, not science, and Van Till has shown that a sound Christian theology need not conflict with a truly scientific theory of organic evolution.
The frustrating aspect is the considerable confusion on the part of Bauman, Johnson and Moreland about what science is and what its domain is. Moreland seems to confuse statements about spiritual issues for statements about physical mechanisms when he argues that theology makes predictions that should guide scientific investigation. Johnson rightly chastises some scientists for believing that anything that is not science is irrelevant, but seems to think that even Christians like Van Till and Gingerich fall into this trap. Bauman, in comparing the rapid maturation of Christian theology to the history of paradigm shifts in the sciences, draws the wrong conclusion.
I believe the correct conclusion is that spiritual issues are important enough to God that he spoke very specifically to us about them. He let us investigate issues of physical process and mechanism on our own.
Reviewed by William E. Hamilton, Jr., Staff Research Engineer, GM NAO Research and Development Center, Warren, MI 48090-9055.
TAKING THE WORD TO HEART: Self and Others in an Age of Therapies by Robert C.
Roberts. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993. 315 pages, index. Paperback.
Roberts, a professor of philosophy and psychological studies at Wheaton College, has written this book to make Christians aware of the pitfalls of uncritically adopting secular psychology's view of what it is to become a person. He defines the development of the person, or the self, as being shaped either by the "Word of Christ" or by "some other account of what it is to be a person" (p. xi).
Roberts adopts the usual view of a Christian writer examining psychology and theology. Secular therapies are seen as a mixed blessing. Christians can learn from them, but a good deal of discrimination is required in order to determine what is acceptable and what is not. Since all therapies define what it is to be a person, Roberts believes they are "alternative spiritualities" which must be measured in the light of the revealed truth of the scriptures. Rogers takes the position that a Christian concept of a true self is necessarily different from that of a secular therapist. To the Christian, the self can only really be defined in terms of one's relationship with God and one's neighbor; secular therapies do not take into account man's spiritual development.
The book is divided into two sections. The first section, chapters 1 to 7, concentrates on what Roberts believes to be the essential doctrines of the self and self development therapies of Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis, Carl Jung, Hans Kohut, and Boszormenyi-Nagy. In the second section, eight chapters are used to outline what Roberts suggests are problem areas and methodological considerations which could be adapted into a Christian psychology of human behavior. It is in this section that Roberts draws upon previously published material from journals and magazines, particularly Christianity Today. In the concluding chapter, Roberts offers a challenge to Christian psychologists to develop a truly biblically-based Christian psychology.
Roberts is to be commended for undertaking the monumentous task of analyzing the concept of self. The fact that cognitive, analytic, and family systems are all represented poses some problems in the book as it is not made clear why and how each school of thought has developed its own distinct way of dealing with human behavior. Roberts chose these systems because they have made inroads into Christian thinking with a potentially detrimental effect. To prove his point, Roberts cites conversations with pastors and church workers who have used the concepts of secular therapists as a foundation for worship, rational living seminars or encounter groups. The adaptation of Rational Emotive Therapy by William Backus to a Christian setting also comes under scrutiny and receives mixed reviews, as does Martin Kelsey's use of Jung. Nagy's "contexural therapy" was considered to be useful in the development of a Christian psychology since it uses the "sovereignty of justice," a concept Roberts considers to be in tune with Christianity. Nagy's therapy also incorporates other virtues such as loyalty, justice, gratitude, trust, accountability, all of which play a role in Nagy's concept of how the self is developed. However, as with the other therapies, certain aspects of Nagy are unacceptable to the Christian. Loyalty to the intergenerational family, for example, must be replaced with loyalty to God. Roberts' treatment of Rogers, Jung and Nagy, raises few problems for this reviewer.
Questions do arise concerning his interpretations of Ellis and Kohut. Roberts' evaluation of Ellis' views on self-esteem and self-acceptance (pp. 48-9) is questionable. Roberts believes that Ellis is not clear on the relationship between feelings and beliefs concerning self-worth and self acceptance (p. 49). But in Ellis' scheme of things, self-acceptance is not an emotion or a rational feeling but a cognitive exercise. While Roberts recognizes that the goal of Rational Emotive Therapy is to change absolutist "musts" into "shoulds" and thereby enable the client to begin to accept himself as a valuable person, he believes Ellis rejects the aspect of "global self-assessment" as an important part of self development. A perusal of the thirteen criteria of psychological health which Ellis and Dryden outline in their latest book indicates that Ellis did take into account the concept of "global evaluation" of self-worth but not at the expense of creating a pathological way of functioning.
Similarly, I would question Roberts' treatment of Kohut. According to Roberts, Kohut's aim is to develop a sense of healthy narcissism in the client, and in this manner become a true self. Roberts suggests that "healthy narcissism" ultimately prevents the client from adopting a proper relationship with God. But Kohut's view of healthy narcissism accomplishes just the opposite to denying "Christian humility" (p. 143). The healthy narcissist is able to see himself in a realistic way, and to know where he fits into the scheme of things. His view of himself is one of humility, which would enable him to react empathically with others, and would not necessarily hinder him from developing a proper relationship with God.
The second section of the book is the least controversial. Roberts outlines problematic issues which Christian therapists could treat with a cognitive strategies. These include dealing with the problems of encouraging competition in children, using Christian hospitality to encourage the lonely, the use of forgiveness as therapy, the disruption of envy and pride in relationships, and the spiritual lessons to be learned from children. Therapists and counsellors may question, however, whether these issues can be dealt with in highly disfunctional families or disturbed individuals without their first being restored to a healthy concept of self or to a reasonably healthy family system. This is a key issue. The use of a cognitive strategy, such as Rational Emotive Therapy, to deal with "masturbatory" irrational thinking, or the use of Kohut's "restoration of the self as a psychoanalytic strategy for dealing with personality disorders in an effort to restore these clients to some semblance of mental health, is a precursor in most instances to achieve the goals Roberts suggests.
Another criticism of the book is the lack of a bibliography. The only references to the writers Roberts analyzes are in the footnotes. One would expect a more detailed list of source material.
Roberts has, however, written an interesting book and it does achieve the aim he intended. He has raised significant questions, which deserve consideration, concerning the relationship between secular therapies and Christian views of personhood. Christian pastors and church members need to take care that they do not adopt therapies for uses for which they are not intended. The book would appeal to ASA readers who are interested in the relationship between psychology and theology. However the book is more philosophical than practical, and would offer little help to therapists in their private practice.
Reviewed by E. J. Noble, a psychotherapist in private practice in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada. .
ON HUMAN DEVELOPMENT by Leroy Aden, David G. Benner & J. Harold Ellens (Eds.).
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Bookhouse, 1992. 274 pages, bibliography, index of authors and
subjects, index of Scripture. Paperback.
The book is number seven in the series "Psychology and Christianity." It is divided into three parts: Developmental Theory and Faith, Developmental Theory and the Mature Self, and Developmental Theory in Specific Situations. Sixteen writers contributed to the book. I recommend the book not only to psychologists but also to anyone who is involved in teaching, counselling, or pastoring. The writers want to use psychology's life cycle theories to show how one passes through the stages of life. They want to do so from a Christian perspective. The back cover says that the writers represent a variety of theological and psychological backgrounds.
To most writers I feel close, with some I have trouble. For example, does the last essay, John W. Miller's, on "Jesus and the Age Thirty Transition," belong in this book? I have trouble recognizing my Savior. In a Christian book I do not expect to find sentences like the one in note 10 on page 245: "While it is difficult to imagine who in the early church might have invented stories of Jesus being tempted by Satan in this manner, an analysis of Jesus' mission points to a victorious battle over `satan' as one of its presuppositions." Or on page 246: "It is worth noting that Satan in these narratives represents patricidal ambition." I could mention more. For me, these sentences (and the whole article) diminish the real power of the real Satan, which Jesus had to overcome. Stories did not have to be "invented."
Generally speaking I enjoyed the book. I believe that non-psychologists can benefit from it in their understanding of people they meet.
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.
MINDS by Howard Gardner. New York: Basic Books, 1993. 464 pages. Hardcover;
The problem of creativity has always been a challenging topic for scientific research since it does not lend itself easily to quantitative or qualitative characterization. Nevertheless, Gardner tries to characterize creativity and his "focus takes the form of a search for patterns C for revealing similarities and for instructive differences" (p. 7). The framework is characterized by three components: a creator, a project, and others. All creativity results from ties between an individual and a project on the one hand, and between the individual and others on the other. To discover some patterns in discoveries, Gardner uses biographies of seven creative minds representing very diverse disciplines: Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Martha Graham, and Gandhi. In his analyses, Gardner attempts to draw on two approaches to the phenomenon of creativity: Gruber's "evolving system approach" in which evolution of certain systems is simultaneously traced, and Simonton's historiometric approach. What is interesting in Gardner's specification of creativity is an emphasis of the fact that personal creativity is not sufficient to be a creator; the work has to be accepted, i.e., filtered through "a judgment of a competent field" (p. 40), in order to be considered creative.
The bulk of the book is a presentation of the seven biographies. In the concluding chapter the author outlines some generalizations, although "an exception can be found to each of the emerging generalizations." (p. 360). He gives a portrait of a creator, although for each element of the portrait a creative mind can be shown who contradicts it. This shows that no single factor can explain creativity (or no single factor taken into account so far by the researchers). Thus, some creators have support of families, some experienced isolation, some "experienced very powerful feelings." Creators have mentors, but there are "anomalous" creators who have none. All creators were active through lifetime, but there are some "meteoric" exceptions also with few exceptions. With all these alleged patterns, numerous exceptions, and exceptions to exceptions the composite portrait Gardner draws resembles very much a composite portrait of a perpetrator constructed from descriptions of people who witnessed a misdeed in different countries in different times and situations.
The phenomenon of creativity remains as elusive as ever and Gardner's book is of very little help in giving more insight into this problem. Unconditional generalizations he proposes, such as a "notable characteristic of creativity...is its special amalgam of the childlike and the adultlike" (p. 365) and the fact that all creators rebelled against control (p. 367) are hardly informative or specific to creativity. The book is, however, not without value. Biographies of the seven creators are very well written and very informative. The author has a flair for historical writing (his excellent The Mind's New Science is another example), and the reader will certainly benefit from reading this part of the book.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
NATURE, GOD, AND PULPIT by
Elizabeth Achtemeier. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992. 206 pages. Hardcover; $12.95.
The dialogue between science and theology will ultimately be of value for the Church only if it has a healthy impact on the Church's ministries of proclamation and education. Elizabeth Achtemeier, an adjunct professor of Bible and Homiletics at Union Seminary in Virginia and author of a number of books on homiletics, provides here some theological background for preaching on concerns related to humanity's relationship with nature and environmental issues. This is accompanied by examples of sermons which she has preached over the past years on various texts and themes.
Achtemeier's discussions and her sermons are based upon, and permeated by, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. She begins by noting that the Church has a fully developed doctrine of redemption in Christ, a doctrine which underlies most preaching. But, she argues, the centrality of Christ also has important implications for our understanding of creation. Implication, which are often not worked out properly, and which seldom arise in sound preaching about creation and the human role in the world. Although she does not go into great detail on scientific questions or a theological view of science, those familiar with the science-theology dialogue will see some similarities between Achtemeier's approach and that of Thomas Torrance: in order for our scientific understanding of the world to be of any theological significance, it must be viewed in the light of God's historical revelation, which is centered on Christ.
The book's discussion begins with that basic grounding of our knowledge of God. Chapter 3, "The Reserved Room," develops the theme that God, in creating the universe, has given the possibility of human life. Succeeding chapters deal with the biblical picture of humanity's role, contingency and providence, the problem of evil, and eschatology. Each chapter is accompanied by one or two textually based meditations or sermons which indicate how the chapter's theme can be given homiletic application. The final chapter, "The Preacher's Opportunity," summarizes some of the book's basic ideas specifically for preaching on God, nature, and humanity.
Of course, a considerable amount of attention has been given to religious dimensions of current environmental concerns. Many feminist writers, process theologians, and partisans of "deep ecology" have been critical of traditional Christian views of God and the relationship between God and the world. Such traditional views are, some have argued, largely responsible for the present environmental crisis. The brief 1967 article by Lynn White Jr., is perhaps the best known of such analyses. Achtemeier is not at all hesitant about taking on such critics, opposing them with biblically based arguments that the traditional understanding of the difference between God and the world, the human commission to have responsible dominion over the earth, sin, and an eschatology which transcends the working out of natural processes provides the only adequate framework for an environmental theology.
Such a competent defense of biblical theology in this area, especially when intended to support the work of proclamation, is welcome. It has to be said, however, that the author does sometimes seem too defensive. While the Bible itself supports a healthy attitude toward nature, Christians often have in fact interpreted the "dominion" of Gen. 1:26-28 to mean simply a right to exploit the world. And some traditional theological views may at least need to be expanded. For instance, while Achtemeier seems to have no problem with the idea of biological evolution itself, her chapter on suffering and evil does not come to grips with the idea of natural selection: that competition and extinction play crucial roles in the evolutionary process.
These and some other points can be criticized. But Nature, God, and Pulpit can be an excellent resource for a pastor who feels that he or she should do some preaching on environmental concerns but isn't sure how to go about it. Achtemeier should be thanked for making a contribution to environmental theology which can be used in this essential ministry of the Church.
Reviewed by George L. Murphy, Pastor, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Tallmadge, OH 44278
AGING IN GOOD HEALTH by Florence
Liebermann and Morris F. Collen, (Eds.). New York: Plenum Press, 1993. 337 pages.
This book will be of interest to members of the American Scientific Affiliation because all of them are (1) aging and (2) want to continue to do so. The information in this tome will be especially useful to the 31 million Americans over the age of 65. For the rest of us, it will provide advice on how to prepare for the inevitable. Aging in Good Health is based on information presented at forums orchestrated by the National Academies of Practice, an organization devoted to optimum patient care through interdisciplinary communication. The physiological, psychological, ethical, social and financial situations facing the elderly and their families are considered by these nine health professions: dentistry, medicine, nursing, optometry, osteopathic medicine, podiatric medicine, psychology, social work, and veterinary medicine.
Subjects discussed include chemical dependency, the aging eye, dementia, and the therapeutic effects of relating to animals. Interesting facts: 13 percent of the population will be over 65 years of age in 1995; half of medical cost result from treating persons in the last year of life; the majority of patient care of the elderly is rendered by nurses; two-thirds of the visually impaired are over 65 years of age; the most common ailments of those over 55 are hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Unfortunately, this book contains no discussion of the role religion and spirituality play in the health of the elderly. This is a glaring omission since there is a section devoted to elderly social and psychological issues.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
CULTURE OF DISBELIEF: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion by
Stephen L. Carter. New York: Basic Books 1993. 328pp, notes, index. Hardcover: $25;
Ours is a culture that does not value religion, and in public life the consequences range from our willingness "to let a court, of all things, settle many of our toughest moral dilemmas"to a climate that compels religious people to deny their most fundamental selves upon entering the public square. In The Culture of Disbelief, Stephen Carter, a professor of law at Yale, shows how our public culture trivializes religion, and argues that this is a grave mistake.
Carter is very careful not to claim (though critics like the reviewers for The Humanist gleefully pretend he has) that our public life is devoid of all semblance of religion. It may be acceptable, even important, for politicians to mention God or make statements that sound like quotes from the Bible, something many of us find reassuring in the candidates we intend to vote for anyway. But when there is conviction behind the talk and religion begins to actually affect things C important things like making laws and running businesses C we have gone too far. This, Carter says, is to trivialize religion, and his fascinating, though at times infuriating book,offers many well-argued examples, from fundamental concepts like the separation of church and state, to specific issues like school prayer, abortion law, and creation science. Carter is not opposed to courts or to politics, but to what they become when religion is devalued, when the tacit rules of public discourse require us to justify our beliefs in the mold of enlightenment rationalism C excluding as absurd and fanatical, for example, appeal to the Word or the will of God as reasons for belief and action. And he is concerned with what he himself must become, for Carter is a committed Christian, one for whom God is not just a hobby, and one who is concerned about our public life. It is not his purpose, though, to defend Christianity as the basis for political life, and he often uses (to great effect) the experience of people of other faiths. He also devotes a profoundly insightful chapter and more to showing that religious people are in part responsible for religion not being taken seriously. Religions can be very important to a democracy, as independent centers of power with claims on the allegiance of members often different from Cand more powerful than Cclaims of the state. But though we speak most often of freedom, this requires autonomy of religions, something quite different. And Carter argues that for many reasons, including tax exempt status, autonomy "is often the missing element in America's confused relationships with its religions."
In one interesting section he relates how, inspired by his childrens' fondness for The Sound of Music, they read Maria's autobiography. There Maria recounts that after falling in love with Captain Von Trapp, she visited Mother Superior C not for advice but for permission to marry. Her answer was, in effect, a command from God communicated through Mother Superior. There is much here from which to expound the distinction between someone like Maria, who takes faith seriously, and those who do not.
But Carter instead asks us to imagine Maria not as a Roman Catholic but as a member of the Unification Church, consulting not the wise and holy Mother Superior but the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. "All at once her decision to consult with her religious superiors before marrying takes on a cast either sinister or amusing...At that point, Maria Trapp believes too deeply; she becomes a weirdo." This brought home to me a sense of the difficulty others must have in taking me seriously when my views arise from Christian conviction. Asking a secular person to take my Christianity seriously in public life must surely have something in common with asking me to take the Rev. Moon seriously. It is one of Carter's strengths that he so ably conveys an appreciation for the complexity of these issues, but this complexity is also, at times, his undoing.
Some Christians, he observes, say it is important to tolerate people of different religions, yet Jewish citizens will Arightly object to language suggesting that Christians...should 'tolerate' them," for the First Amendment is meant to establish religious equality. True enough, but are we talking about personal conviction or legal status? Does the fact C the important fact C of legal equality require the deeply religious to honor the convictions of others as being as true as their own? I think not C I hope not C but then what does it mean to take religion seriously? How, that is, can I expect non-religious people to take me seriously if I do not, if because of my religion I cannot accept their view of the matter as equal to my own? If Carter offers a fine exposition of how we trivialize religion, he leaves us wondering just what it could mean to take others seriously without each trivializing our own religious convictions.
The trivializing of religion is deeply ingrained in our thought, and as Philip Johnson notes (First Things, Dec. 1993) this book is no exception. Carter is distinctly squeamish at the prospect of religious people influencing public affairs when they oppose his own political convictions. Consider the strikingly censorious terms he reserves for the 1992 Republican National Convention, and for Pat Robertson's "sinister" political activism. He seems unaware of the irony in speaking of "the frighteningly antidemocratic...character of the push by a national political party to replace secular politics with an appeal to religiosity"in a book meant to convince us that religion's place in public life should reflect its importance in people's lives. Yes, he patiently explains that these ideas should not be rejected because they are religious but because they are wrong. But while this may seem only reasonable, is it not a claim that we can judge the rightness of a view quite apart from the religious reasons people give for holding it?
It is another irony C but this time a true sign of hope C that a book which so ably documents a culture of disbelief should be so widely discussed among those who participate in or experience that culture. It does appear to have struck a responsive chord. It is also my hope that we can move on to discover practical means of taking religious conviction seriously in our pluralistic public square. Carter offers a profound and elegant diagnosis of a national illness, but my fear is that if we do not find a cure it will be too easy for those satisfied with religion's exclusion ultimately to ignore Carter despite the momentary high profile of this book. And what he has to say is far too important for that.
Reviewed by Paul K. Wason, Bates College, Lewiston, ME 04240.
DON'T NEED GOD: Building Brides to Faith Through Apologetics by Alister E. McGrath.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993. 241 pages, index. Paperback.
The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement which swept through 18th century Europe. While impacting culture and ideas in general, the movement had a most pernicious effect on orthodox Christianity. Using tools acquired from the Renaissance, thinkers such as Voltaire attempted to move authority from the purview of Scripture to a dependence on pure reason.
Certain segments of the Church, in reaction to this threat, made a fatal mistake; they moved the data of Christianity from the area of reason to that of "faith." The careful theological formulations of St. Augustine, Bishop Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas, which had been based on reason and Scripture, were discarded.
The extent that this approach has grown and permeated our present culture can be illustrated by a remark made on national TV a few years ago. The then wife of a well-known televangelist, in a burst of religious ecstasy, exclaimed, "I'd love Jesus even if he wasn't real!" (A brilliant analysis of the situation has been undertaken by James Turner in his work, Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America. Turner claims that religion caused unbelief by adapting beliefs to socioeconomic changes.)
Fortunately, there are some in the church who value the need for a rational defense of the Christian faith. Such evangelicals as R. C. Sproul, Stuart Hackett , John Warwick Montgomery, and Normal L. Geisler come to mind. On the Roman Catholic side, Garrigou-Lagrange, Jacques Maritain and Ralph McInery could be mentioned. Add the author of the book under consideration to this illustrious group.
Alister McGrath is Research Lecturer in Theology and Ethics, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. In addition to being a theologian, he is a scientist with a Ph.D. in microbiology, which makes his observations of particular interest to readers of this journal. (The back cover of Intellectuals lists a number of "popular" books McGrath has written, but unfortunately doesn't mention his magnum opus, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 2 volumes.)
The book divides itself into three parts: "Creating Openings for Faith," "Overcoming Barriers to Faith" and "Apologetics in Action." Each part is further sectioned into subjects relevant to the general topic. McGrath sets his agenda in the introduction: "This book does not seek to discard or discredit traditional approaches to apologetics; it seeks to supplement them" (p. 11). Further, "Effective apologetics demands both intellectual rigor and pastoral concern, for when all is said and done, apologetics is not about winning arguments C it is about winning people" (p. 12).
Chapter one develops the theological foundations for Christian apologetics. Paul's Areopagus sermon (Acts 17:22-31) serves as a model for apologetics (p. 28). The Apostle begins where his audience is.
McGrath is comfortable with Thomas Aquinas' "Five Ways" arguments, which provide points of contact. Christianity is not irrational, "Reason, then, provides an important point of contact for the gospel. Through fallen, reason still possesses the ability to grasp and point, however darkly, toward the reality of God" (p. 37).
Chapter Three has an interesting discussion of the components of faith. Chapter Four contains valuable information concerning things which keep people from coming to faith in Christ. Contemporary situations are examined and compared with classic examples such as Augustine's journey of faith and his encounter with Manichaeism.
Intellectual barriers to faith (such as Freudian theory, religious pluralism and miracles) and a discussion of different world views are presented in Chapters Five and Six. The material on feminism is rather limited. For example, the feminist attack on God-language (See Donald G. Bloesch, The Battle for the Trinity, Ann Arbor: Servant Publications, 1985) is not covered, nor is the hierarchal vs. egalitarian dispute within orthodox Christianity mentioned.
Chapter Seven brings the practice of apologetics from the theoretical to the practical. McGrath is at his best here. Appendix A deals with the apologetical approach of John Calvin (which interestingly is very similar to that of Thomas Aquinas). A very incisive critique of the presuppositionalism of Cornelius van Til is found in Appendix B.
A first-rate thinker is at work here. This book is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Ralph E. MacKenzie, Biblical Cornucopia Ministries, 5051 Park Rim Drive, San Diego, CA 92117.
UNDERSTANDING THE NEW AGE by
Russell Chandler. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993. 367 pages.
The author, Russell Chandler, has served as a journalist covering religion for the Los Angeles Times and other media for more than 25 years. Living and working in southern California gave him numerous opportunities to observe a smorgasbord of pseudo-religious movements and leaders. Also, theological studies at Edinburgh and Princeton helped prepare him for the formidable task of sorting out hundreds of innovators, beliefs, and spokespersons.
In 1987 Chandler first thought seriously of sharing information about the New Age with two groups: "those who are curious or searching, and those who are concerned for family members or friends `caught up' in the mystique of some alternate spiritual lifestyle."
The book has 33 chapters, including "The Mind of the New Age," "Choosing a Channel," "Harmonic Convergence," "Holistic Health and Healing," and "Satan and the Problem of Evil." The final chapter is entitled "The Man for All Ages." To help the uninitiated comprehend this complex subject, Chandler has provided eight pages of definitions of such terms as akashic records, channeling, dharma, karma, paranormal, and tarot. He also provides 35 pages of notes which reveal a surprising number and variety of books and articles on the subject. Finally there is a discussion guide divided into 12 sessions.
The main point of the book is communication and clarification. Chandler hopes that the reader will have a better idea of the true character and universal penetration of New Age. The reader should learn that "New Age" is a blanket term covering hundreds of different individuals, groups and dogmas. One leader is quoted as saying that New Age consciousness is a transformation going on everywhere. For example, roughly one in four Americans are said to believe in reincarnation, one of the basic New Age tenets.
Many New Age concepts of the nature of God are dealt with in this book. One definition of God, according to the author, comes from Star Wars: the "Force, [which is] ...an energy field generated by living things." One chapter is dedicated to the mind of the New Age, a reference to the two hemispheres of the brain. In one example, Shirley McLaine talks about left-brained Westerners and right-brained Easterners, making it obvious that Easterners are not grounded by elementary and unimaginative logic, as are the left-brainer Westerners.
Chapter four, "Historical Roots," traces the New Age movement back to cults which existed long before the birth of Christ. In modern times, transcendentalism was the first important religious movement in this country with a major Asian component. One reason for its growing influence, according to Chandler, is the immigration of several hundred thousand Asians into the U.S. each year.
After a very extensive treatment of the New Age movement, the book presents the biblical view of Christianity and points out the incompatibility of Christianity and New Age concepts.
The book is certainly informativem, and should be very helpful to the person who needs to understand what friends and family might be getting into. It also exposes the threat to the Judeo-Christian way of life. A chapter on religion and churches is especially recommended to the reader.
Understanding The New Age appears to be well documented, and it is written in a readable style, although the content is so compressed that most readers will want to digest it over a period of time. Even one who is well informed on the New Age movement will value this compendium of information. For those who are interested in specific topics, the index provides ready access.
Reviewed by Ralph C. Kennedy, Professor Emeritus, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
YOUR FAITH: How to Answer the Tough Questions by Dan Story. Nashville, Tennessee:
Thomas Nelson, 1992. 233 pages. Paperback.
In the introduction to this book, the writer says that he wrote it to show that "Christianity is a reasonable and intelligent faith grounded on objective, verifiable evidence." To prove that God exists and that the Bible is true, Story points out that the Bible often agrees with other ancient documents and archeological findings. Furthermore, younger and older manuscripts of the Bible are almost identical. These two facts force us to accept the Bible as true in all respects. Clearly his "proofs" are not mathematical ones. Later in the book Story admits that absolute proof that Jesus is Lord and Savior is not possible (p. 14). "Even if we didn't have all the objective evidence currently available, the Bible would still be validated by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit" (p. 67). Those who say "God tells us that Jesus is our Savior, and that the Bible is true," without depending on evidence Story calls presuppositionalists. This reviewer is one of them!
Story states: "The belief that the Bible is scientifically inaccurate often has its source in the fact that the Bible used pre-scientific and phenomenological language" (p. 134). In other places Story wants to read Scripture "literally" because Scripture is inerrant. For example if Gen. 1-11 is "true" then evolution cannot have taken place since creation is the opposite of evolution. My question to Story here is: "Why can't the chapters of Gen. 1-11 be pre-scientific and phenomological language? Is the word "phenomological" a good description? If so, why?" Story claims that being created in God's image means that our ability to think is the God-given attribute that separates human beings from all other creatures (p. 14). But I would ask: "Is being created in the image of God limited to our rationality?" Such a view of man is far too limited, even when I fully agree that faith and knowledge cannot be separated. After all, faith, Christian or non-Christian, is the foundation of our life on this earth. Life includes much more than factual knowledge.
Story wants to reach thinking people, but the research he did is insufficient. He will have difficulty convincing anyone. An example: Story states that the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases in a closed system. His conclusion is that the entropy of the universe is increasing. Contrary to that, P.C.W. Davies, in Space and Time in the Modern Universe (Cambridge, 1977) is more careful when he summarizes his point of view (p. 65): "Entropy of the universe can never go down<|>... equilibrium can be identified as maximum entropy." Also: in The Cambridge Quarterly Winter 1965/6, page 64-65, M.L.McGlashan writes:
"Thermodynamics is incredibly badly presented, for the most part by people who do not understand it. The usual undergraduate course consists more of pretentious pseudo-philosophy than of anything relevant to experimental science."
Another example: The distinction the writer makes in the beginning of the book between evidential and presuppositional apologetics is too simplistic. As stated above I am a presuppositionalist, according to Story's definition. Yet I cannot find myself in the description Story gives (p. 4). A look at the Belgic Confession of the Christian Reformed Church Art. 2 shows that God is known in the first place by " ...the creation, preservation, and government of the universe..." Art. 2 states too that we know God, not just "assume" that God exists and that the Bible is true. "Presuppositional" evangelists fully underwriting the creed I just quoted can point to many churches started because of their work, contrary to Story's statement that their view takes the steam out of evangelism.
A different kind of objection to this book is that it gives the impression that God could not have used evolution as a tool. Creation and evolution are opposites says Story. Contrary to Story, I think that God could have used evolution as a tool in creation, without taking away the basic statement in the letter to the Romans, that through man sin entered the world and that reconciliation is only possible through Jesus Christ, the God-given Son of Man, who takes away the results of our sins. Contrary to Story I believe that we should use the word "evolutionist" only to describe people who believe that evolution is operating independently from an external, higher force. I must admit that on page 135 we read that there are people who believe in creation and evolution: " ... there is no reason for anyone to allow evolution to interfere with his acceptance of the God of Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ." Story contradicts that view on the next page, where we read: "It is not just a matter of conflicting interpretations of facts but of conflicting faiths."
After reading this book, I feel that it is not out of place to discuss the philosophy hiding behind the use of words like "science," "facts," "true," "truth" etc. Did we accept an unchristian view of life, taking these words in the sense the secular world uses them? A minor difficulty, for example, is that "science" means different things for different people. Some want to restrict science to subjects where experiments are done, and verified by repeating the experiments. Others have a wider understanding, and include subjects where calculations are made, and statistically verified. It seems to me that Story wants to set up theology on a "scientific" basis in the last sense. I have trouble with that. I believe that each discipline has its own particular methods and laws.
The temptation is great to go back in philosophical history to show that an approach like Story's is an approach which takes its starting point not in God the Creator, but in man a creature. Our reasoning decides then what is truth, contrary to the teaching our Lord, who said "I am the Truth." We acknowledge the fact of Adam's fall in sin, and the coming restoration of the Cosmos through Jesus Christ. From these facts we know that our knowledge here on earth is only a beginning. We should not trust our reason too much. However, a book review is not the place to go deeper into these philosophical and theological questions.
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.