ON THE MORAL NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE by Nancey Murphy and George F. R. Ellis. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996. 268 + xvi pages with index. Paperback; $20.00. ECONCILING THEOLOGY AND SCIENCE: A Radical Reformation Perspective by Nancey Murphy. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora, 1997. 103 + x pages with index. Paperback; $14.50.
Murphy of Fuller Seminary is a well-known participant in the science-theology dialogue, approaching it by means of the model of scientific methodology developed by Imre Lakatos. The arguments in her earlier Theology in an Age of Scientific Reasoning, that theological claims can constitute genuine knowledge to the same extent as those of the natural sciences, are echoed in the present volumes. Ellis, the co-author of the first book, is best known to scientists as a general relativist and collaborator with Steven Hawking in The Large-Scale Structure of Space-Time. A citizen of South Africa, he has been active in social causes in the recent tumultuous history of that country. Both are Christians in the radical reformation tradition, Ellis a Quaker and Murphy in the Church of the Brethren.
This background information is germane to the themes of these books, which seek to integrate Christian theology not only with the natural sciences but with the social sciences and the ethical issues they raise. The authors maintain that, especially because of the demand for an adequate moral stance, a theology developed within the radical reformation tradition can best provide this integration.
Each book is valuable and helpful for different audiences. Reconciling Theology and Science is a briefer and less technical treatment of important themes. It is useful for those looking for a clear and comprehensive overview of the dialogue. Murphy moves from the general issue of science-theology relationships to questions of cosmology and design, neuroscience and the soul, and evolution and creation, and concludes with the theology of the radical reformation in connection with the social sciences.
On the Moral Nature of the Universe provides the full scope and applications of the authors' arguments. In its first part, Murphy and Ellis work out relationships between the sciences in hierarchical form. The result is a branching hierarchy of the sciences (p. 86). Beginning at the bottom with physics, we ascend to chemistry and then biology, where the hierarchy branches. On the left the sequence runs from ecology and geology through astrophysics to cosmology. On the right, we continue through psychology, social and applied sciences, and motivational studies to ethics at the top.
The way in which this organization is developed means that the distinction between natural and human sciences is recognized without any implication that one is more real sciencethan the other. Physics, chemistry, and other sciences are seen as foundational for levels above them, but the higher levels are not simply reducible to physics.
What will be most surprising to some people is that ethics is included. The argument of Murphy and Ellis is essentially that this inclusion is necessitated by the fact that the human sciences involve recognition of intentionality and goal seeking, and thus must deal with ethical questions about appropriate goals. But we then must consider the source of our ethics.
The authors reject the Enlightenment goal of a purely rational ethic. They have previously argued that a research program including a concept of divine creation receives novel confirmation from the apparent fine tuning of the universe, which has been the subject of extensive discussion in connection with anthropic principles. Detailed treatment of theology is delayed until chapter eight, in favor of a discussion of ethical issues, but the theologically motivated hard core of their ethical theory is set out on page 118: Self-renunciation for the sake of others is humankind's highest goal. This kenotic principle will be traced to the Christology of Philippians 2:5-11, where Christ is said to have emptied [ekenosen] himself and taken the form of a slave.
This principle connects strongly with the tradition of the radical reformation and the Christian communities originating in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which renounced the church's claim to the power of the state. But Murphy and Ellis are by no means unconcerned with political and social issues. In setting out their theology, they make considerable use of the work of Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder and his book, The Politics of Jesus.
There is much here that is congenial with Luther's theology of the cross in my own tradition, and I have some sympathy with critics who argue that Luther did not adequately carry this theology through into his social ethics. Furthermore, a kenotic understanding of divine action is attractive in connection with the natural sciences. It means that we should not be surprised at the fact that God is not necessary for scientific explanation, for God renounces any insistence upon overwhelming creatures with evidences of divine existence and power. Just as God supplies the necessities of life to both good and evil, God allows the universe to be understood by believers and unbelievers alike (pp. 209-11).
There are, however, problems with the kenotic approach, problems which do not invalidate it but which call for further consideration. basic difficulty is the same one which has confronted attempts to develop a kenotic Christology in which the Incarnation involves renunciation of divine power: How could the universe continue to operate or even exist if the one in whom all things hold together gives up this power? Beyond specific understandings of the Incarnation, this problem must be faced if indeed (as I think is quite correct) the kenosis which we see in the life of Jesus is revelatory of the divine character. Murphy and Ellis recognize that God does not simply take a deistic hands off attitude toward physical phenomena; there are levels at which divine influence is exercised (p. 215). But if this is consistent with God's character, why are not more stringent controls also consistent?
Questions about kenosis must also be raised on the ethical side of the hierarchy: Does the core requirement of self-renunciation for the sake of others mean that all violence must be eschewed? Nonviolence does work in many practical situations, and it is a goal to which Jesus calls us. Yet there are also situations in which we have a choice between the use of force and allowing force to be used, not against ourselves but against some innocent third party. Is refusal to use force then really for the sake of others, or for the sake of our own moral purity?
Challenges to the social ethics of the radical reformation are not new. Murphy and Ellis discuss claims that the ordering of society requires use of coercion and violence, arguing that progress can be made toward nonviolent societies. How close that goal may be is another question.
Aany participants in the modern science-theology dialogue have done valuable work from explicitly Roman, Lutheran, and Reformed standpoints. It is good to have these two works, introductory and more advanced, which make provocative contributions from the traditions of the radical reformation.
Reviewed by George L. Murphy, Pastor, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Tallmadge OH 44278.
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RELIGION AND SCIENCE by Bertrand Russell, with a new introduction by Michael Ruse. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. xxiii + 254 pages, index. Paperback; $12.95.
This is a new edition of Russell's well-known book that was originally published in 1935. This edition improves accessibility, of course, but also contains a new introduction by Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy and Zoology at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Ruse identifies four main positions that can be taken with respect to the relationship between science and religion: opposition, separation, dialogue, and integration. Russell argues as one who sees science and religion in opposition, with science winning the battle on all fronts.
The various chapters of the book deal with a series of topics: The Copernican Revolution, Evolution, Demonology and Medicine, Soul and Body, Determinism, Mysticism, Cosmic Purpose, and Science of Ethics. Russell's prose is very easy to read. He attacks the beliefs and behavior of the church in his discussion of each topic, and draws the conclusion that in each case science has shown a more accurate picture of the world as it is than the church had been willing initiallyor ever to accept.
The book itself is a classic and would be of interest to readers of this journal. But the introduction (eighteen pages) included in this edition is also of value. Ruse provides a helpful analysis of the various arguments in the book, together with his own assessment of their success. He ends by arguing that Russell was a more complex and interesting figure than simply the blunt opponent of religion seen in the book. Ruse draws attention to Russell's statement that Christianity and science have found ways to live harmoniously together, and to the fact that Russell as a person would not comfort himself with false gods. Ruse sees a similarity between Russell and orthodox theologians who take science and religion as different languages dealing with different questions. While Russell did not have faith, Ruse can see Russell's arguments in Religion and Science as a starting place for believers who take a different perspective than the one of opposition between science and religion from which Russell argues. Perhaps. But this requires a very sympathetic reading and a very open approach to using an argument that heads vigorously in one direction, and head it in another very different direction.
Reviewed by David T. Bernard, Professor of Computer Science and President, University of Regina, Regina, SK S4S 0A2 Canada.
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HUNTING DOWN THE UNIVERSE: The Missing Mass, Primordial Black Holes, and Other Dark Matters by Michael Hawkins. Reading, MA: Helix Books/Addison-Wesley, 1997. 240 pages, glossary, bibliography, and index. Hardcover; $24.00.
Michael Hawkins (not to be confused with Stephen Hawking) is an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, Scotland. He began his career in astronomy at age 25, following his service in the British Navy as a submarine navigator. After studying mathematics at Oxford, he received a Ph.D. in astronomy from Cambridge. According to the book jacket, he is one of very few people to survive both an airline crash and a lightning strike.
In the author's words, the main focus of this book is to provide an interesting case study of the conception, birth and struggle for survival of a new scientific idea, the theory which I have put forward, that the material universe is almost entirely made up of small black holes. Hawkins attempts (I believe successfully) to demonstrate the essential simplicity and accessibility of what might seem like some of the most remote and intractable ideas at the cutting edge of cosmology. To place his own work in proper context, Hawkins uses the first nine of the book's thirteen chapters to review the great cosmological debates and the struggle between Steady State theory and Big Bang cosmology. Underlying this discussion is the conflict between rationalist and empirical approaches to science, so Hawkins uses a significant portion of his book to discuss the philosophy of science from his perspective. He maintains that understanding the fundamental difference of opinion as to whether the route to truth is through the intellect or through experience, is crucial to an understanding of the scientific process.This conflict is explored in some detail in chapters four and seven.
Hawkins begins his story with the cosmological and philosophical conflict between two titans of modern astronomy,Fred Hoyle and Martin Ryle, of the Steady State and Big Bang theories. The Big Bang follows the Judeo-Christian tradition of a universe created at a finite time out of nothing, while the Steady State results from the idea of a Platonic universe, eternal and perfect. The major weakness of the Big Bang cosmology is the necessary infinitesimally fine balance between the forces of expansion and the contractive force of gravity, which can only be accounted for by a metaphysical appeal to divine intervention. The Steady State theory has no need of a creator or the finely balanced initial conditions. Hawkins provides a very readable account of the two positions and then discusses the solution to the problem with which most astronomers are very comfortable : the theory of Inflation conceived by Alan Guth (discussed in chapter six).
In chapter seven, In the Land of the Blind,Hawkins explores the philosophical debate in more detail. He states that his thinking has been influenced by Karl Popper and Wittgenstein. To simplify the nature of the philosophical disagreement, Hawkins says: "At the risk of oversimplifying, I think it can be summed up as a conflict between natural inductive, or common sense, reasoning and the artificial deductive reasoning of formal logic and mathematics." Hawkins believes that unless you can test the validity of a statement by experimentation or observation, it has no scientific meaning. About the many universes hypothesis, he says: "To my mind, this many-worlds idea is a classic manifestation of the sort of nonsense that Wittgenstein warns us against."
Although I have focused on Hawkins' philosophical discussions, I do not want to minimize his presentation of the state of modern cosmology, the Hubble constant, the density parameter, the age of the universe, the Inflation model, the cosmological constant, and so on. Hawkins does a masterful job in making this material accessible to nearly everyone. In chapter nine, he introduces his own work with the idea that because of the Big Bang theory, at least 95% of the universe is made up of dark matter. The remainder of the book presents, in a very readable way, his seventeen years of effort to understand this dark matter and how gravitational lensing is used to find it. When he became convinced that the density parameter for the universe was significantly greater than the baryonic limit, he states:
"I had to face up to the fact that either my microlensing hypothesis was wrong or that at least two-thirds of the Universe is made up of nonbaryonic compact entities, a quite remarkable prospect. By this stage I was becoming confident that the microlensing hypothesis was correct, especially since it had survived six months of the most rigorous peer review in my experience."
Hawkins makes his beliefs quite clear. In the first chapter, he states his basic assumptions of science which are unassailable and not open to debate. In addition he says,"as an orthodox scientist I have more faith in the scientific approach to understanding the Universe than in religion or philosophical methods." I am suspicious of any ontological system that claims to deliver unchallengeable truths. I find it curious that Hawkins uncritically accepts and is strongly influenced by Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker). For example, he says: "Scientists are human, and along with all their activities, ideas and constructs, they are biological entities whose enormously complex existence can only be explained in terms of Darwinian evolution." Hawkins agrees with the idea that nature is mindless, incoherent, and chaotic and that while reality is evolving, it is not evolving toward anything.
If you would like an interesting and very readable accounting of modern cosmology, you will want to get this book.
Reviewed by Bernard J. Piersma, Distinguished Visiting Professor, USAF Academy, CO 80840 (on sabbatical from Houghton College, Dept. of Chemistry).
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IS THERE A GOD? by Richard Swinburne. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. 141 pages, index. Hardcover; $19.95.
Swinburne, Nolloth Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, has a gift for writing a clear and readable English sentence, and has provided us with another book that grapples with hard questions about the existence of God and our understanding of the universe. In several of his previous books (for example, The Coherence of Theism, The Existence of God, Faith and Reason, and The Concept of Miracle), Swinburne discussed and debated questions related to a Christian belief in the existence of God at a very high intellectual level. In this book, he tries to make these arguments available to a larger and more popular audience.
Swinburne takes on those who, like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, try to argue that scientific understanding of the world excludes God. Such views are very open to criticism, and Swinburne provides it. His aim is stated in the introduction:
The basic structure of my argument is this. Scientists, historians, and detectives observe data and proceed thence to some theory about what best explains the occurrence of these data. We can analyse the criteria which they use in reaching a conclusion that a certain theory is better supported by the data than a different theoryCthat is, is more likely, on the basis of those data, to be true. Using those same criteria, we find that the view that there is a God explains everything we observe, not just some narrow range of data. It explains the fact that there is a universe at all, that scientific laws operate within it, that it contains conscious animals and humans with very complex intricately organized bodies, that we have abundant opportunities for developing ourselves and the world, as well as the more particular data that humans report miracles and have religious experiences. In so far as scientific causes and laws explain some of these things (and in part they do), these very causes and laws need explaining, and God's action explains them. The very same criteria which scientists use to reach their own theories lead us to move beyond those theories to a creator God who sustains everything in existence (p. 2).
In chapter two, Swinburne provides a valuable discussion on the nature and justification of explanation for the student new to studies in philosophy or science. Next follow chapters on how the existence of God explains the world, its order, and the existence of humans. There is also a chapter on the problem of evil, and a final chapter on miracles and religious experience, which I found insightful because Swinburne interwove his discussion on personal experience with apposite references to the proper use of basic rules of rationality, credulity, and testimony.
The only problem I found was that to keep the discussions concise, some helpful elaboration and illustrations on certain points were missing, which might have made the given argument more powerful. However, this by no means detracts from the value of the book. There is much food for thought, and the reader who wants these arguments expressed more fully and more rigorously should consult Swinburne's other works. For those who aren't ready to read thousands of pages Is There A God? provides a helpful outline of the relevant issues and questions, and will be a valuable addition to the library of any college student, scientist, or clergy person who thinks and grapples with ultimate questions.
Reviewed by Mark Koonz, First Lutheran Church, Opheim, MT 59250.
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CREATING GOD IN THE IMAGE OF MAN? The New Open View of God: Neotheism's Dangerous Drift by Norman L. Geisler. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1997. 191 pages; indexes. Paperback; $12.00.
ASA member David F. Siemens wrote a letter (PSCF 49, no. 1 : 70) in which he notes the views of authors, such as Peacocke and Polkinghorne, who reject the ideas of divine omniscience and eternity. He quite interestingly qualifies their unorthodox attitude as making a god in their own image. This book is a refutation of these modern views, and its title reflects Siemens' thought of these unorthodox thinkers.
Geisler, an ASA member, is a philosopher who has written about fifty books, many of them on apologetics. He is currently dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary at Charlotte, NC. Geisler has previously written on the subject of worldviews in his Worlds Apart (Baker, 1989) and especially in his Christian Apologetics (Baker, 1976), where he unfolds his famous tests of unaffirmability and undeniability which are beyond the reach of postmodern criticisms.
In this book, Geisler exposes and refutes neotheism, the new, open view of God, which pictures a god with human limitations. This new view is a mixture of theism and panentheism (process theology). Its major proponents are Clark Pinnock, William Hasker, David Basinger, and Randall Basinger. Many evangelical thinkers and scientists have expressed sympathy for it, or endorsed different neotheist ideas. Neotheist ideas are also spread by some popular Christian best sellers, such as Gregory Boyd's Letters From a Skeptic (Victor, 1994).
Geisler briefly describes major worldviews. He then presents the distinctives and foundations of classical theism. The chapter on theism deals with abstract notions, but it clearly exposes the nature of God: his unchangeable knowledge, his will, and his relationship with the world. After this, Geisler contrasts theism with panentheism, describing and refuting the latter view. He then exposes neotheism, a fresh mixture of theism and panentheism. Geisler refutes the biblical arguments offered by neotheists. He shows how neotheism is incoherent, and how its theistic elements logically reduce to theism, and vice-versa with its panentheistic elements.
Geisler ends the book with the practical consequences of neotheism: the fallibility of prophecy and the Bible, and rejection of the biblical doctrines such as salvation, evil, and prayer. He points out that many prophecies contained in the Old Testament have been fulfilled and therefore falsify neotheism, which holds that God is temporal and cannot know the future.
Creating God in the Image of Man? is concise and contains several bibliographies. I think Geisler successfully refutes neotheism with clarity and logic. But will this book succeed in halting the growth of neotheism? I think it might have had more impact had it been published by a university press instead of an evangelical one. Although it is beyond the scope of the book, I would have been interested in a comparison between neotheism and ancient heresies. I find it noteworthy that there are some common features between the neotheist God and the two gods of Marcionism.
This book clarified my ideas about the nature, knowledge, and will of God, as well as his relationship with me. It removed some doubts, increased my awareness of his majesty, and deepened my worship. I think that it may be quite profitable reading for Christians who love God with their minds, and a valuable acquisition for those who are interested in orthodox Christianity.
Reviewed by Bruno D. Granger, Patent Examiner, European Patent Office, The Hague, The Netherlands.
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SEARCHING FOR TRUTH: Lenten Meditations on Science and Faith by John Polkinghorne. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996. 156 pages. Paperback; $12.95.
Polkinghorne, former president of Queens' College, Cambridge University, England, is a Fellow of the Royal Society. Fifteen years ago, he resigned from his chair in Mathematical Physics at Cambridge to study for the Anglican priesthood. Since then, he has published many books relating science to religion, beginning with The Way the World Is.
This Lenten book consists of 47 short articles to meditate upon from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Beginning with an article on sin, the central problem of humanity, Polkinghorne explains that the root of sin is alienation from God. The author believes that the best way to begin Lent is to acknowledge our need of God.
For the second week, Polkinghorne writes on creation. He believes in the Big Bang theory, but he also believes that God created the universe and is continuing his creation process today. He thinks the evolutionary process was programmed by God for the development of the world, but he also believes that the human race is special. Polkinghorne thinks that the world is mathematically beautiful because it is created by a rational God. This thought should enlarge our vision of God's majesty and power to include the understanding of chance operating in the universe.
The theme for the third week is reality. Polkinghorne understands that the layers of reality consist of truth, goodness, and beauty. To Polkinghorne, theism makes more sense than atheism. However, theism must not be based on sterile natural theology, but on a personal encounter with God.
In week four, the meditation is on searching. The search to understand reality should not be limited to science alone. The ultimate question is: What is God like? He has made himself known through Jesus Christ. We encounter Christ through the church, the sacrament of the Eucharist, and through the poor and needy who daily cross our paths. Most importantly we meet the Lord in Scripture. Biblical writers and scientists share a common pursuit: seeking to give an honest account of what happened through the narrative conventions of their time.
Next is a meditation on prayer followed by one on suffering. The meditation for the final week is related to Jesus' passion. The moment of darkness on the cross when God provided for salvation was followed by the triumphant resurrection of Jesus.
Overall this small book seeks to relate science and religion in a devotional way. Polkinghorne provides a summary of his writings in the form of daily meditations. This Lenten book can provide refreshing insights for both scientists and nonscientists alike. It is indeed a writing from a wise priest and gifted scientist.
Reviewed by T. Timothy Chen, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20854.
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ADAM, APES AND ANTHROPOLOGY: Finding the Soul of Fossil Man by Glenn R. Morton. Dallas: DMD Publishing Co., 1997. 195 pages, index. Paperback; $20.00.
How should an archaeologist decide whether hominid remains are human remains? In the debate between those who hold that the human race is no older than 40,000 years or so and those who attribute earlier origins to humans, the question of how you identify humans is crucial. In this book, Morton argues that, to identify humanness, one should look for evidence of activities typically associated with humans, including speech, religion, art, burial, decoration, toolmaking, planning, and care of the injured.
This book reports data from published literature showing that ancient hominids did many of the things we associate with humanity as long as 1.8 million years ago. Biblically, man is the image-bearer of God. The image of God does not fossilize, but fossil evidence that ancient hominids did things we consider uniquely human would suggest strongly that these individuals were human.
Speech, associated with brain regions called Broca's and Wernicke's areas, is a uniquely human activity. Animals such as monkeys have Broca's and Wernicke's areas, but do not use them for speech. A human's very large Broca's area makes a recognizable impression in the skull. This feature in a fossil skull indicates an individual with speech capability. Morton cites literature showing the presence of Broca's area in two-million-year-old Homo habilis skulls, as well as later H. erectus and Neanderthal skulls.
Ancient hominid technology provides further evidence of their humanity. For example, humans utilize space differently from animals, dividing living spaces into areas for functions, such as sleeping and food preparation. Neanderthal and other ancient hominids organized their living spaces as humans do, rather than the undifferentiated dens of animals. While no ancient hominid clothing has survived, plenty of indirect evidence exists, such as sewing needles and scrapers for cleaning hides. These evidences go back 26,000 years. Furthermore, there is evidence that H. erectus lived in Siberia and Germany 300,000B400,000 years ago and in Georgia 1.6 million years ago, and these locations require winter clothing.
While it might seem difficult to find evidence of a human's soul in the fossil record, some evidence is available if soulis defined as self-awareness. Morton studies evidence of planning depth and compassion for the injured by ancient hominids. Neanderthals' planning depth, the ability to plan ahead extended to days or months, as evidenced by the distance they transported tool and weapon raw materials. Chimpanzees' planning depth runs, at most, to minutes. There is evidence Neanderthal and H. erectus treated their incapacitated with compassion more than 40,000 years ago and 1.7 million years ago respectively. Morton relates the story of KNM-ER 1808, a dying H. erectus woman whose remains were discovered in 1973. KNM-ER 1808 was cared for and protected by companions during her last days, approximately 1.7 million years ago in Kenya. The woman's remains were found with evidence of bone growth caused by hypervitaminosis A. This growth would have taken many days to form, during much of which she would have been incapacitated. Someone brought her food and water and protected her from predators. Morton notes that Jane Goodall's studies of chimpanzees' treatment of an injured tribe member show that such compassionate treatment is not common among apes.
When new evidence contradicts our understanding of Scripture, we can: (1) reject the evidence; (2) reject Scripture; (3) reinterpret Scripture to fit the evidence; or (4) search for an interpretation that honors both. Morton presents a strong argument for the fourth alternative, and a warning to evangelicals to avoid the damage to Christian credibility that results from the first. The careful logic and extensive references provide an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to investigate the humanity of fossil hominids.
Reviewed by William E. Hamilton, Jr., General Motors Research and Development Center, 30500 Mound Road, Warren, MI 48090-9055.
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BEGINNING WITH THE END: God, Science, and Wolfhart Pannenberg by Carol Rausch Albright and Joe Haugen, Eds. Chicago: Open Court, 1997. xvii + 458 pages, index. Hardcover; $38.95. Paperback; $19.95.
Are you interested in formulating a satisfying philosophical solution to the perennial problem of the relationship between science and theology? If so, you will enjoy this volume of collected papers from a three-day symposium at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago (1988). A distinguished group of scientists, theologians, and philosophers met with Wolfhart Pannenberg and examined his effort to lay theological claim to scientific understandings.Some papers were extensively revised before publication, one was written during the dialogue, and one was written after subsequent reflection.
The volume is organized in seven parts: (1) four of Pannenberg's previous essays, selected to provide background for those not conversant with his work; (2) analyses of the structure of Pannenberg's thought; (3) physics, cosmology, and the omega point; (4) contingency, field, and self-organizing systems; (5) DNA as an icon; (6) methodology; and (7) Pannenberg's response. Haugen has written an excellent introductory essay laying out the science-religion dialogue and Pannenberg's contribution to it. Albright has written introductory essays for each of the first six parts, summarizing and explicating the points and themes addressed and each author's contribution to them. In a work such as this, a glossary would have helped tremendously. Take iconas an example. The index gives several references to passages in several essays where it is discussed, but that doesn't meet the need for a concise, yet comprehensive, definition of icon in Pannenberg's thought.
Pannenberg maintains that the existence and character of all reality is in some way determined by the all-determining reality(and) ought to contain some `trace' of this (p. 1). This all-determining reality is God. Since religious language is referential, we can assert that both scientific and religious language function as assertions about an extra-subjective reality (p. 2). Furthermore, these two versions of reality are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, scientific descriptions of reality must be accepted as `simply a provisional version of objective reality' which needs to be `expended and deepened' by the theological version (p. 7). This is not to say that scientific methodology is somehow deficient or that theology has a knowledge base unavailable to science or is somehow beyond the criticism of science. Rather, theology aims at the most comprehensive description of reality possible while science intentionally limits itself to a partial description of reality (p. 7).
Pannenberg sees God as the power of the future,which is, nevertheless, ontologically prior to and is the condition of possibility for every present (p. 12). Consequently, the present can exist only as it participates in the future, and he insists that the reality of God be understood as that universal dynamic field that unifies all created reality and upon which all created reality is contingent (p. 12). Although he defends an objective reality, Pannenberg recognizes that our knowledge of it is provisional. He avoids obliterating the distinction between subjectively determined knowledge and objective reality by maintaining that all appearance (and existence) anticipates the reality in the eschatological future that is nonetheless ontologically prior, and therefore objectively existing. Because of the historical nature of reality, i.e., it is incomplete until it attains its eschatological goal, all claim to knowledge is limited and conditioned by its cultural and historical setting and is therefore necessarily provisional. In other words, strictly speaking, we can have no direct knowledge of objective reality, but only provisional anticipations of objective reality (p. 24).
All respondents, except possibly Wicken, support the idea that theology must function as a science to have any credibility, but several question whether Pannenberg has given an adequate explanation of what this means and whether he has adequately defended the scientific nature of theology. There was some support found in the new field of physical eschatology and in the ecological interpretation of evolution by Wicken for a theologically relevant dimension to scientific data, but Pannenberg's views on time, eternity, the future wholeness of reality,and God as the ontological prior source of meaning occasioned serious questions. Will Pannenberg's scientific understandings really support his metaphysical claims? On the whole, Pannenberg has not received unqualified support, but neither has he received unqualified rejection. Rather, his proposals have caused serious philosophical discussion and an eager anticipation of further developments in the argumentation.
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, James A. Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639.
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EINSTEIN'S GOD: Albert Einstein's Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God by Robert N. Goldman. Northvale/London: Jason Aronson, 1997. 166 pages. Paperback; $20.00.
Having something new to say about one of the best-known scientists of the century is a challenge. Goldman is obviously very familiar with Einstein's work and with his nonscientific writings. The thrust of the book is clearly conveyed by the subtitle: the author portrays Einstein's life as a spiritual quest. This book attempts to find the meaning behind Einstein's use of the word God,and to find a connection between his study of physics and a spiritual dimension of human experience. The weakness of the book is that the reader can have difficulty understanding some of the author's statements in this area, and can easily wonder if the implication of motive or intent to Einstein is justified. An example of the first category is this: To accept a theory of relativity is to believe that every moment in the past and future of conscious man is alive. Here is an example of the second: Einstein saw the terrible tribulations of the world around him and longed to escape them in science and philosophical reflection. But when humanity's plight in Europe worsened with the rise of Hitler, the silent persistent urging of God would not let him.
While the subject is intriguing, the book successfully opens up areas of inquiry, but often leaves the queries without satisfactory answers.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, Vice-President (Administration), University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4S OA2.
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DARWINIAN MYTHS: The Legends and Misuses of a Theory by Edward Caudill. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1997. 143 pages. Hardcover.
Caudill, a professor of journalism in the College of Communications at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, previously published Darwinism in the Press: The Evolution of an Idea.
In his introduction, Caudill suggests that Darwin's idea of natural selection was the most important scientific idea of the nineteenth century, an idea which stood at the center of the scientific debate over the purpose of science and the nature of evidence. Myth, for Caudill, meansAthat which has become more fecund than reality. Truth may be the literal facts of the story, or it may be what is conveyed by the story even though the story is not factual. Since Caudill's background appears to be literary and not scientific (although this is not indicated in information provided with the book), this book, as might be expected, is more journalistic and philosophical than scientific.
Part 1 includes three chapters. Chapter 1 documents the publicity campaign conducted by Charles Darwin for acceptance of On the Origin of Species and the roles played by Huxley and Hooker. Chapter 2 discusses the Huxley-Wilberforce debate of 1860 as a symbol of the triumph of modern science over religion. Chapter 3 considers the myth of Darwin's deathbed recantation of evolution. Caudill suggests that the rapid conversion of so many people to the radical idea of evolution was not achieved solely because of the scientific merits of natural selection. It involved a concerted campaign by a Darwinian publicity machine. Thomas Huxley, Darwin's bulldog, and Joseph Hooker were prominent in the campaign to promote evolution and Darwin's Origin. Huxley invented the term agnosticand Darwin readily adopted this label for himself. Caudill documents Darwin's willingness to manipulate others for his own purpose, and suggests that Aat times Darwin bordered on intentional falsehood. Origin was used by Huxley and other scientists to widen the gap between science and theology. It appeared to me that Caudill was somewhat selective in using references that were generally favorable to Darwin and evolution.
Chapter 2 provides a good discussion of the available information (which turns out to be rather scanty) of the historic Huxley-Wilberforce debate. The myth that developed is that Huxley, the voice of science and reason, destroyed Wilberforce, the voice of religion and ignorance, and that science triumphed over theology. Caudill concludes that the question of who won the debate cannot be answered on the basis of the historical record which shows that Wilberforce and Huxley each believed he had won the debate. Some years later, Darwin's and Huxley's sons campaigned for the idea that Huxley had decisively won the debate, which led to the myth of the triumph of the scientific worldview.
Chapter 3 demonstrates how a story which has little or no support in fact, and which is virtually nonexistent in the academic subculture of historians of science,has persisted within a certain segment of Christianity. Lady Hope's story of Darwin's deathbed recantation of evolution coincided with the establishment of modern creationism-fundamentalism and represented a Christian response to liberal theology and attempts to make Christianity and science compatible. For a much more extensive discussion of this myth, see The Darwin Legend by James Moore (Baker Books, 1994).
Part 2 comprises the bulk of the book and discusses four misuses of Darwinism in four chapters. Social Darwinism, primarily the result of Herbert Spencer's application of evolutionary concepts to human society, is analyzed in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 discusses the use of Social Darwinism to justify the Spanish-American War. The sad history of eugenics in this country and the incorporation of eugenics and Social Darwinism by Nazi Germany into Volk philosophy (chapters six and seven) finish the list of misuses.
Caudill ends with a summary of the Myths and Misuses of Darwinism, and concludes that ideas do have consequences, thatADarwin changed the course of Western thought, and his ideas even were perverted to justify murdering millions of people. I recommend the book for substance, although I would not say it is one of the better books which I have read.
Reviewed by Bernard J. Piersma, Distinguished Visiting Professor, USAF Academy, CO 80840 (on sabbatical leave from Houghton College, Dept. of Chemistry).
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FAITH, REASON, AND EARTH HISTORY: A Paradigm of Earth and Biological Origins by Intelligent Design by Leonard Brand. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1997. 332 and xii pages, glossary, bibliography, index. Paperback.
Brand is a biologist who deals with evolution facts. In his research, he found that good evidence indicates this process of evolution does occur and produces new varieties and species(p. 122). Brand develops the case for megaevolution and interventionism, choosing informed interventionism and rejecting megaevolution. Between microevolution and megaevolution he places speciation. He compares Naturalistic Evolutionary Origin and Informed Intervention, Followed by Evolution Within Created Groups. Under the last heading he posits: Limited macroevolution above the species level, within created groups; origin of at least new genera, and in some cases even origin of higher categories (for example some parasites). He thinks interventionism is in harmony with most of science. Then he writes: The areas of disagreement are the time scale for the history of life on earth and the concept that life can originate without intelligent input and can evolve into new life forms by mutation and natural selection or any similar process. To explain the geological processes he refers to the Genesis flood and catastrophism.
Brand reads the whole Bible in a literal way and counts the age of the earth in thousands of years, not in millions. In the chapter entitled Faith and Science, What is Their Relationship?we read that several potential lines of evidence may help us evaluate the reliability of the Bible. Brand studied the book of Daniel and checked Daniel's predictions. Based on that and the internal consistency of the Bible, he accepts the reliability of the Bible.
I recommend this book for study, since it gives a clear description of an intelligent design position, combined with God's intervention at certain intervals to explain gaps existing in the evolutionary development.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, 20 Crispin Crescent, Willowdale, ON, M2R 2V7, Canada.
From PSCF 50 (September 1998): 224.
PERILS OF A RESTLESS PLANET: Scientific Perspectives on Natural Disasters by Ernest Zebrowski, Jr. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 287 pages, index. Hardcover.
Zebrowski, a physics professor at Pennsylvania State University, has written a gem. This book combines observations on the ways of science, described in unusually lucid prose, with discussions on some events which excite our imaginations the most: natural disasters. The prose is free-flowing, clear, and a pleasure to read; the material is presented at college-level. One can hardly come away from the book without knowing that the author is a master teacher. The storytelling is human,without being sensational.
Although the book does not touch directly on religious/scientific issues, it does provide data for them, and so is worthy of reading by ASA members and their students. A few excerpts will illustrate this.Engineering is a tougher business than science (p. 56). I have my own ideas on this statement, having been in both professions, and I am sure you do, too! Consider an example Zebrowski discusses in defense of his thesis. In the Mexico City earthquake of September 19, 1985, reinforced concrete structures under six stories and over 15 stories in height generally survived; those in between sustained heavy damage or collapsed catastrophically. Why? The earthquake wave had a two-second period and this is the natural vibrational period of buildings of this height! How could an engineer have foreseen this?
Here is another example. Compare the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 with that of the Messina earthquake in 1908. Seven hundred people died in San Francisco, over 100,000 in Messina. Why? San Francisco had more than double the population, and the earthquake there was five times as intense! Tsunamis were not a factor. San Francisco's fire was much more devastating. The residents of both cities were familiar with prior earthquakes. Geological science and fault mapping in the two areas were comparable. Why, then, was there over 100 times difference in loss of life? The answer, Zebrowski argues, is found in the type of building construction found in the two towns. Wood was predominant in San Francisco, masonry (which does not flex well) in Messina. Most of the deaths in Messina resulted when people were crushed to death by falling walls within their own houses!
There is much more to ponder in this book. For example, there is a very good discussion of the Easter Island disaster (human-caused, in this case) as well as discussions of tornados, hurricanes, epidemics, volcanos, and floods. I recommend this book to all ASA members as a challenging read.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, 6731 CR203, Durango, CO 81301.
From PSCF 50 (September 1998): 225.
WHERE GARDEN MEETS WILDERNESS: Evangelical Entry Into the Environmental Debate by E. Calvin Beisner. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans and the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, 1997. 256 pages + xix, indexes. Paperback; $18.00.
Beisner is an economist serving as an associate professor of interdisciplinary studies at Covenant College. There was an exchange in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (December 1995) between the author and Richard Wright. This book lists twenty-five items on environmental matters, published or spoken from 1989-1995 by Beisner. Five of these are appendices in this book.
Where Garden Meets Wilderness has seven chapters. The first chapter is entitled The Rise of Evangelical Environmentalism.Beisner does not refer to a 1971 book by John W. Klotz, a 1974 article in Christianity Today, nor, most importantly, Francis Schaeffer's 1970 book, Pollution and the Death of Man. Beisner's main interest is in criticizing recent and current evangelical thought. His statement that Significant evangelical attention began to turn toward the environment in the 1980s (p. 3), is an oversimplification, at best.
The second chapter is on the nature of an evangelical environmental worldview. Beisner relates a televised dialog with Ron Sider and analyzes Earthkeeping in the Nineties (Loren Wilkinson, Ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990]).
In the third chapter, Beisner warns of the dangers of developing an ethic of environmental stewardship. In particular, he analyses the suggestions for being better stewards which were in Earthkeeping in the Nineties. He agrees with some, but not all, of these suggestions unreservedly.
In chapter 4, he discusses the use of Scripture by evangelical environmentalists. Beisner specifies four Scriptures misused by more than half a dozen evangelical authors. Isaiah 5:8, he says, is about depriving others. Jeremiah 2:7-8 is not about what happens to God's people when they pollute the environment, but when they worship idols. Isaiah 24:4 tells that God will destroy the land, not that people have done so. The Law of Jubilee is not about equal distribution, but about retaining property rights. I believe Beisner is correct about all these passages. Then he points out scriptural ideas that relate to the environment but have not been used as such. The parable of the sower, he says, could be used to teach that we are supposed to cultivate the soil, because its natural state is not very useful. The parable of the wheat and the tares could be used to teach that not all plants are good. There is more, and it is not a repetition of anyone else's use of Scripture.
The fifth chapter is on environmental misinformation, in which he takes on the Christian Society of the Green Cross, and lists ten predictions about running out of petroleum, none of which came true. The sixth chapter is on some debating mistakes evangelical environmentalists have made, and the seventh on population matters. Beisner does not believe that an increasing population is a bad thing. We are created in the image of God, and thus should be able to make the earth a better and better place.
The first appendix is an attempt at a scriptural foundation for environmental ethics. The second is an attempt at a Christian perspective on biodiversity. This material was delivered to the South Carolina Division of the Society of American Foresters. (Too often Christians speak only to other Christians.) The third is a long critical review of Susan Power Bratton's Six Billion and More from Stewardship Journal. The fourth, originally published in Worldwhich raised Wright's ire is a critique of the Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation by the Evangelical Environmental Network. The fifth is Beisner's response to Wright.
I cannot imagine anyone reading this book without coming away with several favorable impressions. One is that Beisner takes Scripture seriously. In an index of scriptural references which is almost four pages long, he lists fifty of the Bible's sixty-six books, most of them several times. The second is that Beisner uses a lot of literature. In an author index, he lists over two hundred and fifty individuals. The book has over forty pages of notes. (But see comments on the first chapter, above.) The third is Beisner does not hide his opinions. The final sentence of his review of Bratton, for example, is: In short, Six Billion and More, while an important contribution to debate, suffers such serious moral, theoretical and empirical flaws that it should not be embraced by thoughtful Christians as a truly positive contribution(p. 159).
Beisner's main purpose is to criticize other evangelical Christians who have written about the environment. Is he merely a tool of insensitive industrialists, one of those Christians whom Lynn White said was responsible for our environmental troubles? Not exactly. He perceives environmental problems. He believes that we are to be responsible, under God, to take care of the environment. He perceives that our scriptural mandate is to turn the wilderness into a garden. He questions many of the received truths of the environmental movement. He is not sure that global warming, fluorocarbons in the atmosphere, and especially population growth are nearly as bad as many have stated. He is not sure that extinction is happening nearly as rapidly as some have written. He believes that economic development is mostly good, and that the environmental problems impacting the most people are low-tech things, such as smoke from cooking fires.
This is an important book, and deserves a careful reading by the members of this Affiliation. Beisner has performed a valuable service. We need to think about low-tech pollution affecting those least able to do something about it. We need to be careful about making statements about environmental problems that cannot be backed up with real data. We need to avoid jumping on bandwagons, and crying doom without very good reason. We need to examine the scriptural basis of our environmental ethics very carefully. We should not expect all Christians to agree about environmental priorities, or Christians to always agree with non-Christians. However, I am afraid that, whatever Beisner's intentions, some of those reading his book will be encouraged to neglect their stewardship responsibilities.
Martin LaBar, Professor of Science, Southern Wesleyan University, Box 1020, Central, SC 29630.
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ENVIRONMENTALLY SIGNIFICANT CONSUMPTION: Research Directions by Paul C. Stern, et al., Eds. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997. 143 pages. Paperback; $34.00.
This is the final report of the Committee on Human Dimensions of Global Change Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Research Council. The twelve members of the Committee have backgrounds spanning history, political science, economics, anthropology, ecology, engineering, oceanography, geology, and sociology. The book was reviewed by many others as part of the formal process that all National Research Council reports experience in the course of their development. The result is a brief but highly reliable compendium of what we presently know and do not know about human effects on the environment which have their origins in human consumption within highly industrialized nations, as distinguished from other nonconsumption factors, such as global population growth or deforestation in the two-thirds world.
The opening chapter sets out the issue of consumption as a problem for environmental science and gives a historical description of how the problem has been approached to date. The second chapter focuses on the development of a working definition of what counts as consumption for purposes of environmental research and policy. The next chapter consists of a series of contributed papers focusing on tracking key flows of energy and materials in societies which engage in high rates of consumption. A parallel chapter looks at the driving forces behind these consumption patterns. In both chapters, the concern is to summarize data which bears on the issue, critique this data for its strengths and weaknesses, and suggest key research questions which remain outstanding. The final chapter focuses on strategies that can be employed to set research priorities for this important global issue.
The various charts, graphs, and tables are worth the price of the book. There is ample ground within this volume to engage the research energies of Christian scholars and to help frame Christian discussions about our own stance regarding consumption. One could not help but think of the contributions of Ronald Sider and Sojourners over many years, calling Christians' attention to issues around consumption patterns in America. As with all National Academy publications, there are ample references to key research sources upon which the analyses are based. Students, especially at junior-senior and graduate levels, can use these contributions as a jumping off point for a detailed look at particular issues as they relate to Christian responsibility in a stewardship framework. This is an important issue around an important topic. It remains for biblical scholars and theologians to address the religious dimensions of the issue of human consumption as expressed not only at the individual, but also at the societal level.
Reviewed by Dennis W. Cheek, Director, Office of Information Services & Research, Rhode Island Department of Education and Adjunct Professor of Education, University of Rhode Island, 255 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903.
From PSCF 50 (September 1998): 226.
THE TWO CITIES OF GOD: The Church's Responsibility for the Earthly City by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, Eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997. 133 pages. Paperback; $18.00.
Most chapters in this book were first presented at two conferences sponsored by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. Martin Luther wrote about the two hands of God: the left hand administering the daily affairs of life and the right hand administering the Gospel and church. This book addresses the Augustinian question of the relationship between Jerusalem and Athens.
The co-editors of this book are directly associated with the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology in Northfield, Minnesota. Robert Jenson also is Professor of Religion at St. Olaf College. The other contributors come from six different religious or academic institutions.
A variety of specific issues are addressed by the various essays: the church's responsibility for the world, the relevance of Scripture to cultural engagement, natural law, politics, faith and the American academy, economics, and marriage. The co-editors' preface accurately summarizes the overall orientation of the volume:
Christians claim that the church is the one community given knowledge of God's will for the world. However arrogant this sounds, the church that is no longer willing to sustain such a claim has arguably lost its reason for existence. The first task of the church, precisely in the modern secular city, is to be true to her own self as the Body of Christ in the world. By being nothing less than the community of God's love, the church confronts the city with the truth of the city's own nature and destiny. The church serves the city best by giving it the means to see itself truthfully (p. ii).
The essays are thoughtful and well written, although the discussions are brief. Only limited references to a much larger body of scholarly work that bears on each topic are included. However, there is sufficient diversity in viewpoints among the contributors to provoke a sustained discussion of the contents. The book could be required reading in a variety of courses in Christian colleges and universities, especially in social science disciplines. Religious studies departments could also use it in a course targeted to modern American culture. In both cases, students could be asked to write their own research paper around a topic either broached in the volume or related to its major themes.
Reviewed by Dennis W. Cheek, Director, Office of Information Services & Research, Rhode Island Department of Education and Adjunct Professor of Education, University of Rhode Island, 255 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903.
From PSCF 50 (September 1998): 227.
ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AND CHRISTIAN HUMANISM: Studies in Christian Ethics and Economic Life by Thomas Sieger Derr, with James A. Nash and Richard John Neuhaus. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996. 160 pages. Paperback; $17.95.
The comment on the back cover claims that Derr challenges current biocentric ethics from the perspective of Christian humanism. Knowing little of Christian humanism, I cannot attest to this boldness. I, however, can recommend this small volume as a readable, challenging book on several aspects of the current environmental debate from a Christian perspective.
My Christian perspective is probably more evangelical than that of the author of the lead essay, Derr, and that of the rejoinders to his essay, James A. Nash and Richard John Neuhaus. Derr's assessment of the ecofeminists is especially poignant yet balanced. For example: The ecofeminist movement has many faultswhat interesting movement does not? but some seem particularly crippling or disabling. These include the assumption that all crises are bound together by one theme of patriarchalism and the implausibility of the specific identification of women with nature as a unity, opposed to men.
Derr covers many topics in his essay (which is the bulk of the book) including animal rights, population, the greenhouse effect, the ozone layer, and the balance between the rights of the individual and the community.
The first response to Derr's essay is by Nash, who is described as a liberalProtestant. Well written, it questions some of the points raised concerning ecofeminism, nonhuman life, and other points.
Predictably, Neuhaus' retort is pithy and articulate. His conservatism is well known from his many writings and this essay is no exception. Many of his points resonated with me. I especially like his analogy of humans as the cantors and caretakers of the universe. What songs should be sung, Neuhaus asks? His answer: the song of God's sovereignty, of our dignity derived from his caring for us, of God's delight in his creation, of reason's gift, of fellow-feeling with all that is, of wonder, of obedience to the command to care, and of redemptive note. On those strains, I commend this well-written, thought-provoking book!
Reviewed by Lytton John Musselman, Fulbright Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Jordan, Amman 11954, Jordan.
From PSCF 50 (September 1998): 227.
THE CHRISTIAN CASE FOR VIRTUE ETHICS by Joseph J. Kotva, Jr. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1996. 184 pages, index. Hardcover; $55.00.
The review copy of the book contained little biographical information on the author. I gleaned from the introduction that he is serving as the scholar-pastorof the First Mennonite Church, Allentown, PA. No other relevant works by this author were mentioned. This book is apparently a modification of his Ph.D. dissertation.
The Christian Case for Virtue Ethics consists of seven chapters. The first, The Return to Virtue Ethics,discusses many reasons we are hearing calls for a return to a virtue approach to ethics. Chapter two, What is Virtue Ethics? explains the teleological nature and tripartite structure of virtue theory. The third chapter, Needed: A Christian Case for Virtue Ethics, answers Why should Christians in particular, embrace virtue ethics? Chapters four and five take up the specific task of making Theological Links and Biblical Connections between Christianity and virtue theory. The author examines sanctification, Christology, anthropology, in addition to the Gospel of Matthew and the Letters of Paul, for specific compatibility with a virtue approach. He also mentions the simplistic nature and directionlessness of the ever popular situation ethics. Having established basic theological and biblical compatibility, Kotva deals in chapter six with Theological and Biblical Objections to virtue ethics, such as being self-centered, too aristocratic, or even sectarian. The seventh and final chapter is his Conclusion: An Appeal for a Christian Virtue Ethic. There are extensive chapter endnotes with bibliographic citations and an index.
The book's main point is that St. Thomas Aquinas was right all along: Aristotle's virtue ethics are well suited to the Christian moral life. The author seeks to establish solid links between virtue theory, orthodox Christian theology, and Scripture itself. One of his primary considerations is that any ethic a Christian chooses to follow should ultimately lead to conformity to Christ. The focus of a virtue approach is on the development of internal Christian character, from which ethical actions will flow.
Virtue theory is not, however, accepted into the Christian fold without significant modification. Kotva points out that Christian virtue ethics must emphasize the indispensability of God's grace for our growth in virtue. We cannot simply lift ourselves by our ethical bootstraps into a state of virtuosity.Likewise, the theory must be expanded to include such realities as the Christian hope of life after death, forgiveness, and justice.
Kotva has a clear, focused goal. He wants Christians to abandon some deontological and consequentialist approaches they have been taking, and look seriously at virtue ethics. He is direct, to the point, and makes his case convincingly. Digressions are taken up in extensive chapter endnotes. I would have liked the author to go further into defining the actual content of his proposed Christian virtue approach to ethics. What, specifically, are the virtues that every Christian should be cultivating in life? Are these virtues the same for every group? If they are not the same for everyone, on what basis do we choose specific virtues to pursue? Does God choose different virtues for each Christian? What role does the local church play in the demonstration of the virtues? Answers to these questions could profitably become the subject of a second volume.
The author's straightforward style allows for easy reading. He uses some technical theological and ethical language such as kerygma(which can be handled by consulting a standard dictionary). I see the book being used as a supplementary text in a Christian college/university undergraduate ethics class. If one is concerned about various ethical systems being promoted today, and how a Christian can justify embracing any of them, then reading this book will help one see the nice fit that Aquinas saw between Aristotle's virtue ethics and Christianity. This is a good book, but it is expensive. I would ask my university library to purchase it.
Reviewed by G.A. Ridgeway, 234 Saipan St., Parris Island, SC 29902.
From PSCF 50 (September 1998): 229.
GOD AND INSCRUTABLE EVIL: In Defense of Theism and Atheism by David O'Connor. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998. 273 pages. Hardcover; $67.00.
This book is a reworking of several papers previously written on related topics. O'Connor, professor of philosophy at Seton Hall University, has produced a book which at first glance appears to be oxymoronic. How can a book defend both theism and atheism? Historically these have been viewed as mutually exclusive positions. O'Connor, however, defends the position that relative to certain facts and capacities, theism can be justified for certain persons in certain circumstances, atheism for others in other circumstances.Both theories may be accepted by the same person in different circumstances. O'Connor seeks detente between friendly atheism and friendly theism. The detente rules out agnosticism which holds that, due to lack of knowledge, no one can be justified in believing either atheism or theism.
This book is not easy reading for the philosophical neophyte. For instance, O'Connor's acronyms are difficult to remember from chapter to chapter. Further, for some readers OT may suggest Old Testament, but to O'Connor it means orthodox theism (p. 7). This line will illustrate how disconcerting acronyms can be:AY thus that NERNP that seems to be NENP1 cannot be (God) justified as NEM (p. 85).
This book will appeal to anyone who has ever asked why there seems to be so much unnecessary evil and suffering in the world. Careful reading is required for comprehension, even for those familiar with the subject matter. O'Connor is most lucid when he illustrates the points via concrete illustrations; fortunately, he does this frequently. The Puzzle of Evil by Peter Vardy, written on the same subject, is a good prolegomena to O'Connor's book. O'Connor's book is written in a more abstract vein, and it will provide some intellectual delights for those so inclined.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
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WILLIAM JAMES: The Center of His Vision by Daniel W. Bjork. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1997. 360 pages, appendix. Paperback; $19.95.
jork is the author of several books and biographies including B.F. Skinner: A Life; Victorian Flight: Russell Conwell and the Crisis of American Individualism; and The Compromised Scientist: William James in the Development of American Psychology.
As the title indicates, the purpose of this biography on James is to determine the center of his vision.This examination of James' fundamental focus provides an excellent account of his life and intellectual endeavors. The book chronicles his life beginning with his trips to Europe as one of the privileged sons of the wealthy Henry James, Sr., up to William's death from circulatory problems after ending his teaching affiliation with Harvard University.
Across the fifteen chapters which are used to cover his life from adolescence to death, James' beginnings as a student who takes an interest in contemporary French art provide the groundwork for his becoming one of the most influential figures in the history of American psychology. One fascinating aspect of this book is that the author relies more on James' personal diaries, notebooks, and correspondence with those close to him than on published works as the basis for discovering James' personal focus. As a result, many of the quotes (which are in the writing style of the late 1800s and early 1900s) take some getting accustomed to.
The book moves from his interest in art, which he maintains throughout his life, to his search for an occupation as an adult. While deciding on medicine, his multiple interests become apparent with his search for adventure on the Amazon and the beginning of his many affiliations with preeminent philosophers of the day. His marriage and chronic neurasthenia provide the personal backdrop for his academic pursuit of the nature of reality. It becomes apparent that James' interests were constantly shifting due to his refusal to accept the boundaries of scientific and philosophical disciplines. To James, reality flows together and boundaries are arbitrary.
An excellent account of James' activities and accomplishments as Professor of Psychology at Harvard is provided. Woven throughout his correspondence with his wife, extended family, and professional acquaintances, James displays an uncanny breadth of knowledge and begins to shape the origins of his thinking on such psychological topics as streams of consciousness,pragmatism, empiricism, and dualism. The personal diaries and notebooks, along with the correspondence with friends (both personal and professional), display the multiple hats that James wore, as well as his emotional responses. The author also provides a convincing argument for the emotional and intellectual dependence that James had on his wife, which is often underplayed or missing from other biographies.
Bjork's emphasis on the private James allows for a greater appreciation for the struggles that this pioneer of functionalism and introspection faced. This biography attempts to avoid focusing on the individual interests of James, as other biographers have done. The author believes that: To breathe biological life into James one must take an imaginative leap into the way he saw reality as his creative life unfolded(p. xv). Concerning the center of his vision, Bjork concludes that there was one preoccupation that guided his creative efforts his deepest involvement was the effort to describe how his mind encountered the world (p. 264, author's italics). Overall, this book provides an original and in-depth overview of James' life, relationships, and intellectual contributions. This book is highly recommended to anyone seeking a concise and fresh perspective on America's best-known psychologist and revolutionary thinker.
Reviewed by William M. Struthers, Biopsychology doctoral student, Psychology Department, The University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607.
From PSCF 50 (September 1998): 229.