in Christian Perspective
Book Reviews for June 2005
Bander, Bruce. Love That Works: The Art and Science of Giving, 57:2, 163, J 2005. (Stan Hatkoff)
Bouma-Prediger, Steven. For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, 57:2, 149, J 2005. (H. Newton Malony)
Browning, Don S. and Terry D. Cooper. Religious Thought and the Modern Psychologies (2d ed.), 57:2, 164, J 2005. (H. Newton Malony)
Byl, John. God and Cosmos: A Christian View of Time, Space and the Universe, 57:2, 151, J 2005. (Stan Hatkoff)
Clayton, Philip and Arthur Peacocke, eds. In Whom We Live and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on Godís Presence in a Scientific World, 57:2, 154, J 2005. (H. Newton Malony)
Coleman, Simon and Leslie Carlin, eds. The Cultures of Creationism: Anti-Evolutionism in English-Speaking Countries, 57:2, 162, J 2005. (John W. Haas, Jr.)
Colson, Charles W. and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, eds. Human Dignity in the Biotech Century, 57:2, 150, J 2005. (H. Newton Malony)
Davies, Paul. The Cosmic Blueprint, 57:2, 156, J 2005. (John W. Burgeson)
Ecker, Richard E. The Image of God and the Biology of Adam: A New Look at the Theology and Natural History of Our Beginnings, 57:2, 147, J 2005. (Ken Mickleson)
Ellens, J. Harold and Wayne G. Rollins, eds. Psychology and the Bible: A New Way to Read the Scriptures, 57:2, 163, J 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Forrest, Barbara and Paul R. Gross. Creationismís Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, 57:2, 157, J 2005. (Allan H. Harvey)
Geisler, Norman L. and Frank Turek. I Donít Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 57:2, 159, J 2005. (Imad Libbus)
Gibson, Shimon. The Cave of John the Baptist: The Stunning Archaeological Discovery That Has Redefined Christian History, 57:2, 147, J 2005. (David Condron)
Kurtz, Paul, ed. Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? 57:2, 150, J 2005. (Oskar Gruenwald)
Ludemann, Gerd. The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry, 57:2, 161, J 2005. (Richard Ruble)
McDougall, Dorothy C. The Cosmos as the Primary Sacrament: The Horizon for an Ecological Sacramental Theology, 57:2, 147, J 2005. (David Condron)
McGrath, Alister. Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, 57:2, 152, J 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Muncaster, Ralph O. Dismantling Evolution: Building the Case for Intelligent Design, 57:2, 153, J 2005. (O. C. Karkalits)
Nichols, Terrence. The Sacred Cosmos: Christian Faith and the Challenge of Naturalism, 57:2, 151, J 2005. (Fraser F. Fleming)
Primavesi, Anne. Gaiaís Gift: Earth, Ourselves, and God After Copernicus, 57:2, 148, J 2005. (Charles B. Koons)
Reagan, Michael, ed. Reflections on the Nature of God, 57:2, 153, J 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 57:2, 159, J 2005. (J. W. Haas, Jr.)
Towne, Margaret Gray. Honest to Genesis: A Biblical and Scientific Challenge to Creationism, 57:2, 155, J 2005. (KNP Mickleson)
Towne, Margaret Gray. Honest to Genesis: A Biblical and Scientific Challenge to Creationism, 57:2, 155, J 2005. (Terry Bartholomew)
van Inwagen, Peter, ed. Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil, 57:2, 158, J 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Vining, Joseph. The Song Sparrow and the Child: Claims of Science and Humanity, 57:2, 164, J 2005. (David M. Condron)
Wallace, Stan W., ed. Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew Debate, 57:2, 157, J 2005. (Paul Copan)
Weightman, Gavin. Signor Marconiís Magic Box, 57:2, 153, J 2005. (John W. Burgeson)
White, James R. Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bibleís Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity, 57:2, 160, J 2005. (J. W. Haas, Jr.)
Wolterstorff; Nicholas, ed. Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education, 57:2, 161, J 2005. (H. Newton Malony
THE CAVE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST: The Stunning Archaeological Discovery That Has Redefined Christian History by Shimon Gibson. New York: Doubleday, 2004. 304 pages, index. Hardcover; $24.95. ISBN: 0385503474.
Gibson is a field archaeologist who has worked extensively in Israel and the Middle East. He is currently in charge of the Mount Zion excavations in Jerusalem. His book is divided into two parts: the first describes the discovery of a cave Gibson links to John the Baptist; the second provides further research into who John was, his tomb, and various relics purported to be his. An appendix includes the relevant writing of Josephus about John. A selected bibliography and notes are also included. Numerous illustrations give the reader a feel for the reconstruction of the cave, while colorful photographic plates depict monasteries, churches, relics, and personnel involved in the dig.
This book presents in detail new data derived from the authorís excavation of the site. He draws a reasonable conclusion that the site is associated with Johnís period ìin the wilderness.î Its greatest strength is its detailed explanation of the finds at the site and how they fit into the broader archaeological picture of that region in the Early Roman period. The details were, at times, so abundant that it rendered the work boring to read for a nonspecialist. The greatest weakness of this book is the authorís penchant for making interpretive assertions not based upon the data, but upon his pre-conceived notions about source materials. The Gospels are frequently referred to as ìglossî and the author goes to great pains to discount the Christian interpretation of John the Baptist without using the data to show why he makes these assertions. Given the titleís claim to ìredefine Christian history,î this tendency was perplexing. The author has not ìredefinedî history, but has presented interesting new contextual data on the practice of baptism by the Jews, John, and Jesus.
This book is recommended for people whose interest is especially in the field of archaeology and not recommended for those more interested in the implications of the find.
by David Condron, Marine Engineer, Friend Ships, Lake Charles, LA 70601.
THE IMAGE OF GOD AND THE BIOLOGY OF ADAM: A New Look at the Theology and Natural History of Our Beginnings by Richard E. Ecker. 2004. 73 PDF pages. Ebook; $6.95. At www.booklocker.com/books/1777.html.
The author, a retired medical scientist, is a creationist and an evolutionist. In this short book, he defines his thoughts on human origins. The author says his aim is to expand the concepts of sin, salvation, and praise of God. He agrees with the position taken by many who hold that there can be no contradiction between Christian faith and the discoveries of science.
Ecker explores the concept that both science and the scriptures speak of a beginning. He says there was a creation ex nihilo, a postulate deeply embedded in the beliefs of the ìcreationists.î He explores the possible significance of the ìBig Bang,î holding that it is only a theory. Ecker accepts the creation account as metaphor.
The author accepts hominid evolution although he considers that humans were ìcreated to be different.î Ecker equates the beginning of human life not with conception but with the implantation of the embryo. The author also postulates that the creation of humanity in the image of God may have begun with the implanting of a unique embryo into the womb of a single female. It is then, and not at conception, that the image of God was imparted. This may have happened about fifty thousand years ago.
A major premise of the author is that the emergence of humans is linked with the origin of the soul. Ecker says we inherit ìa sinful natureî through the disobedience of the man and woman in the Garden of Eden.
I do not think the author wholly achieves his aim. I think other writers have better dealt with the topics Ecker discusses. Over the last two decades, molecular biology has contributed a vast amount of new information relevant to the study of DNA and the relatedness of all living things in nature. Ecker does not integrate these relevant findings of science with the emerging concepts of the scriptures. This may be partly due to the brevity of this book.
Science is moved along by scientists affirming or contradicting new ideas. Ecker has offered a few debatable points which may provide stimulation to scholars and help to move the discussion forward.
Reviewed by Ken Mickleson, 105 St. Andrews Road, Epsom, Auckland 1003, New Zealand.
THE COSMOS AS THE PRIMARY SACRAMENT: The Horizon for an Ecological Sacramental Theology by Dorothy C. McDougall. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2003. 187 pages, index, bibliography. Hardcover; $61.95. ISBN: 0820467146.
McDougall (Ph.D. in systematic theology from St. Michaelís College) is director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Toronto School of Theology. She has taken up Thomas Berryís challenge from The Dream of the Earth, to integrate the ìNew Cosmologyî into Christian theology. Berry asserted science gives a coherent world view to which we must fasten our hopes if we are to survive the current ecological crisis. This world view asserts ìthe universe is the only self-referent mode of beingî and ìthe fundamental revelatory experience.î Berry thought Christian theology must shift emphasis from redemption to creation in order to address scientific reality. McDougall has done just this in the area of sacramental theology.
McDougall reviews two approaches to ecological theology: Stewardship and Ecological-Egalitarian. She finds the Stewardship model has the fatal flaw of anthropocentrism. This makes it unable to adequately address the ìhierarchical, dualistic, patriarchal frameworkî which is central to the Stewardship model. ìContextualizing Genesis and recognizing its faulty anthropology Ö opens the doors to its affirmation that the whole of creation is created by the word of God and is imbued with the divine character.î She believes only an ecofeminist cosmology ìconfirms the dignity and equality of all life forms.î The Cosmos has value ìbecause it was intended by God to be what it is.î
The authorís idea of Cosmos as Primary Sacrament is original and she describes how it overcomes the ìspatial distance of transcendence.î She avoids pantheism because she maintains the personality of God while affirming a sacramental encounter with God in the Cosmos. She goes further and asserts that Jesus as a sacramental experience of God is ìa product of the cosmic process,î rather than independent of it. In her words, ìThe cosmos as primary sacrament addresses the limitations of a theological approach that universalizes the Christian story and absorbs all of history into itself.î What does this mean for humans? ìIt calls for a redirection of human freedom toward justice and love.î
McDougall proposes Berryís New Cosmology as the standard by which we must judge any theology, or any revelation for that matter. This is evident from her comments about the ìfaulty anthropologyî of Genesis related above. For her, science has the last word on what is reality, and our view of Scripture, as well as our theology, must bend to this truth. Any theology which proceeds based on Scripture as the final authority is just plain faulty in her view. She makes the same mistake as Berry in devaluing Redemption as the primary story for humanity.
Both McDougall and Berry place humanity within a broader Creation which makes Redemption into a works-based theology of ìjustice and love.î This fails to take the biblical account of sin seriously. Instead, it treats sin as a moral failure on the part of humans, overcome by believing in the New Cosmology. This New Cosmology has the scent of a useful myth for sociological manipulation, or ìmetanarrative.î No convincing case is made as to why the new metanarrative is necessary other than to avoid impending ecological doom. In a way, it is reminiscent of Platoís view expressed in the Republic about the conditioning of the ruling Guardian class. People must be given a myth to believe about society that is useful for maintaining the stability of the society, regardless of whether the myth is true or not.
It was disappointing that McDougall did not engage Christian thinkers like Francis Schaeffer (Pollution and the Death of Man) or J. R. R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) and the implications of their work for a Christian view of ecology. Schaeffer offered a reason for humans to value each created thing according to its proper order as God made them. Thus, he escaped McDougallís critique that the Stewardship model does not give value to creation beyond its usefulness to humankind. Tolkienís regard for creation as valuable in and of itself is apparent through the characters of Tom Bombadil and the Ents. The Stewardship model is not as flawed as McDougall claims.
In all, this book contains original ideas building upon the work of others in the field. It is too expensive to recommend that individuals purchase it, but it would be a worthwhile addition to a seminaryís theological library.
by David Condron, Marine Engineer, Friend Ships, Lake Charles, LA 70601.
GAIAíS GIFT: Earth, Ourselves, and God After Copernicus by Anne Primavesi. New York: Routledge, 2003. 160 pages. Paperback; $27.95. ISBN: 0415288355.
Primavesi, a fellow of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion, Birkbeck College, University of London, has written her second book on the Gaia Hypothesis. She was formerly a research fellow in environmental theology at the University of Bristol. She is the author of three earlier books: Our God Has No Favorites: Liberation Theology of the Eucharist (1989); From Apocalypse to Genesis: Ecology, Feminism and Christianity (1991); and Sacred Gaia (2000).
Primavesi is a strong proponent of the Gaia Hypothesis. This hypothesis formulated in the mid-1960s by James Lovelock proposes that the planet Earth acts as a single organism which maintains conditions necessary for its survival. This hypothesis has not been substantiated but has provided interesting leads about the interaction of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes on earth. Lovelock, collaborating with Lynn Margulis, suggested that the earthís biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere are in some kind of balance, i.e., they maintain a homeostatic condition.
Primavesi in Sacred Gaia maintained that while science and theology are often seen as contraries, which negate and dilute one another, Gaia harmonizes both systems of thought. Also, in this book, she describes Gaiaís analysis of humansí and earthís evolution, which helps us to recognize the sacredness of our origins and our responsibilities for the future.
In Gaiaís Gift, Primavesi explores further human relationships with the earth and she asks the reader to complete the ideological revolution set in motion by Copernicus and Darwin concerning human importance. She brings together several aspects of modern knowledge and issues of concern, such as injustice between countries and persons and threats to the earthís environment. These are put in the context of the history of religion.
Primavesi is an excellent writer, her thoughts are well organized and presented clearly to the reader. Gaiaís Gift contains an introduction and follows with nine chapters. Primavesi adds an extensive bibliography. There are thirteen footnotes in the book, and all thirteen are discussed thoroughly at the end of the book. I believe additional illustrations, beyond the three in the book, would have been useful in clarifying some of the points made in the book. I also think a final chapter summarizing her conclusions would have benefitted the reader.
It was a difficult book for me to review since I disagree with several of Primavesiís basic tenets concerning the environment and theology. She is a follower of a determined movement to develop whole new theologies of nature and humanity to replace traditional religious beliefs, which she believes are responsible, in a significant way, for the environmental degradation of the earth.
One theme of this movement, which Primavesi espouses, is the claim that anthropo-centrism is the culprit in environmental degradation. They suggest that the ìdominionî passages of Scripture (e.g., Gen. 1:26ñ28) have been used by traditional Christian movements to justify humans having unlimited power over nature and that nature is valuable only to satisfy material needs of humans. In contrast, the Judeo-Christian tradition, to which I subscribe, recognizes our responsibilities as stewards of Godís creation, to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world, as stated clearly in the Statement of Faith for our American Scientific Affiliation.
Another theme in Gaiaís Gift deals with the separation of the created and the Creator. Primavesi sees the natural order on earth to be the actual embodiment of God and that nature represents all that is good on the earth. She maintains that everything that humans do tends to alter nature from the perfect to the less perfect. In contrast, I follow the Judeo-Christian tradition which views the creation as distinctly separate from the Creator, that the creation is worthy of our respect and as evidence of Godís hand on the earth. The natural order on the earth reflects Godís handiwork.
I would recommend this book for those wanting to know more about some of the new ideas and thought on theologies of nature and humanity, which contrast with the more traditional Judeo-Christian theology on the Creator and his creation.
Reviewed by Charles B. Koons, 10835 St. Maryís Lane, Houston, TX 77079.
FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH: A Christian Vision for Creation Care by Steven Bouma-Prediger. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003, 234 pages. Paperback; $21.99. ISBN: 080102298.
It would be hard for Bouma-Prediger to find a more engaging title than the first words of Folliot Pierpointís well-known hymn ìFor the Beauty of the Earthî for his book on the critical importance of a Christian approach to the natural world. As a member of the religion department of Hope College, Bouma-Prediger reflects a concern that is rampant among both students and the larger public alike, namely, a disregard for the environment and a preoccupation with individual consumption. In a creative fashion, he calls attention to the world of nature that surrounds us as well as the dangers inherent in present practices that need the attention of all Christians. The book is a part of a growing body of literature dealing with what has come to be known as ìecological theology.î
Taking a cue from Romans 8, Bouma-Prediger details the ecological dangers of the present under the rubric ìthe groaning of creation.î In a survey that will be familiar to many in the biological sciences, he describes the problems of population growth, rampant hunger, biodiversity extinctions, deforestation, water shortage, topsoil loss, waste disposal, energy overuse, air pollution, and climate change. A more complete list of the current dangers to our planet would be hard to find.
He addresses the critical section of the book with a section on the question ìIs Christianity to blame?î This is probably the core theological critique of the volume. The author notes how easy it has been for Christians to overemphasize the sixth day of creation and assume that all the rest of the earth (resources both natural and organic) were put here for the enjoyment and sake of humankind. The command to Adam to go out and have ìdominionî has been taken by much of Christendom as a license to rape the earth with no thought of replenishment or preservation. Further, the theological separation of body from soul has given humans permission to ignore the natural environment and place undue emphasis on eternal reality. Again, Christian eschatology has denigrated the physical and implied that the future will not involve that which can be experienced through the five senses. Finally, through its part in the rise of modern science, Christendom has mistakenly seen nature as needing to be exploited and used rather than preserved and treasured.
In a very helpful section, Bouma-Prediger explores Scripture and finds a strong support for ecology in the Judeo-Christian tradition. He reconsiders the Genesis account of creation and finds strong support for the contention that God is Creator of ìheaven and EARTHîóas the Apostlesí Creed asserts. On the basis of several other passages, he builds a theology of creation asserting that: (1) humans exist in an environment (earth) that is created by God; (2) humans are the apex of creation and share in agency with God; (3) humans have been called into covenant by God to work for the good of all creation; and (4) God has a will for the present and future of the whole creation. He continues with a section on the Holy Spirit and the place of Christ in an ecological theology. He asserts that only through a crucified Christ do faithful persons find the power to confess their pride and sin and lay hold of the strength to become active in caring for the environment. Here morality is expanded to include ecology in addition to personal ethics.
In a practical section on ecological ethics, Bouma-Prediger offers suggestions on how action can be taken. He advocates involvement in the conservation movement, animal rights campaigns, biocentristic concern for all life, the wilderness movement, and the land-ethic association. A number of these are relatively new in comparison to the Sierra Club that has advocated concern for the environment for several decades. However, the challenge to get involved is at the center of the goal of this volume.
The book is not easy reading, even if one agrees with the major thesis. At times, the detail seems overdone. Yet, the content will be applauded by many PSCF readers who are involved full-time in the study and investigation of the natural world. One can easily imagine the content would be greatly enlivened by Bouma-Prediger himself in using this volume as a basis for classroom interaction and field trips. It is, without question, scientifically and theologically sound.
by H. Newton Malony, Senior Professor, Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller
Theological Seminary, 180 North Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.
HUMAN DIGNITY IN THE BIOTECH CENTURY by Charles W. Colson and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, eds. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. 252 pages. Paperback; $15.00. ISBN: 0830827838.
Charles Colson, of Watergate fame, subsequently has distinguished himself as the founder of the Prison Fellowship and, more lately, as the chairman of the Wilberforce Forum, a gathering of scholars and thinkers dedicated to reflection on the interface of culture and Christian faith. In this volume he has paired with Nigel Cameron, the founder of the journal Ethics and Medicine and president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future, among other appointments. The book is a compilation of essays by well-informed members of the Wilberforce Forum on the ethical and public policy issues surrounding developments in biotechnology.
The chief impression one gets after reading this volume is that the issues surrounding stem-cell research and cloning are not simple. The authors are in almost total agreement that life begins at conception and thus there is no ìpre-embryonicî stage at which human life is not present. The authors further insist, therefore, that the embryo should be given the same rights of protection that are detailed for prisoners and other physically challenged or dependent individuals in the Nuremberg Code. They distinguish between ìtherapeuticî and ìenhancementî goals in research and insist that public policy should always weigh the relative value of seeking cures as opposed to increasing assets among a favored few.
While the essays cover a wide range of issues in the development of biotechnology, two essays caught this reviewerís special interest: ìThe Biotech Revolution: Major Issues in the Biosciencesî (David Prentice), and ìTechno Sapiensî (Christopher Hook). Prenticeís essay provided a description of ìstem cellsî that was very informative. Stem cells are pluripotent in that it is possible for them to form all the tissues of the adult human body. While they are among the first cells that form in the embryo, stem cells can also be obtained from fetuses, umbilical cord blood, placenta, and virtually all adult tissues as well as from certain adult tumors. At present, it is difficult to culture these cells in the laboratory apart from their source and only a small percentage of laboratory animals into which they have been inserted have survived. Matching the stem cells with the tissue of the recipient is also a problem and at present it is anticipated that many will have to take medication to resist rejection. Prentice suggests that, while continued research is valuable, sources other than embryos would be highly preferred since they do not involve the taking of life.
Hookís article is subtitled ìNanotechonology, Cybernetics, Transhumanism and the Remaking of Humankind.î Cybernetics is the term given to efforts to add prostheses to the human body to replace lost functions or to augment biological activity. While the heart ìpace makerî is a simple example, the research has advanced greatly to include computer chips to enhance interactions between neurons, electrode implants in retinas to enhance sight, memory chips to be implanted in the brain, augmented reality devices that allow for rear sight ability, and brain implants that reduce the incapacity to produce movement in patients in vegetative states.
ìNanotechnologyî is the term applied to manipulating matter (and life) at nanometer scale (one-billionth of a meter). Present research has been applied to light-weight sensing devices for use by the military. Future possibilities include molecular engineering resulting in implanted devices which detect tumors, replace red blood cells, repair neurons in the brain, re-engineer tissue, replace DNA components, and produce in-vivo drugs.
ìTranshumanism,î the term applied to efforts to transcend present humanity and to create post-humans with greatly extended capacities, has, according to Hayles, four characteristics: information patterns are more essential than physical bodies to the nature of being; consciousness is epiphenomenon (there is no soul); the body is simply a prosthesis; enhancement of human function is a natural evolutionary extension.
Christian reflection on these biotech developments must take into account the degree to which such conclusions depends on natural law, legal positivism, utilitarianism, or hedonism. While these authors could be said to take a conservative position on the issues, they raise profound and literate concerns that should be considered. I predict that the book will become a seminal resource for scientists, individual Christians, church bodies, and politicians alike. Among graduate students in ethics, the sciences, philosophy, and theology, it would be a valuable resource for dialogue.
Reviewed by H. Newton Malony, Senior Professor, Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, 180 North Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION: Are They Compatible? by Paul Kurtz, ed. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003. 368 pages, no index. Hardcover; $20.00. ISBN: 1591020646.
This book is an encyclopedic survey of the science-religion field. Paul Kurtz is emeritus philosopher and author or editor of forty books. The articles are opinion pieces, some only four pages, many without references, originally published in Skeptical Inquirer and Free Inquiry. Essays range over a wide field subdivided into seven sections: Cosmology and God; Intelligent Design: Creationism vs. Science; Religion and Science in Conflict; Science and Ethics: Two Magisteria; The Scientific Investigation of Paranatural Claims; Scientific Explanations of Religious Belief; and Accommodating Science and Religion. Authors include such luminaries as Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Richard Feynman, Stephen Jay Gould, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Owen Gingerich, and Steven Weinberg.
Yet this is not a science textbook, but a history and philosophy of science interpreted via a narrow, reductionist, secular humanist conceptual framework inimical to religion, and ultimately undermining science itself. The bookís major thesis contrasts science as open-ended rational inquiry based on empirically testable, repeatable, and verifiable methods for discovering the true workings of the universe (ìthe scientific methodî) with religion characterized as subjective, unscientific, irrational, wishful thinking, unverifiable, dogmatic, harmful if not evil, and subversive of science. A few authors (Gingerich, Neil deGrasse Tyson, William Dembski, Taner Edis, Timothy Moy, Daniel Dennett, Gould, and Martin Gardner) resist the one-sided ideological bias of philosophical naturalism which pervades the book.
There are surprises along the way: Dennett presents science as an ideal shared by both believers and nonbelievers, noting that ìwe are the species that discovered doubtî (p. 155). Alas, most of the thirty-five authors, who stake their professional calling on skepticism and doubt, fail to apply these checks on human error to their own paradigm or world view. The major strength of the volume is the affirmation of science as rational inquiry. Its major blind spot is incomprehension of: (1) the extra-scientific and theistic, in particular Christian, presuppositions of a world intelligible for scientific inquiry; and (2) religion as a spiritual quest, which reflects the dual nature of Homo sapiens as a living soul.
Most authors conflate all the worldís religions with such cults and sects as Jim Jones, New Age, etc. Paradoxically, some, like James Lovelock and Chet Raymo, argue for a new paganism of Earth worship (Gaia), and many seem to elevate naturalistic science to an idol. The more intellectually honest observers note in passing the affinity between ethics and religion. Moy sketches a complex setting for ìThe Galileo Affair,î and concludes that the perceived conflict between science and religion is due to ìa confusion of boundaries between these two ways of understanding the worldî (p. 143). Gould proposes a non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) in which science investigates the material world of facts while religion addresses ethics and morals. This proposal remains unsatisfactory to both atheists and believers. For atheists like Kurtz, ethics should be de-coupled from religion altogether (p. 355). But the alternative merely begs the question, given the naturalistic fallacy: you cannot logically derive an ìoughtî from an ìis.î Science can be helpful in analyzing different sets of facts and outcomes, but it cannot determine which alternative outcome or set of facts is preferable, desirable, or why humans should choose one over the other.
Many authors, including Kurtz, dismiss religion as superstition and harmful to society. Yet science can also be misused, just like religion, for ulterior and immoral ends. Nazism and Communism were responsible for the murders of more millions in the twentieth century than all of the barbarisms and religious wars in the previous five millennia of recorded human history. Both Nazism and Communism were inimical to religion. Both extolled science, technology, and atheism as the official dogma rooted in social Darwinism and the Aryan ìsupermanî in the former, and economic determinism and dialectical materialism in the latter.
In sum, the book, with exceptions noted above, falls short due to its reductionist conceptual framework which trivializes science and dismisses religious faith. Nonetheless, the book is recommended for scientists and educators who need to know what their students are up against, namely, scientism and secular philosophy misnamed ìhumanism,î dressed up in democratic garb. C. S. Lewisí Mere Christianity offers a felicitous answer why humans need God: the human machine was designed to ìrun on God.î This explains the persistence of religion across time and space, which baffles most contributors to this volume.
by Oskar Gruenwald, JIS Editor, 1065 Pine Bluff Dr., Pasadena, CA 91107.
THE SACRED COSMOS: Christian Faith and the Challenge of Naturalism by Terrence Nichols. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, Baker Book House Company, 2003. 240 pages. Paperback; $17.99. ISBN: 1587430460.
The Sacred Cosmos is an outstanding challenge to naturalistic thinking. Terrence Nichols, professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, has established a high standard for future contributions to ìThe Christian Practice of Everyday Lifeî series. The series is intended for a broad audience of educated lay people with Nicholsí work culminating in a very readable book for undergraduate classes in science and religion.
The Sacred Cosmos chronicles the relationship of science and Christianity from biblical times to the present, with most of the emphasis on current issues. Many nuggets pepper the book, such as a short section where Ockhamism is argued to lay the groundwork for naturalism, the emergence of modern science. ìBy driving a wedge between the being of God and the being of creatures, and exalting Godís will over his being, Ockhamism led to the modern conception of God as external to creation and creaturesî (p. 40). Consistent with a focus on current issues, chapters 6 and 7 examine human nature, and the location and function of mind, brain, and soul. Nichols weaves together Thomistic thought and theology of the spirit to offer an intriguing thesis of îthe soul as a dynamic organizing principleî (p. 176).
The Sacred Cosmos succinctly describes key issues interfacing science and Christianity. As such the book is an excellent text for undergraduate courses, particularly since many of the rhetorical questions are ideal for classroom discussion. Nichols deftly portrays a world where the Creator acts in many and varied ways and with different levels of participation in the material and immaterial world. He shows how this variety is consistent with the nature of God known through special revelation.
ASA members will not be disappointed in purchasing a copy for themselves, or at a minimum, ordering and reading a library copy.
by Fraser F. Fleming, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University,
Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
GOD AND COSMOS: A Christian View of Time, Space and the Universe by John Byl. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001. 243 pages, index, bibliography. Paperback; $12.99. ISBN: 0851518001.
Byl is professor of mathematics and head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada. He gained his Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of British Columbia and is the author of numerous published papers. An important contribution relevant to the topic of this book was ìPreliminary Considerations: On Scientific and Theological Method,î Promise 5, no. 3 (1998): 1ñ11.
The book is divided into nine chapters of relatively short length. It is easily readable as mathematical and cosmological terminology are left out to facilitate assimilation by the reader. The author mixes in fifteen figures that are not overwhelming to the reader, and they enhance the understanding of the authorís point of view. An extensive index and bibliography are included for easy reference.
The first chapter lays out very succinctly the authorís purpose in writing the book along with the fundamental question to be asked. He wants to probe deeply beneath the origins of the universe and dig deeper into the various underlying philosophical and theological issues that affect a personís thinking on cosmological issues. His emphasis is on the theological presuppositions and implications while looking at the significance of the Bible for cosmology.
From the start, the author refutes the claim of science that theology is only concerned with the questions of Who and Why while science is supposedly concerned with the questions of When and How. He immediately refutes the claims of concordism and complimentarianism. Further, in discussing cosmology, he refutes any claim of objectivity (observation) within science and in particular cosmology. He categorically states that scientific theory is most always subjective. Further, his contention is that scientific theories are not so much a result of natural observation, but to the contrary, are most often the result of humans imposing scientific theories on nature as a result of their irrational intuition due to the fall of humankind into sin.
Byl is saying that science, and cosmology in particular, are incapable of having enough true observational objective data to actually come to any meaningful theories, and that it is virtually impossible to separate the true from the false. It is also Bylís conclusion that it is impossible for men and women of science to be disconnected from their philosophical and theologically biases in their selection and assessment of theories.
In scientific and cosmological theories, according to Byl, equal weight should be given to observation, logic, and Scripture, and not necessarily in that order. If any theory fails the test of these three, then it should be rejected out of hand. In fact, he indicates that any theory or claim that goes beyond observation and Scripture (possibly using logic to expand upon it) should be rejected as false.
After the first chapter, the balance of the book is devoted to answering a few key questions: (1) Is a belief in the all-authoritative and inerrant Scripture tenable in our scientific age? (2) Are the scientific theories of modern cosmology sufficiently established to warrant their elevation above Scripture?
The author does an excellent job of debunking the major cosmology theory of the day, i.e., the Big Bang Theory. He does this by pointing out its numerous theoretical and observational deficiencies. In the concluding chapter, he does an excellent job of enumerating his conclusions in the support of a Christian cosmology. He concludes that the limit of human knowledge, especially the ever changing scientific knowledge base, gives even more support to the supremacy of the Bible as a guide to cosmic epistemology and the only source of absolute truth.
by Stan Hatkoff, Adventist Medical Center, Portland, OR 97216.
DAWKINSí GOD: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath. Williston, VT: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. 202 pages. Paperback; $18.95. ISBN: 1405125381.
Richard Dawkins, the author of The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, is one of the worldís best known atheists. McGrath thinks Dawkins has a ìwonderful way with wordsî (p. 1) and writes that The Selfish Gene is ìa marvelous book Ö stimulating, controversial, and informativeî (pp. 1, 7).
Dawkins, considered the first and most systematic ethologist of the gene (p. 19), thinks Darwinian evolution encompasses a worldview by which the important questions of life are to be answered (pp. 42ñ3). God serves no ìutility functionî (p. 44). Religions are ìmind parasitesî (p. 120) and theism is a ìvirus of the mindî (p. 121).
McGrath argues that Dawkins goes beyond Darwin in espousing atheism. While it is clear Darwin abandoned orthodox Christianity, it is less clear that he became an atheist. He was most likely an agnostic (p. 80). Darwinís major problem with Christianity was related to pain and suffering, ìone of the most significant obstacles to Christian belief,î according to McGrath (p. 74). Darwin was deeply troubled by the death of his daughter at age ten and his own chronic pain, and he thought the idea of hell repugnant.
Alister McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford University, is a well-published author with a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics. In this book, McGrath argues that some of Dawkinsí main assumptions are flawed. McGrathís assessment of Dawkins is straightforward: ìTo put it bluntly, Dawkinsí engagement with theology is superficial and inaccurate, often amounting to little more than cheap point scoringî (p. 83). Dawkinsí view that ìthe alleged convergence between religion and science is a shallow, empty, hollow, spin-doctored shamî is an archaic view (p. 138). To Dawkins, science and religion conflict. To McGrath, they are in harmony.
Dawkins, writes McGrath in a quite devastating analysis, is like a schoolboy in a debating society who relies ìon rather heated, enthusiastic overstatements, spiced up with some striking oversimplifications and more than an occasional misrepresentation Ö to make some superficially plausible pointsî (p. 9). McGrath thinks Dawkins knows nothing about Christian theology (p. 99). ìDawkinsí views on the nature of faith are Ö an embarrassment Ö to scholarly accuracyî (p. 102).
McGrath is an engaging writer. He is knowledgeable but not pedantic; scholarly but not ostentatious; pious but not mystical; relevant but not simplistic. While conceding a lot to atheism, McGrath nevertheless writes in such a way as to reassure believers that their faith is well-founded. His candor is refreshing in an atmosphere of dogmatism and unwarranted certainty on both sides of the argument. McGrath thinks that the debate between theism and atheism is at a stalemate: ìNobody can prove Godís existence and nobody can disprove itî (p. 92). McGrath is not so much concerned in this volume with defending Christianity as to showing that Dawkins misrepresents it and is unjustified in his atheism.
This is not a big book. It has just 159 pages of actual text, excluding acknowledgments, notes, bibliography, and index. Michael Ruse said of this book ìI cannot wait to see Dawkinsí review of Alister McGrathís critique.î Based on Dawkinsí writings, it seems clear that his attitude to theism, despite McGrathís critique, is: ìPossible but not likely.î
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
SIGNOR MARCONIíS MAGIC BOX by Gavin Weightman. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003. 312 pages, index. Paperback; $15.00. ISBN: 0306813785.
Signor Guglielmo Marconiís life is the story of the birth of modern communications. This superb book is the social micro-history of an era, a technology that defined it, and the man, who, more than any other early wireless researcher, engineered it. The author, Gavin Weightman, is a journalist, film maker, and a most excellent and entertaining writer.
ASA members who are theorists may find the book somewhat disconcerting. Marconi accomplished his inventions with almost no knowledge of, or even interest in, their theoretical underpinnings. He began with an 1896 show in a London theater of two wooden boxes transmitting messages to each other ìthrough the ether.î Seven years later, Theodore Roosevelt would send a message to the King of England across the Atlantic.
Marconiís competitor, Reginald Fessenden, first sent a wireless voice message in 1900 (ìOne, two, three, four, is it snowing there, Mr. Thiessen?î). The birth of radio, from Chelmsford, England, 7:10 PM, June 15, 1920, is described. From Oliver Lodgeís first experiments, which he too quickly dismissed as being of no practical application, being interested instead in the scientific possibilities of spiritualism, to the sudden explosion of amateur radio, fueled by teen-aged ìgurusî of the 1900s, the story is told chronologically by a born storyteller.
This book is a keeper. It has application to science-religion issues, primarily because it portrays a real person, a pragmatic scientist, careful not to claim too much, relentless in the pursuit of how (not why) things worked. It is also a social history, detailing how fortunes were made and lost, and how some early scientists abandoned their professionalism in the pursuit of fame and fortune, while others fell prey to the ever elusive quest to finding a ìscientificî approach to the divine. Marconi was not one of these.
It is the twenty-first century. We take wireless communications for granted, complaining bitterly when our cell phone encounters a ìdead spotîóperhaps in the Colorado mountains. We forget that it was not always this way. I remember, as a boy in 1937, ìhelpingî my father string a long aerial outside our Ohio home. How pleased he was to finally hear KDKA Pittsburgh from 75 miles away! Marconi set a sea change in motion, and the world today is far different because of it. Read this book. It will give you a perspective on the sweeping changes of technology. You will be entertained as well as educated.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, IBM Corporation (retired), Mancos, CO 81328.
REFLECTIONS ON THE NATURE OF GOD by Michael Reagan, ed. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2004. 160 pages. Paperback; $19.95. ISBN: 1932031693.
This is a beautifully produced book which teaches more about God than about science. It does this through a collection of beautiful photographs of the universe, nature, animals, plants, and humans. Interspersed with the pictures are quotations which point to the awe and mystery of creation, existence and consciousness. Those quoted include scientists, poets, theologians, philosophers, and visionaries.
Michael Reagan writes that the purpose of this book is to consider Godís nature through pictures and words, to reflect on the implication of being part of creation, and to remind us that the greatest insight of all is the sense of wonder. The introduction by theologian Martin E. Marty observes that viewers and readers of this book are likely to be awestruck. He is right.
This book makes a wonderful gift, a coffee table fixture, or a bedside companion. Christians will come to a new appreciation of Paulís words: ìAll things have been created through Christ and for him Ö and in Christ all things hold togetherî (Col. 1:17).
Templeton Foundation Press (TFP) is to be commended for producing such a splendid book. Books like this help TFP to achieve its goal of teaching about the reality of love, creativity, worship, and purpose in people and the creation. This volume helps people perceive that ìweeds are flowers too, once you get to know themî (A. A. Milne).
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
DISMANTLING EVOLUTION: Building the Case for Intelligent Design by Ralph O. Muncaster. Eugene, OR: Harvest Press, 2003. 254 pages. Paperback; $11.99. ISBN: 0736904646.
Muncaster received his college education at the University of Colorado. His bachelorís degree is in engineering design and his masterís degree is in business administration. He has authored a book entitled A Skepticís Search for God, as well as a series of booklets under the general title, Examining the Evidence.
In reading the book, I am impressed by the extensive literature research Muncaster has done. He approaches the subject like an engineer or scientist would to be informed on the current status of published works on the subject of neo-Darwinism. Since engineers are usually trained to design specific objects (automobiles, highways, bridges, computers), Muncaster filters the data regarding evolution by asking if biological organisms reveal the evidence of being designed. He refers to Michael Beheís irreducible complexity concept in analyzing the evidence for biological evolution. He devotes considerable space to the probability of complex life forms originating by chance mutations, starting from a pre-biotic soup.
I recommend this book enthusiastically as a handbook of flaws and shortcomings of neo-Darwinism and as a handbook listing evidences for the rationality of intelligent design in complex life forms. Both Behe and William Dembski, pioneers of the Intelligent Design movement, have recommended the book on the front cover.
It is important to note that Muncaster fully believed in neo-Darwinism for most of his adult life. He also confessed that he was an agnostic toward Godís existence. His changed attitude resulted from an intense study of the writings of evolutionists. He found the scientific evidence for evolution to be very weak.
Reviewed by O. C. Karkalits, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA 70609.
IN WHOM WE LIVE AND HAVE OUR BEING: Panentheistic Reflections on Godís Presence in a Scientific World by Philip Clayton and Arthur Peacocke, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004. 322 pages. Paperback; $35.00. ISBN: 0802809782.
This is one of the most stimulating books I have read. It kept my attention from start to finish and I highly recommend it to those among us who continue to struggle with how God is related to the physical world. I remember the early concern of John Wesley that Newtonís Pincipia would diminish the authority of the Bible. He later changed his mind and actually penned a volume on ìnatural philosophyî suggesting that there was no conflict between Godís ìBook of Natureî and the ìBook of Salvation.î Alas, the question of how or whether God acts in nature was not to be as easily answered by Wesleyís formula.
This volume is a brilliant expose of ìpanentheism.î It addresses skepticism and the persistent tension between transcendence and pantheism among believers. It is composed of papers delivered at a symposium in England sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. The editors, Philip Clayton and Arthur Peacocke, teach at Claremont School of Theology and direct the Ian Ramsey Centre at Oxford, respectively.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines ìPanentheismî as the belief that the Being of God includes and penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in him, but (as against Pantheism) that his being is not exhausted by the universe. While such a definition might imply a consensus approach among scholars, this collection of essays provides a rich variety of emphases on a common theme. Among the central issues addressed are:
ï What shall be considered evidence of Godís action on or in the physical world?
ï Was the world created by God ex nihilio, i.e., out of nothing?
ï Is God still active in the world or is he not, as the Deists claim?
ï In what ways is God in the world but not of it?
ï Does God transcend nature and if so how?
ï If God created, and is creating, how is evil explained?
ï Is God affected in any way by what happens in the world?
ï How is a panentheistic God related to the God of the Bibleóclassical theism?
ï Does God ever violate natural law and perform miracles?
ï Is God all-powerful? Is cosmic evolution going any place?
ï Is God influencing nature and humans in any way leading toward an eschaton?
Clayton, in the concluding essay, identifies thirteen ways answers to these questions are addressed by scholars writing in this volume. I found the trifold model of panentheism suggested by Niels Henrik Gregersen (University of Aarhus, Denmark) very provocative. His model included soteriological panentheism, expressive panentheism, and dipolar panentheism. Soteriological panentheism perceives the worldís ìbeing in Godî not as essential but as a gift. It is not as if everything in creation embodies God, but only those aspects that are ìGodlike.î Thus, creation becomes Godly while it still remains a created reality. In the future, at some eschatological time, will God be truly ìall in allî as 1 Cor. 15:28 proclaims?
Revelational or expressive panentheism owes its seminal ideas to nineteenth century idealism. Here God is understood to be the divine Spirit that expresses itself in the world by moving out of God and returning to God. In this movement, God is enriched by world history. Most akin to the philosophy of Hegel, this type of panentheism de-emphasizes any personal qualities of God and comes close to pantheism except in its emphasis on history rather than nature.
Gregersen sees the third type of panentheism, dipolar, as typified in Whiteheadian process theology. Asserting Godís transcendence (timeless, beyond space) while contending that God is also timely, spatial, and actively involved in the world, process thought gives prime importance to the ongoing process of change that can be seen and experienced in series of events. God is both purposefully involved in the evolving processes of the world yet is affected by the frailty, the sin, the grandeur, and the progress of the world.
This book is almost a ìmustî read for those of us trying to relate Christian faith to science. Although the answers are not final, the approach certainly stimulates thought and, in fact, renews a conviction that God is the One ìin whom we live and have our being.î
Reviewed by H. Newton Malony, Senior Professor Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, 180 North Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.
HONEST TO GENESIS: A Biblical and Scientific Challenge to Creationism by Margaret Gray Towne. Frederick, MD: Publish America, 2003. 381 pages. Paperback; $19.95. ISBN: 159286497X.
This is an informative book by ASA and CSCA Newsletter co-editor Margaret Towne who holds degrees in theology and biology. In it is a wide-ranging study of the origin and ordered development of the cosmos. The book has a sound binding and the typeface is reader orientated. There are no footnotes. There is a foreword, table of contents, preface, and a carefully selected list of references. The appendices also list articles for further reading. There is no index.
Towne affirms the biblical doctrine of creation and links this with the observations of science. She postulates that the inter-relatedness of the biota is explained by an evolving process. She shows how the discoveries of molecular biology, the ineradicable fossil record, paleontology, and even the geographical distribution of distinctive flora and fauna support this view.
The author outlines how the accumulating evidence of change in the biota appeared initially to be contrary to the scriptural teachings of that time. These scientists held to their convictions but others in the early decades of the twentieth century accepted the separation of science from their fundamentalist Christianity, represented by ìcreationism,î allowing each to go their separate ways. Many in this latter group considered that the role of the Creator was threatened.
Towneís expertise in these fields allows her to succinctly explain the meaning of the story of the early parts of Genesis for the thoughtful, seeking Christian and yet to effectively answer the counterclaims made by the ìcreationists.î This primeval story she says concerns theological issues and was not meant to accommodate our current scientific concepts. Failure to appreciate how these ancient writings should be interpreted allows personal assumptions to be inserted in their meaning.
Then, in Chapter 6, the authoróin a sensitive approach to the issueóexplains these misunderstandings and emphasizes the need for Christians to face up to the meaning of the postulates of the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures. Godís written message is shrouded in the language and literature of an ancient alien culture and, in the authorís view, the cosmos is made meaningful for us in this modern era through this channel and the Creatorís handiwork that is seen in nature. Both sources must be observed, researched, and inquired into by the seeker.
The information extracted by hard work from geology, paleontology, molecular biology, genetics, biogeography, and other disciplines is expanding rapidly but the interpretation of the findings has resulted in divisive issues arising in Christian communities. This focuses, in the understanding of many, on one manóa naturalist, Charles Darwinóand his book, The Origin of Species. Evolution, in Towneís view, is the unifying concept in science and it and religion are not in conflict. Evolution neither confirms nor denies a Creator as the former is science and the belief in a Creator is through faith. Science does not speak about purpose, values, or meaning in the cosmos whereas this is the home ground of religion.
In Chapter 7, Towne shows that there is no necessity to fear the truth. She says that some Christians are defending their beliefs and in doing so do a disservice to the churches which they are a part. Fundamentalism, once rhetorically moderate with intellectual depth is now seen as a militant, anti-intellectual, ecclesiastically separate branch of the churches. Subsequent chapters discuss origins and confront the dogmas based on a young earth ìcreationismî with carefully argued responses. This discussion is excellent because it answers each postulate of the ìcreationists.î Towne accepts the recent studies of the human genome confirming that humans are an evolved species.
Minor errors are minimal. Towne states: ìDarwin saw that tortoises and finches varied in the Galapagos from island to islandî (p. 191). Darwin believed the tortoises were foreign imports and the finches were assumed by him to be similar on all of the islands and are not mentioned in the Origin. The human embryo has pharyngeal arches, not gill slits (p. 194), an important distinction.
The message of this book is that trained, disciplined critical thinkers are urgently needed in Christian communities. Honest to Genesis makes excellent reading, leaving the impression that intellectual bondage is not the hallmark of authentic Christianity. I highly recommend this book to all readers of this review, especially students and leaders in churches. Also for libraries. It is a suitable book for discussion in study groups.
by KNP Mickleson, 21 Windmill Road, Mt. Eden, Aukland, New Zealand.
HONEST TO GENESIS: A Biblical and Scientific Challenge to Creationism by Margaret Gray Towne. Frederick, MD: Publish America, 2003. 381 pages. Paperback; $19.95. ISBN: 159286497X.
In pursuing the worthy goal of convincing fellow believers that creationism and evolution are compatible and complementary and should be embraced by the thoughtful evangelical, Towne has proceeded from some debatable premises. She begins by espousing a discredited view of Old Testament (OT) Genesis (the JEDP Hypothesis); then enjoining a liberal view of Genesis 1ñ11 (calling it myth/legend and asserting its substantial dependence upon Mesopotamian epics); controverting the evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy; and concluding by introducing a culturally circumscribed Paul and a culturally limited Bible.
JEDP was demolished twenty years ago by Kikawada and Quinn in Before Abraham Was, wherein they demonstrate the literary unity of Genesis 1ñ11 (as a microcosm of Genesis and of the Pentateuch) by showing that the author knew and used the Ancient Near Eastern creation epic format found in the Atra-hasis Epic and other Middle Eastern creation epics. This usage of that format (most likely, in my view, by Moses c. 1400ñ1200 BC) and comparison is hardly doubted by any evangelical scholar of standing. Further, there are not two creation or flood accounts as Kikawada and Quinn have shown. Genesis and the Pentateuch were not artlessly compiled, in the view of most evangelical OT scholars, by naive scribes/redactors in Babylon in post-exilic times but skillfully composed by a brilliant, Egyptian-educated Hebrew of Pharaohís court, Moses. The Treaty of the Great King by Meredith Kline placed the Pentateuch back in the Late Bronze Age where evangelicals have always thought it belongs. The Literary Structure of the Old Testament by David Dorsey and countless additional books by many evangelical scholars demonstrate the literary finesse and cultural awareness of OT writers. To hold that the writers of the OT were naive and artless is not acceptable or demonstrable in evangelical circles today.
Kenneth Kitchen in his latest volume, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (2003), calls on the documentarists to acknowledge the eroded foundation of the documentary hypothesis (p. 499) and the reasonableness of the traditional view of a Late Bronze Age genesis of the Pentateuch. No trace of any J, E, D, or P document exists, says Kitchen, except in the minds of the minimalists. A tsunami of two hundred years of archeological knowledge of the Ancient Near East has been lavished upon late twentieth and early twenty-first century Bible scholars and has obliterated the foundations of OT documentarism. Kitchen further shows how, as the OT writings proceed through the apparent history of the OT, each entry betrays evidence of the era in which it was written, not evidence of late compilation/redaction.
As to myth/legend in Genesis 1ñ11, while the author of Genesis was intimately aware of the Mesopotamian myths of creation and flood (he was Oriental and thus conveyed concrete ideas by way of stories), he reflected the Babylonian stories polemically, not didactically; he argued against their content. He did not embrace them or inscripturate a Hebrew version of them for his people. As a monotheistic Yahwist, Moses opposed the polytheistic Mesopotamian creation epicsí ideas.
Scientific creationists and their literalist brethren are not likely to consider theistic evolution a viable alternative when it comes with a denial of biblical inerrancy. A carefully nuanced understanding of the Bible is eminently compatible with a doctrine of Christian evolutionary creationism. The Bible is inerrant. Few evangelical scholars do not embrace inerrancy.
The last thing Christian evolutionary creationism should ask scientific creationists to embrace is a Jesus who did not know what he was doing or did not do what he should have done. Jesus Christ did not become a man to teach us or to clarify for us cosmology, botany, paleobiology, etc. We can do that ourselves with the minds he gave us. He came to die for sin. He did that quite efficaciously if we are to believe the brilliantly-educated Apostle Paul.
Further, the whole Bible is sufficient and necessary to inform Christian living and thinking without having to be demythologized. Jesus and Paul well knew what they were talking about. They did not intend to speak to OT misunderstandings, if any, but to speak to sin and redemption from itóand this they did very well. (A high view of Scripture does not preclude belief in evolution.)
What is needed here is a sturdy philosophical foundation for Christian theistic evolution. This requires dealing with philosophy, Christian theology, modern science, the Bible as literature, and hermeneutics. We need an approach that discusses the difference between physics and metaphysics and shows how the Bible speaks to the latter and not the former, a distinction literalists fail to make. We need a book that explains the import of understanding the Bible first as God-breathed (with all that that implies) ancient Hebrew literature that spoke to its age salvifically and theologically and against its ageís underlying (poly)theology but did not speak, and did not intend to speak, to science; the Bible gives redemptive information. As depraved humans, we cannot help ourselves salvifically. We can find out about nature on our own but cannot discover God and redemption. We need a volume that explicates the exclusive but complementary nature of Christian theology and modern science (they both come from the same God, after all); a tome that explains how a properly founded hermeneutic can be applied to the Bible to exegete it seriously, if not always literally. If this is done well, then theologians and scientists can meet and discuss the interaction and interrelationship of modern science with Christian theology. Scientist and theologian will be able to take each other seriously and speak to and not past each other. Then the Lewontins, the Berras, and the Dawkinses will be able to see that Christians can think after all.
This volume, Honest to Genesis, falls short of healing the breach between science and Christians; it creates a new breach among Christians.
Reviewed by Terry Bartholomew, 334 S. Diamond St., Mansfield, OH 44902-7822.
THE COSMIC BLUEPRINT by Paul Davies. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2004. 222 pages, references, index. Paperback; $16.95. ISBN: 1932031669.
Bernard J. Piersma, chemistry professor, reviewed the first edition (1988 hardcover) of this book in PCSF 42 (March 1990): 53. That edition has been out of print for several years. Davies has added a six-page preface to this edition, but otherwise the book appears to have undergone little change.
Piersmaís review may be revisited on the ASA web site; he recommended the book ìenthusiasticallyî and I echo that recommendation and his review which excellently catches the flavor and importance of the book. Sixteen intervening years have not dimmed the bookís luster. It should be a ìkeeperî for every ASA member.
Davies is the author of over twenty-five books. His 1983 book, God and the New Physics, was reviewed by Robert Shacklett in JASA (Dec. 1984). His 1995 book, Are We Alone? was reviewed by Lucas Morel in PSCF (June 1996). Davies is currently a professor of natural philosophy in the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University. In 1999, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Most ASA members are familiar with LaPlacesí 1819 claim that the universe is completely determined, the future fixed in every detail. Davies completely demolishes this claim. He also regards reductionism as a failed research program, writing:
Complete reductionism is nothing more than a vague promise founded on the outdated and discredited concept of determinism Ö (it) simply dodges many of the questions about the world that are most interesting to us Ö it denies that the arrow of time has any reality. Defining a problem away does not explain it (p. 140).
Davies also rejects the concept of ìuncaused creativity,î one espoused by Bergson, Popper, and Denbigh, on the basis that it is simply ìunscientific.î That leaves, for him, only one position, ìorganizing principles,î in the hunt. As part of his argument, he writes:
I have been at pains to argue that the steady unfolding of organized complexity in the universe is a fundamental property of nature Ö there must be new general principles Ö which have yet to be discovered (p. 142).
A Christian apologist ignores books such as this at the considerable risk of being excluded from the conversation. If you have not read it, get it. Study it. Think how to present the ìChristianî perspective in a book study group. Must we argue for the Bergson alternative? Or are there other possibilities to explain our existence in this complex and wonderful world?
by John W. Burgeson, IBM Corporation (retired), Mancos, CO 81328.
CREATIONISMíS TROJAN HORSE: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 315 pages, notes, index. Hardcover; $40.00. ISBN: 0195157427.
Philosophy professor Barbara Forrest and distinguished biologist Paul Gross wrote this book to warn readers about the movement known as ìthe Wedge.î The Wedge seeks to overthrow the theory of evolution (and what they perceive as an atheistic naturalism infecting education and culture more broadly), primarily through promotion of ìIntelligent Designî (ID). Gross coauthored the provocative 1994 book Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science. The common thread between the two books seems to be a deep concern that what is taught about science be determined by scientific evidence, not political or religious agendas.
Unlike books such as Robert Pennockís Tower of Babel, Creationismís Trojan Horse is not primarily a scientific critique of ID. Only one chapter is devoted to debunking its claimed scientific achievements. Most of the book describes the history and aims of the movement (with help from an internal roadmap that was leaked on the Internet) and its political and public-relations activity. This approach has merit; while the early vision for the Wedge envisioned parallel scientific research and public persuasion, almost all of the effort and success thus far has been on the propaganda side.
The efforts of the Wedge include conferences, books aimed at nonexpert audiences, campaigns to influence school curricula, and lobbying in Washington. These are documented with copious endnotes and commendable attention to accuracy and detail. There is also some ìdirtî as one might expect in a book hostile to the Wedge, most of which was old news. Many readers of this journal already know that their main biologist follows Rev. Moon and that Icons of Evolution is rife with misrepresentation and rhetorical tricks. Also familiar is the Wedgeís audience-dependent equivocation about its religious goals. For those who donít follow the issues closely, however, this material might provide a wake-up call.
The final chapter, an attempt to document the Wedgeís religious agenda, betrays some ignorance of Christianity and of the variety of Christian positions on origins. For example, pages are wasted trying to tie the Wedge to ìcreationism,î with no apparent appreciation for the numerous ways that term is used. Quotes saying that Christians should work to advance Godís purposes in the world are portrayed as advocating ìtheocracyî rather than as principled people living with integrity. In a section on religious backers of the Wedge (in which the specter of theocracy is invoked repeatedly), little distinction is made between those who truly are scary (like Christian Reconstructionists) and mainstream organizations like InterVarsity. The authors would have benefitted by consulting an evangelical Christian on this chapteróbut it should give us pause that the picture we present to the world allows two intelligent people to misunderstand us.
A related shortcoming is that there is little mention of the majority of Christians in science who accept the theory of evolution, and none at all of those of us who feel the Wedgeís biggest problem is a faulty theology of God and nature. One gets the false impression (unfortunately, one also promoted by the Wedge) that all of Christianity, or at least evangelical Christianity, is depending on the Wedge to save its concept of God. It is too bad that neither the Wedge nor these authors seem to appreciate that the god threatened by evolution is the ìgod of the gaps,î not the Christian God.
Despite these flaws, its thoroughness makes Creationismís Trojan Horse worth reading for those who are concerned about the movementís influence on public opinion and science education. If nothing else, it should dispel any illusion that the Wedge is a scientific enterprise rather than primarily a propaganda movement. For a healthy Christian perspective, readers can consult other works such as Perspectives on an Evolving Creation.
by Allan H. Harvey, 1575 Bradley Dr., Boulder, CO 80305.
DOES GOD EXIST? The Craig-Flew Debate by Stan W. Wallace, ed. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003. 231 pages. Paperback; $29.95. ISBN: 0754631907.
This fine book is based on an engagingóat times, wittyódebate between William Lane Craig, Christian philosopher, and Antony Flew, atheist philosopher. Flewís goal in the debate was not to show that God does not exist: ìI [am] going to try to show that there are no sufficient reasons for believing that there is [a God]î (p. 24). In his final response at the end of the book, Flew admits being unable to ìoffer any substantial evidencing reasons for believing that [Richard] Swinburneís God does not exist, and able only to argue that sufficient evidencing reasons for believing that he does exist have not, and cannot, be producedî (p. 200).
In chapter 1, Keith Yandell helpfully lays out the perspectives of the debates (the Humean theory of meaning and of verification, and varieties of theism and atheism) and the issues in the debate (cosmological, design, and moral arguments and Jesusí resurrectionóalthough Yandell does not discuss Craigís religious-experience argument). The next chapter presents the Craig-Flew entire debate (including Q&A).
In the next portion, various philosophers respond to the debate, offering various complementary perspectives on it. Theist R. Douglas Geivett (chap. 3) maps out and astutely analyzes the methodologies and explanations used by both debaters, concluding with a challenge on engaging in a ìreligious experimentî in light of natural theological arguments. Atheist William Rowe (chap. 4) challenges Craigís arguments connecting God to objective moral values or to the universeís fine-tuning. Rowe blurs distinctions when he criticizes divine design because of horrendous evils in the world. However, one can still detect design even if one does not know the character of the designer (e.g., torture racks and thumb screws are clearly evidence of design!). Rowe believes Flew ceded too much ground to Craig and offers suggestions to remedy that.
Theist William Wainwright (chap. 5) discusses the nature of the burden of proof between atheist and theist. He notes the ambiguity of Flewís term ìatheistî (which could include the agnostic), offers some helpful correctives, and then suggests that the presumption of belief is in favor of religious conviction, given the universality of the human religious impulse across the centuries and civilizations (pp. 80ñ1). Atheist Michael Martin (chap. 6) slantedly describes Flew as a ìphilosopherî but Craigóa notable philosopheróas a (mere) ìapologistî (p. 85). He proceeds to defend the possibility of the universeís having no cause (being can come from nonbeing) and of objective ethics without God. He presents arguments against the (questionable) nature of religious experience.
Theist Keith Yandell (chap. 7) raises some objections to Flew and offers some criticisms of and modifications to some of Craigís arguments. Atheist Keith Parsons (chap. 8) tackles two of Craigís arguments, asserting that ìthe universe is improbable and Ö the Resurrection of Jesus is notî (p. 124). Theist David Yandell (chap. 9) asks Craig for further clarification on his cosmological argument but sees his case as having ìsome weightî while ìnone of Flewís arguments bear much weightî (p. 139). Agnostic Paul Draper (chap. 10) criticizes the line-up of Craigís arguments and doubts whether they succeed. Acknowledging Craigís skill as ìan excellent philosopher,î however, Draper wishes Craig well in his pursuit of defending Godís existence (p. 153).
In the final two chapters, both Craig and Flew respond to objections and criticisms from the other eight philosophers. I found Craigís responses to be well argued and persuasive, Flewís arguments much less so. Oddly, Flew devotes much space criticizing the Augustinian-Calvinist understanding of God. Many people, including myself, hold to a more Arminian/Molinist view and think Flew argues against a straw man. (Rowe himself earlier noted Craigís own Molinist view on this topic [p. 72]).
The book is an absorbing debate and highlights a number of key argumentsópro and conófor the existence of God. Despite its streamlined index, the bookís theism-atheism bibliography is useful. This book would make an excellent philosophy of religion textbook. I enthusiastically recommend it.
by Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach
Atlantic University, 901 South Flagler Drive, PO Box 24708, West Palm Beach, FL
CHRISTIAN FAITH AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL by Peter van Inwagen, ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004. 316 pages. Paperback; $35.00. ISBN: 080282697.
The problem of evil is both intriguing and confounding: intriguing because it is so basic to the human condition; confounding because there seems to be no solution to it. As I opened this bookís pages, I was somewhat skeptical of the publishers claim that it would provide new insights. Is it possible to say anything new about such a perennial and ancient problem? Perhaps not, but the chapters in this book contain some interesting summaries and insights on the current discussions. Barbara Omoladeís article ìFaith Confronts Evilî deals with the evil of slavery, especially American slavery. She quotes Orlando Patterson who observed that ìslavery in the United States was harsher than other slave systemsî (p. 284) because it provided fewer privileges and opportunities for manumission. Robert Stanleyís ìGod, Evil, and the Thought of Simone Weilî is also noteworthy. Weil was a Jew devoted to aspects of Christianity (Catholicism) who refused baptism to remain identified with those outside the church. One of Weilís novel thoughts was that the Greeks were better forerunners of Christís coming than were the Old Testament prophets.
Someone has commented that the problem of evil (or/and suffering) is the Achillesí heel of Christian faith. The kernel of the problem is why a good and omnipotent God allows such horrendous and widespread malevolence with its undesirable consequences, humanly speaking. The absence of a convincing answer to this chronic problem sometimes results in atheism, agnosticism, and feeble faith. Carol Winkelmann in her chapter entitled ìIn the Bible, It Can Be So Harsh!î gives a list of some theodicies for evil: dualistic (struggle between good and evil), Augustinian (free will), punishment/retribution, redemptive/atonement, Irenian/evolutionary (moral contrast), remedial/instructive (soul-making), faith solution (mysterious evil), process (a persuasive God), suffering God, and liberation (faith leads to action). The problem with all of these defenses is that they have a counter-argument. As the editor points out in his essay, ìThe Argument from Evil,î disclaimers should ìexplain why he or she thinksî theistic contentions are flawed. ìThen I, or some other defender of theism, can attempt to meet this objection, and the objector can reply to the rejoinder and Ö but so philosophy goes: philosophy is argument without endî (p. 73).
In corresponding with the editor of this volume, I received the following response concerning his purpose:
Iím not trying to solve the problem of evilóthat is, I was not trying to answer any question about why God allows evil or allows the vast amount of evil that actually exists or allows this or that particular evil (like the Holocaust or the existence of people who would prefer not to have existed). Thatís beyond me. I donít think anyone could know the answer to any of those questions unless God had told him the answers, and I donít think God has told anyone the answers to those questions. He certainly hasnít told them to me.
Therefore, do not expect this book to contain the last word. Expect it to be stimulating and informative, and you will have gotten your moneyís worth.
Van Inwagen, editor of this volume and author of many books, is a philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame. He is included among the bookís fourteen authors (most are philosophers). The authors are associated with religious and secular (private and public) institutions. Their essays come from a conference held at Calvin College in 2000. The bookís cover reproduces a morbid painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (circa 1525ñ1569) entitled ìThe Triumph of Death.î The footnotes and bibliography point readers to additional resources.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
In reviewing the first edition (1976), Richard H. Bube described the book as
Ö perform[ing] a valuable service by gathering together the major presuppositions of some eight different worldviews that have affected and do affect peopleís perception of themselves and the world. The worldviews treated include: Christian theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, atheistic existentialism, Christian existentialism, pantheistic monism, and the new consciousness. The book traces the disintegration from Christian theism down to nihilism, and then the abortive attempts to recover what had been lost.
Succeeding years have seen three further editions of this enormously popular work (250,000 copies). In examining an edition appearing almost three decades later, one might ask if the author has stayed pretty much with the original, adding the odd reference here and there, or whether he has developed an extensive revision. Or more to the pointóis this a 1976 or a 2004 catalog? Of course Universe is not just a catalog. It defines, analyzes, compares, and holds up Christian theism as the ideal.
Sireís preface indicates that the chapters on Christian theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism and monism have received ìonly occasional changesî (p. 11). However, chapters on the ìNew Ageî and ìpostmodernismî have received extensive revision in the light of recent developments. Most significant is his revision of what worldview is all about in the concluding chapter, ìThe Examined Life.î Sire moves in his understanding of worldview from an emphasis on presuppositions to that of fundamental orientation of the heart. This he accomplishes by stressing the pretheoretical roots of the intellect, by adding the notion of story to the set of presuppositions, by emphasizing knowing the really real, and relating worldview to behavior (p. 11).
In bringing the literature up to date, it would have been helpful to reduce footnote clutter by removing more of the less relevant earlier references. This is perhaps most telling in the chapter on Naturalism where the author fleetingly deals with evolution by adding the equivalent of an entire page of footnotes in an attempt to include the major players of the last fifteen years. The cryptic description in 8 pt. type fails to sort out the major issues that consume the pages of PSCF and many web sites (pp. 69ñ70). Curiously, the index does not mention intelligent designóa major topic during this period.
One source of confusion may be found in Sireís second proposition on the nature of God: ìGod created the cosmos as a uniformity of cause and effect in an open systemî (pp. 29 ff). While this statement and following discussion is unchanged from the first edition, it would have been helpful to clarify his understanding of ëopení in the context of the current controversy over open theology in evangelical circles.
The Universe Next Door effectively serves the college student meeting the concept of world view for the first time. It should be supplemented with the authorís Naming The Elephant: Worldview as Concept (IVP, 2004) and a course or two in philosophy taught by one who resists the urge to impose his or her own agenda.
This inexpensive work packs much into its well-written pages. It is time to replace the older edition on your shelf.
Reviewed by J. W. Haas, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984.
I DONíT HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004. 447 pages. Paperback; $15.99. ISBN: 1581345615.
If you were asked to give a scientific defense of your faithóignoring your relationship with God and focusing entirely on independently verifiable factsócould you do it? If not, perhaps you need to read I Donít Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. In it, Geisler and Turek lay out the case for Christianity with unemotional precision.
Enough Faith is based on the seminar that Geisler and Turek have been presenting since 1996 entitled ìThe Twelve Points That Show Christianity Is True.î In the proud tradition of French philosopher RenÈ Descartes, who famously began by proving his own existence (ìI think, therefore I amî), the twelve points begin with ìTruth about reality is knowable.î Then, in logical fashion, Geisler and Turek build on this foundation.
Having established that truth is knowable, Geisler and Turek construct a basic framework of faith: God exists; miracles are possible; the Bible is historically reliable; Jesus is God; and the Bible is the Word of God. Authors of Christian apologetics often have a difficult decision to make: pick a specific topic and focus on it in great detail, or superficially cover a broad range of theological topics. In Enough Faith, Geisler and Turek take the middle road, and do so successfully. It is skillfully written to include enough evidence to convince the reader without becoming overwhelming. As a result, even at 447 pages, it is a surprisingly easy read.
Early in the book, Geisler and Turek make the argument that, contrary to popular belief, atheism requires a lot of blind faith. The truth of the gospel, on the other hand, is well supported by logic and reason. As each of the building blocks is put into place, this argument is repeated and strengthened.
The early chapters, under the heading, ìItís true that the theistic God exists,î are especially effective. Geisler and Turek expertly summarize many of the cosmological and teleological arguments that have been presented in greater detail by Hugh Ross and others. These arguments are often stunningly powerful, such as when the origin of the universe is used to make five independent compelling arguments for the existence of a Creator. For example, Geisler and Turek describe the findings of NASAís Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), launched in 1989, which found temperature ripples in cosmic background radiation. These findings, which confirm the instantaneous creation of the universe, caused COBE project leader George Smoot to remark, ìIf youíre religious, itís like looking at God.î Indeed, modern humanists cannotóand do notódispute the facts; they can only refuse to look where the evidence indisputably points.
One of Enough Faithís strengths is its versatility. Although it tells a cohesive story that can be read from cover to cover, it also functions well as an apologetics reference book. Each chapter, or group of chapters, makes a self-contained argument for one of the ìtwelve points,î and can be read and re-read as needed.
Enough Faith will appeal to a broad range of readers, from the resolute skeptic to the mature Christian who is looking to reinforce the foundation of his faith. However, the bookís greatest value is for those who are close to salvationóon one side or the other. A sincere seeker who sees too many intellectual hurdles to faith will see the gospel presented and defended in a rational and logical way; a new believer who has committed his life to Christ will be given confidence, and the resources to defend his faith to others. However, I would caution against giving this book indiscriminately to every non-Christian acquaintance; the efficacy of the intellectual approach is very often determined by the recipientís heart, and no amount of logic and reason can overcome it.
Reviewed by Imad Libbus, Senior Research Scientist, Guidant Corporation, St. Paul, MN 55112.
SCRIPTURE ALONE: Exploring the Bibleís Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity by James R. White. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2004. 224 pages. Paperback; $12.95. ISBN: 0764220489.
White is director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization; an adjunct professor with Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; and a professor of apologetics at Colombia Evangelical Seminary. A man of many parts, he is author of two dozen books and numerous articles on religious themes, and he has engaged in many formal debates on current religious issues. He speaks and writes with passion and conviction from a Bible-believing, reformed Baptist perspective in defense of a doctrine that he thinks is being degraded in the evangelical church.
The ASA has long grappled with issues involving science and the Bible, generating much heat with diverse interpretations seeking to relate the source of their faith with day-to-day activity. This is not the book if you are looking for answers to stem cell questions, the interpretation of Genesis One or Joshuaís long day. Rather it seeks to draw us to sola scriptura, a view that ìall a person must believe to be a follower of Christ is found in Scripture and in no other sourceî (p. 19). Whiteís position comes out of the Reformation confessionsóspecifically the London Baptist Confession of 1689 which is almost identical with the Westminster Confession of 1648. He affirms the 1996 Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and the earlier 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.
White considers the biblical texts that frame the nature of Scripture; questions of inerrancy, interpretation and exegesis; the cannon of Scripture; allegations of corruption and contradiction, other ìvoicesî and the timeless sufficiency of Scripture. A major feature of the book is a series of dialogues between the author and fictional opponents who represent other positions. Dialogues spell out the arguments pro and con in an effective way, yet the author wins every point, something rare in real life. I suspect that readers will consider some dialogues less desirable because of the seeming use of straw men.
Scripture Alone considers science only in passing in warning against
forcing the Bible into conformity with modern scientific categories that came into existence and usage long after Godís word was recorded Ö Christians are guilty of attempting to exegetically read into many passages scientific concepts that are just as anachronistic and misrepresentative of the text as the alleged errors of the atheists (p. 138).
One must look elsewhere for help in relating God and nature. White affirms the Chicago statement denying that
biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science Ö [or] scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood (p. 62).
Whiteís work is of value for those new to Protestant Christianity such as graduates of Alpha and Christianity Explored courses and others who need to brush up on the topic.
Reviewed by J. W. Haas, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984.
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST: A Historical Inquiry by Gerd Ludemann. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004. 245 pages. Hardcover; $26.00. ISBN: 1591022452.
A review in PSCF of a book on Jesusí resurrection seems apt for two reasons: (1) if the resurrection of Jesus did not occur, Christianity is false and any attempt at scientific interface is groundless; and (2) readers have an opportunity to contrast its arguments with those of N. T. Wrightís The Resurrection of the Son of God, considered by Ludemann to be ìscholarship led astray by theologyî (p. 200).
Ludemann thinks that ìhistorical research shows with definite clarity that Jesus was not raised from the deadî (p. 190), ìJesusí resurrection by God must now be regarded as a falsificationî (p. 190), and those who believe it are deceiving themselves (p. 205). He thinks that since Jesus was not resurrected, ìChristian faith is as dead as Jesus and can be kept alive only by self-deceptionî (p. 19).
Of course, much of what Ludemann writes is his opinion, to which he is entitled. For example, he contends that the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to more than five hundred people was a mass ecstasy (p. 81); at least parts of Lukeís gospel are inauthentic (p. 112); Johnís victory in the race to the tomb shows his priority over Peter (p. 117); parts of Johnís gospel have numerous inconsistencies (p. 125); Peterís vision of the resurrected Jesus was a delusion or wishful thinking (p. 165); and none of Jesusí disciples were present at the crucifixion (p. 173). It would be easy to conclude that Ludemannís presentation is based on his acceptance of naturalism with a concomitant rejection of supernaturalism.
Ludemann bases his argument on points which have been debated many times orally and in print (i.e., Jesusí Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? A Debate Between William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann [InterVarsity Press, 2000]). He contends that the accounts of Jesus in the New Testament were written by partisans many years after the time of Jesus and are therefore unbelievable. However, even partisans can speak the truth. Doctors, car salesmen, politicians, preachers, and many other professionals could, in a sense, be considered partisans. This does not mean that their conflict of interest renders them always untrustworthy.
Since history cannot be relived, a personís attitude about historical events is always based on faith in the data. Christians cannot prove Jesus was raised from the dead. But which comes first, proof or faith? As someone insightfully observed, Christians do not believe Jesus was raised from the dead because they have proved it; Christians keep trying to prove it because they believe it.
This is a scholarly book, requiring a good deal of concentration to read. Therefore, it may appeal only to scholars. Nevertheless, the question it addresses is central to the validity of the Christian faith. For that reason, those who would be fully persuaded in intellect as well as emotion may find some cognitive exercise and challenge in thinking about the arguments presented in this book. As the Apostle Paul long ago observed, Christians are to be pitied, are of all people most miserable, are still in their sins, and base their faith on a historical falsehood, if Christ was not resurrected.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
EDUCATING FOR SHALOM: Essays on Christian Higher Education by Nicholas Wolterstorff; ed. Clarence W. Joldersma and Gloria Goris Stronks. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, Co., 2004. 310 pages. Paperback; $24.00. ISBN: 0802827535.
Initially I must admit two things: first, I agreed to review this volume because its author was professor in my alma mater, Yale Divinity School (YDS); and second, I was prepared for a boring endeavor when I first turned its pages. I am glad I stuck with the review. Wolterstorff (formerly of Calvin College, more recently professor of philosophy at YDS) has thought long and hard about the topic of Christian education and I, for one, am richer for thinking with him on this important topic. I wish my near forty years in undergraduate and seminary teaching had been informed by his insightful reflections.
Wolterstorff's essential thesis is that Christian Education should be education for Shalom. ìShalomî means that ultimately education that is Christian should result in a change of the person's core outlook on life so that the dominant goal of existence becomes justice for all persons. As a prelude to extensive elaboration of this theme, Wolterstorff suggests that Christian higher education has gone through four major developments in conceptualizing its goals. The first goal has been the Christian service model wherein the purpose of the experience was to prepare persons for Christian occupations such as evangelism, ministry, missionary service, medicine, teaching, etc. However, most Christian colleges have found this goal to be too restrictive and have turned to a Christian humanist model. Herein education is for ìfreedom.î Liberal education is intended to free students by initiating them into the cultural heritage of humanity. This meant detachment from the immediate, transactional, mundane environment of everyday life and enmeshment in the classicsóthe result of which resulted in persons who could gain perspective on the world in the genre of Plato's philosopher kings. In this endeavor, mastering the Christian heritage was to assume central focus.
A third goal of Christian higher education has been termed Socialization or Maturation. Herein the college functioned as the nurturing force whereby students came into their own and learned to express their God-given talents and to follow their God-directed vocational calling. In this venue, students found their place in society and left the institution to actualize their unique ideals.
Finally, Christian higher education has become the place for pre-professional training. Herein, the reputation of the college came to rely heavily on how many of its students specialized and went on to graduate training in their chosen fields. The goal here came to be that of preparing students to make major contributions as leaders in their chosen fields. Although Wolterstorff does not address this development, it is apparent that many ìchurch relatedî (as compared to ìChristianî) colleges have adopted this approach.
Education for Shalom means opening up the student to the wounds of society. To quote Wolterstorff:
To dwell in shalom, is to find delight in living rightly before God, to find delight in living rightly in oneís physical surroundings, to find delight in living rightly with oneís fellow human beings, to find delight even in living rightly with oneself (p. 23).
Toward this end, Wolterstorff recommends ìpracticing scholarship in Christian perspective.î This means that the sciences as well as humanities are explicitly related to the foundational assumptions of the Christian faith through cultural analysis and reflection. In such curriculum, philosophical, religious, and ethical questions are incorporated and not relegated to the department of religion. Such education will intentionally result in graduates who, hopefully, live (or ìdwell,î Wolterstorffís term) as Christians when they graduate.
Much of the book includes in-depth analysis of these themes. Wolterstorff shows a keen appreciation for the philosophical underpinnings of his thesis, the changes that have occurred since the Enlightenment, and the radical presuppositions of postmodernism. Of particular interest is his incorporating into his argument the ideas of the theologian Abraham Kuyper, one of the foundational scholars of Wolterstorffís Dutch culture with whom many Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith readers may be unfamiliar. In regard to postmodern contention that all theories are biased, Wolterstorff discusses the value of incorporating special interest perspectives (such as feminism) into oneís thinking.
Many of us are involved in higher education and, of course, almost all of us claim to be Christian. I can seriously contend that, since my graduate course on the History and Philosophy of Education, I have not read a volume that stimulated my reflection on these issues as much as this collection of Wolterstorffís essays. I recommend it.
Reviewed by H. Newton Malony, Senior Professor, Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, 180 North Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.
THE CULTURES OF CREATIONISM: Anti-Evolutionism in English-Speaking Countries by Simon Coleman and Leslie Carlin, eds. Burlington VT: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2004. xv + 208 pages, index. Hardcover; $79.95. ISBN: 075460912X.
Dissection of creationism has become a cottage industry. Beginning with Dorothy Nelkinís Science Textbook Controversies and the Politics of Equal Time (1977), an increasing number of historians, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers and scientists have sought to analyze the creationist paradigm.
Christopher Toumeyís preface to this multi-author work poses the question: ìMust creationism always be an intrinsically American package of practices and beliefs?î (ix). By creationism Toumey and his fourteen co-contributors mean the package of ideas that Henry Morris and his colleagues at the Institute for Creation Research have disseminated throughout North America, to other English-speaking nations and beyond, to conservative Catholics and Protestants, other religions such as that of the Hare Krishna, conservative Judaism, Canadaís First Nations, and the aboriginals of Australia and New Zealand. Rather than a direct transfer of the package to another culture, Toumey finds instead, a transfer of particular features to be cast with indigenous aspects of the receiving cultureó cultural syncretism.
Methodologies range from interviews of participants and surveys of student attitudes to textual analysis. The authors from the US, Canada, and the UK are academically dispassionate for the most part with the exception of Michael Ruse who is not happy with creationism in general and Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and Alvin Plantinga in particular.
Readers who have lived within the Christian community during the creationist revival will react to this multifaceted analysis both as observers and participants. In any case, the authors seem to have accurately covered all the basesófacts and names, occasions, and chronologies. For this we are indebted to the earlier standard set by Ronald Numbers, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (1992).
Editors Coleman and Carlinís introduction offers an insightful overview of each chapter which can stand alone if time does not permit a full reading of the text. David Knight then describes T. H. Huxleyís high profile evolution takeover which won the day in a late nineteenth century England where the educated felt that Genesis was no longer to be taken literally in a time when ìhistorical, moral and scientific doubtî removed God from science. ìMost people adopted an evolutionary view less austere than Darwinís, where God within the shadows had begun, and was gently steering in the shadowsî (p. 41).
Simon Locke closely investigates publications (discourse analysis) from the British Creation Science Movement (1989ñ1996) in a late twentieth century comparison of Britain and the US. He finds US creationists to be more prevalent, diverse, and politically active, providing a basis for the different models for creationism found in the two nations.
The chapter ìCreationism, AmericanñStyleî is framed on the notion that this creationism ìrevolves around clashing world views.î It was interesting to find that a softer creationism has emerged in the 90s. ìNeo-creationismî accepts astronomical and geological evidence for an old earth and biological evidence for evolution but not for the origin of life or other complex stages in the development of biological diversity. Intelligent design and a nuanced anti-evolutionism are part of a package which has been avidly debated in PSCF over the last fifteen years. Sadly, neither the debate nor the resultant diversity of neo-creationist positions is mentioned. Other than Ronald Numbers, writers in this field continue to ignore the major American discussion of creation over the last six decades. Thus, the authors provide a simplistic view of a complex situation.
Robert Laytonís fascinating chapter, ìThe Politics of Indigenous ëCreationismí in Australia,î comes from the perspective of one who accepts the aboriginal Alawa belief. Layton writes:
My position stems partly from the experience that indigenous beliefs provide a rational ground for action in the world which is justifiable within the limits of empirical investigation available to believers Ö
The kind of ontological questions that can be framed within indigenous discourse tend to be ones which an evolutionary theory would not consider admissible, somewhat as ìWesternî creationists debate whether the days of creation described in Genesis were actually 24 hours long or figures of speech, but deny evidence for gradual change in fossil species (p. 158).
Other chapters examine creationism in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Kenya. Each chapter closes with a useful set of references. The Cultures of Creationism offers a useful outsider analysis of the creationism of the late twentieth century. Collectively, we have a reasonably consistent story. It would be interesting to see how this would contrast with an insiderís perspective.
by John W. Haas, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Gordon College, Wenham,
LOVE THAT WORKS: The Art and Science of Giving by Bruce Bander. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2004. 162 pages, index. Paperback; $14.95. ISBN: 1932031774.
Bander is an international journalist, photographer, teacher, and author. His main interests are travel and social psychology. He has been a staff writer on newspapers in New Zealand and the United States and a writer-editor for National Geographic. Through the years, Bander has continued his studies in the fields of social and cultural trends in the Western world with particular emphasis on sociology, psychology, history, anthropology, and current events.
Bander has studied love, one of his favorite topics, for over thirty years. This book is result of that study. As a testimony to his expertise, he has been married to his wife Mary for nearly twenty years.
Bander has taken an interesting approach to the topic of love and romance. He has divided his subject matter into two equal parts. Part I is Love in the Dark; Part II, Love for Life. Bander draws on theology, philosophy, history, literature, psychology, and sociology to demonstrate why romance alone is a very poor basis for a stable love and a lasting relationship.
In Part I, he points out that during the twentieth century, romance was basically very sweet and safe; people moderated its temptations with other types of love that are all but forgotten in our time. Today love for most lovers has degenerated into uncontrolled, sexual, hot wishful fantasies or as Bander puts it ìscratching a sexual itch.î He asks us to look at ourselves. We are looking for the perfect person, the image of the one we want to love. Yet Bander makes the point of implying that we ourselves are not healthy and therefore not ready for a new relationship. He says that we look for the ideal person but when we find that person we realize that he or she is looking for the perfect person also. He makes the point that we are more likely to be consumers rather than producers of love. He indicates that nothing in life fails as often and as miserably as love. So the question is where does the failure lie? The failure may lie, Bander indicates, in the vastly incomplete romantic love that we practice, with its wishes and fantasies.
In Part II, Bander says to make relationships work again, we need to understand the dynamics of love and rediscover types of love that are linked to higher levels of emotional maturity. The English word ìloveî is the most misused and ill-defined word in the English language. Bander goes on to define the biblical definitions of love used by the Greeks, i.e., eros, philia, and agape. He says that too many of us are stuck in a level of love that the Greeks called eros which is the urgent desire for self-fulfillment that is most often associated with sexual or sensual love. This type of love leads us to reach out for something or someone to make ourselves more complete. In personal relationships, eros love says, ìI want, I need, therefore I love.î
The next higher level of love is philia. In philia the object of love becomes important in its own right, Bander explains, not merely someone to be used, but someone valued for his or her own sake. This kind of love emphasizes giving more than getting.
The highest level of love, agape, is ìtrue love,î in which the lover has the welfare of the one being loved as the primary motive. Agape is a decision and a commitment to love; it is giving unconditional love. In eros we marry the person we love. In agape we love the person we marry.
Reviewed by Stan Hatkoff, Adventist Medical Center, Portland, OR 97080.
PSYCHOLOGY AND THE BIBLE: A New Way to Read the Scriptures by J. Harold Ellens and Wayne G. Rollins, eds. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Company, 2004. Four volumes. Hardcover; $300.00. ISBN: 0275983471.
Ellens writes in his series foreword that these books may interest the informed professional, but are primarily intended for the lay reader, local library, and the undergraduate university student. They seek to explore the interface of psychology, religion, and spirituality in practical ways. The chapters are too numerous to mention by name, but listing a few of them may indicate the flavor: Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible, A Romantic Psychologist Reads the Bible, The Psychodynamics of the Fall Story, Psychoanalyzing Ezekiel, The Bible and the Psychology of Shame, and A Psychobiography of Jesus.
Each volume, with a different picture on its cover, illustrates a volume topic. Volume one, ìFrom Freud to Kohut,î has a picture of Freud; volume two, ìFrom Genesis to Apocalyptic Vision,î a picture of God driving Adam and Eve from Eden; volume three, ìFrom Gospel to Gnostics,î a picture of Ezekiel; and volume four, ìFrom Christ to Jesus,î a picture of Jesus. The 9.5 by 6.5 inch volumes contain 1,424 total pages and sixty-two articles by different authors. Each volume contains a foreword, bibliography, glossary, index, and author biography.
Perhaps the first reaction to this book is its cost. However, it is not one book but a set of four. Even so, that comes to $75 a book. Pretty expensive! On the other hand, compared with the cost of college textbooks, this set seems reasonably priced. My guess is that its primary purchasers will be libraries or professional, Christian psychologists. This relatively small market dictates price. And I got all four volumes sent to me free so you could read this recommendation; obviously the publishers need a lot of marketing to make this a profitable adventure. Would I buy this set? Yes, if I were a psychology teacher, a Christian counselor, a person interested in the Bible and psychology, or just a sponge for knowledge. Otherwise, I would recommend my city or college library put it on their shelves.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
RELIGIOUS THOUGHT AND THE MODERN PSYCHOLOGIES (2d ed.) by Don S. Browning and Terry D. Cooper. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004. 304 pages, notes, index. Paperback; $25.00. ISBN: 0800636597.
This is a revision of a volume published in 1987 by the first author. Both editions probe major theories of psychology for their implicit or explicit assumptions they make along five dimensions: (1) the type of metaphor they utilize; (2) the basic need of life; (3) the essential obligation that motivates behavior; (4) the kinds of permissions/constraints imposed on humans by the environment; (5) and the rules and roles their theories recommend. The theories of Freud, Maslow, Perls, Skinner, Jung, Erikson, Kohut, Ellis, Beck and Bowen are analyzed and critiqued via the theological propositions of Reinhold Niebuhr. The authors label their approach ìhermeneutic realismî and suggest that probing the underlying presumptions of social theory is grounded in the hermeneutic philosophy discussed in the writings of Gadamer of Ricoeur. This is the essential question asked in these theories: What is their underlying understanding of the nature and potential of human life?
The basic theoretical model of Freud is seen to be instinctual egoistic mechanism wherein the mind basically functions to satisfy individualistic needs. Little room is left for mutuality beyond some form of a social contract in which other persons function either to impede or enhance the meeting of individual goals. The basic theoretical model of the humanistic psychologists (Maslow, Rogers, Perls) is expressive individualismósometimes called a culture of ìjoy.î Here it is assumed that if each person actualizes him/herself there will be perfect harmony. No place is given to the problem of those times when personsí actualizing might come into conflict with one another. Skinner, in turn, takes a radically different view. Instead of individual actualization, Skinnerís conditioning model sees the goal of life to be justice which will be assured by the planned schedule of reinforcementsóthose conditions which determine behavioral outcomes. His model is that of elite husbandry. Little room is left for individual agency or responsibility. Jung is seen as an instinctual self-realist whose thinking is kin to the humanistic psychologists in their confidence that individual actualization will result in social harmony. Jung is more aware than others of the issue of evil in life and the complex way in which instinctual forces (archetypes) have darker dimensions. These illustrate the type of analysis the book provides.
Browning and Cooper are convinced that these deep metaphors in psychology are quasi-theological in their implications. Niebuhrís proposals about humans as body/spirits who are both finite and infinite in their behavior provide the backdrop to the authorsí critique.
Apart from the practical help these theories have given to counselors, there is a need to qualify their constructs with theological acumen in order to account for both personal development, mutuality, and sacrificial love.
This volume is seminal and foundational. It should be read by all psychologists who are concerned to relate their work as mental health professionals to their Christian faith. It would be helpful for those in the American Psychological Association who are pushing for all psychotherapeutic treatment to be grounded in empirical research to read it also. Unless the hermeneutic assumptions underlying any given empirical study are explicitly detailed, treatment based upon such conclusions will simply repeat the situation that this volume addresses, namely, naive positivistic assumptions that such outcomes are self authenticating. All research is theory ladenófrom the choice of topic to the methods of investigation.
Although the substantive ìhermeneutic realismî of the volume is not compromised, the inclusion of two prefaces coupled with the syntactic style of referring to ìIî in one part of the book and ìWeî in another part, is somewhat disconcerting. A semantic comment is also in order, Niebuhr is overtly the preferred theological foil against which each psychological theory is compared. Personally, I have no quarrel with this because I am a theological child of the mid-twentieth century during which Niebuhrian thinking was the vogue. Maybe my critique is not in order, but the question remains, ìShould not the authors have been a bit more circumspect in admitting the ëeffective historyí (their term for the impact of a given theoristís culture and personal history) of Niebuhr?î Further, should it not be at least acknowledged that they chose one among a number of theological options available to them for their work? As we used to say, ìSkinner himself had to be behaviorally conditioned.î Nobody can avoid the impact of their own time and space, not even Niebuhr.
Reviewed by H. Newton Malony, Ph.D., Senior Professor, Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, 180 North Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.
THE SONG SPARROW AND THE CHILD: Claims of Science and Humanity by Joseph Vining. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. 216 pages. Hardcover; $25.00. ISBN: 0268043620.
Vining is Hutchins Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. He practiced law in Washington, DC, and served in the Department of Justice. He writes and lectures on legal philosophy, administrative law, environmental law, corporate law, comparative law, and criminal law. He has written three previous books: Legal Identity, The Authoritative and the Authoritarian, and From Newtonís Sleep.
This book is organized into chapters with notes, an index, and a further reading list. Vining begins by introducing the reader to totalitarian thought and the pinnacle of its achievement in twentieth century ideology, particularly Fascism and Communism. He shows how each system of totalitarian thought, while distinct, has at its root the desire to explain everything. The danger, he warns, is that such systems also extend to explanations of the humans who developed them. Thus, the Nazis and the Communists both immunized themselves against critique by encompassing the critique in prior explanation. Viningís concern is that he detects similar strains of thought in modern science, a desire to explain everything, even the scientist, as being subject to the explanatory power of the Total Theory. Sociobiology would be a good example of this ìscientificî thought. ìThe new totalism in the second half of the twentieth century is in cosmological vision rather than in social or political theory.î
But in the process of explaining the human, the Total Theorist has taken away any qualitative distinction between the human and such beings as song sparrows. And hereís the rub: we conduct experiments on song sparrows to see how their ability to sing is impacted by deafening them at birth so they could never hear their mothers sing. ìWhat is the answer to the proposal that a child be treated like a young song sparrow? One or more deafened, one or more kept in silence, one or more sacrificed from time to time and its brain sliced and stained? Humans are continuous with the rest of nature, and nature can be nothing more than a system.î
Vining proposes a meeting place for scientific and other forms of thought in law, ìfor the distinctive feature of life and the human (in its recognition by us) is that it is not entirely subject to our purposes.î The law gives us the space to evaluate the claims of science and total theory from other important areas of being: love, loyalty, truth.
In all, Vining has brought up an excellent point in tying cosmological Total Theory with previous social and political totalitarian systems. The inevitable logic of such thinking leads to lack of concern for individual worth and focuses on species and systems. The main problem with his book is that it is written in a musing style that often leaves one confused about what he is really trying to say. It is like reading his diary rather than a case about why we should be careful about Total Theory. In fairness to him, he knew that and explicitly wrote that the book is primarily a conversation or meditation rather than an argument. Still, from such a lawyer with such a good point to make, I would have preferred a solid argument I could follow and present.
Reviewed by David M. Condron, Marine Engineer, Friend Ships, Lake Charles, LA 70601.