Science in Christian Perspective
 Since 1941

 

PSCF Book Reviews for September 2006

Index

Christopher J. Bosso,  Environment, Inc.: From Grassroots to Beltway, 241

Paul Copan,  How Do You Know You're Not Wrong? Responding to Objections That Leave Christians Speechless, 241

Richard A . Deyo and Donald L. Patrick, Hope or Hype: The Obsession with Medical Advances and the High Cost of False Promises, 242

Siroj Sorajjakool, When Sickness Heals: The Place of Religious Belief in Healthcare, 243

Trevor Norton, Underwater to Get out of the Rain, 243

Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview, 244

Nigel Brush, The Limitations of Scientific Truth, 244

Joseph A. Bracken, Christianity and Process Thought: Spirituality for a Changing World, 245

Harry Lee Poe and Stanley Mattson, eds., What God Knows: Time and the Question of Divine Knowledge, 246

Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring the Sabbath, 247

Amy Orr-Ewing,  Is the Bible Intolerant? Sexist? Oppressive? Homophobic? Outdated? Irrelevant? 247

Alan G. Padgett and Patrick R. Keifert, eds.,  But Is it All True? The Bible and the Question of Truth, 248

Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch, Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul, 248

Avery Cardinal Dulles, A History of Apologetics, 249

Brad Stetson and Joseph G. Conti, The Truth about Tolerance: Pluralism, Diversity and the Culture Wars, 250

Steven D . Levitt and Stephen J . Dubner,  Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, 250

Robert C . Fuller,  Wonder: From Emotion to Spirituality. 251

Daniel Lee and Robert O'Gorman, eds., Social Work and Divinity, 251

 

The Reviews

ENVIRONMENT 



ENVIRONMENT, INC.: From Grassroots to Beltway by Christopher J. Bosso. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2005. 208 pages, notes, bibliography, index. Paperback; $15.95. ISBN: 0700613684. 


Bosso is associate professor of political science at Northeastern University and author of the book Pesticides and Politics: The Life Cycle of a Public Issue. He has also contributed to a number of editions of the following publications: Interest Group Politics, Environmental Policy in the 1990s, and Environmental Policy: New Directions for the 21st Century. The purpose of this book is to analyze the evolution of "organized environmental advocacy" in the United States from the early 1970s to the present. The origins, organizational changes, and methods of operation of some thirty organizations that lie at the core of the national environmental advocacy community are examined both individually and collectively. 

The book consists of six chapters, the first of which is an introduction to the author's reasons for undertaking this study of the national environmental community. Chapter two looks at the origins of the environmental community from the late nineteenth century through the early 1970s. Chapter three examines the maturation of this community following the creation of a number of environmental organizations in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Chapter four looks more closely at how these organizations have managed to survive over the years while chapter five examines the range of tactics utilized by national environmental advocacy organizations. The final chapter considers the lessons that can be extended beyond the particulars of environmental advocacy to other public-interest advocacy communities. 

Bosso describes how the major environmental organizations have transformed themselves over the last forty years from relatively amateur outfits, often supported by a few elite patrons, into today's mass-based professional advocacy organizations. Most of these organizations responded to internal stresses and external political pressures by growing larger, diversifying their sources of revenue, replacing volunteers with professional staff, and adopting the kinds of management procedures that are characteristic of any well-run nonprofit organization. These transformations are documented in the numerous tables that are included throughout the book. These tables provide a wealth of information about the major environmental organizations that are still in existence today. The contents of each chapter are also documented by an extensive list of endnotes. 

Bosso states in his preface that this book is written for two somewhat different audiences: students of environmental politics and students of interest groups. The book could be used as a supplemental text in a college course that deals with environmental policy and politics. It also provides a detailed case study for the broader landscape of interest group politics in the United States. Anyone who would like to know more about the history of the American environmental movement and the organizations that have shaped this movement should take the time to read this book. 

Reviewed by J. David Holland, 868 Oxford Drive, Chatham, IL 62629. 


FAITH & SCIENCE 



HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU'RE NOT WRONG? Responding to Objections That Leave Christians Speechless by Paul Copan. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005. 272 pages, notes. Paperback; $14.99. ISBN: 0801064996. 


Copan is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. He is the author of two other apologetics resources, That's Just Your Interpretation and True for You, But Not for Me. In addition, he has coauthored with William Lane Craig a book entitled Creation Out of Nothing which examines the biblical, scientific, and philosophical case for God's creation of the universe ex nihilo. He also edited another book entitled Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? which is based upon a debate between John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar and William Lane Craig, research professor at the Talbot School of Theology. In recent years, he has lectured as a Christian apologist on many university campuses in the United States and in other countries. 

This book is divided into three parts. In part one, which includes two chapters, Copan discusses "slogans related to truth and reality" In these chapters, Copan presents some of the philosophical problems that are associated with skepticism and pragmatism. Part two, which includes eight chapters, discusses "slogans related to worldviews" Several of these chapters focus upon an analysis of naturalism and scientism, worldviews that are in conflict with theism. Other chapters deal with the naturalistic perspective which maintains that there is no soul or mind that is distinct from the body and capable of surviving death. Practical aspects of naturalism are presented in the last two chapters of part two where Copan critiques the animal rights movement. Part three, which consists of seven chapters, focuses upon "slogans related to Christianity" In this section of the book, several important issues regarding biblical teaching and Christian belief are discussed. Issues addressed include God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, the harsh and oppressive nature of some Old Testament laws, other Old Testament laws that appear to be strange and arbitrary, problems associated with the doctrine of original sin, the exclusion of certain texts from the New Testament canon, and the debate over the Gospel of Thomas as a legitimate source about the historical Jesus. 

Every chapter in this book addresses a particular topic with a list of points that either provide challenges to a non-Christian perspective (such as naturalism or scientism) or offer explanations of a difficult biblical issue (such as Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac or the strange nature of many Old Testament laws). While some chapters contain as few as five or six of these "points," others contain as many as ten or twelve. After discussing each issue with a series of points, Copan reviews the contents of each chapter with a list of summary statements. Each chapter then concludes with a brief bibliography for further reading. Notes are organized by chapter at the end of the book. 

In the introduction, Copan summarizes a threefold strategy for defending and dealing with objections to the Christian worldview. First, we need to help people understand that we cannot escape from the objectivity of truth and the reality to which truth claims correspond. Second, if people see that truth and reality are inescapable, then we can deal with the next level, the level of worldviews. If theism is the best option among competing worldviews, then the third stage is to determine which theistic option is the most viable. It is at this stage that we can begin to deal with Christian apologetics. 

It is the author's hope, as stated in the introduction, that the material in this book will encourage Christians in general, but particularly Christian students in high schools and universities (and their parents) who regularly face skeptical challenges to their faith. While some of Copan's arguments may be difficult for high school students to follow, college students and other adult Christians should find this book to be very helpful. Not only does it provide answers to a number of challenging issues and questions, it also provides the reader with a helpful strategy for dealing with those who raise questions about Christian beliefs. According to Copan, we must not only be prepared with wise and informed answers. We must also be prepared to listen and to ask probing questions (as Jesus often did). This approach can help believers discover where an unbeliever is coming from. It can also help unbelievers to understand the inadequacies of their own worldviews. Anyone who wants to be better prepared to defend the Christian faith will benefit from reading this book. 

 

Reviewed by J. David Holland, 868 Oxford Drive, Chatham, IL 62629. 



HEALTH& MEDICINE 


HOPE OR HYPE: The Obsession with Medical Advances and the High Cost of False Promises by Richard A. Deyo and Donald L. Patrick. New York: AMACOM, 2005. 336 pages, index. Hardcover; $24.95. ISBN: 0814408451. 


Deyo and Patrick are faculty members at the University of Washington in Seattle and are among highly-cited researchers in the social sciences designated by Thompson ISI. Deyo co-edited Evidence-Based Clinical Medicine (1999). Patrick is a member of the Institute of Medicine and founding president of the International Society for Quality of Life Research. He co-authored Health Status and Health Policy (1993). 

The authors point out that there are many unnecessary medical procedures which create additional risk and cost. They hope to generate discussion about the health care policy and practice in the United States and to encourage changes in doctors' practice, patients' behavior, corporate marketing, media news coverage, and government regulations. 

This book has four parts. Part one, "Can there be too much of a good thing?" gives reasons why Americans want new medical treatments. New treatments are a major reason that the health-care cost is increasing in the US, and many new treatments are unnecessary and sometimes harmful. Part two, "How do things really work?" explains the strategies used by drug companies, the media, doctors, hospitals, and advocacy groups to push us into the current mess. Drug manufacturers comprise the most profitable industry in the US, and between 1997 and 2001, research spending on drugs rose 59%, while investments in drug advertising rose 145%. 

Part three, "Useless, harmful, or marginal," provides examples where popular treatments caused unnecessary disability and/or dollar costs. Examples given include calcium-channel blockers to treat high blood pressure, the drugs encaincide and flecainide to prevent cardiac arrest, and pulmonary artery catheters used in intensive care settings. One recent research suggested that complications and deaths from prescription drugs in the US cost more than $177 billion a year, whereas Americans spent an estimated $184 billion on drugs in 2003. Part four, "Crossing the threshold," gives recommendations to doctors, insurers, researchers, decision makers, government officials, and consumers to do their part in solving the problem. 

This book describes the problem and proposes solutions. It emphasizes the importance of evidence-based clinical medicine and gives many examples of false, but accepted, medical advances. It recommends important changes to correct the current health care problem in the US. Systematic scientific investigation flourished in seventeenth-century Christian Europe, because it was closely related to the medieval Christian world view. Scientific and careful examination of nature and data is consistent with a Christian diligent study of Scripture since nature and the Bible are two books given by God. 

To study nature, scientists carry out laboratory experiments or natural observations. Controlled experiments in the laboratory can provide unbiased data and reach more reliable conclusions than just natural observations. In the mid-twentieth century, controlled clinical experiment methodology was first introduced into medicine, and it revolutionized the discovery of new medical advances. The increase in human life-span and decrease of death rates due to cancer and AIDS are the results of new methods of clinical experimentation. 

For the readers of PSCF, the scientific approach can be applied to the study of Scripture. Many theories, based purely on scholarly conjectures, have been proposed about different aspects of the Bible. The recent popular book, The Da Vinci Code was written as fiction, and some people are willing to accept it as a historical book. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, scholars have proposed various theories to deny the truth contained in the Bible. The results have harmed the church. The mistakes made in the medical field from lack of collecting unbiased data can be duplicated in the field of Christianity and result in falsehoods. Christians should therefore be more discerning regarding so-called advances in the areas of medicine and of biblical knowledge. 

Reviewed by T. Timothy Chen, St. Louis Chinese Gospel Church, Manchester, MO 63017. 


WHEN SICKNESS HEALS: The Place of Religious Belief in Healthcare by Siroj Sorajjakool. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2006. 149 pages, bibliography and index. Paperback; $19.95. ISBN: 9781599470900. 


Sorajjakool is professor of religion, psychology, and counseling at Loma Linda University and pastoral counseling supervisor at Loma Linda and Claremont School of Theology. He has published extensively in Thai and English. 

The main point of When Sickness Heals is that people need to find purpose or meaning in their illness to begin recovering from it. Illness leads us to question our sense of meaning and then gaining a sense of meaning heals. Therefore, some peoples' illness are extended or worsened by their inability to make theological sense of it. For example, some Christians' expect that God will clearly answer "Why me?" but this impedes recovery because it inhibits integration. I would not have expected Chinese or Buddhist patients to share with Westerners this intense need for meaning from illness, but Sorajjakool's references and defense were convincing that this is a universal experience that crosses cultures and religious viewpoints. 

Sorajjakool writes that "healthy people are those who learn to accept and integrate pain and suffering into their system of meaning, because ultimately there is no life without death, no health without sickness, and no pleasure without pain" As one who works in health care, I share Sorajjakool's perspective that illness leads a person to spiritual introspection, and whole health requires some level of metaphysical coherence and integration. Sorajjakool thinks that "Perhaps more is happening theologically in these locations (hospitals, hospices, and rehabilitation centers) than in seminaries" Those of us who work in health care could do so much more to minister to and learn from people going through health crises. 

I found this book helpful in how to understand the process people go through spiritually when they fall ill, but it does not represent orthodox Christianity. Sorajjakool was raised in a strong Christian home, but he seems to be theologically eclectic now. His Christian convictions are not evident in this book, and he does not acknowledge a theistic viewpoint. 

When Sickness Heals includes three appendices, including a fascinating introduction to the spirituality of Raimundo Panikkar, Paul Tillich and Carl Jung. Appendix 3 was a proposed diagnosis of Soren Kierkegaard's mental illness, which I did not find helpful. The bibliography and extensive notes are helpful. 

I was somewhat disappointed by chapter five, "Theological Integration" Sorajjakool summarized the thoughts of widely disparate thinkers including Tillich, Bonhoeffer, John Macquarrie and Panikkar, including descriptions of the spiritual content of alchemy and the story of the goddess Kali. I was unable to integrate these issues, even with the author's help. It felt like a compilation of vaguely related thoughts on the role of the spirit in health, but it was not integrated in a way that ASA readers are accustomed to. 

The main strength of When Sickness Heals is that  it allows the reader a chance to "listen in" on the thoughts and experiences of people going through illness experiences, especially mental illness. Although the title of the book implies the role of faith in disease in general, it mainly focused on terminal illness and mental illness. Being Thai himself, Sorajjakool is able to relate to the Asian experience and incorporates it well into his writing. Chapter eight, "Spiritual Assessment," aims to help caregivers assess the spiritual situation of their patients to assist them in the healing process. The chapter was not organized as well as it might have been, but the content was helpful. 

People working in health care should be interested in this book's focus on the spiritual experience of patients. It might stimulate researchers to consider research projects at the interface of illness and spiritual experience. I came away with several questions that I hope to pursue in my work and reading. 

Reviewed by Mark A. Strand, Shanxi Evergreen Service, Yuci, Shanxi, China, 030600. 

 

NATURAL SCIENCES 


UNDERWATER TO GET OUT OF THE RAIN by Trevor Norton. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006. 385 pages. Hardcover; $25.00. ISBN: 0306814870. 


This is a magnificent book. It is not loaded with theological insight, but with its wonderful observations on nature and God's creation, it is easy to infuse your own. Norton is an evolutionist who is well aware of and comments on biblical topics such as the Flood and Creation. This book is autobiographical and full of interesting adventures taken by the author and others. It is full of observations, some humorous, about education, travel, science, history, etymology, and the varieties of earthly life. 

Norton has been in love with the sea all of his life. After his first dive under water, he observed that the experience was more exciting than he had imagined as "a kaleidoscope of new images overwhelmed me" After this, underwater became to Norton the real world, not the air-bound attic up there. He observes that "the ocean reminds me that I have no right to be there and, if careless, might be invited to stay" 

Norton has a way with words. For example, of his French teacher, he wrote: "Although she never dusted an external surface, no sentence emerged until it had been polished for public view" (p. 11). Of the ocean, he writes that it was "a wild aquarium, a laboratory, a cemetery for men and ships, and an anthology of legends" (p. 17). 

Of his invitation to have tea with his landlord, he writes: "Mrs. B had excavated some ancient biscuits from the back of a cupboard. When she proffered them, I thought she was going to ask if I could get them carbon dated at the university" (p. 37). 

Of one of his eccentric teachers, Norton wrote that he "used to lecture with his shoes off and his feet lodged in a desk drawer" (p. 41). Of Lord Nelson, it was reported that when the surgeon removed Nelson's arm, Nelson's only complaint was that the knife was uncomfortably cold (p. 106). Nelson ordered that henceforth the surgeon's cutting tools be warmed. Norton observed that time moves so slowly on the Isle of Coll, that a local, when asked what time it was, replied, "August" 

Norton shares some amazing facts and observations. For example, sea hares copulate 65% of the time and can lay 470 million eggs in its lifetime; for the oyster, only one egg in 10 million survives to become a breeding adult; a single pair of rats can generate 1,000 offspring per year; the fragile starfish, Luidia, shivers itself to bits when caught; every year 70 people drown in the River Thames; and only 1% of the ocean floor has been explored. 

In medieval Ireland, geese were designated as fish so they could be eaten on religious holy days; the sun and moon appear to be the same size in the sky although the sun is 400 times as far away and 400 times as big; divers in Japan can hold their breath for two minutes searching for clams; free divers stay underwater eight minutes without breathing; some whales and seals can hold their breath over one hour; hypothermia killed all the Titanic passengers in the water wearing life jackets; humans are the plumpest primates and the only ones with chubby babies. 

The book has no table of contents or index; bibliographical books are classified via geography (e.g., Northumberland, Illfracombe, Sweden, Isle of Man). Because the book has lots of short chapters, they make for easy reading and quick closure. Norton spells like the Englishman he is, e.g., humour and honour. 

Trevor Norton is professor of marine biology at the University of Liverpool and the author of many books of popular natural history. These include Reflections on a Summer Sea and Stars Beneath the Sea. Norton has been dubbed "Bill Bryson underwater" (Bryson is the author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, the most interesting science book I have ever read).  

John Banville has written that this book "is erudite, funny, weird and endearing" The London Daily Mail says it's "wonderfully readable ÷ full of amazing facts and funny stories ÷" You will agree after reading this book. 

Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761. 


ORIGINS & COSMOLOGY 



CREATION REGAINED: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview by Albert M. Wolters. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005. 145 pages. Paperback; $12.00.
ISBN: 0802829694. 


This is a revised and expanded edition of Creation Regained, a book which has been in print for twenty years and translated into eight languages. It has high praise from Nicholas Wolterstorff who evaluates it as "the best statement ÷ of the reformational worldview" The book's five chapters have a good many scriptural references, but the book has no footnotes, index, or bibliography. 

Why did Wolters write this book? 

Creation Regained is offered to the church to equip her in a world that desperately needs to see and hear the good news that God's kingdom has come: God is renewing the creation and the whole of human life in the work of Jesus Christ by the Spirit (p. 143). 

The chapter most likely to appeal to PSCF readers is also the longest and is entitled "Creation" Wolters defines creation as "the correlation of the sovereign activity of the Creator and the created order" (p. 14). He does not believe in a deist god who forsakes creation after setting it in motion. While God created the planets, oversees the seasons, and makes plants grow and animals reproduce, God has entrusted to humans the jobs of making tools, exercising justice, creating art, and seeking knowledge. 

Wolters uses the word "law" to refer to the totality of God's ordaining acts toward the cosmos. He thinks the word "creation" is too broad in referring to created things and too narrow in excluding God's providence (p. 15). Creation law includes general revelation, which implies that creation is knowable

There is some disagreement among Christians as to whether social sciences and humanities are as knowable as natural science. God's rule of law, while immediate in nature, is mediate in culture and society. Creation without sin is "wholly and unambiguously good" (p. 48). 

The other chapters in this book deal with worldview and its practical implications, the Fall, and Redemption. The important issue is how Christians should arrive at biblical views about technology, aggression, political revolution, dance, education, and sexuality (p. 87). On the latter, Wolters observes: "Sexual immorality should be opposed not to repress sex but to show forth its true glory" (p. 111). 

This book is widely used in academic settings, and it would be an appropriate book for seminary students, graduate students, pastors, teachers, or informed laypersons. 

Wolters is professor of religion, theology, and classical languages at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario. Mike Goheen, Geneva Chair of Reformational Worldview Studies at Trinity Western University, assisted Wolters in writing the postscript, "Worldview between Story and Mission" 


Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761. 


PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY 



THE LIMITATIONS OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTH by Nigel Brush. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2005. 280 pages, references, index. Paperback; $14.99.
ISBN: 0825422531. 


Nigel Brush has a Ph.D. in archeology from UCLA. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Geology at Ashland University in Ohio. In the epilogue of the book, he states: 

I have attempted to address one of the greatest fears that has assailed many Christians, including me" the fear of science. Has science disproved the Bible? Will science someday discover absolute proof and undeniable evidence that there is no God? (p. 279). 

Brush's answer is a definitive no: that unlike biblical truth, scientific knowledge is tentative and transitory. He further argues that the image of science popularly presented to the public, that of logical, impartial systematic investigation, is false. Science is a subjective and value laden human undertaking. 

The book is divided into seven parts. Part one examines the concept of absolute truth and contrasts the epistemologies of philosophy, theology, and science. Part two discusses the idea of revolutions in science and how scientific knowledge is constantly changing. Part three looks at the methods of science and the difficulties of philosophically and logically grounding scientific truth claims. Part four examines the human and cultural biases in science. The fifth part of the book examines the ultimate limitations imposed on scientific knowledge imposed by quantum theory, special relativity, and the temporal and spatial limits of the cosmos itself. The last two parts consider the failure of scientists to deal honestly with the theological implications of their discoveries, and the failure of theologians to be honest about the limits of our ability to understand and interpret Scripture. 

Brush states that he is not critical of science, but rather of a materialistic scientism that claims to supplant biblical truth. I agree with Brush's statement that "Today, many people believe that scientific truth is not only superior to religious or philosophical truth but is also the only truth" (p. 253). Brush, however, makes little distinction between scientism and science proper. Some of his points are well made, for example, the limits of science in establishing ultimate cause or purpose, the cultural biases in science, and the appropriation of science for political and social purposes. Other arguments in the book are less convincing. 

The argument that science is a failed epistemology because it has no mechanism for establishing "ultimate truth" is something of a red herring; the same could be said of philosophy, theology, and even mathematics. For those who accept a critical realist view of Creation, scientific methodology is well grounded and scientific knowledge is supported by its reproducibility and success. External validation would be nice, but it is not essential. 

Brush stumbles in his claim that Special Relativity rejects the "clockwork universe" of Newton. It is true that a relativistic worldview is more complex than a Newtonian view. It is true that relativity rejects the idea of absolute time and simultaneity, but it does not negate the flow of time (in any reference frame) or the idea of causality. Scientific laws still operate in a relativistic universe. 

My greatest concern is with Brush's argument that scientific truths are tentative and transitory. This claim is largely based on Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions. Kuhn's use of the term revolution, however, is based on the way new theories change the way we understand (see) the universe and the types of questions scientists ask about that universe. Kuhn does not claim that new theories necessarily destroy or negate old theories. It is true that initial scientific understanding (such as Newtonian mechanics) completely replaced pre-scientific worldviews (such as Aristotelian metaphysics). It is not true that later scientific theories "replaced" the preceding theories. Special Relativity maintained the concepts and framework of Newtonian mechanics, but added the Lorentz transform to all of the equations. It can be argued that scientific knowledge is incomplete, but I take issue with Brush's negative representation of scientific truth. 

Despite these concerns, I found The Limitations of Scientific Truth to be thorough, scholarly, and well written. The book raises important questions which deserve reflection and debate. For those new to the science and faith discussion, this book provides a good introduction to philosophy of science and some of the seminal writers in the field. A more technical and complete book along these lines is McGrath's Science and Religion: An Introduction


Reviewed by Lawrence Olsen, Professor of Chemistry, Asbury College, Wilmore, KY 40390. 


CHRISTIANITY AND PROCESS THOUGHT: Spirituality for a Changing World by Joseph A. Bracken. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2006. 176 pages, index. Paperback; $19.95. ISBN: 1932031987. 

Bracken is a retired professor of theology and director emeritus of the Edward B. Brueggeman Center for Dialogue at Xavier University. His recent works focus on process theology. He has been the editor or co-editor of two other works in philosophical theology and the author of seven books. 

One would expect that the theological work of a Jesuit, apart from its philosophical trappings, would be strictly orthodox in its development and presentation. However, my immediate experience of the book was not one of the logical structure or the interesting ideas, but of the continuous dilution of essential Christian truth. However, I only wish to make a point. One must not expect that uniting real philosophy with the faith must somehow presuppose a deteriorated version of Christianity. 

The central project of this book is to present a coherent theology that correctly integrates Alfred N. Whitehead's process philosophy and Christian belief. Importantly, Bracken is well aware that this must not be a completely abstract ontological schema but one that impacts Christians in the world. In the tradition, starting with Plato and progressing through the Moderns, the still and solid is the real object of truth. Systems are set up in such a way that only the stable is worthy of true contemplation. However, our world is not one that is persistently unchanging; it is a world of constant change. As Hericluitus realized, we never step into the same river twice. Whitehead's process philosophy parts from this tradition, and suggests it is not the solid self-reflective stabilities that the world really consists of, but relations. Bracken employs this line of reasoning throughout his work. 

Opening the text, Bracken lays out a very fitting description of the Trinity as fundamentally in "relationship" This also applies to our relationship to God. Bordering on panentheism and using Acts 17:28 as a backdrop, Bracken discusses how God's community of relation ultimately encompasses everything, including humanity. Whitehead's ideas are ideal for this type of an account and also for uniting the Trinity within this account. The change and spontaneity of our world is ultimately the creativity from God. 

Chapter 3 addresses the Incarnation. Here, Bracken is correct to stress one reason why the Word was made flesh"namely to show us the way of self-denial or surrendering ourselves to God's will. However, as important as it is to our individual spiritual lives and ultimately the goodness of community, it does not supersede the objective reality of Christ's redemption"the Paschal Mystery. The idea of self-denial and subjective redemption is continued in the next chapter with a discussion on community, essential for a world consisting of "societies" of relational movement. Bracken develops the idea that communities are good or bad insofar as they can commune with God's will and deny their own motives for success. 

Insightfully, he depicts Christendom at large, seeking the Kingdom of God. Yet, inside this larger community are denominational "societies" overlapping at various places empowered by their difference, if they seek God first and self survival second. Bracken says that the practical wish to survive as an organization must give way to the greater Way of Christ. This gives way to a troubling dialogue on the multiplicity of truth, which culminates in a defense of emergent truth and a statement that we cannot know truth apart from our own experience. A debate has been and should be had about the harmoniousness of this particular metaepistemological idea with Christian doctrine. Although some might think that I am being too sensitive about such topics, I see no sensitivity in the inability to reconcile traditional orthodox Christianity of the ancient creeds and Scripture to Bracken's statements about salvation being self-acceptance. 

Bracken ends with two stimulating chapters on the need of altruism, a metaphysical necessity in his treatment of Whitehead's philosophy, while incorporating a fresh perspective on biologists Dawkins and Wilson. In closing, Bracken echoes Solomon in saying that ultimately the only way is to trust God. 

Process theology is interesting, but it usually seems to create a mere shadow of our faith. It is good to see Christians engaged in serious philosophical questions and Bracken has a good treatment; yet, I cannot support the seemingly unorthodox viewpoints. I will continue reading Whitehead himself and the Bible. 


Reviewed by Jonathan D. Parker, student, University of Alabama- Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35802. 

 

WHAT GOD KNOWS: Time and the Question of Divine Knowledge by Harry Lee Poe and Stanley Mattson, eds. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005. 175 pages, notes, index. Paperback. ISBN: 1932792120. 


In the Introduction, the editors, noting that "÷ theology, philosophy and science have not reached a consensus within their own disciplines about what time is," observe that the implications (of time's nature) are "strikingly important" (p. 2). Based on this claim, and driven by Harry Blamires's 1963 book, The Christian Mind, which rebuked Christian scholars for an abandonment of their intellectual heritage, the C. S. Lewis Foundation began a series of summer conferences. This book comes from the 2002 conference. It is must reading for ASA members. 

Poe is a professor at Union University; Mattson is president of the C. S. Lewis Foundation. Mattson's preface explains the conference's origins and why the C. S. Lewis Foundation was involved. It is an interesting micro-history. The papers in this book are transcripts of the 2002 conference talks. The preface is marred by an off-the-subject paragraph castigating "the enemy," namely, secular classrooms, hostile faculty, irresponsible media and activist courts. But this diversion is momentary, and not repeated elsewhere. 

Poe begins with "The Problem of Time in Biblical Perspective" He treats the difference between "kairos time" (the Hebrew concept of quality) and "chronos time" (the Greek concept of quantity), arguing that when these two ideas are confused, scripture gets misinterpreted as in the instance of Ussher's calculation of the date of creation. 

The second paper, "St. Augustine and the Mystery of Time," by Timothy George, expounds on how one of our most revered theologians looked at time and how his insights are still pertinent to our modern age. 

Russell Stannard comes next, with "On the Developing Scientific Standard of Time" He unfolds the idea that God's experience of time must be much different from ours. He claims that many of our "common sense" ideas about time are simply wrong and that modern physics has now proven them wrong. His claims include the counterintuitive idea that, in some sense, the future is fixed, waiting for us. 

Perhaps the most useful paper comes fourth, "Time in Physics and Theology" by John Polkinghorne. Polkinghorne disagrees with Stannard's "fixed future," and argues that time's nature is a metaphysical issue, and cannot be settled by unaided science. He has a marvelous discussion of how the basic laws of physics are reversible. Yet, we never see them reverse; instead we are aware of five different "arrows" pointing from the past to the future. These are: (1) the thermodynamic arrow of increasing entropy in an isolated system; (2) the arrow of increasing complexity in a non-isolated system; (3) the expansion of the universe; (4) cause to effect; and (5) human temporal experience. All five arrows point the same direction; there is no general agreement on why this is so. Polkinghorne then explores time as just a psychological trick, time as a measure of a closed universe, time as the unfolding of an open universe, time as a many worlds' speculations, and concludes with his own theological perspective (in the end, God wins). 

William Craig, in "God, Time and Eternity," begins with the observation (agreeing with Polkinghorne) that relativity teaches us nothing about the nature of time; only about how we measure it. He describes two ways in which God could exist eternally: (1) omnitemporally (at every point in time); and (2) timeless (outside of time). Claiming that scripture can be interpreted in either way, and that thinking about the differences between the two ways is apologetically important, he identifies Newton, Scotus, Ockham and several contemporary philosophers as arguing for the former and Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas and other modern thinkers as claiming the latter. Both cannot be correct; Craig examines the arguments both for and against each view. To appreciate his resolution of the issues, you need to read his papers. 

Robert John Russell, with "Eschatology and Scientific Cosmology: From Conflict to Interaction," discusses how the natural sciences affect theology. This is followed by Hugh Ross writing on "Time and the Physics of Sin" Ross points out that both science and scripture agree on time's origin. Then Tony Compolo addresses "Meeting the Cosmic God in the Existential Now" Among other observations, Compolo notes that for God everything is the "eternal now" Finally, Poe summarizes the book, noting that no consensus has been reached. This is a difficult book, but a rewarding one. Highly recommended. 

 

Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Rico Community Church, Rico, CO 81332. 



RELIGION & BIBLICAL STUDIES 


THE REST OF GOD: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring the Sabbath by Mark Buchanan. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2006. 256 pages. Hardcover; $17.99. ISBN: 0849918480. 


Buchanan is an author and pastor who lives on Vancouver Island in Canada. He graduated from the University of British Columbia's creative writing department and also holds a masters degree from Regent College. He is the author of three other books: Your God is Too Safe, Things Unseen, and The Holy Wild. He has published numerous articles in magazines and periodicals, including Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, The Christian Century, and Discipleship Journal

As the title implies, the author's purpose in writing this book is to convince the reader that keeping Sabbath is as essential to one's well-being as food and water. Buchanan begins his book by admitting that he learned to keep Sabbath the hard way, in the "crucible of breaking it" He then explains that Sabbath is not only a day but also an attitude. "It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God"actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God"the things of God's nature and presence we miss in our busyness" (p. 3). Both aspects of Sabbath keeping are developed and illustrated in the fourteen chapters which follow the introduction. 

Buchanan cites an interesting difference in the wording that Exodus and Deuteronomy use in prescribing the fourth commandment. Exodus calls us to remember the Sabbath while Deuteronomy encourages us to observe it. According to rabbinical teaching, the three days that follow Sabbath are to be spent remembering the one just past while the three days leading up to Sabbath are to be spent preparing (observing) for the one that is approaching. In other words, Sabbath makes claim on all the other days while they make none on it. With this perspective in mind, Buchanan proposes two "golden rules" of Sabbath keeping. The first golden rule is "to cease from that which is necessary" (p. 126). While there are six other days in the week to do what you ought to do, the Sabbath is "the one day when the only thing you must do is not to do the things you must" The Sabbath's second golden rule is "to embrace that which gives life" (p. 127). This helps us to know not only what we should avoid, but also what we should pursue. We need to stop creating on the Sabbath (as God did) and instead be involved in "re-creating" Any activity that involves "re-creating" also "gives life" and is therefore an appropriate activity for the Sabbath. 

Buchanan is an excellent writer who uses a wide variety of examples to illustrate his points. These examples are gleaned from the writings of many different authors, from a number of well-known movies, and from his own personal experience. The book is also biblically based as every chapter contains Scripture references and stories. Every chapter consists of two parts, first a longer section which explains the "theology" of Sabbath keeping, followed by a shorter section that is designed to help the reader put this theology into practice. This book could be used in a small group Bible study or an adult Sunday School class. It could also be used as a personal devotional guide. It is a book that challenges our view of work, of leisure, and of time itself. Anyone who is either legalistic or indifferent about Sabbath keeping should definitely read this book. It is also written for Christians who are faced with the challenge of living in a culture where busyness is a disease of epidemic proportions. 


Reviewed by J. David Holland, 868 Oxford Drive, Chatham, IL 62629. 

 

IS THE BIBLE INTOLERANT? Sexist? Oppressive? Homophobic? Outdated? Irrelevant? by Amy Orr-Ewing. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006. 142 pages. Paperback; $12.00. ISBN: 083083351X. 

Orr-Ewing is in charge of the apologetics training program for the Zacharias Trust in Europe, a ministry which seeks to remove the objections of skeptics and instill apologetical arguments in Christians. She studied the New Testament at Oxford University. 

The book has seven pages of endnotes, a fifty-six book bibliography, and a two-page index of Bible references. It receives high praise from its blurps, including one from Alister McGrath of Oxford University, a well-published Christian apologist. 

Is the Bible Intolerant? resulted from Orr-Ewing's search to determine whether the Bible is believable. In this book, she deals with the ten questions she is most frequently asked. Her answers to these ten questions are found in the following declarations: (1) words have meaning; (2) history can be known; (3) biblical manuscripts are reliable; (4) contents of the biblical manuscripts are reliable; (5) the canon is authoritative; (6) the Bible is unique among religious writings; (7) the Bible is not sexist; (8) just-war theory prevails; (9) biblical teaching on sex is relevant today; and (10) it is possible to know what is true. Orr-Ewing's account of her own salvation experience is very personal and moving, and its intention to persuade the reader is enhanced by its irenic and caring tone. 

On the other hand, it is possible that Orr-Ewing's sometimes pejorative descriptions of some unbelievers may make the book less inviting to seekers. She writes that they are capable of "believing anything at all" (p. 7), "unyielding" (p. 8), "prejudice(d)" (p. 13), and possess "closed mindedness" (p. 52). This, unfortunately, too often also describes some believers. 

Orr-Ewing asks, "Why do people believe that, when it comes to the Bible, everything is a matter of interpretation?" (p. 17). Of course, the answer she shies away from is that everything is a matter of interpretation. For anyone to contend that "they just take the Bible for what it says" is to contend for a hermeneutic which always produces one meaning. In actuality, the Bible does not say anything until it is interpreted. This helps explain the variety of beliefs reflected in commentaries, denominations, religious institutions, and believers. 

Biblical truth is not as obvious and lucid as it is sometimes represented to be. If it were, it would not require years of training in linguistics, history, archaeology, culture, sociology, and other related fields by scholars who still fail to come to a consensus. This view is not an argument that all views are equally valid, just that there is no agreed upon interpretation on many significant and minor doctrines. The lack of admission on this point seems to be a weakness of this book. My point, however, does not deny that the orthodox church has come to a fair consensus as to what constitutes salvation, although even in that area some diversity of belief exists as to its essentials. 

However, the book has many strengths. The chapters are relatively brief, easy to read, filled with interesting quotes and observations, and definitely evangelistic in nature. It certainly makes many valid points on a variety of topics, and could be profitably read by both the converted and those still seeking. 

Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761. 

 

BUT IS IT ALL TRUE? The Bible and the Question of Truth by Alan G. Padgett and Patrick R. Keifert, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006. 175 pages. Paperback; $16.00. ISBN: 0802863167. 

This book is a collection of nine essays; the editors each contributed one. The other seven authors are: David Bartlett, Ellen Charry, Stephen David, Ben Ollenburger, Dennis Olson, Mark Wallace, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Included are an index of names and Scripture references. Padgett, author of Science and the Study of God, and Keifert, author of Talking About Our Faith and Welcoming Strangers, are professors of systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. 

The essayists take on the task of defining truth and what it means in reference to the Scriptures. The reader might assume that after two millennia, the church would have come to a consensus on the truth's relationship to the Bible. Alas, it may be wishful or naive thinking. The authors, reflecting the variety of ways of looking at truth and Scriptures, do not always agree. Coming from Eerdmans Publishing Company, the reader might expect that all the authors hold a high view of the Bible with the concomitant belief that the Bible is authoritative and trustworthy. They do. Nevertheless, they reflect no consensus on the nature and veracity of Scripture. 

The blurb that accompanies this edited volume states that its "penetrating chapters reject stale, simplistic, answers in favor of fresh, invigorating perspectives" This provides plenty of opportunities for dissent and dialogue. The discussion is not entirely theoretical: Bartlett's article explores preaching the truth; Charry's article directs the discussion to walking in the truth and knowing God. 

While it is not within the scope of this review to give a synopsis of each essay, perhaps one thought will motivate the reader to investigate this book further. Stephen Davis, in his article, "What Do We Mean When We Say, ŽThe Bible Is True?'" discusses a view of Nicholas Wolterstorff, professor emeritus at Yale University Divinity School. Wolterstorff suggests that the gospels contain at least two kinds of content: (1) recordings of what actually happened; and (2) recordings of what might have happened called "illuminating plausibility" Davis, denying "illuminating plausibility" content, thinks the evangelists recorded only what actually happened. Davis has two problems with Wolterstorff's suggestion: (1) what hermeneutic provides the ability for dividing texts into the actual and the plausible; (2) if crucial accounts, like the resurrection, fall into the plausible category, it undermines the gospels' salvation content. 

This book's topic, cost, and concise chapters make it a worthy purchase for those who are concerned about what is meant when individuals say "the Bible is true" It will stimulate, inform, and perhaps provoke the reader to further study on a most important, if not the most important, topic of Christian faith. 

Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761. 


SOCIAL-SCIENCE COMMENTARY ON THE LETTERS OF PAUL by Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006. 418 pages. Paperback; $27.00. ISBN: 0800636406. 


The authors are both teachers. Malina is professor of New Testament at Creighton University; Pilch teaches biblical literature in the theology department of Georgetown University. The book has an extensive bibliography but no Scripture or topical index. Illustrations, charts, and a map are included to evoke the world of Paul's time. 

The purpose of this book is to apply to Paul's letters (or epistles, which is a more accurate title) insights from the social sciences including anthropology, social psychology, and sociolinguistics. The authors' approach is sometimes called form criticism, a form of biblical criticism seeking to relate a biblical text to its sociological context. 

According to the authors, Paul did not have modern readers in mind when he wrote his letters. Thus, this book, to aid understanding, attempts to give the letters a cultural setting. This is intended to act as a bulwark against selective perception in which the reader's interpretation of the text may be inaccurately understood because of personal attitudes. 

The authors think that the New Testament was written in a high context culture (contrasted with the USA and Europe which are low context cultures) in which there was an assumed understanding of the background of oral and written communication. Since modern readers may be unaware of this background, false conclusions and inaccurate grasps of the material are possible and likely. As the authors put it: 

Low context readers in the United States frequently mistake biblical documents for low context documents and erroneously assume the authors have provided all of the contextual information needed to understand it. [Further, misery can result] ÷ from reading and misinterpreting a high context set of documents as though they were low context documents from God (p. 8). 

To the authors, the New Testament contains seven authentic letters of Paul: 1 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon. This excludes seven letters the authors dismiss as non-Pauline: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews.  

The authors do not take all of the New Testament literally. For example of Acts they write: "Perhaps what the author of Acts describes may not have happened in the way he says ÷" (p. 22). They believe that "To focus on Paul's Žtheology' rather than on the social interrelationship between the change agent and his clients is to miss the thrust of his letters" (p. 24). They do not believe that the Old Testament is the actual history of Israel (p. 337). 

In an interesting box (p. 25), the authors list ten commonly held "received views" contrasted with ten less commonly held "social-science views" For example, the received views hold that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, the source of theology, and a monotheist; the social- science views hold that Paul was the apostle to Israelites living among non-Israelite peoples outside Judea, focused on interpersonal relations, and a henotheist (one who is devoted to a single god while accepting the existence of other gods). 

This book has two types of material: (1) short textual notes which comment on each of Paul's letters in historical sequence; (2) a collection of reading scenarios from anthropological studies of the Mediterranean social system (which occupy 78 pages and pp. ix, x). According to the authors, these two types of materials help prevent the reader from "imposing on that author's work interpretations that would be culturally incompatible" (p. x). 

The scenarios, which deal with a variety of topics in alphabetical order, are perhaps the most innovative and helpful part of the book. They may also be the most controversial. To take one example, "the Old Testament law about infant circumcision ÷ is a legend collated by Persian-period Judean scribes" (p. 338). 

The authors present extensive commentary with historical and linguistic information. Some of it challenges orthodox views on many biblical topics and in the process may lead the reader to reassess some personal views. Christians are committed to truth and therefore should be audacious explorers as they seek to come to a better understanding of the Bible. This book may help. 

While the views presented tend toward what some might think liberal, the authors intention is to set (some of) Paul's letters in their first century environment. The many ancient citations, quotes, and insights are helpful in achieving this. This book exposes readers to the contemporary thinking of two New Testament scholars, and stimulates further thinking and study. For this reason, it is recommended. 

Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761. 

 

A HISTORY OF APOLOGETICS by Avery Cardinal Dulles. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005. 416 pages, bibliography, index. Paperback; $18.95. ISBN: 0898709334. 


Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., is a son of former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Raised a nominal Presbyterian, he converted to Catholicism while a student at Harvard University. He is the author of over 700 articles and twenty-two books. Dulles has served on the International Theological Commission and as a member of the United States Lutheran/Roman Catholic Coordinating Committee. He is presently an advisor to the Committee on Doctrine of the National Council of Catholic Bishops, a member of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and" at the age of 88"a professor at Fordham University.  

A History of Apologetics aims "simply to tell the story of the various ways in which thoughtful Christians, in different ages and cultures, have striven to Žgive a reason for the hope that was in them.'" Dulles begins with apologetics in the New Testament itself. The apostles were chiefly concerned with demonstrating to the Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah, though Paul's Areopagus speech shows that he was ready to argue Christ from common ground he found with the pagan Athenians. 

Dulles moves on to the Patristic Era, the period from the end of the apostolic age till the end of the Roman Empire in the West. He reviews the arguments of the Church Fathers as they contend with Roman authorities, pagan philosophers, Jews, and Christian heretics. He next surveys apologetics in the Middle Ages, from 500 CE until the Renaissance. In this era, Christians, in many cases living under Muslim rule, dialogued with Muslims and continued to argue with Jews. Here Dulles devotes considerable space to Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, not because they were personally engaged in apologetics with unbelievers, but because they developed powerful arguments on behalf of basic Christian beliefs. 

Dulles's treatment of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, the era of the Renaissance, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and Enlightenment deliberately excludes polemical apologetics of Protestants and Catholics directed at each other. Instead, he describes the efforts of both Catholic and Protestant scholars to provide stronger arguments for the existence of God, his activity in the world, and the truth of biblical revelation and of basic Christian doctrines. Catholics and Protestants alike found it necessary to respond to growing religious skepticism and unbelief, deism, and rationalism: 

Apologetics in the early modern period takes on a very different shape than it had in earlier centuries. For the Fathers, it was a debate about the relative merits of paganism, Judaism, and Christianity. For the medieval theologians, apologetics was a contest among the three great monotheistic faiths"Judaism, Christianity, and Islam ÷ But after the Renaissance, apologetics had to address thinkers who rejected revelation entirely and who in some cases denied the existence or knowability of God. For the first time in history, orthodox Christians felt constrained to prove the existence of God and the possibility and fact of revelation (pp. 205-6) 

Apologetics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has continued in this vein, except for the presuppositionalism of Cornelius Van Til (which Dulles duly notes). Dulles carries his history up to the beginning of the twenty-first century (even touching on Alvin Plantinga, a PSCF contributor.) 

Why a history of apologetics? As Dulles points out in his foreword: 

A careful reading of the old masters in the field reveals that the same basic problems continually recur and that it is almost impossible to say anything substantially new. In such a time as our own, when many Christians find it especially difficult to articulate the reasonableness of their faith, it can be particularly profitable to review the record of the past (xx-xxi). 

I trust that PSCF readers count themselves among those who strongly desire to articulate the reasonableness of their faith. Christians in America who agree with Henry Ford""history is more or less bunk""will not be interested in this book. A History of Apologetics is irenic, magisterial, lucid"and reasonably priced. Of all the excellent books I have reviewed for PSCF in the past ten years, I consider this one the most rewarding. 


Reviewed by Robert Rogland, science teacher, Covenant High School, Tacoma, WA 98405. 


SOCIAL SCIENCE 


THE TRUTH ABOUT TOLERANCE: Pluralism, Diversity and the Culture Wars by Brad Stetson and Joseph G. Conti. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005. 183 pages, notes, index. Paperback; $16.00. ISBN: 0820827870. 


One definition of the word "tolerance" (as a social concept) is this: " ÷ a social, cultural and religious term applied to the collective and individual practice of not persecuting those who may believe, behave or act in ways of which one may not approve" (Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, online). It is generally regarded as an Aristotelian virtue, midway between narrow-mindedness and soft-headedness. 

Stetson, a teacher at Azusa Pacific University, and Conti, a lecturer in religious studies at California State University at Fullerton, address this subject with a world view that sees only highly conservative evangelical Christianity and secular liberalism as being of importance in debates about the subject. All other voices, of whatever source, are summarily discounted. The book, therefore, sheds little light on how to view the subject, being rather a polemic against the secular liberalism worldview of the "elite," the "media," the "university," the "Democrat (sic) Party," mainline Christians, the ACLU, and others. The authors rely heavily on newspaper and Internet accounts. They appear to me, at least superficially, to be misuses of the tolerance concept, but do so almost exclusively with a "view with alarm" approach, never looking at any of them in depth to explore other sides of the problem. It is obvious to them that a practicing gay person cannot be a Christian, that both pluralism and diversity are, at best, evils one must put up with, and that claims to truth are almost always met with derision and hatred by those not holding them. 

For better, i.e., more responsible, treatments of tolerance, John Rawl's A Theory of Justice and Voltaire's Treatise on Tolerance are two older works that are worth study. More recently, T. M. Scanlon's The Difficulty of Tolerance and W. Paul Vogt's Tolerance and Education appear to have lasting value. This book does not. The trees that died to publish this book deserved a better fate. 

Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Rico Community Church, Rico, CO 81332. 


FREAKONOMICS: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005. 207 pages, notes, index. Hardcover; $25.95. ISBN: 006073132X. 


This book is politically incorrect, in the best sense of that term. Levitt, who teaches economics at the University of Chicago, recently received recognition as "the best American economist under the age of forty" Dubner is a writer for the New York Times. The book teases out many surprising (and counterintuitive) relationships. Economics, the authors argue, is simply the study of incentives, often hidden incentives. If one is willing to view the world in a rational way, several "truths" are revealed, some that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. 

This is not a "scholarly" book; there are no discussions of methodologies; for these one must turn to Levitt's professional papers. The book is written in understandable language, including a good "baby" description of regression analysis, causality, and correlation for the nonscientific reader. 

There are six chapters, plus an epilogue. In chapter 1, "What do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?" the topic of cheating is explored. How did seven million American children disappear on April 15, 1957? Why are most people, most of the time, honest, when they could get away with cheating? 

In chapter 2, "How Is the Klu Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?" the authors discuss the power of information, and how it can be abused. They describe, briefly, the Klan's history, including the story of Stetson Kennedy, who infiltrated the Klan after World War II. With the help of the producers of the radio program Superman, Kennedy effectively destroyed the Klan (revealed their private information) in just four short weeks. Fascinating reading. Selling your house? The book offers five terms correlated to a high price and five terms to avoid. For instance, never use "great neighborhood" in the ads! 

Chapter 3, "Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms?" is based on extensive studies among Chicago's gangs by Sudhir Venkatesh. It seems that a gang organization chart resembles closely that of a McDonald's franchise. The people at the top make a lot of money; the "foot soldiers" live with their moms because they cannot afford a place of their own. A case study is shown, including actual financials. 

Chapter 4, "Where Have All the Criminals Gone?" is provocative. While there are several factors in the reduction of the crime rate over the past twenty years, the chief one, say the authors, is the Roe vs. Wade decision! I do not "like" that answer, but as one whose profession was market research and statistics, I have to admit the case the authors make is very persuasive.  

Chapters 5 and 6, on parenting, asks the question, "Do parents really matter?" The answer is "yes," but perhaps not the way one usually thinks. In exploring this question, the authors point out that a backyard swimming pool is more dangerous than a handgun, a "good school" is not as good as one might think, having highly educated parents matters and having an intact family does not. 

Other factors that do not seem to matter: the mother working between the child's birth and kindergarten, the child being taken to museums, and the child regularly watching television. Factors that do matter: Having your first child after age 30, having many books in the home, and being involved in the school PTA. The topic of naming one's offspring is also analyzed; the strange case of two boys, Winner Lane and Loser Lane is described. Contrary to "what everyone knows," the name you give your child seems to have no effect on that child's future economic future. 

The epilogue, three pages, sums up the book's thesis: Be skeptical of conventional wisdom. Ask a lot of questions. And when you have done all (as a parent), recognize that parenting methods (mostly) do not matter much and that random factors are perhaps the most important in your child's life. This book is a keeper. 

Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Rico Community Church, Rico, CO 81332. 

 

WONDER: From Emotion to Spirituality by Robert C. Fuller. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. 188 pages. Hardcover; $24.95. ISBN: 0807829951. 

Robert Fuller, Caterpillar Professor of Religious Studies at Bradley University, has authored ten books including Religious Revolutionaries and Spiritual, But Not Religious. This present book contains nine chapters, an index, endnotes, and suggestions for further reading. 

After some investigation, Fuller determined there were few, if any, books on wonder. Therefore, this book! Without wonder, life lacks "certain sensibilities that enrich the texture of human existence" (p. viii). Fuller delves into evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, and historical biography to relate how wonder functions in people. 

The author has studied and discussed the psychology of religion for over thirty years. This has led him to the conclusion that religions are not about factual truth in the same way that science is. Rather, religious beliefs "renew our fundamental sense of mystery concerning the origin and meaning of existence" (p. vii). One of religion's most important functions is to "rekindle the wonder that makes a child's eyes wide and grownups gasp" (p. 136). 

Fuller identifies two goals for his book: (1) to show that wonder is one of the defining parts of spirituality; and (2) to show that a life influenced by wonder is superior to one devoid of it. Fuller defines spirituality as a motivation to align life with a higher order of existence; wonder leads to cognitive reflection on how different parts relate to a greater, perhaps unobserved, whole. 

The question wonder prompts is "Why is there anything at all and not, rather, nothing?" While many people live without contemplating the "mystery of existence," Fuller describes the lives of three who did: John Muir, William James, and Rachel Carson. Muir, according to Fuller, was the earliest leader of the American nature preservation movement. Muir taught that experiencing wonder is the first step in becoming a citizen of an ecologically healthy universe. Fuller opines that no one better illustrates the transforming power of wonder than William James. Rachel Carson's life was shaped by wonder; she became the leading voice of the environmental movement in the 1960s. 

If you have ever wondered about wonder, this may be the book for you. It gathers a lot of interesting material together on the subject, offers some speculations, and consequently may be the most complete thesis ever written on the subject. Fuller concludes "that a life shaped by wonder is attuned to the widest possible world of personal fulfillment" (p. 158). 

Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761. 

 

SOCIAL WORK AND DIVINITY by Daniel Lee and Robert O'Gorman, eds. New York: The Haworth Social Work Press, 2005. 164 pages. Paperback; $12.95. ISBN: 0789027577. 


The editors of Social Work and Divinity, Lee and O'Gorman, are both professors at Loyola University, a Catholic university. In 2002 they convened the First National Symposium on Social Work and Divinity Dual Degree Programs at Loyola University. The conference theme was "Toward Building Compassionate Communities: An Interaction of Theology and Social Work in Professional Education and Practice" This book is a compilation of selected papers from that conference. As such, the style of the chapters varies and I found the content somewhat repetitive. 

Social Work and Divinity is for academicians and for people already involved in integrating social sciences and pastoral care. It is concerned mainly with curriculum development in a dual program of social work and theology. Although this book is about the integration of social work and Christian ministry, it is stronger on the former than the latter. There is virtually no use of the Bible in this book, which questions whether the authors consider it a necessary part of pastoral social work. It is in the Catholic tradition, so that many evangelicals would find the spiritual emphasis to be somewhat diluted. Pastors hoping to be more effective counselors or social workers would find this book lacking in practical application. 

The book is written for the purpose of setting up or managing a dual curriculum in social work and pastoral care. The intent is to assist teachers to better integrate the dual disciplines so that they are both effective social workers (relying on the social sciences) and effective spiritual pastors (providing spiritual guidance for clients being served). It is closely tied to the Clinical Pastoral Experience (CPE) that is common in many ministry training courses in seminary. 

Written by academicians, the content of these chapters tends to be quite theoretical for the practitioner or lay reader. My interest in the book was spurred by the fact that I am now coordinating a series of in-service workshops for Chinese medical social workers. Social work does not yet exist in China. Our medical work in China has created the need for social workers, so my colleague, a nurse from the U.S. and I, are coordinating a year-long course with invited speakers and trainers. These workers are Christians providing assistance to mostly non-Christians, so I had hoped this book would help us strike a balance in how to provide good social service, but in a way that would also be a spiritual blessing to these clients. To this end, I was disappointed. But those involved in clinical training and counseling for pastors would find useful perspectives to improve their work. 

I appreciated the commitment to holistic care advocated by most of these authors, as well as the social role that the church can and should play. In my theological training in two evangelical seminaries, it seemed as if the only purpose in serving people was evangelism. But now that I work in a country where very few of the patients and clients we serve are Christian, I have felt more keenly the need for broader, more humanistic resources to serve these people in their time of need. 

This book explores the possibility of integrating social work with spiritual ministry from many different angles. It is well indexed and with many reference notes for further reading, some of which I intend to follow up on. I believe interest in this book among ASAers would be limited to those involved in social work research or education. 


Reviewed by Mark A. Strand, Shanxi Evergreen Service, Yuci, Shanxi, China, 030600.