An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Science and Grace: Book review

SCIENCE AND GRACE: God’s Reign in the Natural Sciences by Tim Morris and Don Petcher. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006. 352 pages. Paperback; $17.99. ISBN: 1581345496.

Tim Morris and Don Petcher, professors at Covenant College, have had a long-term interest in the relationship between science and their Christian commitment. It was this interest that led them to create “Science in Perspective,” a course at Covenant College, and it was out of this course that this book developed. Both write from a Reformed perspective and yet this book would appeal to Christians of any persuasion and even to open-minded non-Christians.

The book is split into three sections. The first section looks at “Science and Christian belief in the postmodern context.” What is refreshing about this chapter is that the authors take postmodernism seriously and do not write it off as a philosophical aberration that science will eventually disprove.

Chapter 3 looks at five “dissenters,” Christians who have rejected the Enlightenment Project of the neutrality and objectivity of reason and therefore of science: Blaise Pascal, Johann Georg Hamann, Charles Hodge, Abraham Kuyper, and Herman Dooyeweerd. All of these dissenters agree that there is a need to reconsider the role of faith in relation to reason. Faith commitments are important in the development of science. If there are two different kinds of science—that of the believer and that of the nonbeliever—then how can we work together? Morris and Petcher answer: common grace.

Section two examines “Jesus Christ, the Lord of creation” and considers God’s relation to his creation. Chapter 4 looks at the Trinitarian character of God and his covenant with his creation. The extremes of immanentism or pantheism and transcendence or deism are avoided. The Trinitarian God works in the creation in a covenantal way. This means that the world is not a predictable machine. The next chapter looks at the concept of miracles and God’s freedom in the universe. Morris and Petcher rightly regard miracles as being part of God’s providence; a miracle is an “outworking of God’s purposes.” In the final chapter in this section, “The laws of nature and the gospel of grace,” they see the laws as a “faithful unfolding of God’s covenant promises” that reflect creation’s creatureliness and contingency.

The final section, “Investigating his dominion,” analyzes our place in the “doing” of science. The authors ask, “What does loving God and neighbor entail in the natural sciences?” They see science as an opportunity for obedience to the great commandment (Mark 12:30–31). It is a refreshing and inspiring perspective. Materialism and reductionism are resisted and they capture the wildness of creation that has been lost in the “Modern domesticated version” of science.

Throughout the final section is a lot of wisdom and wise advice, for example: “the use of scientific evidence in apologetics may inadvertently cede to science the ultimate truth authority” (p. 270) and “our ultimate allegiance as scientists is not to our scientific disciplines as such but to Christ’s church” (p. 191).

The penultimate chapter looks at “The kingdom of Christ and the culture of science”; science is seen as “a cultural enterprise that reflects God’s favor and yet calls for His judgment at the same time” (p. 306). The final chapter provides a clarion call for Christians to work out their science in the context of their Christian commitments. There are twenty-four pages of notes, a bibliography of 149 works and an eight-page index.

This is one of the best books on science and Christianity I have read. If you only read one book on science and Christianity this year, make it this one. The authors take seriously Kuyper’s claim that there is no inch of secular life that Christ does not declare, “It is mine.” They look at what this claim might mean for the biological and physical sciences, but as they do so, it has implications for all of the sciences—theology included. This is a book that demands slow, careful, and prayerful study for any Christian involved in academic study.

Steve Bishop

More details here.

No comments: