Science & Faith: Student Questions Explored, Hannah Eagleson, editor. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2019.
Summary: A collection of essays addressing various questions on the relationship of science and Christian faith, incorporating groups discussion questions for use with small discussion groups.
Nearly every Christian college student has at some time confronted the question of the relation between what their faith teaches and what we might learn about the world through science. The question is more acute for science students. In some settings, students are taught both in church and in the science classroom that one has to choose between science and faith. One would think these are in a war in which only one side can win.
The contributors to this volume write from a different conviction. Most are actively engaged in scientific research and teaching as well as whole-heartedly embracing the Christian faith. The work is organized in four parts:
Part One focuses on preliminary considerations. Joshua Ho, a graduate student in Developmental Biology discusses the questions he brings to a science-faith questions: questions of personal identity, mission, and approaching questions of origins. Two scholars, one a theologian, one a scientist discuss how the Bible supports the use of the scientific method to study God’s world. The section concludes with a reflection on our ways of understanding God and understanding his world.
Part Two is about building good conversations among scientists about faith. Ruth Bancewicz opens with a delightful account of how science enhances her faith. Andy Walsh discusses the relevance of God in a scientific age. Neil Shenvi responds to the challenge that Christians face when scientists describe Christian faith as irrational. He points out both that powerful emotions do not disprove the rationality of any belief, scientific or religious. Furthermore he points out the resources available to demonstrate the rational basis for Christian belief. Finally, plasma physicist speaks of using God-given creativity (including his involvement in his church’s Vacation Bible School) to speak of his faith with colleagues.
Part Three tackles the perennial issue of how we engage origins questions. David Vosburg, a chemistry professor, sets out good principles for fruitful conversations: praying about when to engage, cultivating grace in community, start with the Bible, and not just Genesis, and that disagreements are not always rooted in science or theology. Gerald Rau then devotes a couple chapters to different views of origins Christians who believe in creation hold.
Part Four explores broader issues. Royce Francis addresses the unique opportunity scientists have to foster science literacy among fellow believers. James Stump offers a pithy chapter on epistemology, or the question of how we know. Then James C. Ungureanu contributes three chapters on the history of the relationship between science and the church. One of the most intriguing observations he makes is that the approach of the two books of revelation, scripture and nature, often in the modern area collapsed into one book, that of nature. He attributes this to the autonomy granted to natural revelation that ended up competing with or superseding special revelation.
Each chapter includes discussion questions that can be used either for personal reflection, or even better, for group discussion. It should also be noted that the selection of articles came out of preliminary surveys with students and ministry leaders and were field-tested before publication.
The book is edited by the Emerging Scholars Network’s Associate Director Hannah Eagleson, who offers guidance in using the book, and helpful chapter introductions, linking the content to the overall theme of the book. It can be used by everyone from undergraduate students in the sciences, to graduate researchers, and university faculty. While designed for Christians, I could see this being useful for those exploring faith who wonder whether Christianity is anti-science. The good news of this guide is the relationship of faith and science is not one of war, but peace, of each enhancing our grasp of the other.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. In the interest of full disclosure, while the above represents my honest assessment of the book, I have a personal connection with this publication. On July 1, I was appointed the new Director of the Emerging Scholars Network. When this occurred the book was already at the printers. However, it represents well the work of the Emerging Scholars Network to connect faith and scholarship, the love of God and the love of learning, work I am both proud of and to which I am deeply committed.