Epic Science, Ancient Faith, D. E. Gunther. Ellensburg, WA: Truth in Creation, 2022.
Summary: A discussion of essential attitudes in making sense of both God’s Word and God’s world with two case studies and a discussion of how we resolve differences between these two “books” of God.
For any thoughtful student both of the Bible and science, the question arises of how we make sense of these accounts of the world, particularly where they differ. For many, this especially arises in the first years of college, if not earlier. D. E. Gunther, who has worked in a research lab and serves as a campus minister, has written a helpful introduction to this subject, offering a basic framework for reading what he considers the two “books” of God without becoming skeptical of either or compartmentalizing his study of the Bible and science.
The first five chapters of the book discuss essential attitudes for the fruitful study of scripture and science. First of all, he recommends suspense as an antidote to a brittle worldview. He urges the strategy taken by many Christians through the ages of not having such a rigid theory of creation and the world that subsequent developments in science shatter faith. Suspense believes all truth is God’s truth even when it is not clear how this works in detail. Second, he commends an approach of delight as God’s image bearers who are also part of God’s creation, giving ourselves to whole-hearted exploration of the creation, both to enjoy and care for God’s world. Thirdly, he encourages equity in our reading of the texts of science and scripture. Science involves multiple texts and is limited by its methods. Scripture also involves multiple texts that are limited by the authors’ intentions. It is wise not to look to scripture for details about nature, given its theological purpose, even as science cannot render theological detail, although it discloses the grandeur of God.
The fourth attitude is one of curiosity. Curiosity recognizes that our ability to grasp reality is neither impossible not utterly clear and easy. It is like looking through a hazy glass. The more we look, the more we question, the more we see. Finally, particularly toward scripture, he proposes reverence for the context of scripture, avoiding either literalism or concordism, recognizing both the ancient context of scripture and the modern context of science.
Guenther then offers two case studies of how the Christian holds scripture and science together. One is the study of Greenland ice cores dating to 100,000 years, far older than many Christians believe the earth. The second is the study of genealogies in Genesis, suggesting the first couple walked the earth just 6,000 years ago despite various forms of evidence that homo sapiens and the earth existed far before that. Guenther models respectful curiosity about the ice layers and whether they each represent years or much shorter intervals. He looks with reverence at the context of genealogies and the arguments for and against them being all inclusive.
The final chapter, titled “Optimism” speaks of resolving differences well. He look at four models. Conflict models assumes one must be right and the other wrong. Compartmental models approach scripture and science look at different things without overlap. Complementary models suggest each contributes something to our understanding with science focused on immediate and scripture on ultimate causes. Guenther advances a fourth that he prefers, coinherence. Each tell us many different things about the same thing and each is essential or inherent in the other.
He concludes with some starting points toward an optimistic approach: 1) separate content from personal belief; 2) balance opinions from respected sources; 3) pursue relationships with researchers and thinkers who are both broad-minded and careful; 4) recognize when a researcher is out of his depth; and 5) remember that religion and science have no inherent conflict.
This is a good introduction and guide for the young Christian thinking about these things. Guenther offers clear explanations. In place of brittle dogmatism, he offers a resilient curiosity and an attitude of suspending judgment without compromising reverence for scripture or rigor in scientific inquiry. Instead of approaching the study of the world with suspicion or fear, he notes that the proper response both of Christian and scientist is one of delight. There are certainly much more advanced treatments of the relation of scripture and science and Guenther provides references for many of these. What he does so well in this book is address the basic attitudes of approach that can set up one well for life of exploring these questions.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.
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