- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Crossway (October 13, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1581347316
- ISBN-13: 978-1581347319
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach Paperback – October 13, 2006
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"Poythress shows how a proper understanding of biblical theology makes possible not just one but many credible harmonizations of biblical and scientific truth. Along the way, he provides an insightful defense of the theory of intelligent design as a viable scientific research program. His examination of the mathematical beauty inherent in the universe gives yet another compelling reason to acknowledge the wisdom and design that lie behind physical reality."
—Stephen C. Meyer, Director, Center for Science and Culture, Discovery Institute; author, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design
"With doctorates in both New Testament and mathematics, and with a solid commitment to orthodox Reformed theology, Vern Poythress is uniquely qualified to write on the theology of science. This is by far the most important book you can read on this subject. I recommend it without reservation."
—John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando
"Poythress demonstrates just how natural the partnership is between science and Christianity. Using examples from a variety of scientific disciplines, he gives a prescription for how science and the Christian faith can interact in a way that mutually benefits both."
—Fazale Rana, Vice President of Science Apologetics, Reasons to Believe
"Not only does this book offer a theological perspective rooted in the historic Reformation, it also attends to strategies of interpretation of Bible texts concerning nature and history that underwrite doctrine but are often left out of the dialogue."
—Jitse van der Meer, Professor of Biology and History and Philosophy of Science, Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario
"Sound theology meets sound science in this book as Vern Poythress shows us how to see the beauty of God's character revealed in everything that scientists study in the created universe."
—Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary
"Poythress's analysis of the relationship between science and faith proceeds from an unapologetic, undisguised confession of belief in Christ, clear-minded evaluation of the nature of science, careful analysis of Scripture, and honest reflection on the present state of this debate."
—T. M. Moore, Pastor of Teaching Ministries, Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tennessee; Author, Consider the Lilies: A Plea for Creational Theology
About the Author
Vern S. Poythress (PhD, Harvard University; ThD, University of Stellenbosch) is professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he has taught for nearly four decades. In addition to earning six academic degrees, he is the author of numerous books and articles on biblical interpretation, language, and science.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book seeks to develop a self-consciously Biblical view of science. In the opening chapters he discusses the divine attributes of scientific law, such as omnipresence and immutability, and the questions of the Bible and authority in their relation to the scientific enterprise. It is in these opening chapters that he develops the Van Tillian epistemological framework for understanding science, and shows the radical contrast between this and atheistic worldviews. He shows that all scientists must operate under the assumptions of a Biblical worldview, (rational order to the universe, reliability of physical law, etc.) even though the worldviews they profess to believe may not be able to justify such assumptions.
Chapters four through ten tackle the issues surrounding the interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis. Here I think Poythress has done a masterful job of attempting to maintain the absolute authority of the Bible as divine revelation, while helping us, who read the Bible with a modern scientific mindset, to really get to the bottom of what God's Word is and is not asserting. This subtlety is what seems to have eluded a previous reviewer.
Chapters eleven through thirteen deal with some of the more specifically theological issues, the role of man (such as image of God and cultural mandate), the role of Christ (perfectly fulfilling cultural mandate), and the role of God's Word (scientific law as God's Word ruling the physical universe).
Chapters fourteen through seventeen consider some of the more epistemological and philosophical questions involved in science, such as the nature of truth, reality, scientific knowledge, and ordinary experience. Here, as throughout the book, the idea of the unity between different aspects of reality as well as the different ways we can look at reality in terms of the being of God is especially helpful. I also appreciated his discussion of miracles, in terms of primary and secondary causes, and in terms of the rationality of both miracles and physical laws as equally reflecting God's sovereign rule of the universe.
Chapters eighteen and nineteen deal with the questions of life, evolution, and intelligent design, and I think give a very nice overview of some of the issues that are involved in these discussions, as well as the ideological problems that will almost always completely overwhelm the actual scientific evidence. The final four chapters conclude appropriately with some specific examples of seeing the beauty and majesty of our God revealed in the physical and mathematical reality that we encounter.
As you can see, Dr. Poythress covers an ambitious amount of ground in this book. As you may imagine, in a 350 page book, several of the discussions are somewhat limited in terms of their depth, but there are certainly plenty of references for further study if you have the interest. Incidentally, the extensive bibliography at the end is alone worth the price of the book. It is unlikely that anyone will agree with all of Dr. Poythress' conclusions; I did not, but he certainly is making a serious attempt to deal with the issues, and the obvious humility and tentativeness he exhibits on matters that may admit more than one interpretation is an attitude that I wish was more characteristic of people who claim to stand in the Reformed tradition.
Perhaps in a later edition we may hope for a chapter on quantum mechanics, which in my opinion must surely reveal some interesting things about God that were perhaps not so obvious in the years, following Newton, of seemingly total physical determinism. Additionally, I would have liked to have seen a chapter outlining how the historical rise of science was squarely grounded in the specifically Biblical worldview of the reformation, as well as the contemporary near-infinite ideological chasm existing between the (unbelieving) practitioners of physical science (the only truth is scientific truth) and the other academic disciplines (there is no truth) as a result of the abandonment of a Christian consensus. But you can't do everything at once. The book is an enjoyable and edifying read, and with so much breadth of subject matter, there's never a dull moment. Dr. Poythress has given us a valuable contribution to developing a specifically reformed view of faith and science, and I certainly hope that his book will receive the attention and the consideration that it deserves.
Am I thew only one who resents having to type x number of characters and I have to Headline my review. Why does Amazon force their customers to serve them???
What I appreciated most was Poythress' careful exposition of the fact that God is the ongoing ground of all creation, so that it is impossible to separate scientific laws from God, nature from God, natural processes from divine processes, and so on. Thus whether they recognize it or not, scientists are studying God's truth, indeed his character.
The author pushes quite hard against materialistic scientists who are blind to this, but, unfortunately, he touches only very gingerly on the other side of the same equation, i.e. believers who fail to see that a naturalistic explanation of something does not exclude God as its primary cause, since he is the ground of everything in an immanent way, not in a deistic sense. He does in fact mention this, as when he points out that God could have originated caused the bacterial flagellum by from nothing, from existing matter, or even through evolution and it would not diminish his role as creator.
The book is very weak on scientific issues such as the age of the universe, geological history, and evolution, and is not worth reading for those perspectives. Young earth flood geology and "mainline" geology are spoken of as if they are on the same footing, though with stronger the evidence for the latter. The geological evidence itself is not discussed.
Regarding evolution, the book echoes a Discovery Institute ID approach (indeed being endorsed by Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana) without precluding anything from 7-day creation to evolutionary creationism. It repeats a few of the standard arguments such as the irreducible complexity of the flagellum, but in no way engages criticisms of ID.
The book does speak rather approvingly of something I had not heard before, "ideal time," a twist on the apparent-age argument. So called "ideal time," perhaps better named "virtual time," refers to the entire apparent history of the universe embedded at the time of creation to make it look mature. In this view, God not only created the universe with apparent age, but also with an entire, coherent history: "The universe appears to be 14 billion years old because God created it mature. Moreover, the universe is coherently mature, in the sense that estimates of age deriving from different methods arrive at similar results" (p.116).
So far, this is just an extended statement of apparent age. The interesting part is next: "But then the fossils do not represent the remains of animals or plants that were actually alive millions of years ago. They represent a coherent mature structure that shows how God would have worked, millions of years ago, if he had started back then creating and extinguishing various kinds of animals over long periods of time" (p. 116). This is what the author calls "ideal time," the way history would have been if God had not fast-forwarded.
Whoa, wait just a minute, how is that again? The omnipotent, eternal, omniscient Creator is expressing a counter-factual situation, "How I would have created the universe if I had done it differently," then embedding all of that into a real universe? I suppose it could be the most efficient way of instantiating a new universe ... why wait for billions of years for actual state transitions of matter when you can simply start with one of the advanced states?
Fascinatingly, the book then goes on to approve of scientists who study this "ideal" history! Referring to geologist Davis Young's complaint that the mature history view would imply he is wasting time studying the geological past, Poythress says, "All his effort is quite meaningful as an investigation of the processes that he is seeing in ideal time. The coherence of processes in ideal time is also an aspect of the display of God's wisdom, and Young makes a genuine contribution by studying this wisdom." Perhaps this makes prehistoric geology comparable to literary criticism: geologists are important because they reveal the themes in God's novel of what he would have done.
In any case, this all seems pointless since there is, by definition, no way to distinguish real and ideal time. Rather, it's simply a device that allows one to accept a 14-billion year old universe concurrently with a recent creation: "Yes, the universe is 14 billion years old, but God actually started it at the 13.99999 billion year point, 10 thousand years ago."
Nor does the author explain how this in any way helps reconcile any view of Genesis with any view of science. Suppose, for example, you believe in 7-day creation with all the sea animals created together, but are not sure how that fits with geological evidence. What does it mean to say that geology shows "how God would have worked," i.e. totally differently? Why would have God worked completely differently than he did? What does that even mean? Why would he leave evidence that he acted differently than he actually did? It is certainly not something I could ever explain in an discussion with an unbeliever, and it is certainly not something that would help me personally.
In the end, the book is probably most useful for people with strong Reformed backgrounds who are interested in faith-science issues, and those with the same background who hold to a strict young earth creationism but are willing to consider alternatives proposed by someone else with Reformed credentials. (I know, I didn't go into the aspects of the book that make it strongly Reformed, but it is.)
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