Educators are dependent upon the work of others who establish models, theories, and axioms for our classroom teaching. As Christian educators, it is a joy to discover the seminal thinking of scholars who point us toward the order and Orderer of creation. Such is the case in Reading God’s World: The Scientific Vocation. A series of lectures given beginning on that world-changing day, September 11th, focused on the wedding of science and vocation for the Christian. Five presentations were amplified to ten for this volume whose purpose is not unlike its original intent—demonstrating the biblical worldview of science through the eyes of Christians holding the office of scientist.
Indeed, the office of scientist is the definition of what it means to be gifted in the observation of God’s world. Being a scientist is simply one vocation among many in The Church. Nancy Pearcey argues that science as a Christian vocation is premised upon the cultural mandate given in Genesis 1:28. She then extrapolates five functions forming the framework for Christian thought based on the work of John Hedley Brooke. All of Brooke’s work is a reflection of Scriptural truth that might create footing for the philosophy of any science course in the Christian school. Pearcey punctuates principle with personality, quoting famous believing scientists. The first few pages of the first essay in the book explain why we in the twenty-first century have need of this volume. The heretical secular/sacred dichotomy that has plagued The Church for over a century is again the noted villain here. Yet, even a one page summary of Kepler’s life as a mathematician and astronomer (p. 24) gives hope for those of us in the Christian academy whose responsibility it is to plow the fields of student minds readying the soil for seeds from a Christian perspective.
So it is pleasant to discover others who believe the Gospel message who have served us by showing the historical connection of Christianity and science. A multitude of mathematicians and scientists from The Church, past and present, are represented here. Kepler’s quote “priests of the Most High God, with respect to the book of nature” (chapter two) is identified through the lives of Newton, Locke, Ray, More, Brooke, and Boyle. To be sure, Robert Boyle is lovingly ascribed a singular essay by an admirer, Edward B. Davis (chapter six). Known principally as “the father of chemistry,” Boyle was a deeply spiritual man. Any Christian school teacher in the field will want to commit to memory passages quoted and life experiences reminisced from Robert Boyle: a man whose faith and vocation were so intertwined as to be one.
Further connections to history demonstrate the deep theological basis of biblical scientific forebears. The quotations alone are worthy of continuous rumination. Luther explains vocation as a “mask” (p. 253). More described the universe as “God’s temple” (p. 70). Melanchthon discoursed on innate human knowledge—its source in God’s image—being “natural light” (p. 163). And Boyle depicts his work as a scientist in his last book entitled “The Christian Virtuoso” (p. 193). Harry F. Schaeffer III certifies why science is best compatible with the Christian worldview (pp. 143-152). Peter Barker explains the importance of the Protestant Reformation for our current understanding of scientific knowledge (chapter five). Historic precursors to the Intelligent Design movement can here be uncovered (pp. 165-177). Sir Karl Popper, not himself a Christian, pointed to falsification as more important than verification in experimentation. Writing on this famed realist, Kurt Marquart contends that Popper fought against the postmodern affect on science that led to scientism (chapter nine). Comparisons between Kuhn, Laudan, and Jaki point out how foundational assumptions direct the practice of science itself (chapter ten). Again and again Christian educators can find the people and purposes behind what happens in the classroom today in the lives of Christian scientists of yesterday.
It is the practice of what we do that generally motivates us as teachers. This is why certain chapters help more than others in the immediate issues we face today. Boehlke addresses the anti-Christian bias in laboratories of our day (chapter seven). He maintains that Christian assumptions must be wrapped in an apologetic of humility born of awe. Boehlke’s stories of prejudice against believers fortifies his contention that followers of Jesus must perform their vocation with excellence so their lives speak more than their words. A theological basis for vocation as image bearers is contained in Nathan R. Jastram’s essay, “Scientists Called to be Like God.” Here we find the imago Dei (“image of God”) as the reason for science helping others (chapter eight). But the weaving of theology and science is nowhere better understood than in the editor’s chapter “Interpreter’s of the Book of Nature” (chapter three). Here Angus Menuge definitely links the historical/grammatical/literal hermeneutic arising out of the Reformation as the basis for inductive scientific study. Textual criticism of Scripture led to “exegesis” in nature. Symbolism fell to the ax of literalism. Medicines and technologies leading to cures of our neighbors’ illnesses were dependent upon applying theological principles to the reality of life. Menuge does a huge service to the Christian educator showing the complementary nature of “the queen of the sciences” with science herself.
Reading God’s World has much to commend it for the continued growth of Bible believing teachers. Boyle’s study of the original languages (pp. 197-98), science as dependent upon outside influences (pp. 160ff.), the importance of math (pp. 72-77), and linkage of physical with ethical concerns (pp. 288-290) are but a few of the shining jewels waiting to be unearthed in this examination of faith and learning. Each essay begins with an abstract, finishing in detailed endnotes—marked just as much in my copy as the text itself! Each contributor is duly noted; their current positions and contributions to Christian thought appear at the end of the volume. One might wish for a subject index in some future edition. But for those in the Christian academy who desire to add meat to their mental diet, Reading God’s World comes highly recommended. May we all continue to celebrate this life in appreciation of scientific office-holders who point us toward the One who has promised to restore everything to its original created order (Acts 3:21).
Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Dr. Mark Eckel is Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Old Testament at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, IN. For over twenty five years Mark has served the Christian education community as a high school teacher, college professor, and international speaker. Apologetics 315 interviewed him here. Mark blogs at www.warpandwoof.org.