Mere Science and Christian Faith, by Greg Cootsona, IVP Books, Illinois, 2018. ISBN 978-0-8308-3814-1 (print), ISBN 978-0-8308-8741-5 (digital)
The interface between Christian Faith and Science is multifaceted not least because of the various facets of the constituent parts. In this case the author offers us an exploration which is targeted at a constituency he refers to as emerging adults, which are basically young people in their late teens and twenties. In terms of church attendance, anyone who has worked in a local church will recognise this as the age-band that is frequently lost to the secular world. The transition from a nurtured home and community environment to a wider world where some of life’s biggest questions have to be faced can lead to searches for answers not from parents or pastors, but from intellectual or internet sources. One such question relates to the environment, where a biblically based belief in, for example, the act of creation comes up against hypotheses such as evolution. Cootsona offers insights which are rooted in his experience of working with young people as a teacher and pastor and he challenges himself to “inspire more ministry leaders to point emerging adults towards studying nature as an act of worship”. He says science and faith, far from being in direct contradiction of each other, can be “mutually enriching and complementary once their proper domains are understood”
What the author offers is based on a variety of teaching media targeting his selected age-group and his case studies include an offering from an undergraduate student. Cootsana tracks his target from their experiences of churches unable to help them deal with the big questions posed by science. Our journey continues into cognitive science and the reasons not to believe in the Christian viewpoint on life, then tackles the question of primacy of scripture and biblical fallibility. As faith and science begin to be seen as enriching our understanding of our relationship with God through Creation Cootsana uses the vehicles of the biblical creation narrative, Intelligent Design, and society’s modern infatuation with technology. The issues of climatic change and sexuality are used as examples of convergence between Christianity and science before the author proposes ways of ‘Moving Forward’. Further reading and Notes are provided which are there to encourage the reader onwards on their journey.
Cootsana has structured the book in a logical manner but given the target audience and the fact that many of the issues are very much in the public eye, I found it difficult to engage with the author. Indeed, I found his style somewhat heavy and rather dull. However, others may find this to be an engaging and helpful contribution to the science and faith debate, and may also find a measure of support in dealing with the assaults upon faith inflicted by those who have misguided views of the nature of science, and the science of nature.
Rev Dr John Harrison
Diocesan Environment Adviser
Anglican Diocese of Newcastle upon Tyne