Archives For Book Reviews

The Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in Our Fine-Tuned World by Karl W. Giberson. InterVarsity Press, 2012.

If you are looking for a book arguing for a proof of God’s existence through science, The Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in Our Fine-Tuned World isn’t it! Karl Giberson [1] does something, that in my opinion, is far more valuable. In The Wonder of the Universe he carefully lays out the scientific evidence that shows

  • how finely tuned the universe is
  • how even minor differences in various forces would result in either no universe or one where life as we know it would not be possible
  • how even a habitable planet like ours, with water and so many other factors favoring the emergence of life–is truly amazing.

He is among the Christians who affirm evolution but contends that contrary to the randomness claims of so many, evolution often can be argued to show a sense of direction, almost a purposefulness. For Giberson, while none of this proves God’s existence, he sees this as entirely consistent with the idea of a God, and, for him, the best explanation for how such a finely tuned universe and planet could come about.

He is highly skeptical of the multiverse idea, which he argues has not been empirically demonstrated or even functioned predicatively of any phenomenon. While this needn’t change one’s belief in a god, it does seem pretty necessary to explain our finely tuned universe without one.

A wonderfully readable (with pictures) account that raises provocative questions without claiming more than the science warrants!


Notes

  1. Karl Giberson (PhD, physics) is an internationally known scholar, speaker and writer. He has written or coauthored nine books and lectured on science and religion at the Vatican, Oxford University, London´s Thomas Moore Institute and many prestigious American venues including MIT, The Harvard Club and Xavier University.Dr. Giberson has published more than two hundred reviews and essays, both technical and popular, in outlets that include the New York Times, CNN.com, The Guardian, USA Today, LA Times and Salon.com. He is a regular contributor to the public dialogue on science and faith, and has appeared as a guest on NPR´s Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation as well as other radio programs. He blogs at The Huffington Post where his articles have generated thousands of comments and are frequently featured. From 1984 to 2011, Dr. Giberson was a professor at Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) where he received numerous recognitions and awards. From 2007 to 2010 he headed the Forum on Faith and Science at Gordon College. For three years, ending in 2009, he was the program director for the prestigious Venice Summer School on Science & Religion. Dr. Giberson now teaches writing and science and religion in the Cornerstone Program at Stonehill College. – From Karl Giberson’s InterVarsity Press author page . Accessed 2/7/2014.  ↩
Tournament Bracket

The best Christian book of ALL TIME: Confessions by Augustine! (Click for a larger image, or download a PDF for posterity.)

About a year ago, we announced our call for nominations for the Best Christian Book of All Time, and you — our readers — responded with great enthusiasm. From a nomination pool of over 140 worthies, we first narrowed the bracket to 64 contenders, voted out lesser lights (such as Luther, Calvin, Chesterton, Aquinas — I hope they make something of themselves some day!), and crowned our winner: Augustine’s Confessions, the Best Christian Book of All Time.[1] You may have heard of the runner-up, a short tract by C.S. Lewis called Mere Christianity.

Tom asked me to return to the blog to share my reflections about the tournament. As I read through the bracket and reflected on the process, here are a few things that occurred to me.

Authors Included, Authors Excluded

The bracket was dominated by white European and North American men. This largely reflects the Christian church over its first 1,900 years, as well as (I wager) the reading habits of ESN members. For most of the church’s history, the education and theological opportunities for women were limited, and until 1900 or so, Christianity was centered in Europe and North America. The situation has changed dramatically over the last hundred years, however, as Christianity has exploded in South America, Africa, and Asia. Simply witness the phenomenon that is the Argentine Pope Francis for the most visible sign of this change.[2]

Looking through the bracket from last year, I was also struck by the small number of women writers represented, and they mostly in literature and devotionals. Seven of the eight women in the bracket were in those two brackets. Only Dorothy Sayers appeared in Christian Life & Discipleship, and not a single woman appeared in Theology and Apologetics.The increasing presence of women in leadership of the church, as well as the globalization of Christianity, leads to my next reflection.

How many of these books will still be read a century from now? If we re-ran the bracket this year, I bet it would largely come out the same. But a century ago, a far different group of contenders would have faced off. If we had blogged about this in 1913, I bet that Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur would have put in a strong showing in the literature bracket. Among devotional and theological writers, Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody would probably have been nominated. Augustine has been influencing generations of Christians for 1,500 years, so I don’t foresee him being neglected. In the Best Christian Book tournament of 2113, though, will C.S. Lewis still be as popular, or will he be seen as a uniquely 20th (and 21st) century voice? Continue Reading…

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Most people think there is a basic antagonism between faith and science that has to be overcome if one is to be both a theist and a scientific practitioner. Alvin Plantinga [1] says, au contraire. It is in fact the naturalist who has the real problem.

In Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, Plantinga carefully works this out over 352 pages. He begins with the areas often thought to be in contradiction, in particular the questions of evolution and miracles, and demonstrates that in neither case is there a logical contradiction or conflict. He then goes on to discuss evolutionary psychology and biblical criticism. Through a discussion of the nature of “defeaters”, Plantinga shows that even in these areas, the sources of conflict are superficial at best and do not “defeat” theistic belief. Continue Reading…