by Peter Ashwell
from Signs of the Times No. 49 - Apr 2013
This is a stimulating and erudite book which brings together a series of (mainly) very readable stories written by people who are (as its editor states) probably as diverse as any group of Christians in the sort of places where science is practised, but all claim to have examined the reasons to believe in the Christian faith and have decided that belief is intellectually superior to non-belief and also that it works in real life.
Many Christians probably agree with Simon Conway Morris who sees belligerence, contempt, loathing, derision, condescension, arrogance and sheer bad manners being employed by secularist exponents to make their points. And we know that in 2006, Christians were told by Richard Dawkins, a renowned scientist, that they must be deluded if they had a spiritual faith.
Did you, as I, wonder about the strength of the scientific evidence he had to back up the hype, spin and massive posters on London buses given to his book the God Delusion by its money-hungry publisher? Well the first contributor, Alister McGrath, and many others take Mr Dawkins' work to task and, in my view, proves just how appropriate is Karl Marx's view that the constant repetition of something that is fundamentally untrue creates the impression that it is trustworthy and reliable. Elsewhere in the book, the reader is given the argument to rebuff the contention of Christopher Hitchens, another arch-atheist of our day, that religion is toxic. And Conway Morris helps to prepare us to address the world he sees which is as sharply divided as ever when it comes to religious belief. The contributions in this book from this set of very clever Christians who have tested the atheists' claims and refuted them with intellectual argument and not just their religious belief, give me, a non-theological non-scientist, considerable strength.
I was fascinated by this book and found an integrity, freshness and vulnerability within each contributor's account of their varied academic and professional journeys and how they came to their personal Christian faith despite the claims of atheists and agnostics around them. I have a vicarious sense of intellectual certainty after reading these remarkable recollections of 18 of the most intelligent and credible people around, whose brains have been used to add to the cumulative knowledge about how our world began and developed and how it ticks, from the perspective of their own area of specialisation - chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, astronomy, psychology, engineering, geology and palaeontology; and because each writer has been happy to say that their work has shown them a long-term planner and creator God who, since enabling our planet to support life leading to the arrival of humans, has become a nurturing and weeping God and for whose glory they perform their daily work.
This book is also full of information which readers will be able to use to help their thinking or rethinking on some current topics challenging the Church. For example, David Myers' findings about sexual orientation and gay marriage, and the efficacy of intercessory prayer; Mike Hulme's thoughts on humility and climate change; Joan Centrella's experience of the church's attitude to women who are leaders in their secular careers and the value of scientific work; and John Wyatt's thoughts about when life starts.