This past weekend I finished reading Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? by C. John Collins. fdf I bought and read this book because I’m not very knowledgeable about science and how, as a Christian, I should think about science in general and certain science related topics in particular.
I thought Collins did a phenomenal job (Justin Taylor agrees). He first lays the groundwork in two important chapters on philosophy to use as a reference point for the rest of the book, and really, in learning about and discussing science, as well as all disciplines. He discusses the need for consistency in thinking. Collins also points out that in science, as in other disciplines, if one begins their research with a particular conclusion, they may often be led to seek to find any evidence that will point to their preferred conclusion, while ignoring any evidence that disputes their worldview or preferred conclusion. Collins also discusses the importance of starting off a discussion using the same meaning of the terms that will be used, otherwise, you may be arguing about entirely different concepts even though you may be using the same term.
Collins does not believe that the Earth is young (approximately 6,000 years) or that a Christian has to believe it is to believe the inerrancy of Scripture. One of the main things Collins discusses is his belief that the creation week consisted of days longer than typical 24-hour days (in my opinion, he does a great job arguing for it). Here’s Justin Taylor’s summary of Collins’ thoughts on the creation week:
In other words, the “days” of Genesis 1 are analogical and anthropomorphic. God is portrayed as a workman going through his workweek, working during the day and resting for the night. Then on his Sabbath, he enjoys a full and refreshing rest. Our days are like God’s workdays, but not identical to them. How long were God’s workdays? The Bible doesn’t say. But I see no reason to insist that they were only 24 hours long.”
On a related note, Collins states that every statement and truth we can communicate about God, is analogical. He says that every statement we make is “like” how God actually is. When we say God is our Father, in our minds we have an idea about what a father is, and it represents how God is actually our Heavenly Father.
Science and Faith is written for the ordinary person, Christian or non-Christian, with the idea to write based on a conversation Collins had with a Christian friend who homeschools her children. It touches on a wide range of topics including, philosophy of science, in-depth look at Genesis 1-4 and creation, science and Scripture, the impact of the Fall on creation, Neo-Darwinism, and a plea for Christians to be trained in understanding science and teaching the next generation of Christians.
One of my only critiques of the book is a shallow one. Collins uses a lengthy C.S. Lewis quote at least once in every chapter, and oftentimes, more than that. While I can appreciate the wisdom and depth of Lewis’ writings and that they’re relevant to nearly every subject, I would’ve liked Collins to vary his sources more.
Collins does a terrific job of giving a clear outline of the book and being very clear at the beginning of each chapter/section about the point that he intends to argue for and his conclusion (what he believes is the correct conclusion). My favorite chapters and sections are:
-“Science, Faith, and Rationality: A Short Course in Good Thinking” (chapter 2)
-“Must Science and Faith At Odds?” (chapter 3)
-“Summary of the Doctrine of Creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3” (section of chapter 4)
-“What Does This Mean For Us?” (section of chapter 4)
-“An Interpretation That Accounts For Entirety of Genesis 1-2” (section of chapter 5)
-“Human Nature After Genesis 3” (section of chapter 9)
-“Definitions That Restate the Biblical View of Providence (section of chapter 11)
-“Realism, Anti-Realism, and the Appearance of Age” (section of chapter 15)
-“Is Neo-Darwinism Credible?” (section of chapter 16)
-“A Genetic Basis of Behavior” (section of chapter 19)
Collins also includes an excellent annotated bibliography of great resources for those wanting to learn more about how science and the Christian faith interact.
Overall, a great book. This book hits it’s purpose right on the head, and it’s one that I will reference often when thinking through matters of science and faith in Christ.