TEST OF FAITH: Spiritual Journeys with Scientists by Ruth
Bancewicz, ed. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010. 120 pages.
Paperback; $18.00. ISBN: 978-1608998944.
This book will inspire and motivate Christians in science and
indeed anyone on a journey "of reconciling" their faith with
current scientific understanding of the natural world. Test of Faith
presents a collection of spiritual journey essays--selected, compiled,
and organized by the editor, Ruth Bancewicz--from highly respected
scientists who profess a deep Christian faith. Bancewicz is a research
associate at the Faraday Institute and has spearheaded the Test of Faith
project since 2006. The project aims to provide relevant resources about
Christianity and science and, most importantly, to make them accessible
to everyone. This book is one of those resources.
The book serves two main purposes. First, it unambiguously
establishes that faith and science are compatible and, in fact,
complement and inform each other in a way that strengthens both. Second,
it provides people in science with examples of how their Christian faith
can guide them in their daily work serving the Lord.
In an open manner, Test of Faith speaks to a common misperception
that science and faith are in opposition to each other. With the recent
rise of the so-called "new atheism" movement and the
publication of many best-selling atheist books, there are people
asserting that a scientific worldview is incompatible with a belief in a
personal God. Yet, as Bancewicz points out in her introduction,
"there are a huge number of scientists who are also Christians, and
hundreds of books have been written explaining how faith and science fit
together" (p. xii). This book presents a positive affirmation of
faith with essays that are sincere, nonantagonistic, and respectful of
other faiths and atheistic perspectives.
Bancewicz carefully selected ten prominent scientists from a range
of scientific disciplines including physics, astronomy, molecular
biology, neurobiology, and computing science, as well as from a
diversity of upbringings; some began their career as atheist or
agnostic, others as strongly rooted Christians. While simultaneously
producing a well-balanced compilation of stories, this book provides
counterbalance to some of the more prominent "new atheists"
through contributions from Christians who are experts in the same
scientific disciplines. For example, Francis Collins is a molecular
biologist with a thorough understanding of evolutionary theory; he
provides a Christian perspective of life's origin that counters the
arguments presented by atheist Richard Dawkins.
Alasdair Coles and Bill Newsome, both neurobiologists, admirably
counter neuroscientist Sam Harris, author of The Moral Landscape. Coles
and Newsome assert that morality cannot be explained on the basis of
science alone, and that a person must search for a balance "...
where you can be modern and intellectual and yet be open to emotional
meaning that transcends the logic to some extent or at least complements
the logic" (p. 50). Similarly, Ard Louis, John Polkinghorne, and
Deborah B. Haarsma serve as voices against the criticisms from
physicists Victor Stenger and Stephen Hawking who posit that a solely
scientific explanation is sufficient to explain the origin of the
universe. Polkinghorne eloquently states that "if you look at these
laws, their rational beauty, their order, their fruitfulness, their
'fine-tuning,' they do seem to point beyond themselves"
(p. 89). The Christian physicists each acknowledge the existence of
different types of truth, different yet significant ways of
knowing--what Ard Louis refers to as "deeper logic" (p. 72).
The personal stories shared in Test of Faith illustrate how faith
influences career paths, guides research directions, and informs
day-to-day interactions in the lab and classroom. For example, Bill
Newsome coherently addresses how faith informs how he mentors students
in his lab. His story sheds light on how Christian higher education may
differ from non-Christian higher education and will prove useful for
academics and those considering entering post-secondary education. John
Bryant focuses on bioethics and how Christian ethics can help inform how
we choose to respond to the momentous advances in technology and
While this book will appeal to anybody who has pondered the link
between science and faith, readers who are interested in a deeper
discussion of Christian ethics by some of the same contributors may turn
to Real Scientists, Real Faith edited by R. J. Berry. Other resources
offering a fuller exploration of some of these issues are available
through the Test of Faith website (www.testoffaith.com). Nonetheless,
the limited depth in this book is certainly appropriate given its
purpose and target audience. Each author describes some of the resources
that were personally valuable on their own journey. Yet, to strengthen
this collection, the editor might have appended a more comprehensive
list of useful resources on specific topics, particularly a list of
publications from each author (e.g., Francis Collins's The Language
I recommend Test of Faith to anyone interested in the interaction
between Christian faith and science. This book has something for
everyone. Christian academics may identify with the inspirational
stories. New faculty members will find that the contributors make great
role models. Readers who are embarking on a Christian path will
appreciate the personal stories from John Polkinghorne and Deborah B.
Haarsma, who both aim to find common ground among divergent faith
perspectives. The book should be recommended reading for Christians who
are considering a career path in science, as well as for parents and
family members interested in learning where those career paths might
take them spiritually. Yet most importantly, Test of Faith would be
ideal for the lay public who are continually bombarded with the
unfounded assertions of high profile atheists. Here is a valuable
resource that can be used by church leaders and church groups to begin a
reassuring discussion among the faithful that science is not
antithetical to their beliefs and values.
Reviewed by Keri McFarlane, Assistant Professor of Biology, The
King's University College, Edmonton, AB T6B 2H3.