If we wish to understand ourselves and the world in relation to God, what contribution to our understanding should we expect from a Christian tradition with its roots in the Bible, and what should we expect from the natural sciences?
Neil Messer sets out five types of answer to that question. The responses range from the view that the Christian tradition has nothing to contribute, through various forms of dialogue, to the claim that science is irrelevant to theological understanding. This classification scheme is illustrated and tested by extended explorations of three topics in the science and theology field: how to think about God’s action in the world, how to make theological sense of the suffering and destruction involved in the evolution of life, and how theology should respond to the scientific study of religion. The classification offers a way to understand and evaluate these debates, and the discussion of specific examples demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of each type of approach.
The book concludes with suggestions for how readers might use this scheme to guide their own work on science and theology. For students and researchers in science and theology, this book offers three things: a tool for understanding specific debates in science and theology, critical surveys of some of the most important debates in the field, and a concise guide to ways of setting up encounters of theology with science.
[Science in Theology] does indeed make a helpful contribution to the expanding literature on the subject ... What is unique about Messer's work is not just his new typology, but the fact that he tests it and, in doing so, also provides a summary of the current literature in three diverse areas of the science-faith dialogue: divine action, natural evil, and the cognitive study of religion ... Science in Theology offers a very helpful new framework for conceptualizing the dialogue between the two subjects as well as providing an excellent introduction to some contemporary issues, suitable for students or for the nonspecialist looking to further his/her education on the topic. * Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith * Messer's book is convincing and very clear, well written and even didactic; indeed, it becomes an excellent introduction for beginners to the practice of theological reception of scientific views or ideas. * ESSSAT News & Reviews * Neil Messer's book develops a typology of ways in which science-theology encounters might be set up, tests the typology on three important debates in science and theology and draws some conclusions about how science-theology encounters should be conducted. I recommend it to scholars interested in this promising interdisciplinary field. * Robert John Russell, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Graduate Theological Union, USA * With characteristic clarity of expression, this book is essential reading for students beginning to contemplate the wide array of research literature in theology and science. The author refuses to accept the adequacy of standard treatments of methodology in this field and gives readers the needed analytical tools to assess key concepts and contested debates. * Celia Deane-Drummond, Laudato Si' Research Institute, University of Oxford, UK * Neil Messer is ideally qualified to undertake this helpful and much-needed survey of approaches that relate scientific disciplines to approaches in Christian theology. He works through a number of important examples with sensitivity and precision. The book will be of enormous assistance to instructors and students alike. * Christopher Southgate, University of Exeter, UK * This author is one of the best voices pushing theologians to learn about God from the empirical sciences alongside - not in competition with - tradition, experience and revelation. Here, he shows how various scientific disciplines can serve theology, not by proposing a conversation between "science" and "religion" but by showing how Christians believe God can, and sometimes does, speak through cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience. * John Perry, University of St Andrews, UK * The interaction between science and theology is envisaged in different ways by different scholars, but these distinctions are often far from clear. Messer's classification of these different approaches brings a new and welcome clarity, and for both students and researchers in this field his book will be invaluable. * Christopher Knight, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, UK * One of the lasting problems of the science-and-religion debate is how to relate them to each other. Typologies have always offered promise, but after decades of effort scholars have almost given up on them. Neil Messer might just have found a typology that works! * Mark Harris, University of Edinburgh, UK * Science in Theology is clearly written and Messer's argument is easy to follow; he begins each chapter with a summary of his argument, divides chapters into clear subsections, and concludes each with salient observations ... Science in Theology is an excellent text for a graduate student seminar or for early scholars in the field. * Horizons: Journal of the College Theological Society *