A Book Review from Books At a Glance
By Paul Wilkinson
A turf war has ensued on both the scholarly and popular levels between science and religion on the heels of the European Enlightenment. Whether this conflict is objectively real, it certainly has played out in a myriad of ways within Western societal traditions. Whether in the form of Laplacian overreach, the Scopes Monkey trial, or metaphysical musings clothed in scientific garb by the now-decades-old New Atheists, there’s been cultural confusion over the ground from whence authority rises. Who makes the call on difficult moral decisions? And on whether belief in God or supernaturalism or immaterialism is rational?
Bolt offers a reasoned, measured analysis of God’s providence in light of the contemporary scientific enterprise. It is a work full of thoughtful theology derived from the Bible, pointed philosophical analysis of a number of metaphysical and epistemological issues, and interesting integrations of science and religion.
Of particular interest is Bolt’s analysis of the problem of induction. He gives a treatment of Hume’s take on the matter while recognizing that the issue precedes Hume. He then takes us through the range of philosophical options available to tackle this perpetual problem—from a claim that the problem is overstated to various attempts to define it away. What Bolt shows is that a theistic metaphysic provides all the necessary presuppositions, axioms, and propositions needed to engage robustly and confidently in any scientific realm.
Furthermore, Bolt offers a thought-provoking analysis of theism itself, arguing that not all theistic systems are sufficiently suited to undergird the empirical sciences. His primary focus is on the different logical inferences available to the Christian as compared to the Muslim. He thoughtfully and sensitively notes the commonalities between these two world religions, but he does not shy away from noting the core divine attributes that render them different, especially with regard to foundations for science. He concludes that the God of Christian theism is ultimately the most solid, consistent base for science.
Bolt’s work is exceedingly accessible. While the content is certainly substantive, he saves the most technical philosophical writing for his extensive footnotes. It is clear that he is a thinker who values engagement with the relevant literature on divine providence, Islam, and the relationship between science and faith. In a way, you can have two works in one—first, a flowing narrative about the core essentials of Christian theism, divine providence, and the entailments therein as a suitable foundation for empirical science; and, second, a technical philosophical analysis of weighty metaphysical and epistemological systems.
I highly recommend this work for anyone (theist or not) interested in the matters of science and religion. You will find a helpful introduction to difficult issues made accessible through clear argumentation and reasonable conclusions.
Paul Wilkinson (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) ministers at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN.