The Science and Religion Book Club
The Book Club benefits greatly from the diverse experience of its members, including professional scientists who are Christians and those who are atheists. The average attendance is consistently 6-7 people.
Below is a list of the dates of our meetings since October 2019 and the books we have read with some personal brief comments from me on the debate they provoked. The meetings moved to ZOOM when the covid-19 lockdown started in March.
17/10/19+19/11/19 “The Creator and the Cosmos” by Hugh Ross. The author is a Caltech trained astronomer who believes that science tends to support the predictions of the Christian Bible. The book was strong on the support of Genesis from the Big Bang and on arguments against the “multiverse” but weaker on arguments for the uniqueness of planet Earth and against Darwinism. Hugh Ross leads the “Reasons to Believe” organisation and also attended our July meeting via ZOOM.
14/1/20 “The God Delusion Debate: Richard Dawkins vs. John Lennox”. Here we discussed the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF5bPI92-5o. In my view, Lennox has Dawkins on the ropes until the last few minutes but see if you agree!
21/4/20 “Divine glory in a Darwinian world” by Christopher Southgate. This paper, recommended by David Wilkinson, argues that divine glory can compensate and explain suffering in the World. Divine glory may thus help reconcile Christianity with the challenge of Charles Darwin and the suffering involved in his “survival of the fittest” explanation of the evolution of the human race and our morality. This was our first ZOOMed meeting.
12/6/20 “The Abolition of Man” by CS Lewis: The author argues about the dangers of too much Science and its potentially dehumanising effects. He advises that we should not undervalue the words of the Ancients in the Bible and elsewhere.
14/7/20 “The Great Divorce” by CS Lewis: A bus ride between Hell and Heaven giving tips on passing the admissions test. If you like fire and brimstone and have doubts about progressive Christianity then this book is for you!
Previously, we have also staged bigger events such as “The Great Debate; Science versus Religion” featuring the Bishop of Durham, and the lecture “Hawking, Dawkins and God: the legacy of new atheists for religious belief” by Revd. Prof. David Wilkinson.
So are we getting anywhere in answering the questions posed by the new scientific atheists? As you might imagine, our discussions in these much contested areas can be lively and stimulating! Also, some take the view from the beginning that there is no contradiction between science and religion and that it is wrong to emphasise any division.
However, my view remains that the arguments of the “new atheists” are being widely publicised and should be addressed. Some points are easily answered without needing any radical review of Christian doctrine. Other questions are more difficult and there a more progressive Christianity as David Jenkins suggested might be needed. But the problem is clearly that change is risky because on other emotional and even more fundamental levels the basic Christian message of “Love thy neighbour” still applies! So, for example, on the question I originally asked as to whether “everlasting life” could be interpreted as “our acts in this life have everlasting moral value” my current view, for what it’s worth, is that although this interpretation could have advantage in the scientific age, it may not be enough to balance the world’s injustices as fully as an afterlife.
Anyway, these debates will continue and if you think you would enjoy participating then please come along. You do not need to be a scientist or a theologian to contribute to the Book Club.