Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus with Eve MacMaster, ed. A Way Was Opened: A Memoir. Scottdale: Herald Press, 2003. Pp. 376. ($24.99paperback) ISBN 0-8361-9203-6 Reviewed by Dorothea Janzen.
John Howard Yoder. Preface to Theology: Christology and Theological Method. Edited with an Introduction
by Stanley Hauerwas and Alex Sider (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2002). Pp. 431. ISBN 1-58743-020-7
John Howard Yoder. Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (Scottdale and Waterloo: Herald Press, 2001 ). Pp. i-xi, 88. ISBN 0-8361-9160-9 Reviewed by Thomas W. Heilke.
Dianne Christner, Keeper of Hearts. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 2002. Pp. 304. ($14.99paperback) ISBN 0-8361-9207-9 Reviewed by David Sprunger.
Nancey Murphy. Religion and Science: God, Evolution, and the Soul. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press, 2002. Pp. 126. ($17.00paperback) ISBN 1-894710-20-7 Reviewed by Paul T. Lewis.
Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus with Eve MacMaster, ed. A Way Was Opened: A Memoir. Scottdale: Herald Press, 2003. Pp. 376. ($24.99paperback) ISBN 0-8361-9203-6
The raw material for this story of Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus was 8000 pages of journal notes, letters, poetry, photos, and sermon notes which Ruth turned over to Eve MacMaster. These materials and Eve's personal and enduring friendship with Ruth are skillfully woven into a coherent story of Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus' life and ministry.
Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus was born in 1915, one of nine children born to George R. ( I ) and Katie Wenger Brunk. Nurtured in love and the importance of service to the church, she and two brothers were active as evangelists, educators, leaders, and pastors in the church.
In a climate of conservative thought, Ruth overcame many obstacles as she began to use her Spirit-given gifts in the church as a woman with a speaking, teaching, prophetic ministry that touched the lives of many people.
The story that emerges of Ruth's remarkable life and ministry is detailed in the nine parts of the book beginning with her childhood and youth where she was coached by her father to speak in public. The story continues with her courtship and marriage to Grant Stoltzfus and the arrival of their five children. Ruth envisioned a ministry to women by way of radio. The concerns of child rearing, family life, sharing the work of running a home and parenting between husband and wife were the themes of this ministry. The program named "Heart to Heart" became a source of inspiration and teaching as it expanded over a period of years. In 1997 when Ruth left "Heart to Heart" because of the growing needs of her own family, she and Grant began a traveling and speaking ministry entitled Christian Family Service.
Family crises from Grant's bout with depression, their daughter Ruth's cancer, the agnosticism of one of their sons, and financial struggles are shared in this story. A particularly difficult time was the sudden death of Grant in 1974, thrusting Ruth into widowhood.
Opportunities to speak at her own congregation and elsewhere created opposition by many concerning women in leadership. But Ruth's sure sense of God's call upon her life and her determination and focus helped her to weather many controversies.
Ruth's gifts became more and more public, but even so she was surprised when asked to be interim pastor at Bancroft Mennonite Church, Toledo, Ohio. Following this she crossed denominational lines to the General Conference Mennonite Church to become interim pastor at Grace Mennonite Church, Pandora, Ohio. Here she was thrust into controversies about the flag in the church, conscientious objection to war, and war tax resistance. With skill and understanding, but with her own unwavering convictions on the issues, Ruth worked with the congregation in book studies and asking for help from Mennonite Central Committee Conciliation Services. Her preaching was practical, passionate, and prophetic and was received well by the congregations she served.
Ruth had a battle for her life when she developed colon cancer. The prognosis for this variety of cancer was grim, but Ruth became one of the small percentage of persons who survive. Through it all she had a deep sense that God was watching over her pilgrimage.
Opening doors for ministry continued as Ruth was asked to become associate pastor of the First Mennonite Church of Richmond, VA. The last part of the book details the process and the controversies concerning Ruth's ordination by the Virginia Conference. It was painful for Ruth that some of her own siblings could not bless this development in her life. Ruth was ordained on September 10, 1989 by the Virginia Mennonite Conference at the Shalom Mennonite Congregation at Eastern Mennonite College at the age of 74.
The section on the controversies concerning her ordination got a bit tedious to read in an otherwise riveting story, but may be important to include for historical reasons.
Obstacles and experiences in Ruth's pilgrimage toward a preaching ministry were so similar to others of us who were trailblazers as women in ministry. I found myself identifying with her experiences at so many points in the story. As Nancy Heisey points out in the foreword to this book, this story matters because of the modeling and encouragement it provides for those who came to ministry after the way was opened by people like Ruth.
Women preachers often weave the stuff of everyday life into their ministry. This was also true of Ruth. Ruth was a wife, a mother, a sister, a matron at a CPS Camp, an entrepreneur and a business woman. She was a prophet and a preacher, a woman of prayer and submission to the Lord, a forthright focused woman who did not shun controversy, and a radical Anabaptist who could be found publicly demonstrating against war and racism. All of these experiences with their attendant joys, pains, disappointments, struggles, and victories were incorporated into her sermons and approaches to ministry.
This book is important for historical purposes as it contributes to the body of stories that help to understand the gradual acceptance of women into a preaching ministry in the Mennonite Church. But even more, it is simply a tremendously interesting story that calls others to be what God wants them to be.
North Newton, Kansas
John Howard Yoder. Preface to Theology: Christology and Theological Method. Edited with an Introduction by Stanley Hauerwas and Alex Sider (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2002). Pp. 431. ISBN 1-58743-020-7
John Howard Yoder. Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (Scottdale and Waterloo: Herald Press, 2001 ). Pp. i-xi, 88. ISBN 0-8361-9160-9
Nearly all of John Howard Yoder's books have political titles; a fact, it seems to me, that is not noted often enough nor understood clearly enough by some of his admiring or detracting readers. The title of the first of the two volumes under review here is a notable exception, but one should also note that while he gave the collection of materials that is now this book its present title, its author never prepared it for formal publication. Preface to Theology was transcribed from audio lecture tapes in 1968, and made available for sale as mimeographed lectures since 1973, in which form it was circulated for many years. My copy of those notes, which contains the 1981 revisions and additions, dates back to the mid-1980s. That original consists of 316 closely-typed pages. The small format, ninety-nine page Body Politics, on the other hand, is also based on a lecturegiven at Duke University Divinity School. If the editors of Preface to Theology are correct to call Yoder "a revolutionary pamphleteer" (p. 9), then Body Politics is surely a fine example of what such a writer produces in that capacity.
Preface to Theology originated in an introductory course in theology that Yoder taught at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary for nearly two decades until 1981. The course was intended as part of the training for students at AMBS who were preparing for church ministry. It was at first called "Preface to Theology," and the book's subtitle is the later title of that same course. The material included in the book "brings together the bulk of the instructional content" of the course (p. 31). These unique origins and purposes mean, however, that the book must be read with several things clearly in mind. First, its original audience: (Mennonite) students preparing for ministry. Second, its purpose: an introductory study of the field of theology from a specific, consciously stated point of view. Third, its datedness: insofar as it is an introduction to the field of theology, it takes account of the "state of scholarly opinion [up to] 1960" (p. 32), no further. Even though the bibliographies in various places throughout the book contain works published up to the late 1970s, there is no implied claim that this added material is complete. In their sensitive and sensible introduction, the editors argue that the several problems that emerge for early twenty-first century readers from this datedness do not undercut Yoder's "primary narrative or argument," nor, for that matter, the pedagogical aims of the book. Their claim seems entirely defensible.
Reviewing this book, I belong to two of the three audiences for whom Yoder thought (in 1981) these course materials could still be of use: a theological amateur who necessarily must work on the topic "independently," and a reader who will (in future) want to "dip" into the book "occasionally, with attention to one theme or another, to broaden one's general background without extensive study" (p. 31). Such a reader, incidentally, may well make of this book something quite different from what a professional theologian might conclude about it. These materials, Yoder tells us, are introductory, and none of them are intended to "substitute for a full-length treatment" of the areas of theological study that they summarize. They are not a complete survey of the field of systematic theology nor of any of its subfields (p. 32), but their summary quality does have "its own purpose, namely to observe inductively how theology operates by watching it work," or to portray inductively "how theological discourse proceeds within the life of the church." (pp. 32, 33). If we recall the institutional, social, and intellectual location of much of the contemporary activity known as "professional" theology, then we might consider that, for many of us, these two purposes are not of necessity synonymous.
The book is divided into three sections, containing between four and six chapters each: "New Testament Themes;" "Post-Apostolic Theology;" "Systematic Treatment of Christological Themes." The book concludes with a chapter ("The Rest of the Field") that is an "encyclopedic outline," the primary function of which is "to indicate to the student the scope of issues to which attention has not been given, which would be dealt with in a more traditional study of dogmatics or systematic theology" (pp. 406, 407). The first chapter contains a brief section on "alternative ways of labeling and understanding the field of study" and "alternative ways of organizing the study" (pp. 33-36). Thus, consistent with his general way of proceeding in other studies, Yoder is clear that there are alternatives to his method, and that much more needs to be said than a "Preface" such as this can allow. What, then, of Yoder's "primary narrative?" What value this introductory text?
The approach is consciously and determinedly Christological. Why? Because Christology is what the early Christian "thought about the most," and "watching the theological activity of the early Christian church" is a good place to begin if we want to know how to do theology in the present (p. 39). Putting Jesus at the center of ethical reasoning was a hallmark of Yoder's work from beginning to end. In this book, we see how such a "centering" could be accomplished in systematic theology. Yoder's use of historical theologyreturning to the origins of Christian theology and examining the shape and contents of the activity at its wellspringis not a mere exercise in nostalgia or worse yet, naive restorationism, nor is it "simple narration." It is conducted with a view to the "systematic agenda" (p. 34) of the present day without giving the task of theology over to that agenda. If theology is an activity in the service of the community of (Christian) believers, where better to turn for an indication of what such an activity might look like than to a time when such service was still closely integrated with such a believing community and before it came to serve various other ends? Plato, who likely coined the term "theology," also understood this activity of theological inquiry to be in the service of a community, albeit not the one envisioned in subsequent Christian practice. If present-day Christian theological practice has its origins in the theological activities of the first Christian communities, why not turn there first? After all, "we may very well decide that the way it was done in the past is not the right way for us to do it; but anyone drawing that conclusion should become acquainted with the experience of the church in the matter."
This over-all approach is particularly accessible to the lay person, because its deliberate return to the experiences of the early Christians is less likely to be immediately overshadowed by prior philosophical and denominational commitments on the part of the modern (Christian) reader or writer. Out of that narration of "how theology actually functioned in the history of the church" (p. 377), Yoder intends for his readers inductively to draw generalizations concerning the shape, content, and problems of theological inquiry. This method avoids the problem of providing what is in some instances of systematic theology a massive prolegomena to the enterprise.
On the other hand, when confronted with the modern penchant toward such defensive methodological postures, Yoder's procedure may seem indefensibly naive. Such a judgment, however, rests on a prior judgment concerning the nature and possibilities of narrative itself. The work of theologians and philosophers like Stanley Hauerwas, Hans Kellner, Nicholas Lash, John Milbank, Lesslie Newbigin, Paul Ricoeur, Ronald Thiemann, Hayden White, and others have shown that narrative is not a primitive form of communication from which the theologian can gather select fragments or raw material to use as fuel in his or her analytical furnace, but rather, that narrative is a primary, not primitive, form of disclosure. Narrative is the primary means of rendering intelligible the phenomena that present themselves to us. Indeed, it may be the case that the phenomena can only be present to us in a narrative mode and that it is only through narrative presentation that we can make them intelligible to others. Accordingly, Yoder begins not with historical "issues" in systematic theology, but with the observation of "the process of theology growing in the experience of the early Christians" (p. 33). The "issues" of systematic theology will come into view from watching the activity develop over time. The topical bibliographies scattered throughout the book accomplish the task of moving us from "primitivism" to direct engagement with contemporary problems under the aegis of the traditional categories of systematic theology. With the Christological themes located from and centered in the thinking of the early church and then up to Chalcedon, the third section of Preface moves to "the classical or systematic treatment of themes in Christology" (p. 228) as they are exemplified in modern theological discourse. The four chapter titles are: "The Structure of the Discipline;" "Christ as King: Last Things;" "Christ as Priest: Atonement;" "Christ as Prophet: Revelation." Yoder seeks to capture Christologically some of the main themes of later systematic theology. The survey includes discussions of medieval and Reformation developments, as well as Anabaptist accounts of these themes.
Yoder understands theology as an activity of the church. In Body Politics, we see what such activity looks like as Yoder shows how, through five "practices" of the Christian community"binding and loosing," breaking bread together (Eucharist), baptism, the sharing of "charismata" amongst all members of the believing community in mutual ministry, and congregational councils (open meetings of all believers to make community decisions)"the gospel impinges on the rest of our world" (p. 74). As in Preface, so in Body Politics, Yoder's version of "biblical realism" insists that there is no "real world" "out there" separate and apart from a Gospel account of that world. Echoing an argument more thoroughly articulated by Lesslie Newbigin (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society), Yoder proposes that the community of Christian believers "recognize that we are called to a believing vision of global history, suspicious of any scheme of analysis or management that would claim by itself to see the world whole apart from faith or apart from avowing its own bias." In this case, the "modern world is a subset of the world vision of the gospel, not the other way around" (p. 74), and that world vision is articulated in part through what the church actually does. The "will of God for human socialness," in other words, "is prefigured by the shape to which the Body of Christ is called" (p. ix). It is only within such an understanding of the order of claims and discourses between church and world that either the method of systematic, christologically-centered theology Yoder proposes or the corporate practices of the Christian believers he examines can be understood as something more than "sectarian" curiosities or personalistic decorations attached to a life otherwise constituted by the apparent realities of some secular realm. Yoder's claim is that the church is a foretaste of the new world to come. His task in both books is to show us how this is true and how we can be participants in that truth.
Thomas W. Heilke
Associate professor of political science
University of Kansas, Lawrence
Dianne Christner, Keeper of Hearts. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 2002. Pp. 304. ($14.99paperback) ISBN 0-8361-9207-9
When literary critics speak of a novel as "historical Romance" (with a capital "R"), the term has specific implications for how boldly the characters will be sketched, how rapidly the plot will unfold and resolve, and how seamlessly the author's historical research will be woven into the story. For other readers, the label "romance" (with a lower-case "r") suggests the drama of human mating rituals. Keeper of Hearts meets all expectations of both definitions and does so in effective, interesting ways.
The marketing apparatus squarely puts this novel into the romance camp. The cover shows our heroinespunky yet vulnerable, sporting remarkably modern hair and lipsin the foreground while a successful suitor hovers behind her.
The back cover synopsis also emphasizes the romantic elements: "It is 1545, a dangerous time for Anabaptists. Anna van Vissers despises Menno Simons and other heretics who caused her papa's death. Yet one by one, her family and friends betray her by receiving the believer's baptism.
"Caught in a storm of rebellion, Anna faces the choices of faith and of love. Will she choose the security of marriage to a dark and handsome Wittenberg printer, or risk her love on Peter, the young Anabaptist? Who will be the keeper of Anna's heart?"
One needn't be a connoisseur of the romance genre to recognize that when one choice is "dark" and unnamed while the other is named in the synopsis and depicted on the cover, it's auf Wiedersehen to the printer of Wittenberg. Suspense on the romance side of the plot comes more from the how than the who.
The explicit attempts to market Keeper of Hearts as a romance novel may, I suspect, alienate some patrons of Mennonite Life who consider the romance genre too frivolous. Beyond the treatment of Anna's romantic quandary, the book is quite successful as historical Romance. Especially interesting is the treatment of such historical elements as the tension between traditional Catholicism and the new ideas of Anabaptism; the relationship between Reformation giant Martin Luther and the Anabaptists, who on the surface seem so similar but are in reality dread enemies; and the role of the relatively new printing press on Luther's reforms and the emerging German middle class.
After Anna's father is executed for having given Menno Simons a ride in his boat, her family is persecuted and forced to flee their native village of Visserwert (near Valkenberg). In the course of their exile, Anna's mother accepts an invitation to visit an old friend, who is married to Martin Luther. The portrait of Luther in the last years of his life is nicely done, showing how the Lutheran reformation grew out of the academic climate of Wittenberg and the political tensions of sixteenth-century Germany. Luther's interest in matchmaking is also shown as he encourages a relationship between Anna and Thedric Bettendorf, the "dark and handsome" printer.
As a Catholic, Anna finds Luther's ideas and rejection of the Pope as disturbing as she finds Anabaptism. This surprising perspective particularly strengthens the novel. Rather than providing sentimental rhapsody on the virtues of Anabaptism, Christner shows Anna torn between the "safe" Catholicism that she seems to take largely for granted and the theological and political dangers of the new Anabaptist heresies. Before Anna can come to terms with either religious position, however, Luther discovers that Anna's deceased father had joined the Anabaptists, so he immediately turns her and her mother out of his home. Luther's actions reflect the historical reality that there was no love lost between Luther and the Anabaptists, whom he considered a danger to his work.
Before considering the end of Keeper of Hearts, the next several paragraphs introduce a digression on critical elements of Anabaptist historical fiction. Because much fiction that deals with the Mennonite and Anabaptist experience falls into the genre of historical fiction, it seems appropriate to explore briefly two key issues by which readers might consider novels like Keeper of Hearts: use of historical material and treatment of dialogue.
As a genre, historical fiction poses a special challenge to writers: how to incorporate unobtrusively the historical research. In addition to telling a compelling story and developing interesting characters, the author must educate readers about the book's particular historical setting. In some cases, the author includes so much explanation into the book's exposition that readers soon forget the fictive elements; in other cases, so little historical material appears that the novel's putative historical period is incidental to the novel's plot. In some books, the author assumes readers' total ignorance of history and goes on to explain everything so obviously and exhaustively that the resentful reader engages neither the time period nor the story or characters.
Christner's solution to this dilemma is an effective one. She tells her story in a straightforward way, incorporating historical material with minimal lecturing. For readers less familiar with historical figures, historical geography, or sixteenth-century material culture, she includes three useful appendices: 1) brief overviews of the historical context and Anabaptist martyrdom; 2) a map of the Holy Roman Empire and "Anna's Political World"; 3) a glossary of people, places, and items mentioned in the text. The glossary seems geared for particularly young readers, however, defining "whetstones" and explaining that "nay" means "no."
A second challenge for historical fiction is how to have characters speak. Authors recognize the need to avoid linguistic anachronism, but in addition, they struggle with the competing desires to present speech that is natural, accessible, and not off-putting for modern readers and to flavor somehow the dialogue with vocabulary or syntax that suggests the historical period. Christner's strategy for reminding readers that her characters did not speak modern English appears to be a liberal scattering of "'tis" throughout speeches, a solution that seems flat to me. Once Christner decidedwisely, in my opinionnot to write in various sixteenth-century German dialects, the speeches have foregone their claims to historical accuracy, so I would have preferred leaving them in more neutral syntax and vocabulary.
It would be untoward to reveal much specific about the ending of the novel, but I will share that I found it dizzying and rather unsatisfying in a deus ex machina sort of way. The resolution of Anna's dual suitors meets all demands of romance (with a lower-case "r") and the sudden plot twists satisfy the demands of Romance (with a capital "R"), butwell, let each reader decide individually. In the end, Keeper of Hearts is one of the better examples of historical Romance that deals with the Mennonite experience.
Readers interested in learning more about Dianne Christner may visit her web site: http://www.diannechristner.com.
Nancey Murphy. Religion and Science: God, Evolution, and the Soul. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press, 2002. Pp. 126. ($17.00paperback) ISBN 1-894710-20-7
How to reconcile God and the Cosmos, or whether such a reconciliation should even be attempted, are questions that have intrigued theologians and philosophers for ages. From the philosophers of antiquity to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, to Thomas Aquinas, and William of Ockham, up to Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Hobbs and David Hume, continuing on to the present with Ian Barbour, Gordon Kaufman, and Nancey Murphy, all and more have grappled in some way with these questions. Murphy's argument is an interesting one, very much worth considering, but not without its problems. A large part of its appeal is based on her taking into account quite recent advances in physics, evolutionary biology, comparative animal behavior, and the cognitive neurosciences, not to mention philosophy and theology, and in particular, the Anabaptist tradition. However this is where part of the problem resides as well: While acknowledging most of the important lacunae relating to her argument in these various narratives, Murphy cannot resist bridginga bit too speculatively, perhapsthe underlying gaps such lacunae allude to in the attempt to make her argument more convincing. Nonetheless, her position holds some promise for bringing together God and the world in a position of redemptive nonviolence.
Religion and Science: God, Evolution, and the Soul chronicles the proceedings of the first Goshen Conference on Religion and Science. The substance of the volume consists of Murphy's three major addresses, two public lectures and one more private to conference attendees only, along with three discussion transcripts pertaining to the addresses; there is also an editor's preface, notes, and a subject index.
Nancey Murphy is currently Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary. From Creighton University where she studied philosophy and psychology she received a B.A. (1973), and from the University of California at Berkeley she obtained a Ph.D. (1980) in philosophy of science. At the Graduate Theological Union she received a Th.D. in theology (1987). Besides being an author and co-editor of numerous books on the intersection between religion and science during the decade of the 90s, one of her more notable achievements was an American Academy of Religion award for excellence and a Templeton prize for noteworthy contributions in science and theology for her first book, Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Cornell, 1990). She is ordained in the Church of the Brethren.
I shall attempt in this review to briefly outline Murphy's position and argument as principally revealed in her three lectures, without giving away some of the interesting twists and turns her reasoning takes. I will then add clarification drawn from the discussions as seems warranted. At this juncture I hope to fit Murphy's argument within the broader context of an ecumenical and pragmatic analysis of conceiving of a deity who interacts with its creation, a deity who is both perfect and loving in relationship to the whole of creation, In particular, using Murphy's position as part of an epistemic foundation, I shall be arguing - briefly, given space considerationsthat it is in our best interests as individuals in community to view the relationship between God and the Cosmos as at least potentially reconcilable, that it is an important problem to work on. Moreover, for scholars interested in this problem, this little book will serve to stimulate their thinking and suggest fruitful avenues for further research.
In short, Nancey Murphy wishes to bring together God and the cosmos, and the academic disciplines which study them, religion and science respectively, by offering a different kind of theory of divine action, that of nonviolence. Murphy addresses the challenge before her by first clarifying the relationship between science, Anabaptism, and what she terms theological anthropology, in lecture one. One of the more telling parts of the lecture was her dealing forthrightly with relatively recent advances in the cognitive neurosciences suggesting a brain and nervous system foundation for capabilities that we have typically reserved for our notion of the soul. Murphy suggests provocatively that we have to acknowledge God's interests in brains and in the notion of the resurrected body, that we should re-acquaint ourselves with what she calls the New Testament idea of "participating in a partially realized Kingdom of God while awaiting its coming in full" (p. 26). Should these emphases of such a theological anthropology take precedence over the traditional idea of soul salvation for eventual placement in a "transcendent heaven"? The raising and contemplation of such questions makes for fascinating reading. Indeed, the first transcribed discussion addresses the issue of resurrection, along with metaphysics and process metaphysics and theology as they relate to the idea of the slow and painful process of redemption. While the discussion is at times confusing and digressive, there are moments of real insight-building, fun and enticing.
In lecture two Murphy showcases her central idea, or set of ideas, what she calls "God's Nonviolent Direct Action". This theory is noteworthy because it makes the case for divine action in both the animate and inanimate realms and the non-human and inanimate realms to be essentially the same. It is an action which is foundationally relational, expressing the deity's love and respect for the integrity, structure, and process of all entities, but reserving the option (?) of helping to move or nudge the entity and the cosmic whole further along the road to salvation. Following John Polkinghorne, Murphy's position presupposes as much the importance of developing a free process defense which accounts for natural disasters and catastrophes, as a free will defense which makes up the crux of her theodicy and accounts for the problem of evil. Both are crucial foundations for her theory.
It is in this second address where, after reviewing the differing traditional views on the relationship between God and the Cosmos, e.g. deism, various forms of theism (interventionism, immanentism, occasionalism, etc.), etc., Murphy attempts to make a case for a kind of divine action that includes bits of interventionism, but not of the traditional sort, made notorious by David Hume, with the Deity superceding or altering the course of natureacting supernaturally and inconsistently with nature. Her view of theism also includes a kind of immanentism, or omnipresence. She thus prefers divine action over either interventionism or immanentism, suggesting there is enough latitude built into the nature of all entities that the Deity can exert influence as to when an entity will act in accord with its nature, without, as Murphy puts it, overwhelming its own freedom to determine itself, but also constantly and incessantly exerting its (the Deity's) influence.
This is interesting but problematic. Such a move reminds me of compatibilismwhich is indeed acknowledged in the first discussion by Murphya doctrine put forth by Paul Helm, in his The Providence of God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), to account for the possibility of God determining all human action while at the same time permitting humans to freely act; i.e., to freely act in this view is to act in accordance with one's wants, beliefs, and desires. And, such beliefs and desires can be in accordance with God's beliefs and desires. This notion runs counter to the more traditional notion of freedom; i.e., to actor be able or be permitted to actcontrary to one's beliefs and desires, to act outside or in contradistinction to, the Deity's beliefs and desires. However, Murphy seems to embrace both concepts of freedom: indeed, her relational view of the Deity requires the created being able to act contrary to the Deity's wishes if the relationship is going to be meaningful, while her version of divine actionan interventionism and immanentism of whennecessitates allowing the Deity to exert its will (in some minor sense nudging or influencing the created? in some sense with the created?) in the interests of fomenting salvation. Can Murphy have it both ways? I don't know. This particular bifurcated notion of freedom in the end may be inherently self-contradictory. In my mind it may be one of the more crucial philosophical and theological problems plaguing her position that needs further attention. In the corresponding discussion one of the participants brought up the question of a "fulcrum", what I took to be the point at which freedom and determinism came together or dissolved. It does not appear to me that Murphy answered the question satisfactorily. She did not see the necessity for such a fulcrum as long as another better articulated competitor position did not exist. The subsequent discussion took some interesting turns into the veiled nature of God and the purpose of prayer and its relationship to the freedom-determinism dichotomy, which many readers should find quite stimulating.
In the third, final, relatively short, and more private address to the conference participants, Murphy gives an Anabaptist's (her) view of evolution. After helpfully reviewing the numerous and varied kinds of responses to Darwinian evolutionary theory, Murphy contends that what should be at issue is the neglect of most of these responses to acknowledge God's working through creation in numerous, natural, and consistent ways, i.e., God's incessant direct action on the cosmos. Of course, this brings her to the problem of "nature red in tooth and claw," to which she suggests that, among other things, this characterization does not necessarily capture the essence of relations in nature. She juxtaposes with this predator-prey view the possibility of peace-making and reconciliation, citing some anecdotal evidence of Frans de Waal, the noted primatologist (see his Peacemaking Among the Primates, 1989). While interesting to consider of course, part of the problem with this work is its not being confirmed in more controlled laboratory studies, i.e., it is very much an open question just how deliberately altruistic, as opposed to self-serving, and just how deliberate, per se, is the action of which these anecdotes highlight (see Povinelli and Giambrone, "Reasoning about beliefs: A human specialization?" Child Development, 72: 3 (2001), 691-695). In the corresponding and final discussion, much attention is paid to speculating about the motives of the various anti-Darwinian evolutionists (the young-earth creationists, the intelligent design movement, etc.), with stops along the way readdressing to some extent the problem of divine action versus interventionism alluded to above, and the more general fundamental problem of reconciling moral and natural law. As with all such discussions, more questions are raised than answers given, but the various twists and turns are fun for the reader to take.
There are not many volumes like this which include transcribed discussions relating to the more formal and polished lectures of a major player in the murky boundary waters of the intersection of religion and science. Nancey Murphy, Carl S. Helrich (editor of the volume), and Goshen College should be congratulated on having the temerity to publish a volume including such discussions, with their moments of tautology, the hopeless morass of obscure pedantry, the talking past one-another, the inevitable price one must pay sometimes for the freedom to discuss whatever one believes is relevant to the matter at hand. But such discussions also ring with their moments of brilliancesometimes the best that one could hope for in a discussion, building on each participant's insights to reach new and higher levels of understanding of the matter at hand. And the matter at hand, the possible reconciliation of religion and science, is even more crucial now than ever before to take seriously.
One of the virtues of Nancey Murphy's position, especially given the tenor of the times, is its nonviolent focus. It attempts to bring together what may be one of the crucial theological frameworksnon-coercive redemptionnecessary for establishing an ecumenical embracing of the numerous major religious views, with what is being learned about the created world, both animate and inanimate, via the application of the scientific method. It seems imperative that work continues on this project in such a way that the respective developing views of religionGodand sciencethe cosmosserve to keep each other honest. It is only then that for whom it is important, the hope of the promised land may eventually be realized, where freedom on all levels and among all entities accord with the will of God.
In conclusion, Murphy and Helrich and all of the participants do the outlines of such a project justice in this readable little book, suitable for undergraduates and graduate students alike for an introduction to the issues. For scholars in this area, this slim volume serves as a provocative and stimulating agenda of reconciliation of religion and science, however tentative and loose in the center and around the edges at this point it might be. At the very least, in this reviewer's opinion, the publication of this volume accomplishes the hope of the editor, Carl S. Helrich, to "convey, in some sense, the atmosphere and hospitality of Goshen College" (p. 10). Indeed, the life of the mind seems quite at home there.
Paul T. Lewis
Professor of Psychology and Philosophy
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