Generous Orthodoxy  

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

In today's New York Times, Dwight Garner takes the measure of Stephen Hawkings' new book, The Grand Design, which has soared to the top of Amazon's list as a result of publicity trumpeting its anti-God stance. The New Atheists are thrilled, but no one who understands the difference between religious faith and science will be impressed. So Dr. Hawkings has discovered that we don't need a "God hypothesis" to explain the universe? Ho hum. Science is one thing, and faith another, as Mr. Garner perceptively notes in this paragraph:

The arguments in “The Grand Design” — especially those about why God isn’t necessary to imagine the beginning of the universe — put me in mind of something [Timothy] Ferris said in his excellent book The Whole Shebang (1997). “Religious systems are inherently conservative, science inherently progressive,” Mr. Ferris wrote. Religion and science don’t have to be hostile to each other, but we can stop setting them up on blind dates. “This may be an instance,” Mr. Ferris added, “where good walls make good neighbors.”

Hooray for both Ferris and Garner. I would take exception to the word "conservative" (Christianity is radical, not conservative) but the rest of the quote is going in just the right direction. To be sure, it is important to understand that Christianity can be intellectually defended, but that isn't the same thing as making Christianity dependent on arguments made from a scientific perspective. Biblical faith is revealed, not arrived at by reasonable argumentation. That's why apologetics, even the very best kind, fails to grasp the central affirmations of our creeds.

Mr. Garner's review is witty. He gets in some zingers about Hawkings' cheap tricks designed for the airport bookbuying audience. He calls The Grand Design "tinny," "inelegant," "condescending," "impenetrable," and "packed with grating yuks." He writes,

This book is provocative pop science, an exploration of the latest thinking about the origins of our universe. But the air inside this literary biosphere is not especially pleasant to breathe.

Here's the link to the Garner article: