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MERE SCIENCE AND CHRISTIAN FAITH: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults.

MERE SCIENCE AND CHRISTIAN FAITH: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults by Greg Cootsona. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018. 184 pages. Paperback; $17.00. ISBN: 9780830838141.

Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults is a call by author Greg Cootsona to the importance of basic science literacy if one hopes to do ministry with young adults (aged 18-30). Cootsona is Lecturer in Religious Studies and Humanities at California State University at Chico and directs Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries, a three-year, $2 million grant project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation and housed at Fuller Theological Seminary. From 2002-2016, he served as associate pastor for adult discipleship at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico, and from 1996-2002 at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. His experience makes him highly qualified to speak to the issues addressed in this book. Cootsona's popular appeal is evidenced by his writings in major newspapers, as well as by his interviews by national television networks. He is also a member of the American Scientific Affiliation.

Mere Science and Christian Faith has eight chapters, as well as a list of books for further reading. The chapters are short, pithy, provocative, and sprinkled with a plethora of interesting quotes. The book is well referenced. Cootsona discusses both the positives and negatives of technology, and then considers several topics that seem more like hot topics of interest to young adults than science topics critical to Christian faith. Some of these topics include the New Atheism, cognitive science, cosmic fine tuning, intelligent design, sexuality, and global climate change. This review will begin by highlighting three strengths, and then describe three weaknesses of Mere Science and Christian Faith.

First, this book is written for people who are ministering to 18- to 30-year-olds. Cootsona's working hypothesis is spot on. He argues effectively that the younger generation takes science and technology for granted. The impact of technology is an essential element of the world in which they live, as seen in advanced medical care, the internet, space travel, and environmental protection. The church today needs to take science and technology into account in order for its message to gain a hearing. So while the ministry of the gospel need not pander to popular trends, neither can it ignore them.

Second, the author has a good sense of humor, and uses it effectively. However, in some cases his approach is a bit too relaxed and compromises the intellectual tone of the book. For example, "Google, the source of all information," may be humorous to young adults, but considering that Google is the primary source of information for many university students, it may not be a joke at all.

Third, the author has made a start on his stated goal of creating a theology of culture, with science as a key component of that culture. For the Christian message today to have more impact, it must engage science. The author has a good grasp of the problem of science avoidance in church, and effectively alerts the reader to this problem.

Areas where the book could be improved include the following. First, Mere Science and Christian Faith popularizes and simplifies science enough to leave practitioners of science wanting more. And while the book's call to incorporate concepts from science and technology in ministry to young adults is well defended, it is not successful at telling the reader how to do so. The author seems to assume that talking about hot topics in science will pique the interest of young people and keep them engaged with the gospel. This leads to a second weakness.

Cootsona argues that science and technology are what young people want to hear and discuss, so that is what they should be given. That this is universally the preferred spiritual appetite for young Christians is debatable. Furthermore, spiritual growth is not always best served by giving people what they perceive themselves to need. According to many young people, what they want is that the church allow people trained in science to have a voice, and neither muzzle the true scientists, nor give the pulpit to people who are not qualified to speak adequately about science. The goal should be to normalize science and technology within the church, so that the topic is discussed responsibly and with faithfulness to scripture. Young people want science that makes a difference. The author acknowledges that young people want to see technology used in service to the poor and underprivileged, but seems to also consider titillating topics such as transhumanism to be important in engaging young people. But while generating fun conversations, such topics are probably less important to young adults than being able to observe spiritually mature, scientifically literate mentors living lives of integrity. These characteristics are probably more important to young people's spiritual formation than whether one is able to discuss the prospect of every human possessing a digital version of their brain on file in case they develop Alzheimer's disease.

Third, the author plays around with technology like playing around with an apple in one's hands, not sure whether to eat it or not. It would have been helpful if the author had done more to explain the circumstances in which science and technology serve good purposes and those in which they do not. Although Jacques Ellul died in 1994, his Technological Bluff remains a prophetic word with implications more profound with every passing year. Interaction with some of the classic works on the ethics of technology would have strengthened the book's argument.

This book is an enjoyable read, and could be used as a springboard for conversations about the ways science and technology interact with Christian faith. People who minister to the age group which is the focus of this book will find it enlightening. However, a classic ASA member might find this book lacking in scientific rigor, and with an inadequate delineation of science and technology. But, to find out, buy the book, share it with your young adult friends, and have a conversation about it. Cootsona's experience in increasing the confidence of young people, by showing that the gospel is not made irrelevant by science, is impressive. This book is another contribution to that end.

Reviewed by Mark A. Strand, Professor, School of Pharmacy, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108.
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Author:Strand, Mark A.
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2019
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