Greg Cootsona. Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults. IVP Books, 2018. See here to purchase the book.
Greg Cotsoona has been a pastor and is currently an academic. He has a Ph.D. from Graduate Theological Union and teaches religious studies and humanities at Chico State University. He also leads Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries (STEAM) at Fuller Theological Seminary and is affiliated with Biologos.
Emerging adults range from ages 18 to 30. A number of them are alienated from the church, and Cootsona believes that a significant factor behind this is the widespread belief that science and religion are at odds. Many emerging adults are saturated with science and technology. A number of them go into scientific fields, and many have grown up with advanced and advancing technology.
Cootsona seeks to demonstrate, largely for the benefit of emerging adults, that science and evangelical Christianity need not be at odds. At the same time, he aims to explain to emerging adults how Christianity should respond to scientific developments, some of which present profound ethical challenges. Among the topics that Cootsona discusses are: the Big Bang and Fine-Tuning; the question of whether the soul exists or if the brain is what generates the mind; the historicity of Genesis 1-3; Intelligent Design; the advantages and disadvantages of increasing technology (i.e., virtual communities and smart-phones); transhumanism; the possible genetic basis of homosexual orientation; and climate change.
Using surveys, case studies, and quotations of emerging adults, Cootsona attempts to profile where many emerging adults are on the questions of science and religion. They are in different places, but, overall, Cootsona believes that they are at least open to the idea that science and religion can co-exist peacefully, or at least that they have the potential to be open. He notes that even many emerging adult atheists are less belligerent towards religion than their atheistic forebears. Cootsona offers suggestions about what churches can do to mentor and assist emerging adults who have questions about how science and religion can relate.
The book is not a comprehensive survey of the issues surrounding the relationship between science and religion. After reading the mind-body chapter, I thought to myself, “Is that it?”, then proceeded to the next chapter. Still, Cootsona conveys literacy about these issues, and he refers briefly to different views, without thoroughly fleshing them out. He does so in a lucid, understandable manner, while leaving readers with the impression that there is more. Moreover, even the terse sections address profound issues: the chapter on the mind-body problem, for instance, referred to the view that the human brain is actually oriented towards religion.
On some issues, Cootsona appears rather liberal; on some issues; he is rather conservative; on some, he is undecided. He believes that climate change is human-caused and advocates creation care. He is skeptical of arguments for Intelligent Design. He tends to be skeptical that there is a “gay gene” and disputes that genetics determines what is moral and immoral. He seems to accept evolution but is not fully satisfied, from a theological perspective, with certain Christian attempts to regard Adam and Eve as something other than two historical people.
While the book is not comprehensive and does not offer definitive answers on every question, it is a decent introduction to the issues surrounding the relationship between science and religion. Those who want to learn more can read the books that Cootsona recommends and describes at the end, and even books cited in his endnotes. The book also is readable and conveys a friendly tone, making it an enjoyable read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.