Magazines 2023 Sep - Oct God Speaks Science: What Neurons, Giant Squid, and Supernovae Reveal About Our Creator, by John Van

God Speaks Science: What Neurons, Giant Squid, and Supernovae Reveal About Our Creator, by John Van Sloten

16 August 2023 By Allison A. Trites

An extended review of this 2023 book

Moody, 2023. 208 pages. $23 (ebook $10)

Note: Our print issue contains a shorter version of this review. Faith Today welcomes your thoughts on any of our reviews. We also welcome suggestions of other Canadian Christian books to review: Contact us.

Too often discussions on science and religion have been sterile and unproductive, becoming either simplistic or merely a restatement of old and hackneyed debates. This study explores new vistas. It probes the two “books” of God (creation and revelation) in invigorating, amazing ways.

The book’s main thesis is that the two books should be read “together, in concert with one another, co-illuminating one another – the Bible shining light on creation and creation bringing deeper understanding to the Scriptures” (p.12). In the words of the author, “God chooses to depend on and use science to help humanity understand and steward God’ s creational gifts” (p.103).

The result of this investigation is to open the interested spectator to a world of wonder, awe and excitement. As missiologist Alan Roxburgh has remarked, “Who would have imagined seeing God through the wonder of our knees?” (see ch.3). Van Sloten invites readers into some ways science illuminates one of God’s two books and then invites us to dwell and meditate on these stories. Each chapter has an appropriate lectio scientia to help you do this. Here we meet the faithful pastor trying to apply the relevance of the science in each case to the ordinary person.

A fascinating feature of the book is the introduction of a medical or scientific specialist in each area Van Sloten has selected for special study. In chapter six, for example, he is examining “God’s Beauty in DNA Mechanisms.” This makes it interesting and appropriate that he should include a short, well reasoned testimony on the relevance of this research for thinking persons. In this case the scientist is University of Calgary DNA specialist Dustin Pearson, who sees beauty in the repair process. This assessment leads Van Sloten to conclude, “God is continually healing us – and it’s personal. The dance of electrostatic interactions comes from God’s world-restoring imagination. God loves you in unseen and infinitesimal ways. DNA repair is not just a high frequency biological survival mechanism; it’s a beautiful, God-given reminder that you are held. Your body isn’t just a mass of self-sustaining cells to God – it’s you” (p.136).

The author is an informed and gifted theologian and makes wise use of both biblical material and the great Reformed tradition (e.g., he cites the Belgic Confession, John Calvin and and Herman Bavinck) to give a robust theological undergirding to his approach. Chapter 5 (“Tree Branches, Wound Healing and an Independent God”) illustrates Van Sloten’s attempt to integrate his faith and and his science. His fresh treatment of Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:1–11) is deepened and enriched by his understanding of the biology involved. Making use of the plant science insights of Vern Peters, a professor from The Kings University in Edmonton, Van Sloten finds this to be both freeing and humbling: “There have been as many ways to remain in Jesus as there are different branch configurations in response to ever-varying environmental conditions. This can be incredibly freeing for people of faith who struggle with the constraints of thinking there is only one way to respond to God. As they remain in Jesus, people with every kind of personality in every kind of circumstance respond to God in wonderfully varied and faithful ways” (p.97).

The author shows deep respect both for the nature of science and for the scientists themselves. As Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman has observed, “This book will inspire you to see the unseen spirituality of radiation [ch.1], the sacredness of water [ch.9], and the transcendence of deep-sea creatures [ch.4]. Most of all it will make you rethink the way science and religion can come together to enhance the sense of awe and majesty surrounding the natural world.”

To sum up, Van Sloten writes clearly and helpfully, bringing scientific concepts to light which had hitherto been remote and esoteric, leading many readers to doxology and thanksgiving at the wisdom, greatness and majesty of God. As Monica Zurowski of the Calgary Herald has said, “His writing seamlessly intertwines the mysteries of faith with the realities of science, which leads to an engaging read no matter where your belief system sits.”

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