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Charismatic Puritan

Right doctrine leads to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living.

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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, United States

Jealous for the truth, beauty and majesty of our glorious risen Savior.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Book Review - The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet by Thomas Dubay

My mother gave me Dubay’s book since she knows that science and theology, and their constant intersection, are things I, as a physician and a Puritan, constantly engage both theoretically and practically. As such I was eager to read this book and found it most enjoyable, generally well written, although sometimes I think his assertions and conclusions unknowingly beg the question of Christian faith, and typically theologically sound. I must say upfront that whenever Dubay would delve into the realm of that which is specifically Roman Catholic in doctrine – particularly discussions of Mary, the Saints (vs. the saints), his treatment of sanctity vs. sanctification, his description of the nature of the church, and his adherence to the Pelagian error – I found it disturbing to my Reformed sensibilities. Having said that, I would plainly recommend this book to an informed and doctrinally sound Protestant Christian who has a discerning theological filter, but would be less likely to recommend it to a more spiritually immature or naïve Christian. If one is Catholic, they are used to these things and probably embrace them.

Let me briefly begin with faults because I want to concentrate on the book’s many strengths:
1. Again, from my Reformed perspective, the plainly Roman Catholic doctrines I previously mentioned and a few others.
2. The treatment of Science and theology as separate, independent, self-evident co-equals. Theology is derived from the inerrant scripture and is the benchmark of all truth since it is the breathed Word of God and therefore must be above science which is derived from broken groaning nature and flawed human reason, both corrupted by Adam’s rebellion.
3. A generally uncritical acceptance of evolutionism, and even a criticism of creationism, without a serious discussion. There are many resources to counter this: Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth does this well when presenting the importance of Christian world view, Michael Behe, William Dembski, the Discovery Institute, etc.
4. The insistence that current biological forms are “perfect in their kind,” which is antithetical to a belief in any kind of evolutionary logic.
5. His drift toward universalism, the idea that we are all “children of God.” Only those in Christ are God’s children, the others are our neighbors, not our brothers and sisters. This is further evidence of the Pelagian error.
6. His beef with rock and roll and his blind affection for classical music. He criticizes rock as essentially brutish, and much if it may be, but consider Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, consider Rush, Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Yes, among many others. Conversely, there are many “classical” music pieces that are grossly secular in their themes – sex, drinking – that it cannot be established as pure. The issue is skill, content and context, not musical style.

The strengths, in brief summary, because they are many and profound:
1. The single most important strength of this book is the exaltation of the beauty, splendor and glory of God manifest most graciously in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This book has greatly encouraged and exhorted me to love Jesus more, and more as beautiful. Dubay’s emphasis on Jesus can be summed in this quote he has from Hans Urs von Balthasar, his primary resource: “It is not sacred scripture which is God’s original language and self-expression, but rather Jesus Christ. As one and Unique, and yet as one who is to be understood only in the context of the whole created cosmos, Jesus is the Word, the Image, the Expression and the Exegesis of God.” That is beautiful.
2. The overwhelming emphasis on love. “There is a great need to reunite what God has joined together…intellectual competence and burning love – which is to say that the beautiful must be a prime part of the biblical and theological enterprises.”
3. Numerous beautiful, well explained examples of the design inferred from nature, 5 chapters specifically devoted to micro-, macro-, and midi-marvels, the anthropic principle and artistry in nature.
4. The exhortations to holiness, derived from God’s holiness, reflecting Christ’s holiness, and observing glory as “holiness manifest” in the sublimity of creation. If one were to argue about the errors in the system as a result of sin, he has a chapter on Ugliness, specifically dealing with that.
5. An emphasis on Trinitarian theology in the expression of God’s character in creation.
6. The idolatry inherent in modern science as expressed in scientism. “We must have something to focus on, to glorify, to worship. We either pursue the real God or a created surrogate.”

“People who love reality, love truth…being men and women of integrity, they treasure beauty because it is the mark of truth.”

Overall, this was a wonderful book that moved me to love my Savior more.



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