Today I have the privilege of reviewing Stars Beneath Us: Finding God in the Evolving Cosmos by Paul Wallace.
Stars Beneath Us is a book about science and faith. Its author, Paul Wallace, is uniquely positioned to write such a book: as well as being a lecturer in physics and astronomy and the holder of a PhD in experimental nuclear physics, he has an MDiv and is an ordained Baptist minister. (For me, the opportunity to read a book about faith by an astrophysicist was just too good to pass up!)
Depending on what else you’ve read about science and faith, you might jump to the conclusion that Stars Beneath Us will, at the very least, seek to squeeze faith into a science-shaped mould or vice versa. Such a conclusion could not be more mistaken. At a time when battle lines are still being drawn by those at either end of the debate, the need for wise, balanced voices is greater than ever. Wallace is one such voice.
Drawing on his own experience of falling away from a form a form of religion that held too rigidly to essentially mediaeval theological categories, only to later return to a more mature and nuanced faith, Wallace does not attempt to explain either science or faith or to reconcile their apparent differences. Rather, he endeavours to create a space in which science and faith can coexist and be held in tension without either one having to be compromised or sacrificed for the sake of the other.
After some initial scene-setting material, the meat of Stars Beneath Us is basically an extended treatise on the biblical book of Job. I was initially surprised by this; somehow I didn’t expect what is perhaps one of the oldest writings in the Bible to form the centrepiece of a book on science and faith. Ultimately, however, I found the author’s approach to be compelling and insightful, helping me view this ancient text with fresh eyes.
If you’re intimidated by the author’s scientific credentials or the fact that Stars Beneath Us is about science, don’t be: the tone is educated but informal, and while topics like evolution, cosmology and astronomy are certainly touched on, they are not explored in technical depth, and no particular scientific knowledge is required to understand the points made. Above all, Wallace writes not from the academic podium but from the heart; this is a personal account of his own journey of wrestling with both science and the God of science.
From the publisher’s website:
With a winsome mix of compelling personal narrative and insightful biblical analysis, the author calls into perspective the scale of the cosmos and our place within it. Relying on a theology of openness to the world, Stars Beneath Us will inspire readers to engage with the natural world in new ways and find God, as it turns out, everywhere.
In summary, Stars Beneath Us is a thoughtful, personable but intelligently articulated approach to living faithfully as both a follower of Jesus and a scientifically minded citizen of our twenty-first century world. The bottom line is this: if you believe deep down that science and faith are not mutually exclusive and if you long to be able to gaze openly and honestly into the marvels of the cosmos without fear of sabotaging your faith in the process, this book might just be what you’re looking for.
[Stars Beneath Us was published by Fortress Press in February 2016. I was provided with a review copy by the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.]