Scientific Trust and the Future of the Church
Imprint: Baylor University Press
264 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: October 2021
Recently the scholarly community and popular media have highlighted the denial of science by conservative Christians, linking a low view of scientific expertise to the United States' current cultural turmoil. Various theories are offered to explain such Christians' persistent denialism: cognitive mechanisms that short-circuit human reasoning, manipulation by media companies for profit, or a cult-like willingness of believers to accept whatever their faith leaders assert. Critics contend that the religious impulse to believe blindly without evidence is the main obstacle to a more just and sustainable world.
Redeeming Expertise: Scientific Trust and the Future of the Church argues against this diagnosis, suggesting that however misguided individual conclusions about science may be, most Christians reason their way to those conclusions in the same way that non-Christians do: they rely upon trusted sources of information to guide them through an overwhelmingly expansive information landscape. Rather than heaping derision on the uneducated or unenlightened believer, Josh Reeves offers a sympathetic account of the average Christian in the pew and explains the reasons why skepticism toward mainstream science is compelling to many conservative Christians. The second part of the book then proposes a uniquely Christian defense of taking scientific expertise "seriously." Trusting experts plays an important role in a healthy intellectual life, and believers must learn how to make discerning choices.
Redeeming Expertise presents a middle-ground that avoids the extremes of allowing "experts to rule" or of foregrounding populist positions that champion the intellectual superiority of laypersons. Christians who dismiss what communities of experts have discovered about our universe do so at their own peril. Unless the church can trust the best knowledge of the modern world, that same modern world will not trust the church.
Introduction: Christianity and the Mistrust of Experts
1 The Science of Science Skepticism: Three Explanations for Christian Mistrust
2 Christian Skepticism toward Experts: A Brief History
3 Blinded by Naturalism: Can Secular Science Be Trusted?
4 Science and the Holy Spirit: The Relevance of Christianity to Technical Knowledge
5 Against Common Sense: The Limits of "Thinking for Yourself"
6 Why Christians Need Expert: Between Blind Trust and Populist Skepticism
7 Different Types of Expertise: Science Compared to Other Kinds of Knowledge
8 What Scientific Experts Cannot Tell Us: The Goals and Boundaries of Science
9 Communities of Critical Thinking: A Christian Defense of Institutions for Knowledge
10 Against the Conspiratorial Frame: Scientific Trust and the Future of the Church
My father was an English teacher and my mother a musician. I learned by the time I was a grade schooler to ask my dad questions about grammar and my mother about music. It not only worked, but it was wise. There are, however, people today—call them populists—who choose their own authorities and too often resort to thinking they can reason adequately for themselves on all matters. Eschewing expertise is the game of fools and it has become a commonplace among too many evangelicals. Redeeming Expertise patiently listens to such eschewments and to irrationalities and to conspiratorialists, challenges them with robust arguments, and then calls us to a wise trusting of experts. Reeves' study of science experts is an example of expertise guiding us to wisdom.~Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary, and Co-author, Adam and the Genome, a book written with an expert in science
The American public is in the midst of an epistemological crisis. Josh Reeves provides one extremely important sector of that public—practicing Christians—with the theological, philosophical, and historical tools necessary to wrestle with and address that crisis in a thoughtful and intelligent way.~Elaine Howard Ecklund, Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, Rice University
In a bewildering era of anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, climate change deniers, and their ilk, this book is the perfect antidote to science skepticism among Christians. Readers will find razor-sharp analysis and astute insights, from start to finish. It’s a riveting read. Even when I disagreed with some of Reeves’s arguments, I was always grateful for his Solomonic expertise on the critical questions. I heartily recommend this timely monograph.~Hans Madueme, Associate Professor of Theological Studies, Covenant College