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Believing scientists

14 August 2015

Lee Rayfield on faith and exploration


God in the Lab: How science enhances faith
Ruth M. Bancewicz
Monarch £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10


READERS may be familiar with Dr Ruth Bancewicz through her work with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge, and the excellent Test of Faith materials that many churches have used to engage with questions relating to faith and science.

God in the Lab endeavours to shift the ground of the debate from the predictable argument and counter-argument to the more fruitful territory of exploration, via conversations with professing Christians who are highly respected scientists in their field. The contribution of one or two individuals forms the platform for a chapter, but this is not so much a series of testimonies as reflections around a given theme.

In the brief opening chapter, Bancewicz expresses her desire to get beyond conflict by looking at the reality of life in the lab and considering "the more personal or spiritual side of science". Early chapters set the scene of what working as a scientist can be like, and outline something of the author’s own approach as a person of faith and science. The core of the book, however, is contained in the five chapters, headed Creativity, Imagination, Beauty, Wonder, and Awe. Each theme provides the lens through which the perspectives and experiences of a range of believers from diverse scientific disciplines are filtered, refracted, and explored.

Bancewicz’s style is warm, positive, and personal, and very much permeates God in the Lab, as does a relatively straightforward theology from the more Evangelical end of the spectrum. This may be off-putting for some readers and tempt them to dismiss the book as lightweight. But the book is well referenced with chapter notes, quotations, and anecdotes from a rich variety of sources — ancient as well as contemporary — and there are many pools that invite deeper plumbing. I particularly valued the chapter on awe in this respect.

The author may not be the first to make connections between how "more spiritual" qualities are linked to the practice and pursuit of science, but Bancewicz sets out a good case for a much richer interplay. If you know someone who believes that science necessarily undermines a person’s Christian faith (or the reverse), perhaps you should offer to buy him or her this book.


Dr Lee Rayfield is the Bishop of Swindon.

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