Jeff LEVIN & Harold KOENIG, Editors, Faith, Medicine, and Science. A Festschrift in Honor of Dr. David B. Larson. New York: Haworth Pastoral Press, 2005. pp. 321 with Index. $34.95 soft. ISBN 113:97890-1872-4.
Reviewed by Nathan KOLLAR, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY 14618.

This is a book of praise of the life, memory, and thought of Dr. David B. Larson. About half the book is praise for his life, and a half reviews his thought. If you know of Dr. Larson’s work and not his person and his colleagues, this would be a helpful text. If you are interested in the relationship of faith, medicine, and science there are better texts.

David Larson was an integral part of the renewed interest of Evangelical Christians in the relationship of science and medicine. Well versed in the techniques of scientific research, Larson and his associates delved into the relationship between blood pressure and church attendance, belief in God and alcoholism, morbidity and spirituality, and other sensitive issues. They provided solid reviews of the literature that are reprinted in the text and can help provide a novice in the field of religion and medicine with a helpful summary of what has been done up to when the review was written.

If you are sensitive to the variety of definitions of religion in the fields of Religious Studies and Theology, or are aware of the Protestant bias reflected in categories used to discover “religion” in the sociology of religion, you will flinch at the naiveté of the category formation used in the methodologies presented here. “Faith,” “religion,” and “religious commitment” are very much defined in the light of Evangelical Christianity. Although not intended, one could conclude that if one accepts Jesus as one’s Lord and savior and is born again, one will have a happier marriage, drink less, divorce hardly at all, face death and suffering with calm equilibrium, and live longer. One should note, however, that the Bible belt statistics on hard crime, hard drinking, difficult marriages, and life expectancy do not reflect the conclusions of these psychological studies. Of course those of us from a Roman Catholic background realize that adherents to devotional religion have claimed the same results not based on science but on experience. These adherents claim that lighting candles, praying novenas, fasting, having masses said for certain intentions, and regularly going to church on a certain day of the week will result in the same sense of well being and , thus, well living. Obviously Evangelical scientific claims or Roman Catholic devotional religious experience are telling us something. But “what” they are saying is a challenge to our faith, reason, and relationship to that mysterious reality we acknowledge as God.

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