Boldly going where few religious scholars had gone since Kant, Nicholas Wolterstorff sketches a bold approach to the integration of faith and reason. Though one reading hardly exhausts the resources of this power-packed little volume, the basic idea is simple: the belief content of authentic Christian committment should provide the Christian scholar with 'control beliefs', which narrow the range of acceptable theories in scholarship, whether scientific or theological. One negative example of the use of such control beliefs was when the Catholic church appealed to Scripture and tradition to ban Galileo's astronomical theory. But control beliefs are also found in the scientific community, as in the case of behaviorism, where a priori committments limited the phenomena of psychological investigation to external behaviors, with the well-known resulting flat failure. Since scholars of all stripes share a common structure of theory-weighing (involving data beliefs, data-background beliefs and control beleifs), this approach provides a common ground between theology and science, which has perhaps not yet been fully appreciated, except under the rubric of 'presuppositions', which is a bit different from Wolterstorff's idea of control beliefs.
Wolterstorff also makes the bold suggestion that, not only should the belief-content of Christian committment provide control beliefs in the search for acceptable theories, but that individual theories should also serve to alter the belief-content of Christian committment. This approach, although riskier than the usual conformism found in science-and-religion literature, can also make for a more authentic, stimulating dialogue between science and religion. Ditto for Wolterstorff's assertion that the Bible cannot serve as an ultimate foundation for theorizing, which he supports with his overall critique of foundationalism in general.
Last but certainly not least is the call for Christian scholars not only to use their control beliefs to weigh theories, but also come up with promising research programs within the context of particular theories. He is right that unless this happens, Christian scholarship will be nothing more than adding a theological gloss on essentially secular scholarship. Unfortunately, we have not seen much of this recently, with one notable exception being Nancey Murphy and Warren Brown's non-reductive physicalism project. That is indeed a research program in the best sense of the word (see "Whatever happened to the soul?", "Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?" and "Did my neurons make me do it?", forthcoming) and one of the finest examples of genuine, bona fide, Christian scholarship.
This book deserves to be read and re-read. It is full of stimulating insights, challenges and skillfull argument. A must read for any aspiring Christian scholar.