Major Publications

080283246601_thumbzzz_pu_pu-5_.jpgAlone in the World? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006)

J. Wentzel van Huyssteen’s Alone in the World? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans in April 2006, is based on van Huyssteen’s 2004 Gifford lectures at the University of Edinburgh. The author develops the interdisciplinary dialogue that he set out in The Shaping of Rationality (1999), applying this methodology to the uncharted waters between theological anthropology and paleoanthropology. Among other things, van Huyssteen argues that scientific notions of human uniqueness help us to ground theological notions of human distinctiveness in flesh-and-blood, embodied experiences and protect us from overly complex theological abstractions regarding the “image of God.” Focusing on the interdisciplinary problem of human origins and distinctiveness, van Huyssteen accesses the origins of the embodied human mind through the spectacular prehistoric cave paintings of western Europe, fifteen of which are reproduced in color in this volume. Boldly connecting the widely separated fields of Christian theology and paleoanthropology through careful interdisciplinary reflection, Alone in the World? will encourage sustained investigation into the question of human uniqueness.

J. Wentzel van Huyssteen’s Alone in the World? has subsequently also been published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Germany (October 2006). Most recently, in January 2008, it was published in a Swedish translation, Ensamma i varlden? Manniskans sarstallning inom naturvetenskap och teologi (Nya Doxa Press, Sweden). In May 2007, J. Wentzel van Huyssteen’s Alone in the World? Human Uniqueness in Science and Theology was awarded the Andrew Murray-Desmond Tutu Prize. Alone in the World? was also included in the 2007 Templeton Books of Distinction.


The Encyclopedia of Science and Religion (Two volumes). Editor-in-chief. (Macmillan Publishers, 2003)

The 400-plus alphabetically arranged entries range from broad essays on topics such as Biotechnology, Causation, and Sociobiology to shorter pieces on terms such as Cybernetics, Eco-feminism, and entropy. There are also 20 biographies of important figures in the dialogue between science and religion, from Aristotle to Stephen Jay Gould. The fore matter includes an alphabetical list of all articles as well as a synoptic outline, which enables one to see all of the articles related to, for example, physical sciences or Chinese religions. The historical and contemporary relationships between the realm of science and the major religious groups–Judaism, Islam, Christian traditions, Chinese religions, Buddhism, and Hinduism–are treated individually. Major scientific and academic fields are examined in the context of the encyclopedia’s focus. Close to 70 articles on the physical sciences, for example, include entries on all the major arenas of the field: chemistry, particle physics, quantum physics, etc., each providing an overview of early research, contemporary developments and lessons, or applications to religious thought. All of the articles are signed and have bibliographies, some extensive. In addition, a nine-page annotated bibliography serves as a guide for further reading (and collection development) in various topics such as the human sciences and religion. A detailed index makes the wealth of material even more accessible.

080283868501_thumbzzz_pu_pu-5_.jpgThe Shaping of Rationality: Toward Interdisciplinarity in Theology and Science (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999)

Confronting head-on the intellectual challenges raised by postmodern thought, this volume offers a convincing defense of human reason and the legitimacy of theological reflection. Building on the line of argument pursued in his most recent writings, J. Wentzel van Huyssteen here develops his notion of a “postfoundationalist rationality,” finding within the rich resources of human thought the possibility–and vital need–for complementary dialogue between religion and science. Learned and fully engaged with current philosophical trends, this volume is a must-read for anyone seeking a sound foundation for faith in a scientifically oriented world.

Duet or Duel

Duet or Duel? Theology and Science in a Postmodern World (SCM/Trinity Press, 1998)

Originally delivered as the 1998 John Albert Hall Lectures at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, van Huyssteen’s reflections ponder the possibilities of dialogue between theology and science. Van Huyssteen, professor of theology and science at Princeton Theological Seminary, contends that the epistemological pluralism of postmodernism opens new paths for a conversation between theology and science. He proceeds to argue for the existence of what he calls an “evolutionary epistemology,” according to which human rationality arises from and is shaped by the mechanisms of evolution. Using the diverse theories of physicists Stephen Hawking and Paul Davies, van Huyssteen writes that “contemporary cosmology argues for treating the universe as a single object, which therefore implies that the universe must somehow have intelligibility as a single object of study.” Human rationality, he contends, offers the key to “understanding the universe.” From this pluralism of knowledge and these cosmological theories, he asserts, theology and science can fashion a lively interdisciplinary dialogue that respects the methods and conclusions of each discipline. Van Huyssteen takes care to provide definitions of difficult concepts and moves readers in a step-by-step fashion through his arguments so that his book provides an excellent introduction to the dialogue of theology and science. (Publisher’s Weekly).

In 2000, Duet or Duel? Theology and Science in a Postmodern World was published in an Indonesian translation as Duet atau Duel? Teologi dan Sains dalam Dunia Post-Modern (Jakatra, Indonesia: PT Bpk Gunugn Mulia).

rethinking.jpgRethinking Theology and Science: Six Models for the Current Dialogue (Co-Edited with Niels Henrik Gregersen; William B. Eerdmans, 1998)

In today’s postmodern world, cognitive pluralism has become one of the primary challenges to science and theology. Elements of unity and disunity abound in both disciplines, making fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue between theology and the natural sciences all the more difficult. In this volume six leading American and European scientist-theologians rethink the relationship of theology and science under the growing challenge of pluralism. Moving beyond the work of first-generation thinkers in the field, each contributor to this volume introduces one of six new models for the ongoing dialogue between science and theology.

Essays in Postfoundationalist Theology (William B. Eerdmans, 1997)postfound.jpg

This collection of essays in philosophical theology boldly addresses many of the challenges faced by Christian theology in the context of contemporary postmodern thought. Through a series of interdisciplinary discussions relating theology to epistemology, methodology, and science, J. Wentzel van Huyssteen presses the case for a “postfoundationalist theology” as a viable third option between the extremes of foundationalism and nonfoundationalism.

justification.jpgTheology and the Justification of Faith: Constructing Theories in Systematic Theology (William B. Eerdmans, 1989)

In this volume J. Wentzel van Huyssteen argues that the construction of theories in systematic theology is always deeply embedded in historical, social, and epistemological contexts. As such the construction of theories in theology is also shaped by contemporary theories of rationality, and is always - directly or indirectly - shaped by epistemological models from contemporary philosophy of science. Theologians should critically embrace this reality to discern epistemic similarities and differences between theology and the sciences, and should boldly ask questions about the criteria for good theology and for good science, the complex issue of rationality, objectivity, and truth, and how hermeneutics and epistemology are deeply interwoven in all theological reflection. A critical conversation with contemporary models in philosophy of science in the end yields valuable perspectives on the nature of theological statements, the relationship between religious experience and the language of faith, religious language as metaphorical language, the problem-solving abilities of theological theories, and the constructive nature of theological statements.

The original edition of this book, first published in South Africa in 1986, was awarded the Andrew Murray Prize for Theological Literature and the Venter Award for Academic Excellence.