Book Title: A God That Could Be Real
Author: Nancy Ellen Abrams (Author), Paul Davies (Foreword), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Foreword)
Date Published: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Beacon Press; First Edition edition
Genre: Religious Studies
ISBN: 978-0807073391
Reviewer: Matt Sieger

Nancy Ellen Abrams is a lawyer, philosopher of science and co-author with her husband, astrophysicist Joel R. Primack, of two books on cosmology that do not discuss God. But Abrams, who is Jewish, has written a new book that posits a “God that could be real.” She makes it clear from the get-go that this God is not the God of the Hebrew Scriptures.

“For most of my life, a God that was ‘real’ seemed a contradiction in terms,” she writes. “Every idea of God I had ever encountered seemed either physically impossible or so vague as to be empty.”

But then she faced an eating disorder and joined a support group that suggested she turn over her problem to a “higher power.” To her amazement, it worked. She knew that the founders of the twelve-step programs referred to God as “God as we understood Him.” Since she could not see the God of the Bible as real, she set out on a search for a God that made sense to her. She writes, “If I wanted to find a God that is real, I had to start from what’s real, what actually exists. I realized that the question that matters is this: Could anything actually exist in the universe, as science understands it, that is worthy of being called God?

Abrams says her findings are “for anyone who is sick of the battle between religion and science, which generally pits a caricature of religion against a caricature of science and, not surprisingly, seems never to progress.” She distinguishes her views from those of atheists like Richard Dawkins who, she writes, “mocks theology as the only scholarly field without a subject.” She adds, “There could be a theology that studies with scientific rigor how this unique phenomenon called God emerges from humanity collectively.”

This is the crux of Abrams’ thesis. She says that God, rather than creating the universe, has emerged as “the dynamic presence of what humanity has collectively achieved.” She explains the phenomenon of emergence: “When the complexity of any interacting system increases enough, the system turns into something completely new. The individual parts remain what they are, but seen together they merge, and something radically original emerges, and it follows new laws.”

She writes, “This emergent phenomenon is worthy of the name God.” But she adds, “Why can’t ‘phenomenon that emerged from collective human aspirations’ be its own concept without being called God? It can. I’m not saying that using the name God is required, because it isn’t.”

Abrams refers to the emergent God as “it,” rather than by the personal pronoun “He” used in the Hebrew Scriptures. She honestly acknowledges she has not been able to believe that the Scriptures are literal. She writes very intelligently and clearly, and, though I am not a scientist, I can see how her scientific logic has led her to the God she now believes in. (You can read my online interview with Abrams here, in which she gives the scientific basis for her beliefs as well as frank answers to my biblical challenges to those beliefs.)

Is the biblical God incompatible with the latest advancements in scientific knowledge? Abrams thinks so. But I suspect that none of our increasing scientific knowledge has taken God by surprise. As His prophet Isaiah wrote: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

I wonder what Nancy Ellen Abrams thinks about that?