Reynhout begins by briefly discussing his audience. He is writing "on behalf of theologians who are looking for guidance as they seek to engage the natural sciences," but cautions against seeing this "narrow focus" as negating the importance of his book for other relevant areas of thought (ix). According to Reynhout the "religion and science dialogue" has been resisted by religious, scientific, and theological academics, a reason for the latter's resistance being a concern that the dialogue "seems by and large to trade authentic theological reflection for abstract discussions about a generic theism that is less like theology and more like philosophy of religion" (ix-xii). Thus Reynhout wants to help theologians "engage the sciences and other disciplines... as theologians" (xii).
Providing that help centers on "the interdisciplinary question" (xii). In what appears to be the fundamental statement of his argument for the book (I've done some reading ahead), he writes:
Stated succinctly, the interdisciplinary question is: What is the character of theology's interdisciplinary engagement with the natural sciences? My equally succinct answer will be that theology's interdisciplinary character is fundamentally hermeneutical, that is, theologians engage the natural sciences primarily as interdisciplinary interpreters. (xii)He is going to argue for "hermeneutics as an interdisciplinary paradigm," knowing that he will also need to clear up misconceptions about hermeneutics to do so, and this is where Paul Ricoeur comes in, though using Ricoeur will also bring some challenges (xiii-xv). Rather than write about these misconceptions and challenges in this post, we will return to them in future posts, as they are only summarized in the introduction.
The introduction concludes with several paragraphs on what each chapter hopes to achieve. Chapters one and two appear to set up the next three, in which one of "three guiding questions" will be answered (xv-xvi). From the chapter overviews it is clear that "Ricoeur's dialectical process of understanding through explanation" is crucial for Reynhout's argument, so in future posts it will be important to keep track of this component (xv-xvi).
I want to conclude this introductory post by offering a little observation. I was excited to see the discussion about the problem of generic theism in interdisciplinary work. Like Reynhout, my concern to engage other disciplines as a theologian "is not driven by a kneejerk fundamentalist orthodoxy" (xi). My concern with generic theism in interdisciplinary work (and in general) comes from the work of Michael Welker, and I'm excited to learn how Reynhout's solution gets one out of this problem. This is just one of many things I look forward to learning from him.