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Alister McGrath – A Theory of Everything that Matters: A Short Guide to Einstein, Relativity and the Future of Faith

Hodder and Stoughton 179 pages £14.99 Hardback ISBN 9 787529 377958

There is a statue of Albert Einstein outside the entrance to Princeton University in New Jersey. It has the inscription: “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”.

I guess that is what Alistair McGrath is doing in this brief introduction to Einstein’s life and thought. This is a joyful celebration of the achievements of a remarkable human being and scientist. Yet there is also an air of sadness, in a failed first marriage and the growing anti-Semitism in inter-war Germany. There hints of disappointment at the events that led to him leaving Germany for the USA. There is also a wistful sense of what might have been in his scientific career after that move to Princeton.

The first half of this book gives a sketch of Einstein’s life and outlines the main contributions that he made to the development of science, that started a revolution in 20th century thought.

The second half of the book takes a look at the bigger picture of Einstein’s thought and its impact on the development of 20th century thought. McGrath helpfully reminds us that while Einstein appears not to be a Christian, or a religious believer of any kind, he is an ally to people of faith with his emphasis on coherence. The idea that life and thought are intricately woven together resonates with a Christian view of the universe that is held together by Christ.

It was also helpful to read about Einstein’s thinking about intuitive knowledge and the place of imagination and inspiration in discovering truth. It is fascinating to see how music played a part in the process of his thinking about the big issues of science.

Einstein is a massive figure in 20th century science. This book is a helpful contribution to the debate about how true science can live in harmony with true Christianity.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex

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