The Reverend Joseph R. Laracy, S.T.D is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Newark and an Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, Seton Hall University. In Theology and Science in the Thought of Ian Barbour: A Thomistic Evaluation for the Catholic Doctrine of Creation, Fr. Laracy uses fundamental theological criteria to critically examine whether the epistemic, metaphysical, and theological approach of the American Protestant theologian and physicist, Ian Graeme Barbour (1923–2013) can enrich the dialogue and integration of the Catholic doctrine of creation with the natural sciences. Laracy takes up this task in response to teachings from recent Popes on the importance for Catholic theologians to open a dialogue between science and faith in order to “engage truth wherever it may be found” (3). Barbour's research on the relationship between science and theology was stimulated by the conflict hypothesis between Christianity and science of the late 19th century and his belief that theology and science were separate truth‐producing activities and can be considered in varying forms of relationship to each other. Fr. Laracy specifically focuses his examination on Barbour's work as it relates to the theology of creation as a possible area for dialogue and integration with the empirical sciences because the natural world is a primary object of study for both.

This is the lens by which Fr. Laracy evaluates Barbour's approach, since much of what Catholics believe and profess about God and His relationship with man and creation is found within this theology. Notable among the fundamentals of the Catholic doctrine of creation are that God created the material and spiritual order directly from nothing (ex nihilo) and with time (cum tempore); the metaphysics of God as perfect, self‐subsistent being; the dependence of creation on God; and revealed truth and the intelligibility of the universe. Additionally, the relationship between faith and reason in Catholic theology and its reliance on philosophical concepts to give it structure and logical intelligibility are considered in this analysis. Here, Laracy relies heavily on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas on creation.

The book is structured into five chapters and includes a foreword written by Fr. David A Brown, S.J. from the Vatican Observatory. In Chapter 1, “Ian Barbour: Life and Works,” Fr. Laracy presents summaries of key biographical information and Barbour's early scientific accomplishments. He introduces Barbour's four‐fold typology of conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. Barbour's influence on the work of other scholars is discussed and areas of agreement and disagreement are explored, the latter providing further elucidation of Barbour's position.

Chapter 2, “Barbour's Fundamental Principles: Theological Suppositions, Epistemology, and Metaphysics,” explores the important philosophical and theological influences that helped to shape Barbour's approach to theology and science. Most notable were his father, George Brown Barbour, a noted geologist and missionary; the controversial Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who inspired Barbour's theology of nature and belief in the importance of a comprehensive metaphysics for theology and science; the mathematician and philosopher, Alfred N. Whitehead whose process metaphysics, and philosopher, Charles Hartshorne, whose process theology form the basis for Barbour's metaphysics; and the influence of post‐liberal neo‐orthodox Protestant theology at Yale Divinity School where Barbour received his theological education. The chapter also critically assesses Barbour's epistemology of critical realism and appropriation of Whiteheadian process metaphysics, taking account of the places where he deviates from classic theism and his reformulations of Christian doctrine.

Chapter 3, “Theology and Science: Similarities and Differences According to Barbour,” explores the differences Barbour identified between theology and science in terms of methodology which he divides according to differences in perspective. He assesses scientific materialism, fundamentalism, neoorthodoxy, existentialism, and linguistic analysis as offering contrasting perspectives on science and theology. He considers Neo‐Thomism, mainline protestant liberal theology, and process thought as potentially helpful applications that emphasize conceptual and methodological parallels between theology and science. Barbour concludes that despite these parallels the two fields “arise from dissimilar areas of experience which reflect dissimilar aspects of reality” (163). The role of the influence of religious and scientific experience on the interpretation of data is also explored. Barbour notes that differences must be acknowledged by both disciplines but ultimately concludes that “despite the divergence of their interests, it is (according to critical realism) the same natural world to which they look, so their inquiries cannot be totally independent. Ultimately what is needed are modes of interaction between theology and science that respect one another's integrity” (164).

In Chapter 4, “A Catholic Critique for the Doctrine of Creation,” Fr. Laracy provides a comprehensive evaluation of Barbour's epistemic, metaphysical, and theological principles relative to other methods utilized to relate theology to science and to the fundamental Catholic theological criteria discussed previously. He analyzes Barbour's position relative to key issues and beliefs in Systematic Theology as well as issues introduced in Chapter 3 such as the roles of experience, paradigm, and analogy in theology.

In Chapter 5, “Towards Dialogue and Integration,” Fr. Laracy explores where and how Barbour's approach “can facilitate dialogue and integration between the Catholic doctrine of creation and the natural sciences” (247) and future avenues for investigation into his work. Laracy concludes that Barbour makes significant contributions to the interaction of theology and natural science from a Catholic perspective. He states that “his typologies of interaction and dialogue are helpful guides for the relationship of the Catholic doctrine of creation with physical cosmology and other sciences” (277). This is largely the result of his dedication to dialogue and his “insistence of realism in theology and science, and promotion of a systematic synthesis of the fields through a common metaphysics” (277).

Fr. Laracy points out that the work of Barbour is not likely to affect the development of Catholic doctrine, but it can be helpful in deepening its understanding and promote fruitful dialogue. He also notes that there are challenges for Catholic theological thought in Barbour's approach. Barbour's reliance on process metaphysics is not compatible with traditional Catholic doctrine on several key points: the denial of Biblical teaching on creation ex nihilo, theological anthropology, implicit panentheism, denial of the importance of substance and essence, and his denial of the perfection of God. However, Barbour's demonstration of the relevance of ontology, identity, change, causality, necessity, and contingency in theology and science are viewed as points of agreement. Laracy is critical of Barbour's critical realism because it cannot make absolute truth claims and changes in scientific theories cannot be inserted into theology. The need to make compromises impairs certitude, which is a quality of supernatural faith.

This is a well‐organized and thoroughly researched work by Fr. Laracy. The thesis is well supported and fully developed. It is suitable for scholars and graduate students in theology, religious studies, philosophy, and the history of science. A foundation in the fundamental principles of Catholic theology and acquaintance with Thomistic thought, as well as philosophy and scientific methodology are useful for the reader.