The search for old-earth friendly curriculum just got a little easier. A new high school astronomy text – The Crossroads of Science and Faith: Astronomy Through a Christian Worldview – was published in January 2015 as a textbook for Christian high schools and the homeschool community. This 500-page volume includes 29 chapters of well-written text, exercise pages, diagrams, biographies, and photos that would take at least a year to work through. Its three authors are all committed Christians with a heart to improve the science standards for Christian schools and homeschooling.
Part one of the book, “Introduction to Science and Faith Issues,” does not cover astronomy specifically, but it exposes students to the complex and sometimes contentious relationships between naturalistic science and good theistic science, even mentioning the age-of-the-earth controversy within the Christian community.
Although I agree with the authors that this issue shouldn’t cause division, I found it surprising that the controversy over earth’s age isn’t brought up until page 99. The vast majority of those looking for astronomy texts for a Christian audience will likely have a strong opinion on this controversy. The authors do take an old-earth perspective, but they are respectful of those who don’t, and make a reasoned case for their view.
Some readers might be tempted to skip part one, but I agree with the authors that this section is helpful in understanding differing viewpoints, and in learning how to deconstruct bad arguments while at the same time developing skills in making good ones. Unless students have a solid background in the interface between science and faith, this part should not be skipped.
In part two, “Astronomy as a Discipline,” the history of astronomy is surprisingly brief, and only gives the most cursory look at how the ancients viewed the sky or what historic astronomers were able to figure out by just observing with the naked eye. If space allowed, I would have loved to read more of how the sky works from both the modern and ancient perspectives. Instead, the authors quickly move on to the instruments of modern astronomical research.
The third section of the book addresses astronomical knowledge, starting off with the solar system. I appreciate the approach of this text in addressing the topic of the solar system first. In contrast, many astronomy texts relegate this topic to the final chapters.
Each planet in the solar system gets quite extensive coverage, which may be due to the fact that many Christian schools teach astronomy with a heavy emphasis on other planets, avoiding the unpleasant issues that come up with a young-earth view. The color photos are clear and detailed, making you feel like you are there. Exoplanets are the next topic, and although this is a quickly changing field, I was disappointed that the authors didn’t emphasize that the vast majority of discovered planetary systems shows that our solar system is very rare. Dr. Zweerink’s video “Through the Lens” video series would make a helpful supplement to this point.
The rest of the textbook covers stars, galaxies, and cosmology. These sections are well written for the high school level, but the sheer amount of material covered prevents any one topic from being learned in depth, which is always the problem with introductory astronomy texts.
One of my favorite features of Crossroads is the inclusion of Christian astronomers and scientists telling their stories, including RTB’s Jeff Zweerink. These men and women have made a big contribution to ensuring science is accessible to students, and have paved the way for other Christian students to pursue science as a career.
Overall, I heartily recommend this astronomy textbook to Christian educators. The content is well written and the concepts are well explained. Even schools with a young-earth view should consider this textbook. The Crossroads of Science and Faith teaches astronomy in a way that honors God and is not antagonistic toward differing views, making it an important addition to Christian teachings on astronomy.
Dan Bakken is an amateur astronomer and an instructor for Reasons Institute. Dan has taught astronomy courses at the high school and community college level. Dan holds a BSc in physics, MA Christian Apologetics, and MA Science and Religion.