The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion DebateAdam Frank. Univ. of California, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-520-25412-1

Heavens be praised: here is a scientist who respects religion and relates it to the same impulse that drives scientific inquiry—an aspiration to the true and the real. Astrophysicist Frank is a lover of the skies with sufficient experience of awe to understand there's more than one way to tell the truth. His history of ideas is real science braided with myth and metaphor—the titular “constant fire” comes from poet Wallace Stevens. He's an engaging storyteller, as might be expected from someone who has published in Scientific American and Discover magazines. He can explain quantum physics and also dismiss woo-woo votaries who produce movies and books based on spurious science. He can relate mythic creation stories to the development of Big Bang theory. Light years beyond the stale standoff between uninspired scientific materialism and unscientific intelligent design, this vision of coexistence appreciates the heavenly music of the spheres. (Jan.)

The Bible and the PeopleLori Anne Ferrell. Yale Univ., $32.50 (320p) ISBN 978-0-300-11424-9

In this slow-to-get-going but ultimately engaging text, Ferrell, a professor of early modern history and literature at Claremont Graduate University in California, tours the history of the Bible as it has been copied, translated, annotated, dressed up and every which way adapted to changing times for English-speaking readers. From the Latin Vulgate Bible to the contemporary Revolve and Refuel Bible-zines for teens, the Bible has remained an object of central importance and more, or less, availability to Christians. Bible translation into the vernacular, whatever the vernacular, has been a way of establishing authority. Ferrell rightly recognizes this text's crucial place in the evolution of Anglo-American Christianity and in the hearts of Christians. (Dec.)

Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion's Cultured DespisersEric Reitan. Wiley-Blackwell, cloth $89.95 ISBN 978-1-4051-8362-8; paper $24.95 (256p); ISBN 978-1-4051-8361-1

Atheism—and contra-atheism—is a much overpublished topic, and Reitan, a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University, is late to the party. Nonetheless, he makes an elegantly argued response to Christopher Hitchens et al. that is refreshing in several respects. Neither polemical nor defensive, he writes primarily as a logician, rather than a believer. He brings into the contemporary fray many philosophers who reasoned well about God long ago: Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz, Schleiermacher. He explains so many arguments so clearly that the book could function as an introductory philosophical text on the perennial subject of God's existence. He also looks squarely in the face of the contemporary horrors that many have used to argue for God's non-existence and still comes off the theodicy battleground with a sense of God as ethico-religious hope, “the substance of things hoped for.” The clarity of his presentation should make this book useful after atheism has finished its moment in the sun. (Dec.)

Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian ZionismStephen Spector. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-19-536802-4

Spector, a professor of English at Stony Brook University and a Jew, argues that evangelical Christian support for Israel is a good thing for Jews. To make this argument, in light of considerable distrust of evangelicals by American Jews and others, he offers impressively thorough research. Evangelicals' motives are complex, and include identification with Israel as an ally against terrorism as well as biblically-based conviction that God truly has favored Israel. His counterintuitive argument is likely to be questioned by those skeptical of his tendency to take statements at their face value: in analyzing, for example, whether George W. Bush's Mideast policy is affected by Christian Zionism, he credits sources supportive of Bush who tell him no, it's not. While some may find him naive, the depth of his work provides credibility for his view. (Dec.)

Beyond the Threshold: Afterlife Beliefs and Experiences in World ReligionsChristopher Moreman. Rowman & Littlefield, $39.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7425-6228-8

California State University philosophy professor Moreman surveys ideas about the afterlife taught in world religions and manifest in psychic phenomena in this ambitious but pedestrian book. The breadth of his research is impressive, and the inclusion of the paranormal and inexplicable—mediums, past-life memories, near-death experiences, apparitions—affords a rational look at what many have taken seriously in a variety of cultures and epochs. The author is at his best in a concluding chapter that explains manifestations of the transcendent. Drawn from previous work, the final chapter shows more editorial polish than the rest of the book, which suffers from dull academic prose, frequently in the passive voice. On the whole, this could be a useful text for students, but less attractive for general readers. (Nov.)