Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Significance of Science for Christian Theology

In my Q1 seminar (see http://www.actministry.org/eventDetails.php?event_id=95), I have shown the philosophically coherence and scientific unobjectionability of the Christian doctrine of creation. There is no philosophical or scientific ground to deny it. The Big Bang Model can be reconciled with a theological explanation of the universe that began with a creatio originalis ex nihilo, continues to undergo creatio continua, and anticipates a final creatio nova.

Does philosophy & science matter to the Christian gospel?

During Christmas Week 2005, some 20 cable and broadcast television shows from 8 different channels featured scientific documentaries about Christianity. Every one of them concluded that the classical meaning of the gospel cannot be trusted – because science has provided a surer path to knowledge about reality. Indeed, the National Geographic channel featured a two-part documentary called Science of the Bible, which argued that today, scientific tests confirm the untrustworthiness of the biblical witness. The archaeological evidence offered is scientific, and the interpretative tool used is philosophical. This is the challenge for Christianity in the 21st century. In this age of the new apologetic - the philosophical presumption of scientistic authority reigns supreme.

Can Christian theology learn from philosophy & science?

Absolutely! The short explanation is that we turn to them for every other aspect of our thinking and decision-making anyway. The longer explanation is that humanity has been given the power of rational reflective reason (RRR). We are called to participate in the discovery of divine disclosure (DDD) in the footsteps of the biblical Adam when he was given the privilege to ‘name nature.’ Scientific discovery and inference demonstrate the theological nature of all human inquiry. The biblical mandate to renew our minds so we may discern the perfect will of God inclines us to welcome the responsible use of the gift we call science. When we learn to use our rational and Spirit-filled minds, we will be able to commit to the convictional confessions (CCC) of our beliefs. The Christian biblical teaching that the universe has a finite history and was created out of nothing according to the will of God is both philosophically coherent and does not contradict any scientific principles.

The labors of interdisciplinary research into complexity and emergence theories by Niels Henrik Gregersen of Copenhagen and Philip Clayton of Claremont, coupled with the postfoundationalist approach to epistemology-hermeneutics by J. Wentzel van Huyssteen of Princeton promise a new era of understanding the relationship between the natural sciences and Christian theology. With selective use of insights by Stuart A. Kauffman of the Sante Fe Institute, we can expect to usher in new ways of drawing from the common resource of rationality formerly called the two books of God, the book of nature and the book of Scripture.

So what? Why does it matter what we believe about the origin of the universe?

If there is purpose and meaning to the universe, and there is someone in charge whom we can ultimately trust, then we are not alone. This is the great Christian joy, the great atheist despair, and the great unsettling puzzle for the true agnostic. The Christian view of where everything came from encourages us to seek to understand and make intelligible all that can be. Indeed, rather than seeking philosophy and science in themselves to understand who God is, Christian divine revelation may in the end prove useful to the inferential art of scientific investigation and philosophical speculation. A serious encounter with the Scriptures will enrich the disciplines of philosophy and the sciences. This matters because it shapes the way we make ethical, social, economic, and other life-changing decisions. To believe that we are all answerable to someone else, our creator, purify the motivations of our actions.

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