THEOLOGICAL RESPONSES TO SCIENCE AND RELIGION DIALOGUE

THEOLOGICAL RESPONSES TO SCIENCE AND RELIGION DIALOGUE

The discussion of science and religion is old in several centuries, but the confrontation began in the middle of modern century. In the earlier confrontation the fundamental issue was the clash between Christian faith and scientific knowledge on creation. However, the contemporary encounter between faith (Christian) and science is quite different from the earlier one. Today the Christians have focused on three interrelated issues of the represent crisis:

  1. The political, economic, and social implications and consequences of rapid scientific and technological change and development
  2. The “sustainability” of a constantly growing world economic system fueled by very rapid scientific and technological development and promising ever-increasing affluence and welfare, and
  3. Human beings concern the need to challenge the anti-human and anti-creation.

These issues have been central in the new dialogue between Christians and the scientific community since the beginning of the ecumenical movement at Amsterdam in 1948.

Scientific language and metaphors in theological reflections to develop new theological

Many people view science as objective and religion as subjective. The Ian Barbour in his book entitled, “Religion in an age of Science” introduced four models-conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration, which are related to each other.

The conflict model presumes that the approaches to reality by religion and science are in constant conflict. One must choose either religion or science as the worldview by which to come to truth. In this model science and religion have no common ground. In scientific materialism the scientific method is the only reliable path to knowledge and matter is the fundamental reality of the universe.

In biblical literalism, there are various views of scripture throughout the history of Christianity. Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox hold that the Holy Scripture is divinely inspired but not to be taken as literally in every section. These churches maintain that the scripture must be interpreted through by using various biblical criticisms (approaches).

Independence model avoids conflict between religion and science by adhering to the belief that each discipline has its own distinctions domain and methods that have nothing to do with each others. This model is understanding that religion and science use different “language games”. According to Ludwig Witlgenstein each “language game” is distinguished by the way it is used in a social context. “Scientific language” is used primarily for prediction and control. However, “the religious language’ is to recommend a way of life, to elicit a set of attitudes, and to encourage allegiance to particular moral principles. A religion is indeed a way of life and not simply a set of ideas and beliefs.

In dialogue model science and religion communicate in areas of investigation and experience of reality that appears to interest. David Tracy refers such area of interest to as “boundary or limit questions”. Boundary questions arise from such experiences that cannot be adequately understood or addressed by human language. He also sees a religious dimension in science. He holds that religious questions arise at the horizons or limit situations of human experience. For science he describes two kinds of limit situations: ethical concerns in the use of science, and presuppositions or conditions for the possibility of scientific inquiry.

In the integration model, there are scientists and theologians that hold that some sort of integration is possible the content of theology and the content of science. In natural theology, it is claimed that the existence of God can be inferred from the evidences design in nature-of which science has made us more aware. There are two versions of “anthropic cosmological principal” used by cosmologists. The first is the “strong” anthropic principle that says all creation was designed to bring forth the self-conscious creatures, human beings. The other version or “weak” anthropic principle states that conditions were such that is possible and suitable for life and eventually humanity to come into being. Both versions hold that the universe was designed for the emergence of mind or consciousness.

Critical Realism-Cosmology

Cosmology is a branch of physics and astronomy with investigates the origin, structure and history of the universe. Over the centuries humans have told each other stories at campfires and in courts and temples about the origin of the world. One of the earliest creation myths are those of Babylonian epic, “Enuma Elish”, which goes back to the third millennium BCE. Marduk, the warrior champion of the gods, kills Timat, treads her body under-foot, and splits into two parts. Marduk created the earth below.

There are two trends of thinking can be seen about the origin o the universe. One is that the universe has continued to exist for ever and the other trend is to posit a beginning for the universe, that the universe came into existence at a particular time in history. It is found in the creation account of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

Biblical view of creation

Both Jews and Christians use the Book of Genesis for their understanding of the creation of the world. The Genesis story is significantly different from the Babylonian cosmology. The Genesis account expresses the goodness of creation. Every time Yahweh used the words “it is good” to imply an affirmation of the goodness of creation. Human beings are created in the image of God, Ian Barbour rightly identifies these “basic theological affirmations” in the Genesis account as:

  • The world is essentially good, orderly, coherent and intelligible,
  • The world is dependent on God, and
  • God is sovereign, free, transcendent, and characterized by purpose and will.

For the Jews the redeeming act of Yahweh was predominant in their theology. God was first and foremost a Redeemer and is the Creator only secondarily. However, many Hebrew scholars point out that the creation motif can be found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures particularly in the Psalms and in the Deutero-Isaiah.

For Christians, God as the creator occupies an important place. The Nicene Creed affirms a belief in God who is the “maker of human and earth”, and Christians believe the doctrine of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). Christians understand the doctrine of creation to mean that the universe of space, time, energy, and humanity is absolutely dependent upon the will of God. The creation out of nothing is only meant to express the freedom of God to create the world.

History and eschatology

For the Jews and the Christians, who adopt the scientific view of linear time, history is meaningful; it moves purposefully from its divine origin in the beginning to its divine culmination in the end. For the Jews, the assumption is that God is continually active in the life of the nation through the covenants mode between God and the people. History is understood as the manifestation of God’s will. For Christians, the birth of Jesus Christ marks the beginning of salvation history.

The word eschatology comes from the Greek word “eschaton” which denotes the end. It is the study of the doctrine of the last things. Many religions deal particularly with the fate of human soul after death. In 1979, Freeman J. Dyson’s paper “Time without End: Physics and Biology in an open Universe” stated that scientists began to take serious interest in scientific eschatology.

In scientific eschatology, there distinct scenario have become popular. Depending on the density of matter in the universe, the universe is classified as closed or open or flat. Each scenario depends on a critical measure concerning the density of all matter in the universe, a measure which is yet unknown. Whether the universe is closed, open or flat, it looks as though scientific eschatology predicts only doom. According to scientists, any one of these possibilities can occur.

Biblical eschatology

In the Jewish scriptures the coming of eschatological salvation was announced in different ways-the day of Yahweh, the Day of Judgment, the New Jerusalem and the Coming of the Messiah. Apocalyptic eschatology flourished in the period between the two Testaments. The basic idea of the whole Jewish eschatology was that history will end in the reign of Yahweh. Eschatology in Christianity deals with events that belong to the future such as death and resurrection, the final judgment, the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the everlasting Kingdom of God (hereafter KOG). For Wolfhart Pannenberg, the central message of Christ was the coming of the KOG.

Albert Schweitzer’s monumental book, “The Quest of the Historical Jesus” represents the rediscovery of eschatology in the twentieth century. According to Carl E. Braaten, Paul Tillich “defined the problem of eschatology as the question of the meaning and goal of history or as the quest for the KOG”. Braaten concludes that “Christianity hopes for the realization of the KOG, the divine rule of peace, love, and righteousness in a new heaven and a new earth.

Process theology

In the “process theology”, Whitehead and Hartshorne writings are the most influential exponents. In Whitehead’s metaphysics, God is the-primordial ground of order, the ground of novelty, and influenced by events in the world (the consequent of nature of God). Charles Hartshorne was strongly influenced by Whitehead, but he uses a more familiar terminology and occasionally differs in emphasis. He advocates “dipolar theism”, the view that God is both eternal and temporal. God is eternal in character and purpose but changing in the content of experience. God always exist and perfect in love, goodness, and wisdom. God has power sufficient to influence the universe in the best way consistent with the divine purposes.

In human life, in religious experience, in the rise of the major religious traditions- especially in the biblical tradition and the person of Christ-God’s influence and human response could occur in unprecedented ways. In Christian process theology Cobb and Griffin speak of “Christ as God’s supreme act”. Christ’s message and life were rooted in the past and in God’s new aims for him, and he powerfully expressed God’s purpose and love. Christ can be taken as incarnation of the “logos”, the universal source of order.

God is “the spirit” and it was associated with the initial creation and with the continuing creation of the creatures. The spirit of inspires the prophets and is present in worship and prayer (Isa. 42: 1; Ps 51: 11). In the process framework, the goal of “prayer” is openness and responsiveness to the divine call. It involves doing the will of God. God’s will is the achievement of value and harmony among all beings, the realization of inclusive love.

Process thought makes common cause with ‘feminism” in rejecting the dualisms that have led to hierarchical domination. Feminist have pointed to the links between three forms of dualism: man/woman, mind/body, and humanity/nature. Feminists usually agree with process thinkers, not only in rejecting those dualisms, but in replacing them with a holistic relationship and an inclusive mutuality. Feminists bring an active commitment to social change and human liberation and yet other things are to come…

Many modern Christian theodicies have asserted Gods as voluntary self-limitation” in order to affect three goals: human freedom, laws of nature, and moral growth. John Hick is the pioneer to this process. He said that humanity was not created perfect but imperfect with an opportunity for moral development. One theme in traditional Christian thought is that “God shares in our suffering” and stands with us in it. One meaning of the cross is that God participates in human suffering. Classical theology has said that God is impossible, unaffected by us, and incapable of suffering. God is with us and for us, empowering us in our present crises.

But process thinkers also defend immortality in one of two forms. “Objective immortality” is our participation in Gods consequent nature, whereby God’s life is permanently enriched. Other process writers defend “subjective immortality”, in which the human self continues as a center of experience in a radically different environment but amid continuing change rather than a changeless eternity. Process thought is ecological in the former sense, that of stressing the mutual dependence of the various levels of individuals and it attributes the enjoyment of experience to every level of actuality. In the side of God all are “equal”. And finally the process theology will process it will never end.

Philip Hefner’s theological anthropology: created co-creator

Theologian Philip Hefner has explored “created cocreators” in an evolutionary context. He presents the whole evolutionary process as God’s way of creating free creatures. As created, we are dependent on sources beyond ourselves, including a genetic past, which was determinative before humanity appeared. As cocreators, we have freedom and the capacity to seek new directions, possibilities that are novel and get within constrains set by our genetic inheritance. Hefner says that nature is “stretched” and “enabled” as it gives rise to the new zone of freedom. “Homo sapiens is God’s created co-creator whose purpose is the stretching/enabling of the systems of nature so that they can participate in God’s purposes in the mode of freedom”. God is imminent in the creativity and self-transcendence evidenced in evolutionary history and continuing into the future.

Hefner maintains that we can participate in God’s ongoing creative work: We humans created in the image of God are participants and co-creators in the ongoing work of God’s creative activity. We are being drawn toward a shared destiny which will ultimately determine what it means to be a true human being”. Hefner holds that Christ is the prototype of true humanity and represents a radically new phase in cultural evolution. In Christ we come to know God’s will as universal love. The eschatological hope is a confidence in God’s purpose to perfect and fulfill the creation. Human beings can be conscious agents in a new level of creation, but they are also in a stage of great precariousness and vulnerability. Technology gives human immense powers over nature, and our decisions will affect all terrestrial life. We have a responsibility, not only for our own future, but also for the rest of the creatures as our planet.

In times of crisis, people are searching for new visions; changes in perceptions and values can occur more rapidly than during more stable times. We are called to concern for the hungry and the homeless, etc. but it also describes other sources of fulfillment in interpersonal relationships, appreciations of the natural world, and spiritual growth. Above all, its vision of “shalom” includes social harmony and cooperation as well as peace and prosperity.

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