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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Including philosophy of science and the question of criteria for theological formulations

leron, i think such a reconstructive engagement is indeed necessary, especially if we view the history of the church as having to engage creatively, and even, at times, radically, with contemporary thought. and i certainly believe that the alternatives (sealing 'theology' and 'science' off from one another) are not sound, even if they might achieve some short term success.
however, i do have some potential concerns, derived only from what i know about your project from the few paragraphs of your introduction:
i would be concerned that such 'reconstruction' not give the lie too much with science--grant science too much authority in shaping theological thought; in other words, that iworry that theology's job or the role of the church is to play 'catch up' to contemporary thought in philosophy, science, or what have you--this is the story of post-enlightenment liberal protestant theology. so, how would this project differ from those?
it also seems to me that a significant amount of contemporary scientific thought should be run through the lens, not of contemporary christian thought, but through the fathers. i want to see the tension between 'ancient-future' remain palpable, not dissolved into a 'future' that is premised on some neo-darwinian theory of christianity's evolution.
i worry about the hubris of contemporary science in its enlightenment form and the subsequent problem of 'doing science' in its wake, was a way of 'adapting' to its truth. i am intrigued by the work of social epistemologist and science historian steve fuller, who is very much interested in the necessity of 'lost' or 'defeated' scientific knowledge being re-excavated in contemporary discourse. in fact, he's been publically supportive of intelligent design as an important part as an important participant in scientific discourse. his constructivist understanding of science seems to counter the hubris of science as the present-day answer to all our problems, including spiritual ones.
i would hope that such reconstruction can also offer a rigorous and apt criticism of contemporary thought, in whatever form that takes, even in science. i'd be concerned that a reconstructivist theology might place dogma 'up for grabs' in the face of scientific discoveries. and so i'd be interested in exploring what of dogma wouldn't be up for grabs and how those determinations would be made.
Posted by: daniel a. siedell September 24, 2007 at 10:27 AM
Hi Daniel,
Yes, you've identified some very real and important concerns.
I agree that theology should not try to "catch up" with science, as you put it. In fact, I think it should in some cases actually be taking a lead in the discourse. One important way to do this is through engage in philosophical reflection on concepts like difference, temporality, etc.
I also agree that we should engage the fathers and the rest of the Christian tradition, but the WAY in which we do this, in my view, is not to repeat what they said, which was couched in the terminology of their own scientific and philosophical assumptions, but to do what they did: articulate the transforming experience of the biblical God in ways that show its illuminative power in our own cultural context(s).
This includes dealing with the issues you have raised, including philosophy of science and the question of criteria for theological formulations.
I've tried to do these and other things in the book.
For this post, I'm especially interested in encouraging us to think about the role of our own fear and desire, and how these affect the way we react to the possible dialogue between theology and science.
What do we fear most, and why?
What do we desire most, and why?
LeRon
Posted by: LeRon September 25, 2007 at 01:09 AM
Hello LeRon,
I suppose in Europe there is a deep seated skepticism about about the Christian message ( hangover from medaevil times, scientific nonsense, religion is an evil that has caused many wars etc.) I speak as ordinary rank and file Christian who finds it a real challenge to maintain confidence in the Christian message in the wake of such an onslaught. My fear in any such dialogue is that the non-negotiable essentials of the message are surrendered in the pursuit ot trying to make the message credible to modern ears. (I have seen this happen in the dialogue between Christianity and postmodern philosphy in for example the growing influence of 'religion without religion' theology of J Caputo on the emerging church.) If your project can deal with the tension of articulating the transforming experience of God in new ways yet remain rooted within the Christian tradition then it can make a much needed contribution to trying to wrestle with the problems of being a Christian in 21st century Europe.
all the best,
Rodney
Posted by: rodney neill September 25, 2007 at 04:05 AM

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