According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Discussions in Science and Religion - An Introduction

 

Evolutionary tree showing the divergence of modern taxonomic  groups from their common ancestor
in the centre (black line). The three domains are bacteria blue, archaea green and eukaryotes red.


Introduction

After writing or publishing over 164 articles on the topic of science and religion the past 2 years it seems appropriate that I might take a brief break and study this subject from yet another viewpoint of one well-versed in the trade of (postmodern) theology and philosophy. Especially as it pertains to the idea of theological exploration, examination, and exhortation of the many substantive ideas that we have considered in previous discussions related to the biblical themes of God as Creator, the world as God's creation, and man as God's handiwork. And more especially as it pertains to the troubled areas of biblical examination of the ancient texts of Genesis utilizing more appropriate tools of historical criticism, ANE research, and a developing anthropological hermeneutic that is set amid a sea of multi-vocal narrations beginning from the creation-story's first recitation to ancient listeners to even now as it is pondered deeply by postmodern ears, minds, hearts, and souls far removed from the originating narration's first composition (which is where a diversified, flexible hermeneutic can lead us when appropriately applied).
 
As such, Philip Clayton will be leading a discussion group with Homebrewed Christianity's Tripp Fuller in this much debated area of Christian Creationism into which I wish to provide a weekly diary coupled with mine own thoughts, passions, interests, and absorptions that have percolated over a lifetime of reading, studying, listening, examining, dialoging, and reflection.
 
From the outset my own views of biblical creation is that of Evolutionary Creationismmeaning that from the evidence obtained by present-day science across the genomic, biologic, geographic, geological, anthropological, cultural, quantum, and cosmological spectrum (to mention just a few scientific disciplines), it seems most statedly true that we live in a world begun by applied evolutionary systems onto our present form of cosmos, beginning with the cosmos itself in its pre-postmordial form of quantum soup and multi-verse.
 
Moreover, we use the term creationism to convey the idea that God designed, initiated, developed, maintained, sustained, and produced this cosmos that we live in by His own will, mind, heart, and passion. This is the old idea of Theistic Evolution. But to that idea is the process by which God has developed, which is why we should more rather use the newer term "evolutionary creationism." So that when combining both ideas of Creator (the who) and the process (the what) we are left with a more complete idea of biblical creation as we understand it before us today through our lenses and telescopes, computers and sonic instruments, chalkboards and focus groups, quantum and biological laboratories, and theological and philosophical think tanks.
 
Naturalist Charles Darwin
Thus, to say that evolution was divinely created is to say that we intend to elaborate a theistic system of evolution, and not a non-neutral, nor atheistic system, nor even an agnostic one. Even as the descriptive expressions of Darwinian evolution, or natural selection, or even scientific naturalism have come to be associated with a discipline which remains neutral to personal biases and neutral to unprovable philosophical assumptions... as well it should. And yet, Charles Darwin himself was a 19th century Christian naturalist and biologist believing in God's creational handiwork through natural selection even as he wrote of his theories in strict accordance with scientific principles. Even so, because his theories disavowed the more popular idea of biblical creationism without mediated generation, he was vilified and by passionate Christians wishing to demonize him and his theories (we see Darwin's public characterization  brought to life during the Scopes-Monkey Trial in the early 20th Century). Thus to speak of Darwinian evolution is to tell of a Christian scientist whom the church disqualified on the grounds of a perceived godless theology that went against their understanding of science. Making Charles Darwin not unlike past recepients of this dubious honor like Copernicus and  Galileo whose scientific discoveries drastically altered the way the church viewed itself, its God, its mission, and the world.

Moreover, evolutionary creationism implies God's mediating presence and direction in the formation of life and soul, being and end, as versus the more popular (but unscientific) past ideas of im-mediate formulation by spontaneous generation (as in "poof!" here is the sun, moon, stars... or "poof!" here is man formed complete... or "poof!" here are past fossils and geologic formations locked in the soils of evolutionary drift describing time but denied by Christian 7-day creationists). Between these ideas of a mediated evolution or a spontaneous/immediate generation comes a whole host of in-between Christian theories making allowances for older homo sapien life forms, Earth's biologic development, and the universe's cosmic formation. However, to each of these may be applied the theological idea of a theistic creation - that is, God is viewed as creation's Creator. Not nature per se. Nor cosmic force alone utilizing random chance through chaotic process. But by God Himself as declared within the biblical page.

But, for the evolutionary theist we have a problem. Because s/he must admit at once that evolution occurs within nature by cosmic force, by random chance and by chaotic process. If not, then we do not have the strict application of evolution but an application of some other kind of quasi-evolution that goes beyond the scope and bounds of scientific evolution as begun by the study of natural selectionAnd so, for the Christian evolutionist we must at all times allow for the fullness of scientific evolution theory without admixture, distillation, dilation, dilution, or synthesis from what has firmly been stated by-and-within evolutionary theory itself  (for a fuller discussion as to what evolution is I suggest Wikipedia's handy summation as found here).

So then, do we have a paradox? Yes and no. Yes if we allow it to become one. And no when we stand back and admit that the entirety of this process was designed, implemented, and ruled over by our Creator God. To admit that God chose all of these processes - and in this way - to form and fashion the earth and ourselves... incredible as it seems. As paradoxical as its mysterious. And yet, for the Christian believer it gives to us an even more amazing God than one that magically conforms to what we think His definition of Creator/creation should be.... By limiting God's definition of Creator-Redeemer to our own imagineless imagination by restricting Him to our own planes of finitude and simplicity.
 
Consequently, for the Christian we will have a distinct difference of opinion as to whether evolution was left to itself to run itself (a Christian Deism as versus an agnostic/atheistic position). Or whether there was always involved an end, a plan, a purpose, to which creation was made and is moving towards. To attend to this latter idea will subsequently require one of two kinds of divine sovereignty. Either a meticulous sovereignty wherein God controls all events and outcomes regardless of the indeterminacy He has built into nature, and to the denial of man's own free will. This might be better described as divine determinism. Or rather posit a God whose sovereign rule shows to us His willful submission to His own decrees; who comes into partnership to those same decrees; and thus, limits Himself in a kind of divine weakness before His holy being and essence (as demonstrated most beguilingly through His own incarnation in Jesus). This idea is what is meant by relational (process) theism as versus its more classic, modern forms (sic, see sidebars for further discussions under Theism). Moreover, this then would interplay the ideas of strict Calvinism (God rules against our own freewill and subtends over that of creation's indeterminacy with meticulous disregard to its very nature) against the more pliable doctrines of Arminianism (which more fully leans towards the fullness of meaning implied by human freewill and creational indeterminacy) (cf. both sidebars and index).


To this idea of divine sovereignty I would like to add one further idea to the idea of evolution - that evolution might bear within itself a latency towards teleology. What? A divine plan and purpose within its random, chaotic process of indeterminate mutation, whereby competitive Natural Selection is predisposed towards the creation of life as fully, and purposely possible, within any given context of (hostile) environment. Curiously, some agnostic and atheistic evolutionists are admitting to this nuanced idea of late - though in a non-Christian context (cf. Evolution and the Separate Problems of Teleology and Human Consciousness). Still, as a Christian evolutionist I could more fully accept the process of evolution should I find behind (or within) this process a Sovereign God who has been directing it towards some meaningful end. Even unto His own Kingdom of Light-and-Life where sin and death are swallowed up before His majesty and glory.

Now how "death" may cease to exist is beyond my imagination because by its very nature of our cosmos "death" inhabits all of its natural processes: from its quantum processes of destruction and annihilation; to its geologic processes with its gross residual affects; to even its biologic process involving death and mutational migration. "Death" is everywhere abounding. However, perhaps God's redemptive removal of "sin and death" may be more a reference towards humanity's "spiritual death" separated from its Creator God - especially as its connected to the immediately preceding descriptor of "sin." From the Bible we know that any fellowship with God would disallow sin's presence within that relationship. As such, the idea of a "new heavens and new earth" would portend a unity of fellowship between God and humanity where sin has been washed away in Jesus's atonement. And with its cleansing, death's presence between man and God no longer withholds man's redeemed (and restored) relationship from God, nor God from man. Truly, "sin and death" have been removed. Moreover, this theologic idea would also affect humanity's caretake of this Earth, remaking it so that it becomes "renewed" within itself, thus creating a renewed Garden of Eden as it were. At least this is how I could imagine a completing (or actualized) evolutionary process that evolves - or emerges - from death-to-life, and from life-to-life-everlasting. Such a process would henceforth bear within itself a teleological process of purpose and means.

And with that I must conclude this summary introduction to await the golden cusps of wisdom from those more learned than myself (and if you detect a bit of cynicism here than I know that you-and-I will agree that men are but mortal and must ever rely on God's own wisdom for our direction and purpose). But if you cannot await Part 2 several weeks from now - and wish to read on - there are 164 articles that may be read as contained here on Relevancy22 by referring to the sidebars under "Science." Moreover, I would encourage all prospective students to join with me and others to reflect upon evolution through Philip Clayton's lifetime of reading, studying, writing and lecturing. We may, or may not, agree with him, but it would behoove us to understand some of the timely issues involved pertaining to Science and the Bible. As ever, may God bless those of His little ones, and the shepherds of their estates, unto the green pastures of His fellowship. That we might together behold His wonder, beauty and majesty. His nearness and weakness. As found within our present-day, and very mortal, lives' filled with His glory and grace. Amen.
 
R.E. Slater
September 10, 2013
edited September 23, 2013 re "teleology"
 
*ps - the books listed below will be part of the online class undertaken.
 

 
 
Biography

Philip Clayton is the Dean of Claremont School of Theology and Provost of Claremont Lincoln University. He also holds the Ingraham Chair at CST. Clayton earned a joint PhD in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Yale University and has held visiting appointments at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich. He has published over 20 books and hundreds of academic and popular articles.
 
Over the course of 25 years of teaching and researching, Clayton's interests migrated gradually from philosophy through the science-religion debate to constructive theology.Explanation from Physics to Theology: An Essay in Rationality and Religion (Yale 1989) and several dozen articles explored similarities and differences in how knowledge and explanations function across the disciplines.The Problem of God in Modern Thought (Eerdmans 2000) and a series of accompanying articles explored the fall and rise of theistic metaphysics in the modern era. Clayton then moved into a variety of leadership positions in the international debate on the science-religion relationship, including Principal Investigator of the Science and the Spiritual Quest program. He has been an outspoken advocate for multi-cultural and multi-religious approaches to the field. Clayton has written or edited over a dozen books in this field and spoken on the topic in almost every continent. Recent works include Adventures in the Spirit (Fortress 2009), In Quest of Freedom (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2009), The Predicament of Belief (Oxford 2012, with Steven Knapp), and Religion and Science: The Basics (Routledge 2012).
 
A series of events precipitated the most recent turn: leading the Ford Foundation grant "Rekindling Theological Imagination" with Marjorie Suchocki; lecturing around the country on emergent Christianity; organizing the "Theology After Google" event; and launching the "Big Tent Christianity" movement with Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Tripp Fuller, and others. Transforming Christian Theology: For Church and Society (Fortress 2009) argued that seminaries should help prepare Christian leaders for an unheralded transformation in the church, which has already begun in our culture. Soon thereafter the invitation came to help lead Claremont School of Theology as it becomes the Christian member of an interreligious consortium of schools known as Claremont Lincoln University. The offer was too tempting to refuse.
 
 
Book Description - Religion and Science
 
September 22, 2011 0415598567 978-0415598569
 
Religion and science are arguably the two most powerful social forces in the world today. But where religion and science were once held to be compatible, most people now perceive them to be in conflict. This unique book provides the best available introduction to the burning debates in this controversial field. Examining the defining questions and controversies, renowned expert Philip Clayton presents the arguments from both sides, asking readers to decide for themselves where they stand:
  • science or religion, or science and religion?
  • Intelligent Design vs. New Atheism
  •  
  • the role of scientific and religious ethics – designer drugs, AI and stem cell research
  •  
  • the future of science vs. the future of religion.
 
Viewpoints from a range of world religions and different scientific perspectives are explored, making this book essential reading for all those wishing to come to their own understanding of some of the most important debates of our day.
 
 
Book Description - The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science (Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology)
 
July 15, 2008 0199543658 978-0199543656
 
The field of "religion and science" is exploding in popularity among academics as well as the general reading public. Spawning an increasing number of conferences and courses, this field has shown an unprecedented rate of growth in recent years. Here for the first time is a single-volume introduction to the debate, written by the leading experts. Making no pretense to encyclopedic neutrality, each chapter defends a major intellectual position: at the heart of the book is a series of "pro" and "con" papers, covering each of the current "hot topics" (such as evolution versus creation, naturalism versus the supernatural). In addition to treatments of questions of methodology and implications for life and practice, the Handbook includes sections devoted to the major scientific disciplines, the major world religions, and the main sub-disciplines in this exciting and ever-expanding field of study.




Index to past discussions -
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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