by Jonnie Russell
September 11, 2013
Our six-week live online has begun and the week one lecture/discussion video is up for free on HBC as well as mission soulutions. If you haven’t watched and are in the high gravity group (or the in-the-flesh Claremont group), do it! If you haven’t signed up and want a free taster with this first week, by all means give it a try, see the goods and where we’re going and join in here.
As I said in my prep post last week, this is intended to be your time: a forum for you to get my brief recap of the week's happenings and give the beginnings of what might be some conversation starters. What has perked my interest may very well be completely different from what interested or puzzled you, so by all means, feel completely unbound to responding to me and my thoughts. Your reactions (this will be up both here and the high gravity group site) will be studiously followed by Tripp and myself, so as to cull the reactions into a list and throw them back at Philip to make him answer, assuage, unravel, or puzzle along with us. We might not get to all of them each week, but we will definitely be able to cover a good smattering of the issues that arise. So…weigh in! My format will be simple: Recap and React.
This week kicked off with Philip giving us a broad picture of the past and present situation between religion and science. He began by asking “what’s at stake?” In the context of the New Atheists, the best-selling militant posse of public (pseudo?) intellectuals who claim that God is beyond passé (and more a vicious poison), is there a conversation to be had that does not collapse into a snarling fundamentalism? It is precisely this road that Philip wants to walk. Accordingly, what is at stake in this conversation in our age is the very intellectual credibility of Christianity (a good question for yourself: is it for you? do you feel that way?)
Past and present entries into the religion and science discussion have varied widely. Some looked for a spot to slide God into the science, a continued attempt to save a seat by offering various “God filling the gaps” answers. Others have argued that they inhabit different spaces or different orders (Gould’s magisteriums), a way to insulate each with their own purview, a tactic that often leaves the religious with the heart and heaven. Still others, reject the conversation or validity of the other wholesale, a polarized fundamentalism. None of these will work. We must face the conversation more frontally, oppose the binary with a more gracious and open-handed approach.
Why? Because important concerns arise. Culturally, science fear (perhaps a deep envy of its cultural authority) pervades many of the religious. Strident defensiveness of one’s purview is just ugly. Demographically, huge shifts in recent generations to spiritually indie (…but not religious, etc.) show the end/death of Christian ownership of western culture. No longer is it the default outlet for the religious impulse. No longer is it the default merchant we run to. Constantinianism and its mercantilism are waning, if not dead. Existentially, it’s good to grapple [as Christians with scientific discoveries and understanding]. [A] constructive theological project (our project in these weeks) necessitates that we [then] grapple well. As Philip showed, this has always been happening with people of faith. A[n] [ancient] scientific model informed the [ancient] biblical authors. Hubble’s findings in the 1920′s effected a change in thinking about the universe’s beginning and cosmology, etc. “Not to grapple [with science] is to make a mockery of our heritage.” Well said Dr. Clayton!
In the last bit before the discussion time, Philip ended by detailing nine themes to be covered in coming weeks. The attentive will notice that about four of those correlated almost exactly with some of my own outline of key themes that I’ve found in my own work. [Questions] of the soul, human uniqueness, divine action, and environmental/ethical issues will be discussed, plus more!
-This is going to be really fun!
-Perhaps it’s my upbringing rearing its formative head, but even after years of interest in science and religion discussions, and a decided willingness to let scientific finding and research effect my theological and philosophical reflection, I still struggle, or worry, that the playing field is unequal–that to ‘let the best knowledge of our day’ have its way with my thinking will inevitably end up one-sidedly submitting theology to (i.e. under) the scientific. Is this merely because I’ve only seen poor examples or is it something more fundamental–something related to science being more rigorously norming, more fundamental?
-Philip, you mentioned how entering into this exciting journey of open-handedly exploring science and religion has been a wild ride, one that (so far) has “cost” you a form of divine action among other things. I take you to mean some form of interventionist divine action. Are there examples of things your religious experience, beliefs, knowledge, commitments have caused you to give up (or,costed you) scientifically? In other words, is the dynamic of costing asymmetric or reciprocal? Does it go both ways? Are there any examples from your own [professional, or personal,] development?
*What are you (fellow participants and general readers) feeling or thinking after the first week? Any questions, excitements, worries, or housekeeping questions?
*[Does] the broad brushed history - and current context of the engagement between Religion and Science - make sense?
*Did Tripp or Philip say anything exceedingly heady that we should pester them to flesh out more or clarify?
Next week we dive into the quantum and the cosmic!
Index to past discussions -