This article describes emerging patterns in Anglo-American philosophy that represent radical breaks from the thought patterns of Enlightened modernity, and spells out consequences of these changes for the theology–science dialogue. The rationale is based on the relation that philosophy bears to the rest of culture. The discussion describes new moves in three traditional branches of philosophy: metaphysics, philosophy of language, and epistemology. It contends that, beginning half a century ago, whole clusters of terms in each of these domains have taken on new uses, and that these changes have radical consequences for all areas of academia. The discussion notes their actual and potential contributions to the dialogue between theology and science.
Christian theology has always resisted a Manichaean opposition between God and the world, believing that the universe is God's creation. All forms of rational inquiry into aspects of reality have their own particular motivating experiences and indispensable concepts. Therefore, neither science nor theology should make the mistake of supposing that it can answer the other's proper questions. The year 1859 certainly did not bring the dialogue between Christianity and science to an end, though it did direct that conversation in new directions. The interaction with science has continued to be a matter of particular concern to Christian thinkers. After a brief historical introduction, this article surveys the contemporary scene. It describes five specific topics that characterize the present-day discussion: creation, natural theology, structures of reality, divine action, and eschatology.
Robert John Russell
In traditional Christianity, eschatology was treated quite literally, limited to the topic of last things (general resurrection, last judgment, heaven and hell, the end of the world, etc.) and consigned to the end of dogmatics. Beginning with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, eschatology was frequently reinterpreted in terms of philosophical, ethical, social, political, economic, and historical categories with little attention to traditional issues. In 1906, however, with Albert Schweitzer's stunning work The Quest of the Historical Jesus, eschatology was exposed as foundational to Jesus's understanding of his mission and to early Christian faith and praxis. This article explores the relation between eschatology and scientific cosmology. It begins by summarizing the importance of eschatology to contemporary Christian theology. It then provides an overview of scientific cosmology, whose predictions of “freeze or fry” severely challenge those versions of Christian eschatology which are based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the transformation of the universe into the new creation. The article outlines several recent approaches to this challenge and offers some suggestions for future research in both theology and science.
This article addresses the question of what God's ultimate purposes might be for creating the world, focusing particularly on what His purpose might have been in creating the world via a seemingly partly chance-driven evolutionary process. It argues that God's creation of human beings and other living organisms through an evolutionary process allows for richer and deeper sorts of interconnections between humans and non-human creation than would otherwise be possible. These interconnections are of significant value, mainly because they allow for creation to become more deeply united with ourselves, in fact so united that there exists a deep communion between us and the rest of creation. This communion is not only an intrinsic good, but it enriches us, since part of this communion is creation becoming part of our very self, and thus we consciously share in the richness of creation.
Jane E. Strohl
Luther’s theology, permeated by eschatological struggle, asserted that the Last Day was near, as Satan battled God through his agents, the papal Antichrist and other opponents of his Word, spiritualists, Anabaptists, Zwinglians, Turks, and Jews. Luther rejected interpreting God’s judgement precisely from history but affirmed God’s providential guidance in the eschatological struggle against Satan. Life lived in the shadow of death, always in spiritual struggle, is liberated by the gospel of Christ. Luther comforted the bereaved with reminders of Christ’s death and resurrection ‘for you’, anticipating life with God in resurrected bodies beyond the need for his means of earthly presentation, seeing him face-to-face.
Keith A. Francis
This article examines the fate of William Paley’s “theory” of natural theology in the years following the publication of Natural Theology. The sermon—what preachers said, to whom they said it, and how often—is used to highlight the development of this area of theology. It considers the new science of the nineteenth century, particularly the evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin. The article also assesses the extent of the impact of Darwin’s ideas on the development of natural theology. It asks: do the sermons preached after 1859 suggest that their authors were influenced by the discussions about On the Origin of Species and other contemporaneous formative works of science when they preached about nature and God’s connection to it?
Although this chapter acknowledges the scientific contributions made by Quakers, it principally addresses the broader question of how Quakers have engaged with the sciences. It begins with a discussion of the religiously motivated attitudes towards nature—and the study of nature—by Edward Burrough, William Penn, and other early Quakers. Friends have subsequently been especially active in the fields of botany, astronomy, anthropology, and, more recently, the study of the environment. Science has featured prominently in Quaker schools and many Friends have pursued careers in science. A major theme in this chapter is whether the pursuit of science is justifiable on ethical grounds; while Quakers have generally been enthusiastic about science, including the theory of evolution, it has also been subjected to various Quaker-based criticisms.
Lois Ann Lorentzen and Leavitt-Alcantara Salvador
Latin America faces environmental crises that directly affect the health and well-being of its people, especially the poor. This essay discusses the involvement of religious groups in the myriad environmental struggles found in Latin America today. It charts religious beliefs and practices of indigenous religions, focusing on Roman Catholicism, liberation theology, ecofeminism, Protestants (emphasizing evangelical and Pentecostal Protestantism), and diaspora religions of Latin America and the Caribbean. In each case, it analyzes religious symbols, theologies, myths, narratives, and rituals as they relate to the nonhuman world. It also examines the link between environmental ethics and action, the legacy of colonization in Latin America, religious syncretism and sacred/secular blurring, epistemology, and hermeneutics.
Alister E. McGrath
Evangelicalism is characterized by an ambivalent attitude toward the natural sciences, reflecting both the lingering aftermath of difficult historical controversies and current concerns about reductionist tendencies within the sciences that seem to threaten the essence of the Christian gospel. Whereas Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and mainstream Protestantism have found conceptual space and theological strategies to accommodate the sciences, evangelicalism generally remains wary of them, particularly in the United States. The first major challenge to evangelicalism from the natural sciences came from the field of geology. This article explores the development of evangelical attitudes toward the natural sciences. Evangelicalism inherited both its emphasis on the authority of Scripture and its understandings of how Scripture was to be interpreted from the sixteenth-century Reformation. After discussing early evangelicalism and the sciences, the article proceeds with a discussion on evangelicalism and the crisis of geology, the evangelical debate over evolution, the views of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield on evolution, and contemporary evangelical approaches to evolution and creationism, as well as evolutionary theism and scientific culture.
This article focuses on the relationship between science and religion. The natural sciences have profoundly shaped modern life and have notoriously generated challenges for religious belief – even being credited by some with having destroyed religion's rational defensibility. Most people, however, see both science and religion as having important truths to tell us, and try to fit both into a coherent world-view. Among that wider group, some see science and religion as occupying separate, isolated territories, with any alleged conflicts resulting from failure to respect proper boundaries, while others see varying relationships and legitimate (or illegitimate) interactions between the two. The competing views arise from a history, of course – a history widely misconstrued.
F. LeRon Shults
This article argues that integrative developments in late modern philosophy of science and the broader return to the hermeneutical significance of the category of relationality have opened up conceptual space for the renewal of a trinitarian faith that seeks transformative understanding as it engages in the discourse among the fields of contemporary science. First, it shows the connection between two disintegrating tendencies in the early modern period: the separation of the doctrine of the Trinity from ‘scientific’ discourse, and the compartmentalization of faith and reason. Second, the article explores some of the integrative developments in late modern epistemology that contribute to overcoming these dichotomies. Third, it re-examines the intuitions behind the call for ‘faith seeking understanding’ as it developed in the stream of the Western tradition that flowed through Augustine and Anselm.