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On theooze.com Emergent Village forum I posted the following this afternoon…

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I don’t know how this will be received, especially since I’m new here, but I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring…

In Scientific Theology Volume 1: Nature, Alister McGrath writes the following:

“The assertion that the natural sciences are able to offer an empirical approach to reality which is independent of culture, gender, class, and language poses a formidable challenge to the postmodern rejection of universal truth.  It is therefore easy to understand why so much effort has been directed by the academic left towards the demonstration that the natural sciences represent culturally-conditioned opinions, in common with other disciplines.

It is therefore important to note that the postmodern critique of the natural sciences has achieved a very limited degree of success.  It has not been especially difficult for natural scientists to argue that the explanatory and predictive success of the natural sciences rest upon a real connection to the way things actually are… The natural sciences are thus a serious headache for those who have difficulties with the idea of a universal objective reality which may be, at least in part, apprehended and described.” (Scientific Theology Volume 1, Pgs. 122-123)

A little background will probably be helpful.  McGrath, who is trained both in the national sciences (Biochemistry) and theology is proposing that the best dialogue partner for theology is not philosophy or the social sciences, but rather the natural sciences.  In other words, McGrath seems to want to argue (much as T.F.Torrance did before him) that science and theology can inform one another as they have a common subject: God’s works (in the case of science) and God’s Word (in the case of theology).  As McGrath puts it, “The Christological dimensions of the doctrine of creation are such that the divine rationality – what this is conceptualized as logos or as ratio – must be thought of as embedded in creation and embodied in Christ.  The same divine rationality or wisdom which the natural sciences discern within the created order is to be identified within the logos incarnate, Jesus Christ.  Creation and Christ ultimately bear witness to the same God, and the same divine rationality” (S.T. v. 1, Pg. 24-25)

If we can assert that there are universal objective realities, being always subject to revision based on new evidence, in the natural sciences is it possible to assert universal objective realities in theological science without collapsing into dualistic epistemologies?  In other words, can we make referential statements concerning God that are non-metaphorical but really speak of what and who God is but that are not reducible to the language we use to describe them?  If so, how does this effect theological articulation within the Emerging Church which (as I see it) needs to critically engage the Postmodern world?  

  

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  1. October 5, 2005 at 8:09 am

    I don’t think it is possible to make objective statements about God using language or logic or science without dualism showing it’s two faced head. Over at my Blog I wrote a big rant about this sort of thing about a week ago. I call the objective assertions “finitely complex pluralities” while God and all of the undivided reality is a “Infinitely Complex Singularity” and the objective statements cannot be made because you cannot divide anything that is infinite up and get anything other than infinity. So every little quote unquote objective assertion that we think we are making is always going to be infinitely complex… and I don’t think anyones mind can handle anything on that order.

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