Patristic Theology and Modern Science Pt 10

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Science is pushing itself closer to the realm of something and nothing.  They are reaching points of such minute size and detail.  They are reaching into areas where great care must be undertaken so as not to misrepresent the realities they are confronted with.  I do not want to go into the details of the basic elements such as matter, quarks and gluons.  My understanding at this level starts to wane somewhat.  Nevertheless, those who are passionate in this area have a spark and twinkle in their eyes as they engage at this level of investigation as my good friend Dr Ian Fuss has shared with me recently.

The point I picked up here is even though science is going so deep into the realms of the unknown, the discipline between what is observed and theory must be held together even at this level.  It was vitally important that what was observed was allowed to be held together even in the face of contradictory theoretical data.  Rather than question what was observed, one had to question the theory with the possibility that it might be nothing more than a subjective fantasy through which we might be trying to make what we observe fit into it.  There has to be a harmony between our imagination and the reality we are engaging with and allowing the object to freely disclose its realities.  There appears to be a relationship between our intuition our imagination and the object we observe where the object we observe presses on our intuition and imagination shaping it to conform to its inner truths.  It is this inner truth we engage with that shapes and structures our language to properly and faithfully reflect it.  That is why we have to be acutely aware of what our premise is as we approach our object of study.

In theology, we engage in a deeply personal way with Jesus Christ using our imagination, intuition as we interact with Him.  We trust that He speaks to us and He is the reference point regarding all the ways and works of God.  To come to Him with our own premise, theories or hypotheses is to risk misrepresenting Him by our contradictory anthropological ideas.  If we believe the doctrines of limited atonement is the starting point for our investigations of the ways and works of God, then it is a preconceived idea that will determine how we see Jesus Christ and everything will be squeezed and shaped into this preconceived idea.  Our own idea will contradict who Jesus Christ declares Himself to be.  To be faithful and properly reflect Jesus Christ is to allow Him to shape our imagination as He presses on our intuition.  He speaks in the commanding way but gives us the freedom to take us on a journey patiently in love towards the Truth He is endeavouring to express.

What should happen is the inner truth disclosed by Jesus Christ should structure and shape the way we understand God.  The language that follows should fit within the structure of Jesus Christ where we properly and faithfully reflect it.  As servants, we ask the fundamental question, ‘Why do we believe what we believe?’ or “Who do you say that I am?” If Jesus Christ does not fit into our own idea of who God is and what He can do, we do not change who He declares Himself to be.  Rather, we must repent and allow our minds to conform to Jesus Christ.

Some people say, ‘Universalism or nothing!’  Others say the opposite and want to push the threat of hell in such a way that contradicts Scripture.  If we humbly turn to Jesus Christ to answer the question one way or the other, we find there are no clear answers.  We are left with just possibilities.  If we are to adopt the same method of modern science of remaining true to the Object of theology as a humble student, then we find there are no clear absolutes regarding this issue.  Generally speaking, one will find this tension in the church fathers of endeavouring to remain true to the Object, Jesus Christ.  If we let the question remain as one without a clear answer one way or the other and regard them as possibilities that remain in tension, we remain true to the Object of our study.  However, if we drive universalism or hell as a theological fact, we have drifted from the Object to our own mind to seek answers to support one or the other.  We have allowed a process of thinking in our own minds in the form of a theory or hypotheses as the preamble to support our position.  If all we have at the beginning of our statement is a theory or hypotheses to make a possibility a fact in theology, then we have broken away from the Truth and formulated a truth of our own.  Jesus Christ is not a theory.  He is the beginning and the Source for all the ways and works of God.

Can you see there is a pattern of discipline starting to emerge between science and theology?  There is a certain degree of discriminating judgments we must exercise as we navigate through the numerous ideas proposed by the wide community of believers.  We all share the very same intimacy with God in the Person of Jesus Christ.  Our minds are subject to Him as the Primary Object of concern.  We engage with Him as persons in relationship whose desire is to share all that He is with each and everyone of us.  Whatever I declare to be the inner truth of Jesus Christ is not subject to the way I see Him.  I am not some Gnostic who requires you to subject yourself to my secret knowledge to understand Jesus Christ.  I endeavour to declare what has been universally unveiled in Jesus Christ.  What I declare stands in judgment of Jesus Christ.

The all-important feature of contingency upon some inherent intelligibility in the Universe, which we credit to Jesus Christ, is now central for science to better understand the world around them.  It is no longer centred in indeterminism (happening by chanceor determinism (based on prior events forcing a logical outcome).

Now let’s take into consideration this discussion I am drawing from the work of T F Torrance he had written in the 1980’s.  This is 35 years ago.   He held doctorates in theology, science and literature and has won many accolades in all his fields.  We must give consideration this work was carried out according to the best that was known at this time in history.  He was at the forefront in science when he proposed a means of bridging the divide that existed between theology and science.  In his book, The Christian Frame of Mind, he was articulating the cutting edge of scientific method and pioneering the way science was to go into the future.  This method is now mainstream throughout the field of physics.

The peculiarity of our universe has humanity in a highly improbable position where he or she is able to gaze into and discover its inner workings down at a nano-microscopic level all the way up to the largest objects we have ever known.  The mere fact we are able to gaze into the universe and make sense of it is nothing short of a miracle.  As we uncover the laws of nature we also uncover the fine and delicate balance of the way things are held together.  The journey of the universe from its origins to now has been at such a steady rate that enables things to exist as the actually are.  If the rate was ever so minutely less then it would have collapsed on itself long ago.  It the rate was even minutely greater stars and galaxies would not have formed.

The nuclear force that binds the tiniest objects together were slightly weaker the fuel would not be available for stars, and even our sun, to exist.  If it were slightly stronger there would be no hydrogen  and therefore no stars.  Our universe exists against all odds but in its existence everything is so finely tuned and balanced throughout space and time, given it the precise environment for humanity to exist with the ability to investigate it and ponder on its marvels.

In our endeavour to investigate it, appears that whatever level we explore from the nano to the macro, our ideas on how it works must have flexibility to allow the inherent intelligibility to teach us its inner truths.  As we investigate, we may have a set series of questions in mind but the answers we hope for my not be what we expect.  In this case, we always must be prepared to revise our questions in a way that is appropriate with what we actually see in nature.  As we see biodiversity in respective environments where even the tiniest creature and plant is as important to the whole environment as the larger creatures and larger plants, there is this relationship in the different levels of structures within the universe.  As we go from what we can see towards the tiniest objects known to humanity, we find as a whole that each level is dependent on the other levels above and below it.  So in examining one level, we have to be aware how it fits, connects and functions in relationship to the other objects above and below it.

The scientist lies at the very heart of nature as the one who is able to place their self in such a position as to grasp the inner secrets and truths of the universe and make it known.  Therefore, the scientist is able to mediate this truth to the wider community as a “priest” of creation.  They interact with the universe and with One behind the universe to uncover its inner workings.  I believe we see the extraordinary grace of God who desires to commune with humanity to make the wonders of His creation knowable.  Making progress in science and even in theology is to conform to the truth they are confronted with.  The truth transcends the universe and lies in the heart of God Himself.  In this way, the scientist can wade through the disorder, dysfunction and chaos of their mind to find the way things ought to be and submit to that.

In the end, we find that the scientist is engaged in prayerful worship of the object of their study in much the same way we prayfully and worshipfully to try to engage with the truth of God as the Man Jesus Christ.  We continue to engage with this field with the hope that the values of the Christian message can infiltrate this field and bring about a benefit for all humanity providing a secure hope for our future.

to be continued . . .