RELIGION (CHRISTIANITY) VERSUS SCIENCE – THE CASE FOR RELIGION (CHRISTIANITY)

The Case for Religion:

John Polkinghorne, former Physicist and Anglican Priest, author of Science and Providence,  One World , and Science and Creation: The Search for Understanding (New Science Library: Shambhala: Boston), 1989, in Science and Creation: The Search for Understanding, indicated:

“While it is true that cold intellectual thinking can never bring anyone into a warm personal relationship with God, it is also true that, while a subjective commitment to God may be satisfying to the self, it lacks credibility to others unless it can be shown that there are good reasons for the actual existence of the God to whom commitment has been given.”   [H. Montefiore, “The Probability of God,” SCM Press, 1985]:

“Einstein once said, ‘Religion without science is blind.  Science without religion is lame.’  [A. Einstein, “E.T.:  Ideas and Opinions,” Souvenir Press, 1973, p. 55]  His instinct that they need each other was right, though I would not describe their separate shortcomings in quite the terms he chose. 

“Rather I would say, ‘Religion without science is confined; it fails to be completely open to reality.  Science without religion is incomplete; it fails to attain the deepest possible understanding.’  The remarkable insights that science affords us into the intelligible workings of the world cry out for an explanation more profound than that which it itself can provide.  Religion, if it is to take seriously its claim that the world is the creation of God, must be humble enough to learn from science what that world is actually like.  The dialogue between them can only be mutually enriching. 

“The scientist will find in theology a unifying principle more fundamental than the grandest unified field theory.  The theologian will encounter in science’s account of the pattern and structure of the physical world a reality which calls forth his admiration and wonder.  Together they can say with the psalmist:

‘O Lord how manifold are thy works!

In wisdom thou hast made them all.’  —  [Psalm 104: 24]

John Polkinghorne, is Dean and Chaplain of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, is a Fellow of the Royal Society and former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University.

John F. Haught is Senior Fellow, Science and Religion, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University and the author of fifteen books, including God After Darwin, The Promise of Nature, Theology in Global Perspective Series, Peter C. Phan, General Editor, Ignacio Ellacuria, and is a  Professor of Catholic Social Thought, at Georgetown University, in the Preface of Christianity and Science:  Toward a Theology of Nature (Orbis Books:  Maryknoll, New York), 2007, indicated:

One of the most surprising scientific discoveries of the past century and a half is that the universe is an unfolding story.  The sense that the universe is still in the process of coming into being began to emerge faintly several hundred yeas ago when Tycho Brahe and Galileo Galilei produced visual evidence that the heavens are not changeless.  Today, however, developments in geology evolutionary biology,and cosmology have lefr no doubt: the whole of nature not just earth and human history has an essentially narrative character.  Before modern times the wider universe seemed to be the general context and container of local terrestrial stories, but not itself a story.  Now science has shown that our universe is still undergoing transformations that can best be represented inthe style of a drama.  Formerly the heavens seemed steady enough to frame all the stories unfolding on earth.  The firmament was a place of refuge to which worldlings could flee, at least in contemplation from the fatal flow of events here below.  But during the last century the heavens too were swallowed up by a story, one that now seems almost too big for the telling.  What is Christian theology going to make of this larger story?  The unfathomable reach of cosmic proceedings infinitely outstrips in time and space the brief span of human flourishing and the even more fleeting moments of Hebrew and Christian religious history.  Science has discovered a world that moves on a scale unimaginable to the prophets and evangelists. 

Is it possible that the universe has outgrown the biblical God who is said to be its Creator?  Many thoughtful people today have concluded that this is exactly what hashappened.  The very substance of Christian faith seems irreversiblyintertwined with the outworn imageryof an unoving planet nested in an unchanging cosmos.  Pictures of nature that had been fixed in the minds and feelings of people for centuries prior to the birth of science need to be redrawn.  But can this occur without a radical revision of faith and theology? [Footnote 1: Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker, The History of Nature (Chicago University of Chicago Press, 1949) see also Stephen Toulmin and Jane Goodfield, The Discovery of Time (London: Hutchinson, 1965); Wolthhart Pannenberg, Toward a Theology of Nature: Essays on Science and Faith, ed. Ted Peters (Louisville: Westminister John Knox, 1993, 86-98.]

“Can Christianity and its theological interpretations find a fresh foothold in the immense and mobile universe of contemporary science, or will science itself replace our inherited spiritualities altogether, as many now see happening?  The Jesuit geologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin asks: ‘Is the Christ of the Gospels, imagined and loved within the dimensions of a Mediterranean world, capable of still embracing and still forming the centre of our prodigiously expanded universe?  Is it not the case that science has changed things too fast for Christianity and other faiths ever to catch up?  Isn’t it time for all people to wake up from their religious slumber and bind themselves to the more elegant creed of pure naturalism?  Isn’t nature itself now sufficiently immense to satisfy human theology as we venture forth into nature’s newly discovered depths?  Before beginning a response to these questions, let us first try to get a visual impression of the universe’s vast dimensions as science sees them today. … “

Comments on John F. Haught’s book and his response:

“John Haught cuts across established dialogues in religion and science by bringing attention to liberation from the desire to know.  He alerts us again to the immensely important contributions of Teilhard de Chardin in religion and cosmology.  And he serves that pessimistic fixation on skepticism so evident in existential materialism by pointing us towards hope in an unfinished universe of possibilities.  Unafraid of God-talk in the face of deep time, Haught provides us with one of the most promising intellectual visions in the Christian theological community.”

  – John A. Grim, Yale University

“John Haught’s Christianity and Science provides a scholarly synthesis of the contemporary interface between theology and science, mounting a robust defense against the onslaught of anti-religious materialistic science.  A timely resource for all involved in the science vs. religion debate, with a number of valuable insights that will engage and inspire the non-academic reader.”  – Diarmuid O’Murchu, MSC, Evolutionary Faith

Darrel R. Falk, (Syracuse Immanuel Church of the Nazarene, 1977-1984), Coming to Peace with Science:  Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology,” Foreword by Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director, National Human Genome Research Institute (InterVarsity Press:  Downers Grove, Illinois), 2004

Robert Prichard, A Historyof the Episcopal Church, Revised Edition (Morehouse Publishing:  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), 1991, 1999,

Bart D. Ehrman,Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and The Faiths We Never Knew (Oxford University Press:  Oxford, New York), 2003

Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Scriptures:  Books that Did Not Make It Into the New Testament (Oxford University Press:  Oxford, New York), 2003

The Lost Books of the Bible (Bell Publishing Company:  New York), 1926, 1979

The Forgotten Books of Eden, Edited by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr., Assistant Editor J. Alden Brett (Bell Publishing Company:  New York), 1927, 1980, 1981

Randel McCraw Helms, The Bible Against Itself:  Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself (Millennium Press:  Altadena, California), 2006

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception (Summit Books:  Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, Toronto, London, New York), 1991

Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (Dorset Press:  New York), 1967

In The Book of Jewish Knowledge: an Encyclopedia of Judaism and the Jewish People, Covering All  Elements of Jewish Life from Biblical Times to the Present by Nathan Ausubel (Crown Publishers, Inc: New York), 1964, Nathan Ausubel on the Dedication page stated:

To the memory of my father and mother … Gentile People who in a world of dross and tumult walked beside the still waters.  The Example of their own devout lives taught me the urgency of finding a motivation for my own.  The ethical and spiritual truths i learned from them I have entered in this, their book.  May these truths drawn from the accumulated wisdom and humanity of the Jewish People find their continuity in the lives of others!  Selah.

In the Foreward Nathan Ausubel stated:

The learned Jews of ancient times showed no less dedication in their pursuit of knowledge than the scholar prients of Egypt, the Magi of Persia, the Pundits of India, and the Philosophers of  Greece.  Nonetheless, they gave it a markedly different emphasis.  In that emphasis, no doubt, lay  the individuality of traditional Jewish Culture.  Each people in the family of mankind plays, as it were, a different instrument in the orchestra of civilization, Contributing with its system of cultural values its own characteristic tone, timbre, and color to the total ensemble.

 

“The great masses of the people, even in republican Athens, during the memorable days of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Euripides, were kept suppressed and illiterate, in line with the  anti-social philosophy of slavocracies, in which the common people were looked down upon as mere chattels or beasts of burden.  It was different with the Jews.  The pursuit of  learningBespecially Torah learning-Bwas highly revered among the Jews during the Second Temple Period; it has been elevated to an exalted form of religious worship by Ezra the Scribe about the Year 444 B.C.E. 

 

“The obligation to study perpetually the precepts, laws, and teachings contained in the scriptures  had evolved in time into a religious-national dedication.  The internal conditions and social organization of Jewish community life made it possible for even the poorest and the humblest to acquire at least some learning; Many of the most illustrious of rabbinic sages, like Hillel and Akiba, sprang from the common people.  It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that, in  the democratric and ethical climate of Jewish community life (in which all men, at least theoretically, stood equal), illiteracy and ignorance were scorned because they prevented the individual from acquiring an adequate knowledge of the religious-cultural heritage of Israel. 

” …

The Gentle philosopher of Amsterdam, Spinoza, himself driven out of the Jewish Community by the self-righteous fanatics for the unforgivable crime of thinking honestly and for not conforming, mused bitterly in his essay “On Superstition” over the ironic condition of man:  ‘The multitude, ever prone to superstition and caring more for the shreds of antiquity than for eternal truths, pays homage to the books of the Bible, rather than to the word of God.’ 

“The generality of men, the philosopher seemed to suggest, do the very opposite of that which would serve their best interets: they throw away the kernel and keep the chaff.

“ … The late Edward Sapir, the American anthropologist who himself seems not to have had any formal affiliations with the Jewish religion and who demonstrated only the scientific humanist’s impartial interest in Jewish culture, and who appears not to have participated in any organized aspect of Jewish community life, still became intrigued by the irony of this psychological phenomenon:  even the most sophisticated Jew is proud of at least two things.  While he may have no personal use for a Savior, it pleases him to think that his ancestors gave one to Christendom; and though comfort and enlightenment may long have disabused him of the necessity of a God, he takes satisfaction in the thought that his remoter ancestors invented the purest kind of a God that we have record of: the God of monotheism.  Such a Jew has one of the keenest of known pleasures which may be defined as the art of endowing others with a priceless boon that one finds is more convenient to dispense with for one’s own part.”

Nahum M. Sarna, Exploring Exodus: The Heritage of Biblical Israel (Schocken Books: New York), 1987

 

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About Harold L Carter

Bachelor of Science, Columbia University Masters degree, Ohio State University Undergraduate National Officer, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eastern Asst Vice President, when a student at Columbia University Profile Photograph: Mom & Me, when I was a graduate student
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