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Science & Theology

Supernatural Agent Detection (Part 2): What’s Credible?

In my previous post in this series, I talked about the theory of “anthropomorphic promiscuity” as a mechanism of supernatural agent detection among early human beings — or, you might say “hominins” if you’re a bit embarrassed about being one yourself. I said (and I am really only reacting out of my own experience about the credibility of this) that the theory seems quite credible and certainly accounts for much God-detection in our own day as well — though, I think this is mostly bad (or mistaken) God-detection.

theology-after-the-birth-of-godAs I mentioned previously, the theory can be found in atheist theologian F. LeRon Shults book Theology after the Birth of God: Atheist Conceptions in Cognition and Culture as well in several of the essays available at his web site: especially Bearing Gods in Mind and Culture, and Excavating Theogonies: Anthropomorphic Promiscuity and Sociographic Prudery in the Neolithic and Now.

Put simply, it is a “god of the gaps” view. There was an evolutionary advantage enjoyed by those early peoples who posited the existence of human-like supernatural beings to explain otherwise ambiguous aspects of human experience. So, natural selection favored those who believed in the gods.

This, by the way, is what he means by “the birth of God.” God is borne in human minds as a way of helping them to explain their life in the world — and affords them a significant survival advantage.

As a theory this works well for me in some ways — and doesn’t in others. Having said that I feel it does account for some supernatural agent detection, I wish to also indicate some ways (it seems to me) this doesn’t work. (more…)

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Supernatural Agent Detection (Part 1): At the Hymn Sing

A long time ago, while I listened to some spontaneous testimonies, I began to wonder where people get their ideas of God.

10398719_6382542789_7329_nWhen I started out in the ministry (many years ago) I served a small church in the Muskegon, Michigan area. I was young and skinny and had a major chip on my shoulder. I was convinced of the evil of all things (theologically) liberal. (You can get an idea what I looked like at the time from the picture on the left.) I was opposed to all things that smacked of clericalism, very introverted, very opinionated — thinking back on it its a wonder that the people at the Wolf Lake United Methodist Church put up with me to the extent that they did. (People that haven’t known me a long time might be surprised that I was ever like that — but I was.)

In those days the United Methodist, AME, and AME Zion Churches got together on Sunday evening once a month for a Hymn Sing. This was a lay-run event and it rotated among all the various churches involved. (It was always a big thrill for all of us at Wolf Lake UMC when it was our turn to host the Hymn Sing since it filled the sanctuary to capacity — and beyond.) (more…)

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An Atheist Theologian

One of my (formerly) favorite writers on philosophical theology has become an atheist.

And, I’m not altogether sure how I feel about that.

411Rqlp-VNL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In the early part of June I was at a get together for a couple I know from the church we attend. There were a lot of people there and I got into conversation with some of them. In one of those conversations I recommended  (as I often have) the writings of F. LeRon Shults, who teaches theology in Norway and has written several books I have read and appreciated. (The ones I’ve read are: The Postfoundationalist Task of Theology, Faces of Forgiveness, Transforming Spirituality, Reforming the Doctrine of God.) I’ve got two more titles on my Kindle — which I was going to read — but now I’m not so sure. If I am remembering correctly, in Reforming the Doctrine of God Shults identified himself as being both “evangelical” and “reformed.” I’m okay with the “evangelical” part — especially since there is a rather broad tent for some of us who like that designation — and quite a bit less so with the “reformed” part. Nevertheless, I’ve never felt any hesitation recommending his writings.

The incident in June  struck me funny the next day — when I discovered that Shults had since written two (quite expensive) books advocating atheism. (They are: Theology after the Birth of God: Atheist Conceptions in Cognition and Culture and Iconoclastic Theology: Gilles Deleuze and the Secretion of Atheism.) It struck me funny because I figured either (1.) I’ll never be at a gathering of people I know from church where I recommend his books again (which is a bit sad), or, (2.) I’ll never again be at a gathering of people I know from church (that is to say: I may need new friends). (more…)

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Gifts of Theology to Science

Time_in_EternityThe other day I attempted to tweet a link to the following quote using the Kindle app, but the quote is (of course) too long. So, I am posting it here. This quote is from Robert John Russell’s book Time in Eternity: Pannenberg, Physics, and Eschatology in Creative Mutual Interaction. It comes at the end of a chapter discussing Albert Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.

Nevertheless, Einstein’s work leaves unresolved the underlying philosophical problem of the unity of spacetime. In response my proposal is that theology can offer the needed insight to resolve this philosophical problem . My beginning point is Pannenberg’s claim that the divine eternity receives and unites distinct and separate timelike events in the world into the co-presence of eternity. I then extend this claim by suggesting that the divine omnipresence unites distinct and separate spacelike events in creation by God’s ubiquitous presence to them. Thus , while it is God’s eternity that gathers up and unites separate events in time while preserving their distinctions, it is, in my view, God’s omnipresence to and in the world that gives to the world, fragmented into individual spacelike solitary events, the underlying differentiated unity that Clarke sought unsuccessfully. And if this holds true, it is surely a promising discovery about the gifts theology has to offer as it engages creatively with the natural sciences. And it in turn is particularly indebted to the theological writings of Wolfhart Pannenberg.

Russell’s book is a detailed attempt to show how science can contribute to the theoretical models used in theology, and how theology can contribute to the theoretical models used in science.

And, he is building on the work of Wolfhart Pannenberg — who was a trailblazer in the area of science and theology.

I think this is an exciting line of thought: science can contribute to theology and theology to science in what Russell calls “creative mutual interaction.”

In the chapter that follows this, Russell defends a concept of “flowing time” as an alternative to the common “block universe” interpretation of Special Relativity. The book is tough going — not because of the writing (actually Russell writes with remarkable clarity, given the subject matter) — but because of the complexity and non-intuitive nature of the topics discussed. But, I think Christians with a background in contemporary physics — or some knowledge of it — will find this fascinating.

 

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Pannenberg on the Validity of Faith

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Here are some thoughts on the nature and validity of faith by Wolfhart Pannenberg.

I found these in Systematic Theology, Volume 3. (There is no Kindle edition for that yet — sorry to say.)

Faith is a form of the way we relate to truth, and is comparable in this regard to knowledge. In Hebrew the terms for “truth” (’emet) and “faith” (he’emin) are linguistically related, deriving from the same root. Truth in the sense of ’emet is what is constant and therefore trustworthy, so that we can build on it. He’emin denotes the confidence that establishes itself on the basis of that which is constant, so that those who have it achieve steadfastness and constancy. But only God and his Word and works are fully stable and trustworthy (Ps. 111:7-8; 119:90-91; 146:6; etc.). Hence, those who would be firmly established themselves must be established in God.

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G. A. Studdard Kennedy: Keep On Seeking!

G. A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929)

G. A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929)

The faculty of faith is not meant to kill the faculty of criticism and the instinct of curiosity, but rather to keep them keen and alive, and prevent them dying of despair. Faith is the mark of those who seek and keep on seeking, who ask and keep on asking, who knock and keep on knocking, until the door is opened. The passive, weak-kneed taking of everything on trust which is often presented as faith is a travesty of its truth. True faith is the most active, positive, and powerful of all virtues. It means that a man, having come into spiritual communion with that great personal Spirit Who lives and works behind the universe, can trust Him, and, trusting Him, can use all his powers of body, mind, and spirit to cooperate with Him in the great purpose of perfection; it means that the man of faith will be the man of science in its deepest, truest sense, and will never cease from asking questions, never cease from seeking for the reason that lies behind all mysteries.

— G. A. Studdert Kennedy , The Hardest Part (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), p. 83-84.

Found on the Internet: here.

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Genesis & Science: Video Clip

I just watched this over at the Jesus Creed blog, and thought it was worth sharing here as a follow-up to my posts on “literal interpretation” of the Bible, and on the Creation vs. Evolution debate:

 

 

And, if you are interested in more information and discussion on this topic, I commend the post where I found this: It Starts With Genesis (RJS).

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