Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Need Fundamental Definitions
Director, Materials Research Laboratory
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania 16802
From: JASA 36 (March 1984): 63
In reading the Journal ASA I am always taken by the sincere attempts at vigor and logic which many of the authors and letter writers exhibit. I wish to carry the teaching of science analogy a little further.
In reviewing thermo you find that most students are brought up on the chemists' tradition of dealing only with AG, AH, etc., as though G, H, didn't exist. Now I submit that we who arc scientists and Christians do precisely the same thing. We spend an enormous amount of time on "acts of God," (e.g. evolution), interpretation of a particular Biblical passage, ethical impacts, etc., which are the analogues of YG/tW in terms of higher derivatives. But we rarely talk about the integral terms G, H, S, etc. The important integral terms of faith are indeed "God," "Behavior (subset: love), "Bible," etc," I believe that Christian evangelization of the world has stopped and will retreat until we straighten out what we mean by these integral terms and proclaim to the world in simple, Jesus-like language and metaphor, what the good news is.
In 1979, 1 gave the Hibbert Lectures in London. These were published as Experimenting with Truth, Pergamon Press, 198 1. In that book I tried to address the question: What do we mean by the term "God"? As scientists we must define our terms. I emerge at a Christian panentheist position (strongly modified Whitehead, Teilhard, Cobb) in which I believe that in order to convey an accurate picture of what we mean we must avoid the word "God" because that means so many different things to different hearers or readers.
What is the relation of Christianity to the "Bible?" The Bible clearly and absolutely was not essential to being a Christian, since several generations, including the founders, didn't have it. Is a Bible necessary to being a Christian? In Galatians 2, Paul answers the question: Must you be a Jew to be a Christian? Answer: No. Why do we persist then in the "Judaeo-Christian" appellation? Can there be no Hindu-Christians? or Tao-Christians? Or humanist-Christians? If not, is Christianity merely a Jewish sect? Gandhi, by selfproclamation, was not a Christian. Yet he knew the Bible better than 90% and followed Jesus 99% better than most pewsitters. So, how does "Behavior" relate to God, and Christianity?