Judeo-Christian Theology and Natural Science:
Analogies - An Agenda for Future Research
Harvey Browne Memorial Presbyterian Church
311 Browns Lane Louisville, KY 40207
W. JIM NEIDHARDT
Physics Department New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark NJ 07102
From: Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 43 (March 1991):14-28.
Theology and natural science ask very different questions and use different procedures to explore the Universe. Nevertheless, both human activities are grounded epistemologically in "faith seeking understanding" as the theologian Karl Barth and the physical chemist Michael Polanyi have independently pointed out. It is therefore not surprising that congruences in conceptual structure have developed, for common epistemological problems have challenged both the theologian and natural scientist. Some basic analogies between the two disciplines are discussed with emphasis on the similarities contained within the differences for each analogy, the differences helping one to grasp conceptually the real similarities.
In both theology and natural science, the human knower interacts with the discipline's unique object, God or physical reality, resulting in a spatio-temporal experience of these realities. This interaction evokes an intuitive apprehension of basic ultimate convictions concerning the object investigated by each discipline. Examples of such ultimate presuppositions can be found in each discipline. In theology, God is Love characterized by utter faithfulness in all his dealings with humankind; and in natural science, the physical universe possesses a contingent order (theologically a consequence of God's utter faithfulness toward humankind in providing a habitat, the physical universe, "fit" for human life. Such "fitness" is based upon the physical universe's stable structure and pattern which allows the possibility of adaptive development). These ultimate beliefs motivate the knower to explore more fully their implications by examining the details of the actual interaction with each discipline's object. The resulting exploration leads to the affirmation and/or modification of specific implications arising from the discipline's ultimate convictions. Such strengthened and/or altered implications, in turn, generate new insights which "trigger" further exploration. Basic beliefs, intuitively apprehended through experience of God or physical reality (as mediated through the church and scientific communities), thus motivate the theologian or natural scientist to investigate critically the specific concrete implications of ultimate convictions. The resulting clarification and widening of insight enables the theologian or natural scientist to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the complex intelligibility, transcendent or contingent, disclosed through the interaction of God or physical reality and human knowers. Hence, the ability and effort to acquire knowledge in both theology and science is grounded in "faith seeking understanding" even though their methodologies differ in accordance with the nature of their respective objects, the living God and physical reality.
Finally, the role of faith in theology and natural science is two-fold. It both grounds and guides each discipline. By faith one is able to apprehend and articulate the ultimate presuppositions necessary to get either endeavor started. Faith also molds the active search for knowledge in many significant ways, two representative ways being the selection of lines of inquiry consistent with each discipline's core beliefs and the encouragement of theologians and scientists alike to continue their efforts when progress is slow, tentative results being partial, even contradictory. Both these results, in themselves, and the faith that guides one toward them are ultimately controlled by each discipline's respective object as disclosed in the knower-object interaction.
It is therefore not surprising that congruences in conceptual structures have
developed, for common epistemological problems have challenged the theologian
and natural scientist as they both explore reality. Some basic analogies between
the two disciplines are discussed with emphasis on the similarities contained
within the differences for each analogy. In an ultimate sense theologically,
analogy is a God-created correspondence existing between:
a. a human thought structure representing a particular object or relationship of
reality, i.e., an epistemological structure, and an object or relationship of
reality; b. two different epistemological structures representing reality;
or c. different objects or relationships of reality. This essay concerns itself
with the first two types of analogy. In this context, analogy is defined as a
similarity in dissimilarity based upon a commonality of some aspects of the
entities being compared. An analogy thus represents a partial likeness or
reflection which is true but not exhaustive.
The analogies discussed are across logical levels; they are heuristic in character, each establishing a disclosure relationship between entities at different logical levels. This contrasts with the kind of analogy that establishes a purely formal correspondence between entities at the same logical level. For this essay, an analogy, with its capacity for disclosure, represents a heuristic pointing beyond occurring between similar aspects of two different epistemological structures or similar aspects of an epistemological structure and an object or relationship of reality; thus an analogy is across logical levels. Additionally, a disclosure analogy (of type a, b, c) as a whole points beyond itself to the epistemological and/or ontological commonality that is its source and ground.
The discussion is intended to be provocative and suggestive, hopefully providing a catalyst for further refinement and extension of the analogies treated here. The analogies are:
A. The primary standard used in theology and natural science.
B. The role of intuitive instinct in theology and natural science.
C. Discovery as encounter in theology and natural science - three related aspects.
D. Scientific method in theology and natural science.
E. The epistemological realism of theology and quantum physics.
Analogy A: The primary standard used in theology and natural science.
Holy Scripture (or more precisely the statements of Holy Scripture) is the primary standard that the church and community (in the Reformed Tradition) uses in testing its understanding of God's nature and activity (Church Doctrine). It witnesses to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and is his chosen means of encountering his creatures. As we probe the Scriptures we find present there the Word in the words and through the illumination of the Holy Spirit we are lead to an ever more adequate understanding of God and his ways among us. Thus the Holy Scripture is the result of the Holy Spirit's integration (binding together) of divine and human activity. As such, Holy Scripture is a given for the theological task both as it witnesses to the normative deeds of redemption of the God who acts in the freedom of his love and by its palpable existence as a witness to us of the continuity of the ways of God and his accessibility to us in Christ through the Word.
Data (or more precisely data statements) is the primary standard that the scientific community uses in testing theoretical structures (theory). All data results from the human probing of reality which makes itself accessible to such probing by the power of its intrinsic order and contingent intelligibility which grasp and beckon the inquirer. Thus data, too, stands as a given for the scientific enterprise. From a Judeo-Christian perspective data may be looked upon as resulting from the Holy Spirit's integration (binding together) of physical reality's intrinsic contingent intelligibility and human intelligence. All scientific data is the result of some human process (even supposedly "haphazardly"-taken data) which may be seen as "guided" or inspired by the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Westminster Confession of Faith possibly points toward such a role for the Holy Spirit in Chapter IX - of the Holy Spirit, paragraph 2, where it states: "He is Lord and Giver of life, everywhere present, and is the source of all good thoughts and holy counsels in men."
In understanding this analogy, note that both data and Holy Scripture are
characterized by an openness allowing genuine novelty of interpretation.
Therefore it is possible for scientific theories and theological doctrine
respectively based upon data and Holy Scripture to undergo development. In this
context, development is change fully continuous with what is trustworthy (a
faithful representation of reality) in former formulations.
Analogy B: The role of intuitive instinct in theology and natural science.
Theology Natural Science
Holy Scripture Data
| TI | SI
TI: Theologians formulate doctrine from their understanding of Holy Scripture through Theological instinct guided by the activity of the Holy Spirit. Theological instinct may be defined in terms of Polanyi's concept of indwelling: As theologians indwell the scripture by becoming deeply immersed in the prayerful study of scripture-> They are reciprocally indwelt by the living Word of God, whose transcendent, loving intelligibility is faithfully, uniquely and authoritatively witnessed to in Scripture.
In other words, a mutual reciprocity takes place as the object we as theologians become immersed in, the Holy Scripture, becomes a subject, an active initiating agent, the living Word of God himself who now indwells us. In short theological instinct arises from theological reflection guided by the activity of the Holy Spirit and flashes of insight inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thus the living God who bounds and indwells Scripture makes himself known to theologians creating an impetus (or movement) to articulation which results in doctrine. Such doctrinal formulation may be looked upon as a consequence of the remarkable correlation between thought patterns intrinsic to the theologian's mind and dynamic covenantal structures pointed to in Holy Scripture which are a manifestation of the loving, transcendent intelligibility of the living God. The epistemological fidelity that this remarkable correlation represents is discussed more fully in analogy B'.
SI: Scientists formulate theory from their understanding of data through Scientific instinct (which from a theological perspective could be looked upon as guided by the activity of the Holy Spirit). Scientific instinct in natural science may also be defined in terms of Polanyi's concept of indwelling: As scientists personally experience the concrete objects and events of physical reality, they indwell physical reality through their deep immersion in the collection and study of the data ->. They are reciprocally indwelt by the contingent intelligibility embodied in physical reality. Thus the "reality" which bounds and indwells the data makes itself known (through the data) to scientists creating a movement to articulation resulting in theory. It should be noted that God's bounding and indwelling the Scriptures has a much more intimate personal dimensionality than "reality's" bounding and indwelling the data.
In other words, a mutual reciprocity takes place as the object we as
scientists indwell, the data, becomes a subject, an active initiating agent,
whose activity allows the intelligibility indwelling it to now indwell us. Such
theory formulation may be looked upon as a consequence of the remarkable
correlation between thought patterns intrinsic to the scientist's mind and
law-structures associated with the contingent intelligibility embodied in
physical reality. The epistemological fidelity that
this remarkable correlation represents is discussed more fully in analogy B'. It
is interesting to note that the remarkable correlations which make theological
and scientific instincts possible may be illumined by the following analogy
which widens the context of the physicist Eugene Wigner's comments on the
unusual appropriateness of mathematics in physical science. The analogy is as
The strange power of agape love (a manifestation of Grace in the joy and the tragedy of human life) as perceived by the human mind in odd, sometimes poetic forms to disclose the dynamic covenantal structures pointed to in Holy Scripture: The Creator-creation relationship as supremely manifest in the nature of the incarnate Jesus Christ. Note that love is experience, and the language which describes it, itself a structure of the human mind, is also a form of human experience.
The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics to disclose the contingent intelligibility embodied in physical reality. Note that mathematics, a structure of the human mind, is a language which is also a form of human experience.
Analogy B': Epistemological fidelity
Suggested by Bruce Hedman, Dept. of Mathematics-Undergraduate school, University of Connecticut, 85 Lawler Rd, West Hartford, Connecticut 06117-2697.
Revelation expresses itself in word intelligibility (Torrance) which is knowable to the human mind; that is, there is a faithful correspondence between verbal meanings as they really occur in revelation and as we apprehend them.
The contingent order expresses itself in number intelligibility (Torrance) which is knowable to the human mind; that is, there is a faithful correspondence between mathematical structures as they really occur in nature and as we apprehend them.
The following discussion is intended to clarify what is meant by epistemological intelligibility in the context of Thomas F. Torrance's theological perspective. Both theology and natural science may be looked upon as activities where a reality beyond human observers is disclosed to those observers. In theology, God's supreme self-revelation in the incarnation in spatial-temporal reality of Jesus Christ discloses a transcendent intelligibility of love that undergirds and provides meaning to all of creation. This disclosure was uniquely manifest as God revealed his all-encompassing love through concrete events experienced by the Old and New Testament witnesses; the disclosure continues to manifest itself today in the lives of believers through the ongoing presence of the living God, i.e., the Holy Spirit. Revelation is the terminology used for the disclosure of the nature of the living God where God always takes the initiative whether human inquirers are actively seeking him or not.
In natural science, physical reality (God's Creation) discloses a contingent intelligibility as human inquirers observe and pose questions, often of a quantitative nature, and employ physical manipulation in order to elicit repeatable responses, i.e., experimentation. This disclosure process is called discovery. It is guided by an intuition of order, pattern embedded in the concrete objects of physical reality being studied. Such discovery takes place primarily through the initiative of the human inquirer, but is controlled by the nature of the object under investigation. In the process of discovery the human observer's initiative can be altered toward entirely new types of questioning as a result of unexpected responses to specific questions directed at the physical reality in question. Thus disclosure, whether in the form of revelation (theology) or discovery (natural science) is always ultimately controlled or molded by the nature of the object encountered, God or physical reality.
Disclosure, whether in
the form of revelation (theology)
or discovery (natural science) is always ultimately controlled
or molded by the nature of the object encountered, God or physical reality.
In both forms of disclosure, theological and scientific, specific patterns and invariant structures manifest in God's historical dealings with humankind or in the concrete objects of physical reality, awaken the human inquirer to an intelligibility (transcendent or contingent) "dwelling in" the respective realities that are encountered. It is only by means of verbal communication, i.e., words, that theologians and scientists can refer the specific patterns and invariant structures they discover to the intrinsic intelligibilty (transcendent and contingent) "dwelling in" the specific objects of theology's and natural science's attention, i.e., God's self-revelation to us in Jesus Christ and physical reality respectively.
Word-number interaction in theology and natural science
Thomas F. Torrance has denoted by number the specific patterns and invariant structures from which theology and natural science build their respective understandings. Number is intended to emphasize that these patterns and invariant structures are susceptible to formal analysis; criteria of coherence, logical and historical consistency, ... are applicable. The specific details of number are different in theology and natural science for these details must be appropriate to the contexts of the distinctive objects with which theological and scientific discourse are concerned. In natural science the specific patterns and invariant structures characterized as number are quantitative so they are represented by actual numerical expressions. On the other hand, theology's formalizable aspects are often of a qualitative nature so they are represented by words which are functionally numberlike; i.e., they establish orderings of historical events, invariances of historical patterns or human (God's) nature, etc. Similarly, Torrance has denoted as word those aspects of verbal communication needed to refer number, theological and scientific, to the rational order "dwelling in" the unique objects of scientific and theological investigation. In both natural science and theology Torrance intends that word designate the referential ability of verbal communication, oral or written, to establish a relationship of meaning between each discipline's formalizable component (number) and the intrinsic intelligibilty of the discipline's object. Such referential ability is always expressed in actual words functioning in a wordlike way thereby fulfilling this referential role. Torrance suggests that the intelligibilities that theology and natural science respectively are pointing to emerge from the interaction of these two epistemological levels, word and number.
Word intelligibility in theology and number intelligibility in natural science
In natural science, the primary emphasis of its participants is on the "seeing" of numerical invariant patterns associated with concrete things and structures of physical reality. Physical meaning emerges when it is recognized that the association of mathematical forms of order with specific objects and relationships of physical reality points to a basic unitary order undergirding physical reality. It is human verbal communication (word) which imparts physical meaning to these numerical patterns and invariances (number) by referring them to the intrinsic order embodied in all concrete manifestations of physical reality. Accordingly, Torrance views natural science as an unfolding of number intelligibility from the interaction of word and number appropriate to the object of natural science's discourse, the concrete things and invariant structures of physical reality.
In theology, on the other hand, the primary emphasis is on the "saving" (reconciling and redeeming) meaning of the invariant patterns of God's dealing with humankind as manifest in unique historical events. This "saving" meaning comes to us as we "listen" for God's word manifest in the "numerical" details of God's revelation through history. We "hear" God's word speak to us through historical events as we are open to their deeper significance which calls into question all our finite, sinful preconceptions concerning God's revealing acts. Since human verbal communication (word) is essential to convey "saving" meaning with respect to the numerical structures and patterns (number) of God's revelation in concrete historical events, Torrance views theology as an unfolding of word intelligibility from the interaction of word and number associated with the object of theological ¨discourse, the self-revelation of the living God manifest in the incarnation in space and time of Jesus Christ.
Torrance views theology as an unfolding of word intelligibility
from the interaction of word and number associated
with the object of theological discourse.
In theology's word intelligibility and natural science's number intelligibility the mutual reci-procity of the word-number interaction is differential in character. The respective word-number interactions may be perceived in terms of an asymmetric relationship consisting of two reciprocal relations: The controlling or molding of number by word and, reciprocally, the responsive dependence of number on word. This asymmetric or differential relationship between word and number aspects for each discipline enables number details to be referred to their intrinsic meaning expressible only by means of words. Out of much interplay a disclosure results from the transcendent and contingent intelligibilities manifest in the objects of each discipline, God's revelation to humankind and physical reality.
For a more complete discussion of theology's word intelligibility and natural
science's number intelligibility the reader is referred to Torrance's essay Word and Number where it is suggested that the two
intelligibilities point to an underlying epistemological unity intrinsic to
Christian theology and scientific inquiry. The epistemological fidelity that
theology's word intelligibility and natural science's number intelligibility
faithfully represent is schematically portrayed by the differential integrative
relationship analogies (DIRA) of figure 1. The following discussion briefly
summarizes what is meant by a differential integrative relationship analogy in
the context of theology's word intelligibility and science's number
The differential structure of theology and natural science
Both word intelligibility in theology and number intelligibility in natural science may be represented as a hierarchical correlation of two different epistemological levels, word and number. The two levels, word and number, form the poles of a bipolar-relational structure (model) that captures the "complex unity" of theology's word intelligibilty and science's number intelligibility. Accordingly, there is more than one epistemological level associated with each intelligibility's "complex epistemological unity" and in each bipolar-relational structure the higher level provides the integrative meaning of the lower level. For each bipolar-relational structure, the word and number poles are distinct yet reciprocally related.
In other words, in each intelligibility there is an interplay and the word and number poles affect each other. The lower (number) pole has a meaning in and of itself in terms of the formalizable details and quantitative invariant patterns appropriate to the respective disciplines. But the lower pole can only be fully understood in relation to the higher (word) pole which exerts a controlling function (Michael Polanyi's principle of marginal control) as it refers the lower pole's formalizable and quantitative meaning to the distinctive rational orders "dwelling in" the unique objects of the two disciplines. Thus the higher (word) pole's own distinct meaning comes about through molding the formalizable and quantitative aspects of the lower pole by selecting, defining and emphasizing those aspects in the context of the intrinsic intelligibility associated with each discipline's object. In this sense the higher pole provides the integrative meaning of the lower pole.
For each bipolar-relational structure,
the word and number poles are distinct yetreciprocally related.
Lastly, note that for the two bipolar-relational structures which represent word intelligibility and number intelligibility respectively, word and number levels are defined with differing emphases to take into account the distinctive contexts of theology and natural science.
Differential integrative relationship analogies
A differential integrative relationship analogy (DIRA) may be used to represent the "complex unity" of both intelligibilities, word and number, understood as bipolar-relational unitary structures. A DIRA is an asymmetric relationship analogy where differences in reciprocal relations of the relationship bind two poles together to form a unitary structure that maintains the distinctiveness of the poles. The relationship is differential in that the distinction between the poles is highlighted. On the other hand, it is integrative in that it brings the poles together into a unity. The DIRA's of figure 1 are properly understood in the following (six point) context:
1. || represent the asymmetric
relations of the (differential) relationship between the two poles of a complex
2. The word and number poles of the bipolar-relational unity exist at the different epistemological levels.
3. Theologically all relationships ultimately may be thought of as a consequence of the creative-redeeming activity of the Holy Spirit who binds together in relationship the different levels to form dynamic unitary structures.
4. In the DIRA's bipolar-relational structure a mutual reciprocity exists between the two poles: word implies number and number implies word. There is a hierarchical aspect to this mutual reciprocity in that the two poles are regulated by a principle of marginal control resulting from the asymmetric nature of the relationship.
5. It is also possible to perceive the DIRA's two poles and relations between them as forming a "circular" feedback loop. This "circular" feedback loop is an interaction between levels in which the top level "reaches" downward toward the bottom level and influences it, while at the same time responding to the bottom level. Out of the dynamic character of the two poles and the asymmetric relations between them that constitute the "circular" feedback dynamic, differentiated unitary structure emerges. In other words, the ongoing activity of such "circular" feedback results in the emergence of human knowledge as expressed by word intelligibility and number intelligibility.
6. The DIRA's two levels and two relations, taken together as holistic totality, constitute an analogical pattern of a mutually reciprocal (one pole implies the other), asymmetric, dynamic, bipolar-relational unity.
A different concrete example may clarify what is meant by a DIRA. We would suggest that the essence of a Christian theologian's productive life may be represented analogically as a "complex unity" of bipolar-relational character, prayer being the less visible (tacitly known), higher pole which actively molds the more visible (explicitly known), lower pole of prolonged, careful . Prayer and reflective study, distinctive components of a good theologian's working life, can be perceived as poles whose subtle interaction creates a bipolar-relational unity that faithfully represents the essence of theological productivity.
Prayer and reflective study,
distinctive components of a good theologian's working life,
can be perceived as poles whose subtle interaction
creates a bipolar-relational unity that faithfully
represents the essence of theological productivity.
In this hierarchical interplay the theologian's active prayer life controls or molds all his or her careful study of the activity of the living God as witnessed to, primarily, in Holy Scripture and, secondarily, in human experience. Yet, at the same time, such careful study causes the theologian to appreciate more fully the beautiful yet complex character of God's love expressed through creative care toward all the Creation. This careful study thus brings about a relation of dependence upon or openness to a new sense of awe and wonder of God's love that results in a maturing of the theologian's prayerful responses to God's Grace. This more mature prayer, in turn, guides or controls further careful theological study and reflection. The interplay of control and responsive dependence represent the asymmetric relations of a differential relationship which bind together the distinct poles of prayer and study to form a bipolar-relational unity. This bipolar-relational structure, a dynamic unity of prayer and study bound together by a hierarchical relationship of control and responsive dependence constitutes a DIRA that analogically embodies the core or essence of a Christian theologian's productive life. Either analogy of figure 1 schematically represents this DIRA if the upper pole is denoted as prayer and the lower pole denoted as reflective study.
Nomenclature Number intelligibility in Natural Science
Number (NS)-Quantitative, formalizable mathematical patterns, operations, invariant structures, ... Characterized as non-individualistic, inter-subjective (subject to communal criterion of consistency), determinant, immanent, ... Formalization implies that criteria of coherence, logical consistency, ... are applicable.
Word-speech, language establishes meaning referentially. That is, by referring mathematical operations, structures, patterns, ... to objective patterns and structures found in physical reality-nature. This referential aspect of language can never be completely explicated; there is always an informal tacit component to verbal communications. Such a personal, tacit component emerges in the context of the complex interpersonal interactions of the community of scientists. The referential character of language was already present in the decisions as to what experiments to do, its tacit presence widens as it becomes an essential aspect of the words chosen to convey the possible meaning of experimental results in the context of developing physical theory. Verbal communications, word, opens up to us some limited recognition and understanding of the contingent intelligibility indwelling physical reality-nature.
This referential aspect of language
can never be completely explicated;
there is always an informal tacit component to verbal communications.
Rd - the disclosure relationship (asymmetric).
Relations of the relationship: 1. creates, sustains, grounds; 2. points to, responsive to.
R - Number and word relationship (asymmetric), interaction.
Relations of the relationship: a. molds; b. points to, responsive to.
Word intelligibility in theology
Number (T)-The many quantitative, formalizable details associated with explication of God's acting and speaking through historical events: dates, places, specific details (the Red Sea was, in some physical way, parted so that the Exodus from Egypt took place; the encounter of the disciples and the others with the resurrected Christ; and so forth).
Characterized as non-individualistic, inter-subjective (subject to communal criteria of consistency), determinant, immanent, ...
Formalization implies that criteria of coherence, logical and historical consistency (as an example, the congruence of the Gospel portraits of Jesus with his historical reality), ... are applicable.
Word-speech, language establishes meaning referentially. That is, by referring quantitative, formal statements about specific factual (historical) events both toward themselves and away from themselves to a transcendent objectivity found in God's divine self-revelation to humankind. God's divine self-revelation is revealed to humankind yesterday in the spatial-temporal life of the incarnate Word of God and today through the presence of the risen Lord in his church-the community of worship. The risen Lord's presence is also manifest today through the ongoing, creative activity of the Holy Spirit in sustaining the created Universe and inspiring creative exploratory activity by human scientists, artists, poets, ...
This referential aspect of theological verbal expression is deeply personal, being rooted in tacit, informal activity of the worshipping community. It opens up to humankind some limited recognition and understanding of the transcendent intelligibility of the living God-The Eternal Word.
The revelation of God's eternal Word-The person of Jesus Christ-as he is witnessed to indirectly (secondarily) by the totality of Old Testament words concerning heroes, prophets, and servants and directly (primarily) by the New Testament words concerning his incarnate spatial-temporal presence in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Or, equivalently, the Revealed Word, the reality of God who in his freedom of love unveils and makes known his creative, reconciling and redeeming purpose toward humankind. The revelation of God has its central locus in a single personal history, of Jesus the Christ (foreshadowed in the Old Testament, witnessed to in the New Testament) who is self-disclosing, the self-giving, and the self-evidencing of the Triune God.
~ denotes an analogy of faith, analogia fidei, a form of disclosure correspondence perceived
through "the ears and eyes of faith."
Analogy C: Discovery as encounter in theology and natural science-three related aspects
1. Theology: The Holy Scriptures are necessary to Theological Science but not sufficient in themselves -the revelatory activity of the Holy Spirit through inspiration and/or illumination is needed to guide and awaken the theologian.
Natural Science: The Data are necessary to Natural Science but not sufficient in themselves - inspiration, insight is needed to awaken and guide the scientist.
REVELATION: The self-disclosing (unveiling, revealing) of God in Jesus Christ who in his freedom of love encounters us through the witness of Holy Scripture-> Opening us up to begin to apprehend, in part, what is always beyond our finite and sinful comprehension, the intrinsic, transcendent intelligibility of his being and action. Such "opening up" is through the work of the Holy Spirit.
DISCOVERY: The concrete objects of physical reality encounter us through the accumulation of data -> Opening us up to apprehend glimpses of the intrinsic, contingent intelligibility of their structures. This discovery process can be seen, from the Judeo-Christian perspective, as the work of the Holy Spirit.
3. Theology is based upon God's faithfulness in all his dealings with humankind (as manifest in Israel and in the self-revelation of Jesus Christ) where Yahweh freely reveals himself in always new and unexpected ways that are inexhaustible in scope (adapted from Karl Barth).
Science is based upon reality's stability of structure and
pattern which has the capacity to reveal itself in always new and unexpected
ways that are inexhaustible in scope (adapted from Michael Polanyi). Note that
theologically the second component of this analogy is a consequence of the first
as a parenthetical remark of the introduction suggests.
Analogy D. Scientific Method in theology and natural science
Both sciences are three component endeavors, uniquely human activities rooted in "faith in search of understanding" where one's commitments (ultimate and working) are formulated in response to the distinctive character of the realities that encounter both disciplines. The dialogical process which represents the core of scientific method in theology and natural science, indicated in figure 2, should be understood in this context. It is a form of "circular feedback" composed of ongoing alternating movements between the understanding of the discipline's standard (Holy Scripture and data respectively) and theory statements (doctrinal statements and theoretical statements respectively). The understanding of the standard generates theory statements which, in turn, test and are tested by understanding of the standard; the cycle, then repeating itself as scientific knowledge develops.
The process of "circular feedback" common to both theological science and natural science should be understood in this context. This analogy is properly understood as a heuristic representation of the developmental character of scientific method in theology and natural science. All three interacting components of this scientific method take place within a community of theologians or scientists whose social (often tacit) interactions are an extremely important part of the respective developmental structures in figure 2.
It is through the ongoing dialogue of both theology
and natural science with their respective cultures
as a whole that the presuppositions and findings of one
discipline influence (often in very subtle ways) the other.
The social interactions with the larger culture in which the theological and scientific communities are embedded may also play a major role in the developmental structures of the scientific method in theology and natural science. Accordingly, this heuristic analogy for scientific method in theology and natural science should be understood as deeply rooted in social-community activity; theology and natural science are, after all, uniquely human endeavors. It is through the ongoing dialogue of both theology and natural science with their respective cultures as a whole that the presuppositions and findings of one discipline influence (often in very subtle ways) the other.
Theological Science: The self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ as witnessed to in Holy Scripture is the reality sought after by theological science. In its function as this witness, Holy Scripture is an embodiment of God's transcendent, loving intelligibility. Insight into this revelation by the work of the Holy Spirit creates a movement to articulation culminating in doctrine which is to be understood as the process by which the revelation witnessed to in Holy Scripture comes to expression in human intellectual structures, which necessarily are then subjected to the authority of the revelation as to their adequacy. This process can be likened to an ongoing "circular feedback" loop in which both the understanding of Scripture and the Doctrinal statements generated from it are mutually in dialogue, testing and being tested by each other.
Discovery, guided by insight or intuitive grasp,
expresses itself in the articulation of theory,
which is then tested by understanding of the data. . .
Natural Science: Physical reality, in its intrinsic contingent intelligibility, comes to expression through discovery by the human observer of that intelligibility as manifest in data. Data is thus an embodiment of physical reality's contingent intelligibility. Discovery, guided by insight or intuitive grasp, expresses itself in the articulation of theory, which is then tested by understanding of the data in a process analogous to the "circular feedback" loop mentioned above.
It is appropriate to note that from a theological perspective the discovery of contingent intelligibility embedded in the space-time structures of creation may become a secondary form of revelation of the Creator God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit, if the observer has a sense of awe awakened by the beckoning call of the Holy Spirit through the inspiration that nature, i.e., physical reality, provides.
Scientific method - a three stage structure
Figure 2 illustrates in detail the analogous structure of scientific method in theology and natural science as composed of three interacting components - the source of intelligibility, the form of disclosure characteristic of the source, and the ongoing spiral-like process of "circular feedback" that leads to theoretical understanding for both disciplines. In figure 2, the two sources of intelligibility for each discipline, God and reality, are parallel to each other. The corresponding forms of disclosure of each source's nature, revelation and discovery, are both dynamic and parallel. It must be noted here that though there is real parallelism between these forms of disclosure there is a different accentuation to each of them. Revelation is wholly God's act and though it embraces the human partner through the illumination of that partner by the Spirit, the focus is clearly on God as the initiator and effector of revelation. In discovery, however, the human partner (observer) plays a major role through the process of data-gathering, hypothesizing and experimentation, in short, by intensively probing physical reality to discover its secrets.
Physical reality, though, remains a real, even controlling partner in dialogue with the discoverer. This can be argued in two ways. First, the contingent order and rationality of physical reality, in its vast compass and dazzling intricacy, serves to lure investigators by stimulating their own rationality and inspiring them to the arduous labor required for genuine scientific understanding. Secondly, physical reality answers only those questions properly focused and posed. We cannot compel it to answer our questions. We can only humbly strive to order and frame our queries in such a fashion that they seek the real order and rationality already there in nature.
Such testing and being tested by,
which completes the "circular feedback," is an ongoing process
that includes the elements of deductive prediction and falsifibility.
The understanding of Holy Scripture, i.e., the exegetical data and syntheses built upon them, emerging from the encounter of the theologian with God or the parallel understanding of data, i.e., including experimental data, tables, charts, graphs, etc., emerging from the encounter of the natural scientist with physical reality "generates" both doctrinal and theoretical statements. This process of "generation" involves elements of imagination, induction, abduction, and intuitive insight. These doctrinal and theoretical statements then "loopback" to the understanding of Holy Scripture and data ¨respectively asking both about the adequacy of that understanding itself and about its own adequacy as a formal unfolding of the understanding involved.
Such testing and being tested by, which completes the "circular feedback," is
an ongoing process that includes the elements of deductive prediction and
falsifibility. The resulting overall cycle's time development may be likened to
a spiral, that is, it is open-ended. Through these cyclical movements
theologians and natural scientists place their rationality under the larger,
more comprehensive rationality of God and physical reality. The integrity of
these processes in both natural science and theology becomes the measure of
these disciplines' accountability to the reality they seek to know.
Analogy E. The epistemological realism of theology and quantum physics
In rigorous scientific methodology we must allow the object of our knowledge to determine the way we know things, the way we think about things, and the way we express our thoughts. Rigorous theology and rigorous natural science have come to acknowledge that there are appropriate ways set by God (or the world) in order to gain understanding of God (the world). Quantum physics has emphasized in new ways this aspect of "scientific objectivity." Such a "scientific objectivity" is always to be understood as resulting from the efforts of finite (and sinful) human creatures; it is properly understood as an approximation that points beyond itself to a truth whose openness will always surprise us.
Perceptual circular complementarity in theology
The very manner by which the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, reveals his Godness to us excludes simultaneous comprehension (perception, awareness) of knowledge concerning his human nature and vice-versa. As the incarnate deity is "listened to" knowledge of his humanity fades out; it is only known indirectly, in the inner recesses of memory. By dialogically "circling" back and forth between both poles of the revelation a limited comprehension emerges of the inexhaustible knowledge revealed in the person of Jesus Christ; where human nature is known only as we know the divine nature and vice-versa, the two natures being distinct yet always bound together in inseparable unity.
Accordingly we must allow God to determine how he reveals himself to us ->
The way we come to
observe God is determined by God. God as Object of our learning and discovery is
simultaneously Subject, the active personal initiator of all our relationships
to him. Thus God remains "indissolubly Subject" even when he is the Object of
our human inquiries and as such determines the appropriate way to come to him:
We must truly believe in order to know him, such belief being grounded in his
first knowing us.
Complementarity in natural science
To observe light, a quantum "object," as a stream of particles will preclude simultaneous knowledge of its wave character and vice-versa. As a particlelike aspect of a quantum "object" is observed, knowledge of the conjugate wavelike property fades out; the wavelike property is known only indirectly, i.e., by memory. By dialogically "circling" back and forth between wave and particle aspects, comprehensive knowledge emerges of the quantum
"object" as a unitary
structure where unity is disclosed in the mutually exclusive wave and particle
contexts. Accordingly we must allow the quantum "object" to tell us how it is to
be looked at -> The
appropriate way of observing the quantum "object" will be determined by the
quantum "object" itself. This appropriateness is manifest in the recognition
that the human observer's selection of the quantum "object's" observational
environment, wavelike or particlelike, determines what can be known with respect
to the quantum "object" - the way we observe a quantum "object" limits
our knowledge of it.
Differences between theological and scientific perceptual complementarities
It is important to recognize the distinctive character of the dissimilarity in similarity with respect to the analogy between these two perceptual complementarities, theological and scientific. Both complementarities are a consequence of the nature of the relatedness between the observer and the object (or Object-Subject for theology) observed. The relatedness between the observer and the observed associated with quantum "objects" is a reality in which the observer's "questions" condition what can be know of the observed whereas the relatedness between the believer and Jesus Christ is a reality in which Jesus Christ's active presence as Subject of subjects (in the Holy Spirit) may "turn around" the believer's questions so that the believer is compelled to reconsider and alter all that he or she believes to be authentic in his or her relationship with the Lord of the Universe.
The theological complementarity, a possible consequence of the differential
unity intrinsic in the person of Jesus Christ, focuses us on a much deeper and
unique personal relatedness between the believer and Jesus Christ than that of
the relatedness of the observer and observed manifest in the complementarity
between wave and particle modes of a quantum "object." Karl Barth has stressed
that God remains "indissolubly Subject," an active, personal initiating agent in
all his dealings with humankind, even when he is the Object of our learning and
Thus certain aspects of knowledge acquisition in theology and in natural science may be represented by complementarity relationships as a consequence of the unique characteristics of the respective interactions between the human observer and the object (or object-subject) observed.
Karl Barth has stressed that God remains "indissolubly Subject,"
an active, personal initiating agent in all his dealings with humankind,
even when he is the Object of our learning and discovery.
Theological and biblical complementarities represent a helpful insight into the richness, distinctiveness and particularity intrinsic to the ways that God and physical reality have revealed their ¨unique transcendent and contingent intelligibilities. As human understanding develops in both fields, these complementarities may be replaced by richer epistemological structures that resolve the apparent paradoxes in a new unity endowed with novel conceptual features. Nevertheless these respective complementarities should continue to function as limiting descriptions within a new conceptual framework. Indeed both complementarities, theological and scientific, may possess enduring validity for they arise out of the requirement that descriptions appropriate to theology and natural science are framed in language contexts which cannot be separated from the realm of human, everyday experience.
Possible epistemological structure beyond complementarity
It should be noted that epistemological structures of greater unity than the current understanding of quantum physics are being actively pursued. J.C. Cramer's recent work in developing a transactional interpretation of quantum physics integrates relativity and quantum theories by providing a transactional model of quantum events in terms of the exchange of real waves physically present in space, rather than as "mathematical representation of knowledge" as in the orthodox or Copenhagen interpretation.
This work leads in a natural way to justification of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the Born probability law, basic elements of the Copenhagen interpretation. The orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics stresses that all statements concerning reality are observer conditioned, i.e., they are statements about the observer's interaction with the quantum "object," not about the object in itself; the existence of an external reality beyond us is not denied, but it is recognized that the nature of this reality is intimately bound up in our observation of it. Cramer's transactional interpretation provides a model of quantum events as existing beyond us that explains why our understanding of such events (as formulated in terms of observables associated with classical physics) is always in terms of the observer's interaction with the quantum "object" in itself. The orthodox interpretation of quantum reality is framed in terms of "God playing dice." Cramer's meta-interpretation of the Copenhagen quantum framework provides a model of a quantum event in terms of a "transaction" between real waves thereby answering the question: "What is the nature of the dice that God throws ?"
The orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics
stresses that all statements concerning reality are observer conditioned,
i.e., they are statements about the observer's interaction
with the quantum "object," not about the object itself.
Thus this interpretation of quantum physics attempts to provide a deeper insight into the nature of physical reality's space-time structures, i.e., mass-energy structures. From the standpoint of Judeo-Christian theology, Cramer's transactional interpretation of quantum physics is analogous to the ontological understanding of the Trinity that deals with the nature of the triune God as he truly exists in communion with himself. This ontological understanding has developed from the economic understanding of the Trinity that elaborates how God is as he is in relation to worshipers as revealed by God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Such a development of human conceptualization concerning God arises through theological instinct as suggested by Analogy B. As a person encounters the revelation of God's Word - he person of Jesus Christ - as he is witnessed to by the biblical words, both Old and New Testament, a relationship is actualized in which one is said to be "in Christ" and that Christ indwells believers. Through such a relationship, the believer is given an intuitive apprehension of God's nature as he is, a unitary community of love.
In an analogous manner (Analogy B's scientific instinct), as the scientist encounters the contingent intelligibility witnessed to in quantum events, a relationship is actualized in which one intuitively indwells and is indwelt by the contingent intelligibility undergirding quantum phenomenon. Through such a relationship a scientist such as Cramer is given an intuitive apprehension of more comprehensive interpretation with respect to quantum reality.
The suggested analogy between the development of deeper insights into
respective intelligibilities, transcendent and contingent, that are intrinsic to
theology and quantum physics is schematically represented in Figure 3.
T - A transformation from one epistemological level to a new level takes place as the "specifics" of the lower level are indwelt by the knower-learner and the intelligibility that grounds the lower levels, i.e., the upper level then, in turn, indwells the knower-learner. Such a natural reciprocity of indwelling constitutes the epistemological transformation process resulting from our experience of revelation and discovery. It begins at the bottom level and moves upward as shown. See the discussion of theological and scientific instincts in Analogy B.
The authors wish to thank James E. Loder, Harold P. Nebelsick, Parker Rossman, Russell Stannard, and Thomas F. Torrance for the numerous stimulating suggestions with respect to this essay. Any misunderstandings contained within are, of course, our sole responsibility and not theirs. The authors would like to dedicate this essay to Harold P. Nebelsick, Professor of Doctrinal Theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 1968 until his death on Easter Sunday, 1989. Harold was a good friend and mentor whose reflections concerning the integration of theology and science inspired much of what is written here.
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