on Remarks of David F. Siemens, Jr.
Concerning the Theology/Science Integration of Thomas F. Torrance
W. Jim Neidhardt
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark, NJ 07102
From Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 43 (June 1991): 114-116.
What does Professor Torrance mean by a disclosure analogy? Let me clarify what I wrote in Thomas F. Torrance's "Integration of Judeo-Christian Theology & Natural Science" (Perspectives, June, 1989). I don't believe my understanding of analogy contradicts the view of Professor Siemens.
As God's transcendent intelligibility creatively grounds, guides and sustains both the space-time universe and the thought patterns guiding human observers in their interactions with the universe, it might be expected that, as creative theologians and natural scientists reflect upon the objects of their respective disciplines, congruences in conceptual structures would develop. In many cases, it turns out that the theological and scientific conceptual structures that have congruent aspects derive some of their similarity from what Professor Torrance would call their disclosure origin and orientation. That is, they are molded by, and in turn point away from themselves to the object (Subject-Object for theology) of their respective disciplines. Therefore, it is appropriate to develop disclosure relationship analogies to model such congruent patterns of thought to enable theologians and natural scientists to better understand the universe they both live in and the personal character of the God who has created that same universe and lovingly entered into it through the Incarnation Event.
What is meant by a disclosure analogy? In an ultimate sense theologically, analogy is a God-created correspondence existing between: (a) two different objects or relationships of reality, (b) two different epistemological structures representing reality, or (c) an epistemological structure and an object or relationship of reality. Of these, we will be focusing our attention on the last two types. In any analogy there is similarity within dissimilarity, a commonality in the two different entities being compared. There is, thus, in an analogy true but partial likeness or reflection. In the particular case of disclosure analogies, the comparison is made across logical domains of reality. They are heuristic, exploratory, and discovery-oriented. Moreover, a disclosure correspondence between entities of two different logical levels of reality is established. This contrasts with the type of analogy that represents a purely formal correspondence between entities within the same logical level. Relational disclosure analogies (of great interest to Professor Torrance), thus represent the heuristic pointing from one domain to another that occurs between similar aspects of the two relationships which either represent or constitute the relational structures of the different reality domains. In the midst of all the similarity it is necessary to recognize as well the distinctive character of dissimilarity within the similarity in relational analogies of theology and natural science. Theological relational structures have a much deeper life-transforming and life-directing personal dimensionality than the analogous relational structures of natural science. Thus, when relational disclosure analogies are used to make comparisons between the two disciplines, both the similarities and the dissimilarities are heuristically insightful.
In terms of Professor Siemens' other remarks, Professor Torrance argues (as I understand him) that learning to know objective reality involves an epistemological attitude where hearing and seeing-grasping are in symbiotic relationship to one another with the former epistemological mode conditioning the latter. By passive I meant receptive to (or submissive to) an external agency. I did not intend to suggest that auditory experience does not require the ongoing participation of the hearer. The primary thrust of my remarks concern the epistemological attitude associated with hearing and seeing-grasping, not the physical mechanisms by which these cognitive modes take place. Hearing and seeing-grasping function jointly with priority being given to hearing molding one's sight and bodily activity so that one is fully open to the reality beyond being interacted with. This view is in agreement with Professor Siemens' comment that hearing, biblically understood, requires mutual understanding and obedience. This epistemological attitude where hearing has priority over seeing-grasping enables one to better apprehend the hidden intelligibility and ethical content of reality beyond us. Let me restate the argument of footnote 13 in more concise and complete form.
Creative Human Knowing: A Differential-Relational
Unity of Auditive and Visual-Somatic Cognitive Modes
The theologian, Thomas F. Torrance, and the physical chemist, Walter Thorson, have argued that human knowing, particularly as manifest in creative encounters with reality, occurs through differential integration by relational interaction of the basic cognitive modes - auditory and visual-somatic with the auditory mode "awakening and guiding" the visual-somatic modes.1 Their argument concerning the nature of these cognitive modes as differentially integrated in creative human knowing is now summarized.
Auditory Cognition (Hearing and Listening)
Hearing and listening place primary emphasis on the "other" rather than the activity of the knower. The objective "other" consists of those objects and/or persons that exist externally to the knower. Hearing and listening is primarily a Hebrew notion. Both Old and New Testaments emphasize hearing and listening to the Word of God; the believer listens when "thus says the Lord" is pronounced by a prophet or finally by Jesus, himself. Auditory knowing stresses an attitude of being receptive and responsive to what is coming to us from the "other." Jesus Christ is reported to have said that to truly know him you must become as a little child. This was a favorite quote of Thomas Huxley who argued that a scientist must initially stand as a little child before nature listening to its behavior in a fully trusting, expectant, responsive and open fashion in order to gain insight into the intrinsic order that undergirds physical reality. It is by hearing and listening that we become "tuned in" to a speech" embedded in reality beyond ourselves. In this manner we become aware of those ultimate commitments which motivate and guide all specific acts of understanding in any given discipline, theology, natural science, history, and so forth. It is by hearing and listening to all human experience (including religious) that natural scientists have developed the strong conviction that behind the rich, complex, regular yet sometimes chaotic behavior of physical reality there are intrinsic patterns of contingent order that can be discovered, i.e., revealed by patient theoretical and experimental analysis with "beautiful" mathematical structure often "faithfully" representing physical reality. Every natural scientist is motivated to formulate specific working commitments of theories by the hope that this ultimate commitment provides. Note also that hearing and listening may allow us to recognize intuitively a specific intrinsic pattern of order, thereby making a specific discovery concerning external reality.
The auditive mode of cognition, listening and hearing, functions only as we are responsive and obedient to what is beyond ourselves. It may be characterized by two distinctive features:
a. Listening awakens an attitude of awe and humility toward external reality. No deliberate attempt is made to impose our preconceived notions upon the reality being observed. In this receptive mode of cognition we allow external reality to reveal its intrinsic structures not distorted by our attempts to manipulate or alter such structure as would happen if we were to engage in active questioning.
b. The auditory mode allows an intuitive comprehension of reality to develop, intuition being defined by Calvin as direct knowledge of an actually present object, naturally caused by that object and not by "another" (or by one's own preconceived ideas - my comment). In other words, by first listening we allow the object being observed to control our understanding.
Thomas F. Torrance, following Michael Polanyi, defines intuition as "not the supreme immediate knowledge called `intuition' by Leibniz, Spinoza or Husserl but the inexplicable apprehension or insight to hidden coherences or intelligible order... the spontaneous process of sensing and integrating clues in response to some aspect of reality seeking realization in our minds."2
Visual-Somatic Cognition (Seeing-Grasping)
Visual cognition or seeing, a Greek mode of knowing, is an active recognition of form and pattern motivated and guided by one's ultimate commitments to the existence of order and the possibility of finding "faithful" modes of representation of that order whether numerical, geometrical or more qualitative in character. Such holistic pattern recognition is central to theory formulation. It must always be tested against external reality as it is self-centered and can easily become passive. This testing of pattern may be looked upon as a somatic, primarily grasping process.
Somatic cognition, specifically grasping, a Roman mode of knowing, is controlling and manipulative, being guided by one's working commitments and theories concerning external reality. It is indeed active but can easily become just a form of self expression. Taken together, seeing and grasping allow a knower to discover partial but potentially objective knowledge about reality, such knowledge can be fed "back" to enhance and alter the seeing and grasping process.
Creative human knowing takes place through the differential-relational interaction of auditory and visual-somatic modes of human cognition. In this differential integration, auditory cognition heuristically dominates as the knower truly listens, is fully responsive and receptive to particulars in external reality which in piecemeal fashion serve as clues or tokens of a yet unseen whole. Thus the knower's primary attention is on external reality itself and not on preconceived ideas about it. Accordingly an awareness of new clues becomes possible which awareness of former preconceived ideas would have suppressed.
Incorporating these new clues into seeing, the act of theoretical or contemplative integration of particulars into a whole, makes possible the recognition of new wholes or patterns which may faithfully represent external reality. In natural science such gestalts are often tested by directing "questions" into the form of physical manipulation under controlled circumstances of the physical reality that confronts us, i.e., experimentation. Such physical manipulation is done manually or often with sophisticated mechanical-electronic extensions of our hands, i.e., particle accelerators or robotic devices for manipulating radioactive materials.
In Judeo-Christian theology the testing of gestalts concerning the reality of
God occurs as the theologian directs "questions" to God through petitionary
prayer and reflection upon God's revelation as witnessed to by Holy Scripture.
Often God's reality, as expressed in Jesus Christ's living presence as Subject
of subjects (through the Holy Spirit) may turn "around" the theologian's
"questions" so that he or she is compelled to reconsider and to alter all
conceptual models concerning the Lord of the universe and a proper human
relationship to that Lord. Then, God may graciously allow a form of manipulative
questioning of physical reality to take place in order to reveal his loving
sovereignty toward all creation. That is, God motivates in the believer a
grasping of physical reality in a servant context. Through acts of physical
grasping performed in meeting the needs of less fortunate creatures (fellow
human beings or the fragile ecosystem that God provided for our well-being), the
believer comes to a greater awareness of God's loving purpose for the
1Specific references to Professor Torrance's
insights on the primacy of auditory cognition in its symbiotic relationship with
visual-somatic cognition are: Thomas F. Torrance, "Theological and
Scientific Inquiry," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, vol.
38, No. 1, pp. 2-10 (1986). Walter Thorson, "Scientific Objectivity and the
Word of God," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, vol. 36,
No. 2, pp. 88-97 (1984).
2Thomas F. Torrance, editor, Belief in Science and in Christian Life. Edinburgh: The Handsel Press, 1980, "Notes on Terms and Concepts (in particular intuition)," p. 139.