Christian Apologetics Related to Science
John E. McKenna
Big Sandy TX 75755
From PSCF 49 (June 1997):96
This paper argues that "natural theology" conceived as a conceptual system antecedent to the interpretive framework provided by the self-revelation of the Word of God with us is to be transformed and reconceived at the heart of that revelation. In this way, science and theology may find new powers of integration that can help the modern debates between them, and it may do this in the light of the real historical contexts in which their respective enterprises are pursued. Here scientists and theologians discover a deeper appreciation of their disciplines and perhaps the ground for more creative interaction.
The problem of "natural theology" still vitally impacts the discussions about theology and science and their relationship in our society. Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian, has contended in his Church Dogmatics that no particular cosmology is ever embraced by the biblical world.1 As a result, he is often accused of ignoring "history" with his theology. His theological science is not considered real science at all. Barth was concerned that the "natural theology," which had found support in the German Church and had become the "national theology" of the Nazi heresy, continued to find strong support in the Church of Jesus Christ. Much of the impetus for the focus of his work may be traced to this concern. He never believed that his efforts to free theology from its evil connection with "natural theology" meant that no relationship existed between theological and natural science and the real history of the world. Thomas Torrance has spent much time arguing this point. The transcendence of the free God in Barth's Dogmatics does not mean that God has no relationship with history and science. It means that it is not possible to articulate this relationship in terms of the "natural theology" employed by the German Church to justify its embrace of the Nazi.2 A "natural theology" is possible for Torrance if the relationship between science and theology is properly understood.3
After many years of debate, the situation remains today, as far as I can see, pretty much the same as when Barth worked out the science of his theology. Committed to that revealed knowledge of one God rooted in the ground of the Blessed Trinity of the Living Redeemer and Creator of the world, the beautiful symmetry of his theology is ignored by most evangelicals in the American Church. The same resistance"sometimes bitter"that Barth experienced in his lifetime is common today. As one of the last doctoral students of Geoffrey Bromiley at Fuller Theological Seminary, I had the opportunity to ask him about the translations of the Dogmatics which he edited with Torrance. He was very blunt with me about their failure to get the American Church to read them.4 In my own way, I, too, have experienced this resistance to Barth's position, especially among evangelical theologians and scientists. I am persuaded that, unless we can throw some new light upon this problem, we shall not make the kind of progress I believe we must, if we are going to be faithful to the Gospel of God in our discussions about science and theology. This paper will contribute to the clarification of the nature of this problem.5
Barth's now famous "nein" to Emil Brunner came at a time when this negative assertion seemed most imperative to the Swiss theologian. Adolph Hitler, leader of the Nazi movement in Germany, was approved by their great institutions. Barth personally experienced the results of the marriage between the "natural theology" of the German Christian Church and the national cause of Der Führer. It was an impossible possibility come to life. He campaigned against such a marriage not only on the epistemological front, but on every front.6 The Barmen Declaration is the point made in his campaign against the marriage in the political history of the times. The imperative negative ought to be heard in this kind of context.
Civilization has, indeed, judged the marriage an abominable one. Hitler acted in the "vanity of the abomination" and "reaped the whirlwind" because of it. The culture for which civilization has been developed cannot embrace any theology that allows the Church to partner with the State in the way of a tyrant like Der Führer. Whatever the nature of the partnership, it should not be like this one. I believe that both civilization and the Church of Jesus Christ must embrace a truth that judges such marriages as idolatry, the very same sort that the Israelites devised with Baalim in the days of the prophet Elijah. I believe that Barth's position on both the epistemological and political fronts was right"he understood his campaign to resonate with the prophet Elijah in ancient Israel.7 The "natural theology" that allows such a marriage to occur must and shall be denied any ultimate value for us. It is a heresy whose bloody consequences do not see it for what it actually is, the real nature of the relationship between God and his people.
This was the thrust of Barth's point against the "analogy of being" right at the beginning of his Dogmatics. No analogy exists in the world that can be employed naturally to know the Object which is the true Subject of theological science. There naturally exists no "natural theology" that can serve to interpret and judge the nature of the world or God for what they truly are. Outside the revelation of God, there is no knowledge of God in his relational veracity with us as the Creator of the world. No antecedent conceptual system, rooted and grounded in the natural world of God's creative acts, can conceive of him as anyone but who he truly is. He is who he truly is as he reveals himself to be in his covenant with Israel and the Church. Outside this self-revelation, the world's perception of its Creator can only be the source of some idolatry, against which the Bible teaches God's people to stand.
The heavens and the earth as objects in the biblical world are known to exist as what they are under the divine power of God's eloquence. We hear God speaking in the covenant relationship that the Creator has established with his people, giving them deliverance from their idolatry and sin, as their Redeemer. Despite the many pretenders thrown up among the peoples of the world as the One, it is the great I AM, God in covenant with Israel, who provides the basis by which creatures may see the meaning and significance of their redemption in the creation with the true Creator of the world. The reality of their relationship to the Creator and the Redeemer of the world is where true knowledge of God is to be found by God's people. This is the point which Barth was seeking to articulate with his Church Dogmatics"the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his generation.8
On this point, I believe Barth is more scriptural than his many critics. Much of their criticism of his imperative negation of Brunner's way of relating grace and nature seeks to regard "national theology" as some natural bridge that may be built across the chasm that exists between the transcendence of God and the God of history. However, Barth was quite sure that the Bible teaches that no such gap truly exists between them. The immanence of God in the history of the world as God's creation cannot be divorced from who God truly is in himself and with his people, from his transcendent being. Right from the beginning of our thought, we must learn to consider the two together. "Natural theology" conceived as a system of thought, learned in the world antecedent to what the world actually is as God's creation, posits a chasm between them that does not really exist at all. It is the epistemological dualism of such "natural theology" that is at fault here, says Barth, not the freedom of God to be free with himself in relationship to his creation. Far from a denial of history, Barth's position is that history is what it is in the light that God is with us and it. It is an affirmation that history is possible only in the actuality of who God is, in his freedom to be both transcendent over it and immanent within it without threatening his being. Who he is in his eternity and what he does with himself in relationship to what he has caused to exist are bound together with divine wisdom and freedom. The freedom of his uncreated existence means that he is free over and with all created reality. The Church knows her one Lord and Creator as the Redeemer of the world, beside whom there is no other. This One is the Messiah of Israel and the Lord of all history. Barth is convinced that this One of the history of God's people is the transcendent God revealed in Christ with us. Both history and transcendent reality are implicated in the nature of the covenant relationship fulfilled by God in Christ with the history of Israel, the Creator of the world.9
In this freedom, God is free to name the very place which is and must be considered the center of this world's history.
This Gospel of God does not and will not necessarily serve the national interests of Germany or any other nation. This Gospel will not serve the interests or common causes of any race, tribe, or peoples other than those creatures in the world called to serve God's chosen One, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel, therefore, must have its Elijah. Without hearing God's "No" against the idol, we cannot grasp the good news of this Gospel. The good news that God serves with his self-revelation in Christ is to make known to humanity the Maker of all things. This Gospel serves the world as the grace and truth of God's salvation with his creation. It will and does serve, in fact, God's judgment and wrath against those who continue to oppose him in his service to the world. It is precisely through this truth and grace that the world must come to know its God. This is, I believe, Barth's point about the transcendence of God and his relationship with the history of the world. Any leader or savior except Jesus Christ is no Lord of time or eternity.10 It was impossible for him to heil Hitler in his classroom. It was idolatry. Like Elijah, he had to stand against any salute to the Nazi leader.
Nothing in this stance suggests that there is no relationship between God in his eternity and the real history of the world. It is precisely because God is true to himself in his acts with and in the world that we are allowed to know him in the humanity he has freely chosen to be with us, even as he is in his eternity. It is interesting that Barth felt there were others much more qualified to write the Dogmatics on the doctrine of creation. But even as less qualified than others, he needed to write the doctrine himself because he could not trust the interpretation of its epistemology to anyone else.11
In seeking to appreciate appropriately the transcendence of God over history, Barth never meant that history, even the history of the creation itself, could be thought to exist alienated from the divine freedom of the nature of God. For Barth, God and the history of humanity in God's creation was the subject of the covenant relationship as taught in the Bible. It is this divine freedom Barth attempted to articulate as consistently and thoroughly as he was able. In this freedom, God is free to name the very place which is and must be considered the center of this world's history. Both divine and human natures exist with one another in an unique relational veracity that effects all of created time, all history, so that it makes them what they actually are with the world. Though we may not posit any necessary relationship between God and the world in this freedom, there exists a freely created and creative One, the key to which is given us in the way God has actually taken to fulfill his promise to his people in his covenant with the Christ.12
Though the world and God's people may not know him, yet God still comes into the world for them. Despite our idolatry and ignorance of him, God freely wills a relationship with us. It is a spiritual relationship whose origins are bound up with the freedom of God to be present with himself in his world. This relationship between God and the world, therefore, must be conceived as a created and creative one, even from the very beginning of all that is creaturely reality. We may not read back into it any necessity which we may discover within the world. The world as God's creation is rooted in who the Creator is and in his freedom to be present with it, not in what creatures, who are alienated from who he truly is with himself, might think him to be. This means that a real "natural theology" (the world explicated as God's creation in light of who God truly is in himself with it) must be grounded in the actual being of God, in his acts with us, and in his freedom to create an interaction with us. The first created place is a space and time the nature of which is uniquely dependent upon God himself. This is the point against the analogia entis with respect to "natural theology" that is at the foundation of Barth's thought.
This is also the point that Professor Torrance has sought to make so strongly in seeking the appropriate analogy of faith for "natural theology."13 Barth is dead right to argue for the impotence of "natural theology" as an antecedent conceptual system. But the Church needs to go beyond Barth's thought and give "natural theology" its rightful place within the light of this self-revelation of the self-naming God. Though there is no "natural theology" appropriate to the Gospel except the light of the Word of God come as a man into the world, there is a "natural theology" which ought to be conceived within the light of this revelation of his Word. Although the world by itself does not and will not know its Creator, it does know him from within the divine light embodied as the person of Jesus Christ, the Word of God become flesh among us. Christ embodies in himself both the uncreated light of the divine Word and the created light of humanity so that in him knowledge is not only given of God's redemption, but also of the Creator of the world and the world, therefore, as God's creation.14 This is the world that ought to be conceived as God in Christ's creation and is no other thing than the world it is with him who is its Creator. It is precisely in this light that the world is to be known as the object of God's Word. It is to be known through this humanity in it, this humanity that is the Word become flesh among us. In this way, a deep respect for the profundity of the grace and truth of God is established with humanity.15 Any analogy of being must serve in created correspondence with the way of this light to point away from itself to God himself, if it is to be real "natural theology."
"Natural theology," as an antecedent conceptual system, needs to be transformed and reconceived within the heart to reflect the true light of God's self-revelation. It needs to be removed from its place outside the Word become flesh in the history of the world, where it cannot-except as a means for idol-making-interpret itself, the world, or God. Rather, it needs to be understood within this humanity of God. Here "natural theology" will become a transparent analogy of faith without alienation from created being into something that is truly "natural" and appropriate for the actual relationship that God has created between himself and the natural laws and theology of the world, that is, his creation. "Natural theology" becomes a true servant of the theology of reconciliation that must accompany the self-revelation of God. It will be reconceived in its naturalness to participate with God as the Creator and Redeemer of all creaturely reality. As servants of God, this "natural theology" would help us resolve many problems relating the Kingdom of God to the schemes that the world devises against him. We would be more faithful to the Gospel's universal significance and its confrontation with the national interests of, for example, a Nazi Germany.
In this case, however, no dualism is posited between the God of creation and the triune God of the redemption of creation. They are the same God. With properly differentiated and distinguished natures, a unitary view of God and the world may be articulated with a faithfulness that is natural to the reality of their distinct, and yet unitary, freedoms and orders. This is Torrance's point about the way we ought to seek to move beyond the "nein" inherent in the accomplishment of the theology of Karl Barth, for the purpose of establishing a "natural theology" that is truly servant to the revelation of the God of the Bible.16
"Natural theology," as an antecedent conceptual system, needs to be transformed and reconceived within the heart to reflect the true light of God's self-revelation.
Indifference or resistance to this point has never ceased to astonish me. It is as if we would persist in crying out for some brand of Nazism in order to argue our particular causes in the world. It is as if the idol must remain just as important to us as God himself. It is as if the Redeemer had not made it clear that he is none other than our Creator. Is it not for all to see, that to believe in the idol rather than the true Creator of the world disastrously effects our endeavors in the development of our civilization" We can find the desolation of this aberrant behavior all around us. We clearly see that our cultures suffer from fragmentation and alienation from the realities of the world because of it. Yet, we persist to produce our own self-justification despite the real interaction of God with us. Because of this interaction, are we not duty bound to work out who we are and what we ought to do and become in this world" Is this not clearly the true light that St. John had in mind in his account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the witness to the reality of God with us? How can it be that a "natural theology" would seek to exist so persistently outside the light of this revelation of the Word of God with us?
Our concept of "natural theology" and our perception of its meaning or significance for our freedom in the world are bound up with our doctrines of creation and incarnation. They are effectively worked out with our ideas about the nothingness of the creation and the way that God in his freedom has overcome the negative aspects of the nothingness of creation with his incarnation. This is a point that Torrance sought to make with his students since entering the debates about the relationship between science and theology. We have seen how Barth tried to free theology from any false relationship with the natural world. We have also seen how Torrance would argue that this false relationship belies a profound reality, a true relationship between God and the world. As free creatures, we are faced with the fact that we are duty bound to God and his freedom to be with us. We need to work out our freedom in the divine freedom. We need to see the grace and truth of God in Christ as what natural law or theology ought to be, in common with the world as his creation. Whether it is the laws of the universe or the laws of creatures upon the earth, laws must be comprehended as servants of the personhood of the living God. It is this Person who has overcome the vanity of the world and has given it meaning that only God can give to created reality. It is this Person for whom Elijah made his stance, because it is this Person who stands against the idol.
God is free to be with us and to give meaning to our history. Natural law or natural theology (civilization) must serve the reality of this God or the idol.
This is a tremendously important point for the history of our time. What kind of victory did civilization enjoy over Hitler without this point being made? What significance does the Age of the Bomb truly bear among us because of this triumph over evil in our time? To what good is our morality connected? The freedom for which civilized people died is rooted in the truth that God is free to be with us and to give meaning to our history. We are what we are and who we are in the grace and truth of this God with us. Natural law or natural theology (civilization's order) must serve the reality of this God or the idol. The doctrine of God that people embrace cannot be divorced from their meaning, their law, and their science. Depending upon how we perceive our law and our theology, our freedom is employed to establish what ought to exist in the world or what ought not to exist. This "oughtness," inherent in the way that we conceive "natural theology," cannot be ignored in any discussion of the meaning of our freedom in the world and its struggle against the threat of its nothingness as a created reality, independent of who God himself truly is with us. There is a beauty behind what we ought to be and become, bound up freely with who God truly is with us.
Our freedom is bound up with God's choice to come with himself, where he will, as who he is, and be there for us.
When I first grasped the importance of this point, I was excited to think that I might work out some of its significance in my time. I loved the idea that freedom and meaning in existence were bound up with each other in such a happy way that a grateful man was one who spent his time passionately knowing with eternal significance his destiny upon the earth. The threat of the nothingness of my being, with which I had suffered so much in my life, was overcome with a sense of joy and the feeling of God's holy love for me. God can be trusted with the vanity of our existence, truly and freely. Here we can experience the person of Christ resurrected; and, with this goodness, we can see and hear the world as his creation for what it really is, in its destiny with him. To my surprise, this point was very difficult to explain. We readily use our freedom in ways other than the way God has chosen for us, preferring the idol. We give meaning to life out of ourselves (our self-righteousness) rather than living it in the light of God's Word. Because of this, I soon found that there was more resistance to this point than I had anticipated both in myself and in many others. I have experienced personal healing and transformation under its compelling reality. We are free, but we are bound to God in a way we do not naturally, as fallen creatures, embrace. We must be transformed to prove any divine will in our lives.
This involves us in a deep and great mystery. Our freedom is bound up with God's choice to come with himself, where he will, as who he is, and be there for us. We must have a doctrine of God whose dynamics correspond to the reality of such freedoms. What is our freedom in relationship to this divine freedom? I have asked hundreds of students in classrooms at every level of the educational process to consider these freedoms with me. God, as the Incarnation of the Word, the Creator, and the Redeemer, makes us face the most challenging reality. Only in this context, may we conceive that something can be made out of nothing. To make something out of nothing in any other way is to make the idol. My students would literally quake under the impact of this truth. I will never forget the look on so many of their faces when, for the first time, they were asked to take seriously the reality of the relationship between God and humanity in this way. Here is a new center of being, where a divine-human freedom constitutes the space and time of the universe in a new way for us a way that provides the real relational veracity with God's own eternity that binds us to our destiny with God. I have often found myself quoting to my students the exclamation of St. Paul, "Let God be true, and every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4). The command of the Gospel in our lives creates a relationship between God and us so that we truly can know him, who is the real Creator of all.
The command of the Gospel in our lives creates a relationship between God and us so that we truly can know him, who is the real Creator of all.
I am deeply indebted to the works of Professor Torrance for their help in this reorientation and direction. Repeatedly, he has explained the problem of the nature of this divine-human command which is at the new center of meaning for our being and knowing by referring us to one analogy that he has found in the development of our scientific culture concerning geometry and experience. Just as geometry and experience were thought together in order to accomplish the articulation of the relativity theory by Albert Einstein, so we must learn to think together "natural theology" and "revealed theology."17 When we learn that the laws of the universe are embedded in the beauty of God's holy love and power in this way, without allowing any dualistic notions about experience and thought to posit a chasm between them, it is possible to conceive of a new integration provided by the relational veracity between them.18
Einstein's relativity theory is based upon the assumption that the nature of light's constant speed serves as a defining reality in the universe with us. Light is a primary and given truth in whose nature all the order we experience in the universe is entailed. In contrast to Newton's "System of the World," with its absolute space and time, the space-time of Einstein's universe is defined by this given nature of light, both in its macroscopic and microscopic dimensions. Light occupies a unique space-time place in the universe unlike any other.19 From this place is defined the space-time of the matter and energy of the world. This is the physical reality codified in the famous formula E=mc2. The invariance of the space-time of the universe of light rests upon the constant speed and field dynamics of the nature of light. No one coordinate system experiences this light in any special way. There exists no absolute space or time from which any experience of light can be generalized into a universal system. All systems must be transformed by definition with the invariance of the space-time of light for objective relationships to be comprehended by them appropriate to this nature of light in the universe. The beauty and simplicity of this world possesses a compelling experience that light itself provides with a singularity that must be respected. The universe is a universe of light whose orders and freedoms are bound up with the unique nature given to us as the space-time of light. It is this given nature of the universe that could cause Einstein to refer to the Ancient One. It was the miracle that we were made to grasp this kind of nature which was the source of wonder in the epistemic stance of the scientist as he faces the reality of the universe. Reality was grasped in all of its depths with the miracle that understands both the determinate character and the infinite nature of this universe's physical nature. It was fundamental to the experience of this wonder that we ought to understand that "science without religion is blind, religion without science lame."20
Causality, as it is understood in the relativity theory, does not appear in the quantum world. " Science is faced with the fact that it has two very different ways of dealing with what it calls "universe."
But the invariance of light comprehended on the macroscopic level of reality by the relativity theory, possesses a nature that, on the microscopic level of our experience, does not allow us to experience the same causality at all. Instead, we face an uncertainty in very small spaces and micro-events whose nature requires us to deal with its reality with very different notions by resorting to probability theory and statistical mechanics which do not permit us to posit causal descriptions of nature. Causality, as it is understood in the relativity theory, does not appear in the quantum world. The quantum event is different from the field of light in Einstein's universe. Science is faced with the fact that it has two very different ways of dealing with what it calls "universe." But to name the world "the universe" is to desire to think these two ways together. This is the dilemma which our creative scientists today seek to overcome by comprehending the "fiery marriage" that must exist between them.20
As theologians, we understand this struggle as the surfacing of the substantial nature of contingent intelligibility and contingent rationality with which we must learn to grasp the depths of the world's nature.
Scientists of good conscience the world over are now engaged in science in this way. As theologians, we understand this struggle as the surfacing, so to speak, of the substantial nature of contingent intelligibility and contingent rationality with which we must learn to grasp the depths of the world's nature. We know that contingency is a theological category of thought and not one science posits. It belongs to the realms of wonder, beauty, freedom, and the transfinite depths of the universe of light. The laws governing the causality of the universe are such that their nature may not be conceived as eternal. But their "timefulness" cannot be identified directly with any logico-causal necessity inherent within its nature. Its causality cannot be universalized with generalizations of particular relational patterns of logico-causal connections discovered on the determinate levels of its reality. These patterns are made to signify the contingent nature of the world. Their laws are contingent laws rooted in a ground that is quite beyond the laws themselves, creatively dependent upon the freedom of the divine power of the light of God's Word to create, sustain, and give them reality and meaning.21 In 1932, Kurt Gödel helped us appreciate the nature of rational systems in this way. No mathematical intelligibility consistent within itself is or can be meaningful of itself. His theorem, applied to the universe as a whole, makes this point about contingency evident.22 The universe of light is a contingent reality the nature of which, independent of the divine nature, is dependent upon it for its explication. The light of the universe and its constancy depend on levels of reality quite beyond the nature that light defines as the universe with us. Thus, the problems we face are bound up with the significance of the contingent freedoms and orders in the world in their real relationship with the divine freedom and order.23
The causality does not provide a deterministic world system for us to comprehend. As a created universe, the system of the world must be freely comprehended, and because of this can easily be misconstrued. Human will and imagination are such that they readily make idols rather than worship the living God in spirit and truth. This is the fundamental problem to understanding the relationship between God and the world, between the divine nature and the physical nature of the universe. The metaphysical foundations of the physical nature of the universe may be despised either by indifference or aberration. The history of the Sacramental Universe and the System of the World in the development of thought about the world are lessons in these aberrations and this indifference, but they do not invite us to ignore the relationship or treat its poles as enemies against each other. They teach us that will and imagination need forgiveness and reconciliation in the light of the revelation of God. It is this need, and the positive dimension of revealed truth in meeting it, that provides the ground upon which we may build a real understanding of the world as a universe and a creation of God.24 Therefore, we must understand that it is more precise and pious to go from the communion table to the study of the world as God's creation than from the creation to the communion table. There is nothing in the creation itself which can meet the deepest need of the human race. The need is met in union and communion with the Creator or it is not met at all. I believe this is the point of Barth's "nein" to Brunner and Torrance's direction for us.
For theologians, I believe, this point is breathtakingly beautiful. There is a given nature to the orders of the universe to which we cannot penetrate with any causality that we may discover within the universe. To be a sufficient one, the first cause must exist outside the universe's nature altogether, with the nature and will of the freely living God. Thus, as Einstein liked to put it, the universe's intelligibility compels rationality on our part that rests ultimately upon the will of the Ancient One. Reason incarnate in the depths of the reality of the universe belongs to this One. He may be subtle, but he is not malicious, and he is faithful with his wisdom to what he has been caused to exist. The problem then simply becomes who or what is this Ancient One, a simplicity to which the world may be indebted, but does not possess. For science to be science, independent of the divine nature, it does not have to ask the question of the Ancient One. Yet it must ask it, dependent upon him, if it is to seek its meaning. The ever increasing demands upon science in our society to deal with what it ought to be and why forces both theologian and scientist to give the question our best attention.
There is nothing in the creation itself which can meet the deepest need [forgiveness and reconciliation] of the human race. The need is met in union and communion with the Creator or it is not met at all.
I have learned much of my science from my late friends, Professors W. Jim Neidhardt and Boris Kuharetz of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Jim not only taught me Quantum Physics, but his work with Bohr's complementary25 and the "strange loop" principle has helped me to see the urgency for conversations between theologians and scientists.26 Boris Kuharetz was a very great teacher and an accomplished astrophysicist who was very generous with his time with me. His work with Professor Jeffrey M. Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania has yet to be properly evaluated.27 He often would end our talks with one of his favorite sayings, "If it is not music, it is not real!" Science and theology were friends because of the music the Word of God orchestrated with his creation. He also often quoted Deut. 29:29: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." I would like to dedicate this essay to these men of God and science.
1Church Dogmatics, III, no. 2, 3-19, where Barth concludes that "Thus we lose nothing and gain everything if we resolutely refuse to make the doctrine of the creature a doctrine of the universe, a cosmology." Man in the cosmos as a theological creature must be free from commitment to any particular cosmology, as taught by both history and the Bible.
2Torrance believes that misunderstanding at this point accounts for much of the resistance to Barth's thought. He has sought to argue for and with his mentor over its significance. See, for instance, the essay, "Natural Theology in the Thought of Karl Barth," in Transformation & Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge (Belfast: Christian Journals Limited, 1984), 285-301.
3See Torrance's essay on the "Status of Natural Theology" in Reality and Scientific Theology, (Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh, 1985), pp. 32-62, where he writes, "All this must not be taken to mean the end of natural theology, however, but rather its need for a radical re-construction through a profounder way of coordinating our thought with being" (p. 39).
4In private conversations, Professor Bromiley told me that one reason he came to the western United States was to help Torrance persuade the American Church to read Karl Barth. When I asked him if they had been successful, his answer rang in my ears and still rings there the way Barth's response to Brunner must have rung in his.
5Torrance has written, "Yet it is also evident that the gap that remains at this crucial point where we are concerned with the fundamental structure of Christian theology will not be closed until Reformed and Roman theologians devote more attention to the nature of the epistemological and logical structures that arise in theological inquiry and are thrust upon us from the intelligible reality of God's own eternal being" (Transformation & Convergence, op cit., 301). I am simply including evangelical scientists in this struggle.
6Right from the start and throughout his Church Dogmatics, Barth argues against the analogia entis for the development of Christian theology. In its most radical form, it is the epistemology of the anti-Christ. The "analogy of being" is to be denied any value whatsoever for theology and an "analogy of faith," analogia fidei, affirmed. But this never meant for Barth-despite much criticism-that faith could be divorced from reason, belief from knowledge, or revelation from history. Both transcendence and immanence, the ontological and the dynamical, are vital for understanding the way Barth sought to create a theology rooted in the reality of God himself in the real history of the world, as the creation of the Creator he actually is.
7Church Dogmatics, IV, no. 1, 453-58.
8One can simply study his exegesis of Ex. 3:14 in the Dogmatics to see this point.
9Torrance has discussed these issues in his essay, "Natural Theology in the Thought of Karl Barth," where he writes convincingly of Barth, "From this perspective it becomes clear that what Barth objects to in natural theology is not its rational structure as such but its independent character, i.e., the autonomous rational structure which it develops on the ground of `nature alone' in abstraction from the active self-disclosure of the living-God" (Transformation & Convergence, op. cit., 293-4).
10There is no theologian who has written more brilliantly on Christ and time than Barth (CD, III). I believe that we need a fresh assessment of time's nature and its relationship with the divine nature in our generation. Science has made great progress in understanding that the nature of time must be explained from the imageless dimensions of a world whose simplicity is far more profound than positivists or empiricists might have imagined.
11CD, III, no. 1, ix-x. Barth claimed no competence in science and the relationship of science to the world as God's creation. He claimed, however, that the relationship between them was such that a theologian could very well proceed to interpret the Bible's doctrine of creation without this competence. The Bible is its own defender.
12This is Barth's affirmation of the relationship between covenant and creation. The creation is the external basis for the covenant, the covenant the internal basis for the creation (CD, III, no. 3).
13Torrance attempts to make this point often throughout his many works. Perhaps a book like Reality and Scientific Theology (1985), is a good start toward appreciating the cogency of the point. But Torrance has often argued that, just as Einstein transformed Euclidean geometry from its absolute place in classical mechanics as an antecedent conceptual system for the physics of the universe into a four-dimensional space-time invariance at the heart of its physics, so Barth may be understood as calling for the transformation of "natural theology" at the heart of the self-revelation of God, where it takes on a significance appropriate to the grace of God in Christ as the Creator and Redeemer of the world.
14This taking seriously of the prologue to the Gospel of St. John has a long history in the development of thought by the fathers of the Church. The first person to apply these categories to the actual physics of the world was, to my knowledge, John Philoponus, the sixth-century Alexandrian scientist. He employed the category of the divine power of the uncreated light of the Word become flesh as that center around which concepts for the space and motion of the form and matter of the cosmos might be comprehended (see my unpublished Ph.D. dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary, 1987).
15The strong anthropic principle developed in scientific culture in our time is an indication, I believe, of the way we must learn to think of ourselves as both priests of creation and sacraments in the Church (cf. for instance, J.<|>D. Barrow & F.<|>J. Tipler, "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle" ).
16Torrance writes, "It is at this point that we can discern the effect of rejecting a natural theology as an antecedent conceptual system independent of actual knowledge of God, and of reconstructing natural theology within the positive or revealed theology in much the same way in which geometry now becomes a form of natural science in the heart of physics." ("Trinitarian Structure of Theology," in Reality and Scientific Theology, 163).
17See, for example, chapter 3, "The Science of God," in Reality and Scientific Theology, 64-97, for an effort to make this point. But I have found that there is a beauty to it that, once a student will lay hold of it, shapes a very positive potential for knowledge in our being that is quite exciting. It is not a positivism, but a real grasp of reality so that the problem of nothingness is comprehended in the freedom of the creation that is laid hold of by the real humanity of God in Christ in the world. Here faith and knowledge are married in God so there is no possibility of their divorce and an appropriate exclusion from confusing them with each other. The human imagination is actually free then to will with its knowing the will of God in the world.
18See especially Torrance's "The Integration of Form in Natural and in Theological Science," in Transformation & Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge, 61-105, op. cit.
19I am reminded of the Lord's rhetorical question to Job, "What is the way to the abode of light"? (Job 38:16).
20Einstein's famous saying can be found in "Science and Religion," in Out of My Later Years (Secauscus, NJ: Citadel, 1956), 26.
21Thus, John Archibald Wheeler and his students still seek to articulate the unified field for which Einstein devoted his life, if in a strangely altered manner. Cf. K. S. Thorne, Black Holes & Time Warps, Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (New York: Norton, 1994).
22The point is much debated among scientists as it is applied to various areas of concerns (cf. F.<|>J. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality, , 24-32 and 191-194, where freedom and determinism are discussed in our modern context to produce, I believe, a kind of Gnostic worldview). I am arguing here that freedom means contingency in a way that must point us to a freedom that rests in God's actual divine nature or nowhere.
23This is the argument in Divine and Contingent Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981) by Professor Torrance.
24This is the reason evil must be considered as something more than the absence of good. It possesses an activity, the force of which is against the personal interaction of God with us, ibid., 85-142.
25See Neils Bohr, A Centenary Volume (1985), 121-40, for an account of the principle of complementarity and the struggle between Einstein and Bohr. I understand it to be the problem of the principle of causality and of human consciousness and its objective relationships with what exists outside our human knowing and being. Einstein argued for the principle and Bohr embraced it with indeterminacy and uncertainty as fundamental to it. Einstein did not like indeterminacy as a fundamental principle. It could provide only a partial description of reality. He sought for a causality that was realistic and appropriate for the contingency of the universe. Contingency could not mean a letting go of reality into an unknowing from which he had just emerged with his relativity theory. His relativity theory was the way into the future, whatever the future of science would discover for us. The principle of causality would be intact even if in a form quite different from classical causality (cf. Einstein, Out of My Later Years, [op. cit.], 59-110).
26His book, written with Professor James E. Loder of Princeton Theological Seminary, The Knights' Move (Colorado Springs: Helmers & Howard, 1992), is an illustration of what friendship is in this area. Here transformations and knowledge of God would establish our knowing and being so that both subjectivities and objectivities are given appropriate meaning and freedom.
27He was especially happy about the paper, "Relativistic hydrogen atom: Wave equation in Whittaker form," Journal of Mathematical Physics, 34 (November 1993): 4964-5974. Professor Kuharetz liked the way that the spectrum of atomic structure developed from the hydrogen atom depends ultimately upon a "free parameter."