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Possibilities for Dialogue

Possibilities for dialogue between science and religion

These can be at the level of:

  1. presuppositions and limit-questionsBarbour, Ian, Religion and Science (London: SCM, 1998) pp90-93

  2. methodological parallelsBarbour, 1998, 93-95(see also critical realism in science and religion)

  3. areas of common concern - in particular the challenge of the ecological crisisSee God, Humanity and the Cosmos, pp202-05 and the possibility of ‘new paradigm’ thinkingSee God, Humanity and the Cosmos, pp241-43, Barbour, 1998, 95-98

  4. approaches to possible integration between the thought-worlds of science and religion, through natural theology or theology of nature (see natural theology vs theology of nature), or through efforts at a synthesis of the twoBarbour, 1998, 98-105. This classification owes much to Ian Barbour’s pioneering work in the field. See typologies relating science and religion.

It must be pointed out that today the hegemony lies with the scientific community. Science is a rational enterprise of unparallelled success (by its own lights - those of providing understanding of the physical universe - if not necessarily those of furnishing humans with wisdom as to how to live). Gerd Theissen claims that ‘Nowadays religion is on the opposition benches and science forms the government. It would be good if religion could find a way out of its role as a smouldering opposition, and if science were less arrogant as the government.’Theissen, G, Biblical Faith: An Evolutionary Approach, transl. by J. Bowden (London: SCM Press, 1984) p40

The Bossey Circle is a World Council of Churches diagram designed to show the interplay between the sciences, theology, ethics, and action.

A World Council of Churches diagramSee for example Gosling, D, A New Earth (London: CCBI, 1992) p65

In practice the Bossey Circle all too often looks like one-way traffic - science sets the parameters for what can be believed about the world, religious doctrines have to fall in line.

An example often cited is the doctrine of the Fall, in which science does seem to have restricted the range of what it is appropriate to believe.

For some theologians this also extends to considerations about the nature of resurrection and virginal conception (see Peacocke and Polkinghorne compared).

In other cases, however, in particular in respect of the ultimate fate of the universe, it seems essential for theology to continue to assert hopes to which astrophysics is in no position to give support.See God, Humanity and the Cosmos, pp280-82.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

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