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Book Review (Topic: Science And Theology)

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Question: Discuss one or more recent books on the relationship between science and theology.

Through this essay, I will be discussing the relationship between religion (specifically theology) and science with reference to a recent book on the topic by Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, University of TÐ"јbingen, Germany, JÐ"јrgen Moltmann. The book being titled Science and Wisdom, translated in 2003 by Margaret Kohl from the German, Wissenschaft und Weisheit: Zum GesprÐ"јch zwischen Naturwissenscheft und Theologie (2002).

I would like to commit a major portion of this essay to the first two papers and to later papers, which show an amount of coherence with the ideas presented in the first.

The middle section of the book, Theology and Cosmology, contains six chapters and concerns issues of:

- Creation under differing (universal) system paradigms

- The consummation of Creation, the history of the universe in terms of Jewish theology of God’s Shekinah, the Christian theology of Christ’s Kenosis and the Kabbalistic concept of zimzum.

- The future of the universe from eschatological perspectives.

- The nature and experience of time and the subject’s place in it.

- Space as a requirement of the living and the homely necessity of bounded space.

- Makom, trinitarian spaces of God and the ways in which it can be perceived that Creation dwells in the space of God and also as God dwelling within his Creation.

The reason I have passed over this material with only a schematic outline, is that these issues, while thoroughly interesting and thought provoking, were put forward from a heavily theological perspective. I found them to be of little importance in developing ideas of the relationship between science and theology; that is, except to give the reader a precise indication of the author’s background and theological views. The discussions on the relationship between science and theology are to be found in the opening two chapters and also the first half of the last section.

Moltmann states clearly in the Preface the he �never found the time to study physics thoroughly’ and �though lacking professional expertise in the scientific field, science is nevertheless for me a subject of interest and delight.’ This said, the section Theology and Cosmology does not fail to live up to the initial hope Moltmann had in publishing the papers: �that (the) contributions may encourage others to set out for themselves, and to follow their own paths into what we must surely call this new theological territory.’ (Xiii)

In a very broad sense, the text is divided into three major sections. Those being:

(1) An introduction to, and discussion and analysis of, the ways in which the sciences and religion are presently seen to interact, what meaning they each have in the other’s context and the areas upon which they can possibly be seen to meet.

(2) Theology and Cosmology

(3) The Wisdom of the Sciences concerning scientific advancements which bring with them the possibility of changing humans’ concerns and interests, the ethics of such research (particularly biomedical and genetics). Also the basis of wisdom and the responsibilities of scientists.

Until modern times, many debates had continued to take place between the proponents of a scientific world-view and those of a traditional theological world-view. It would seem, from general intuition, experience and also what is said in the opening pages of the book, that upon hearing the topic �science and theology’ or �faith and reason’, a majority of people from a Western background will think of the �long history of conflict between the declining religious culture of the middle ages and the rising, autonomous scientific culture of modern times.’ (p1) and also of such names as Galileo and Copernicus.

Moltmann brings to light in his first paper, the fault in these people’s thinking; �The time is past when people disputed as to whether Copernicus was right,’ (p1) He then makes what can be seen as being an observation fundamental to any attempted comparison between theology and science. It is no longer that science and theology �present conflicting statements.’ But rather that the two �no longer have anything to say to each other at all.’

The second paper asserts that one of the main problems holding this �frigid schism’ stable is that there are �theologians who have never read a scientific book because they don’t believe that any such book could teach them anything about the wisdom of God.’ (p24) This is also in play from the other side: �scientists do not expect this dialogue [between science and theology] to bring them any increase in knowledge in their own field.’ (p24) In this paper, he also comments that �Many scientists, and a good many theologians too lack the knowledge of philosophy which would provide a mediating level.’ (p24)

The paper continues to address four possible areas or approaches through which science and religion could be seen to interact.

a) The approach of the John Templeton Foundation (USA) is to �accommodate the scientists who think religiously about their own specialist field and beyond it,’ (p25) Correspondingly, this also calls on the theologian who has �thought about science on the basis of his theology, and beyond it.’ However, from Moltmann’s point of reference and experience, this approach will soon be obsolete; �Theologians of this kind have become increasingly rare ever since the Enlightenment, and today they are almost an extinct race.’ (p25)

b) As both religion and science are trying to describe an experience (of the universe), and although �one is objective and repeatable, the other subjective and unrepeatable.’ Moltmann has proposed that due to the ambiguous nature of the word �experience’, perhaps this could �provide a mediating level for the general and the particular,’ (p25).

c) The popular approach of today is to try to �relate the sciences directly to ethics.’

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