Problems between science and theology in the course of their modern history

  • Pannenberg W
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It is misleading to speak of warfare between science and Christian theology, as Andrew White did in 1896. White also was mistaken in exaggerating the conflict between the church and Galileo and Copernicus. The more important issue between science and theology has to do with the mechanistic interpretation of nature. When he introduced the principle of inertia in his natural philosophy, Rene Descartes insisted that God's immutability renders it impossible for God to intervene in the creation. He reduced the idea of God to a deistic notion by speaking of motion exclusively as a property of bodies. Even though Isaac Newton offered a different view, the Cartesian view dominated subsequent thinking. This made dialogue with theology difficult. Michael Faraday, followed by Albert Einstein, introduced the idea of field; bodily phenomena were subordinated as manifestations of fields. The precursor of the idea of field is the Stoic idea of spirit, which is close to the biblical concept of spirit. Thomas Torrance and I have taken this concept of field as an occasion to reopen dialogue. Mechanistic thinking accounts for the tension between Darwinian thought and theology. In principle the tension can be resolved, because the Bible itself asserts that all living things were brought from the earth-that is, organic life emerged from inorganic matter. Thus, emergence, contingency, and novelty are consistent with Darwinian evolutionary thinking. Contingency can be related conceptually to the activity of God in creation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Albert Einstein
  • Charles Darwin
  • Contingency
  • Evolution
  • Field
  • Inertia
  • Michael Faraday
  • Ren?? Descartes

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  • Wolfhart Pannenberg

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