Abstract: The argument of this essay would help us to see the need to overcome the dualistic tendencies of our thought that, in the past, have produced the fragmentation and alienation evident in our cultures today. We survey syntheses constructed between Christian theology and scientific cultures in the development of the history of thought and show how the breakup of these would lead us to a better understanding of the actual way God is free to be present in the history of the world, even while maintaining his sovereignty over it. It is argued that a real appreciation for the development of science in our time would help theologians teach the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is hoped that in this way a better scope might be provided our pastors for their interpretation of the Bible and their proclamation of its witness to the world where they labor.
We mark ancient cultures by their polytheism. Primitive superstition about the world among the city-states and temples abounded. The bondage of the human race to the caprice of the gods, the magic regularly employed in these cultures, is read easily in the records of their struggles. Ancient peoples and civilizations fought to understand their fates in the world, with a pathos we can recognize in ourselves today. Primitive rituals seeking to appease the deities may yet be found among us. The struggle to escape from death’s word on life and the need to achieve some sort of immortality was evident then and now. The ghosts of their efforts to secure some sort of destiny with the divine, found throughout the ruins of their temples and tombs, seem still to visit us. We know too well the desire for myth-making, the need to penetrate into the deep secret of the nature of our world.
What we can read so readily in the records of their ancient civilizations, we can easily find among ourselves. The terror they felt in the midst of the calamities they experienced, even in the service of the spirits of the gods, we also can find in the modern world. Caught in the grip of cycle after cycle of some arbitrary design composed by ill-defined deities, at times seemingly and terribly indifferent to their struggle, we can see the ancient peoples tormented upon the wheel of the immortality of their gods and superstitions about the order and the beauty and the meaning life would display in the universes of their visions.
In their city-states, kings and priests sought for their reigns to develop across the ancient world, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, as much power as possible over the forces of their enemies and over those of the natural world. By the wit and whim of their might and incantations, they struggled to control the warp and woof of time among the spirits of the gods in the world. Their armies proved with their supremacy the right of their gods, and those kings whose armies conquered most knew best for the peoples the mystery of the presence and wisdom of the divine powers across the lands they occupied. Might, magic ritual, fertility cult, and the diviner’s rod marked the significance of their triumphs. Society’s culture was devoted to an invisible maze of spirits in a bewildering array of myths and legends animating the world’s nature. Their history is told with the stories of wars, heroes, and rituals. Everywhere we read their efforts to overcome their fate among the gods in the world. We cannot fail to hear the primal screams of their existences. Thus, the history of ancient cultures records in their own words and deepest needs their call for pity, from which the modern world with its own thought and might cannot think itself utterly free.1
The longing and mourning in the warp and woof of their calls can readily be illustrated. From Egypt we may read:
Thus all the gods were formed and his Ennead was completed. Indeed, all the divine order really came into being through what the heart thought and the tongue commanded. Thus the ka-spirits were made and the hemsut-spirits were appointed, they who make all provisions and all nourishment, by this speech. Thus justice was given to him who does what is liked and injustice to him who does what is disliked. Thus life was given to him who has peace and death was given to him who has sin. Thus were made all work and all crafts, the action of the arms, the movement of the legs, and the activity of every member, in conformance with this command which the heart thought, which came forth through the tongue, and which gives value to everything.2
From Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon we may read:
Without thee, Lord, what hath existence:
For the king thou lovest, whose name thou didst call,
who pleaseth thee, thou advancest his fame,
thou assignest him a straightforward path.
I am a prince thou favorest, a creature of thine hands,
thou madest me, entrusted to me the kingship over all people,
of thy grace, O Lord, who providest for all of them,
cause me to love thy exalted rule.
Let fear of they godhead be in my heart,
grant me what seemeth good to thee;
Thou wilt do, verily, what profiteth me.3
To Mesopotamia’s Ishtar comes this prayer:
I have cried to thee, I thy suffering servant, wearied, distressed servant.
See me, O my lady, accept my prayers!
Faithfully look upon me and hear my supplication!
Say “A pity” about my wretched body that is full of disorders and troubles,
“A pity” about my sore throat that is full of tears and sobbings,
“A pity” about my wretched, disordered, and troubled portents,
“A pity” about my house, kept sleepless, which mourns bitterly,
“A pity” about my moods, which are steadily of tears and sobbings.4
A modern sympathy with these longings, their mournful petitions and ritualistic desires, their agony and hope, is readily found among us. We understand the uncertainty that plagued this ancient world, the desperate need that sounds throughout their cries. In our modern existence, our minds do not escape the enigmas of old deities. Blessings can come as unsurely today as with the ancient kings and peoples and armies. Time does seem in some respects to stand still, or only go round and round, when it comes to the deepest need or most profound longings in the human race.
This struggle in the ancient world eventually led, with a constant desire for some kind of rational unity to things, into the development and acceptance of the cosmology of Ptolemy’s world. This was a world-view that contained a very satisfying blend of the nature of the cosmos with the divine nature of the One Creator God.5 It ultimately provided the basis for a great synthesis between Christian theology and western science. For the primitive cultures of the Ancient Near East, the drive to this oneness sought to grasp a philosophy of the world that could comprehend together both the divinity of God as the Creator of the world and the nature of the world as it comes from this One. The rational existence of the human race upon the earth was profoundly bound up with the synthesis such a philosophy could achieve.
It is difficult for us to appreciate the power of this development upon the human imagination. From Thales of Miletus (b.c. 580) to John Calvin (a.d. 1564), whose embrace of the Ptolemaic cosmology is perhaps behind his problems with the doctrine of the predestination of humanity, world civilization struggled to bring to bear upon its thought the reality of a world-view bound up with the real oneness of our God. We may characterize this grip on the human imagination by reference to the development of the culture of Christian Europe from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas.6 In this development, the world was thought to come with some logical necessity from the hand of the Creator. We could believe that we might think the thoughts of God right after Him, if only we were clever enough to “save the appearances” in a rational manner. Thus, we would explain everything in a manner that was inextricably and necessarily bound up with the eternality and divine nature of the celestial mechanics of the heavens.
Though we know today that this was a dead end for real science to occur, Ptolemy’s Almagest served up the background data for an understanding of the motions of the lights in the night sky above the earth, the center of the Cosmos of God, from which the heavens, with their many spheres and epicycles, provided the intelligibility that allowed humanity to grasp the rationality of the divine nature in the world. It was the secret of this nature that contained the secret of the One who was the Creator of the All. At this point, cosmology and theology become utterly confused with one another. A real empirical science was made impossible.7
In this cosmos, paradoxically, the earth was both the center of all things as well as the seat of a temporal morass from which the race must learn to escape. Immortality lay with the Pantocrator, the Creator of the All in the heavens. Even though the confusion of cosmology with theology in this view was evident, the split between its celestial motions and its terrestrial mechanics allowed us to overlook its inconsistencies. The Ptolemaic Cosmos did command the imagination of the Christian world throughout the Middle Ages. Even though the Church taught that the one world coming out of nothing from the hand of Creator was not God or divine in nature, the synthesis of this cosmos with Greek philosophy and Christian theology marks the development of thought in this period with a formal and logical beauty whose fragility would inevitably be felt. The so-called Sacramental Universe of this time provided the theater for life whose elegance was celebrated in a.d. 1300 by the best of the Christian poets:
The nature of the universe which stilleth the centre
and moveth all the rest around, hence doth begin
as from its starting point.
And this heaven hath no other where than the divine mind
wherein is kindled the love which rolleth it
and the power which it sheddeth.8
Here the mind of God and the human imagination are fully wed in a synthesis the beauty of which was undeniable, embracing that knowledge of God which was necessary for a full appropriation of God’s love and the divine love’s light where humanity could bathe in the realization of its salvation in the world.
It was a synthesis broken up with great pain. But for all its truth and beauty, apart it must be torn. Copernicus, Galileo, and Sir Isaac Newton saw its shattering each in his own way. With the development of their science, theology and cosmology could never be the same. Once their work had been completed, the great synthesis was gone. The chasm between the nature of the heavens and the earth would vanish forever. The center of the world was now nowhere to be found, but the earthly and the heavenly was to be understood as one system of mechanical law. Their science had produced a notion of gravitational law by which we might explain as one the motions in the sky above us and the motions of the earth together, where we had to understand our lives. If we may characterize the Greek essentialism in Ptolemaic cosmology as a “reductionism upwards” of human imagination and thought, perhaps we can appreciate the loss in its reach.9 A new framework of knowledge had to be achieved. Theology and science as conceived for millennia had to be abandoned. It was an earthshaking demand upon a beautiful edifice the ruins of which could be much bemoaned. Listen to the poet John Donne on its catastrophic character:
And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost, and the earth, and no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to looke for it.
And freely men confesse that this world’s spent,
When in the Planets, and the Firmament
They seek so many new: then see that this
Is crumbled out againe to his atomies.
Tis all in peeces, all cohaerence gone;
All just supply, and all Relation;
Prince, Subject, Father, Sonne, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinkes he hath got
To be a Phoenix, and that then can bee
None of that kinde, of which he is, but hae.10
The transition from the Ptolemaic cosmos to the Newtonian “system of the world” brought down the abstraction of its world mechanics from its empirical reality. The attention of science now demanded a new way of looking at things. Its mind was compelled to change about these things, and conceive afresh what we meant by calling God the Creator of all things. The modern industrial revolution is bound up with this attention. Professor Thomas F. Torrance has characterized this transformation as one from the “reductionism upwards” of the earlier period of the thought of Greek essentialism to one of a “reductionism downwards” into modern instrumentalism and positivism.11
A synthesis between science and theology now comes forth that denies any authority from above. The heavens and the earth are made all of the same created stuff. This stuff obeys one law, the law of gravity. A new kind of determinism is introduced into the science of this mechanics. The mechanical universe possesses a causality the character of which will allow us to imagine for all time the progress of the world in the sight of its Maker. God simply watches the world tick away now lawfully, absolutely independent of the divine nature. Man need but come of age and grasp the law and see its effects in the creation and learn to master its forces. We can read off the patterns of our data, straight away the logical connections throughout all the world. Pragmatism, utopian constructions, and new industry abound in a new world order that excited its possibilities and potential. In contrast to the Greek essentialism of the Ptolemaic cosmology, we may characterize this development as a new belief in our ability to comprehend the universe where we have been given our being. The world had become the play thing of those who could master the mathematics of its mechanics, a theater in which our heroes could play the conquerors of whole new industry in the world.
The problem here is bound up with the more or less mythological relationship that Newton finally posited between God and the world. Although the great scientist himself did not understand that the causality he found within the universal law of gravity could explain the beginning of God’s creation, he did believe in a container notion of an absolute space and an absolute time as a “sensorium” that could provide the basis for the actions of the divine power of God, upon which his “system of the world” might ultimately depend.12 For Newtonians, this supplied the ground upon which both the determinism inherent in world causality and the deism developed in relation to the mechanics of the world could isolate our science from our theology. La Place’s famous dictum to Napoleon is to be quoted again and again over the exaggerated belief of this age.13 To guard against reading divine causes into the laws, science would come to understand its methodology as possessing no need for any metaphysics or occult causes. The world ticked away to a mechanical beat whose causality effected from beginning to end the fate of its motions. Mankind had become the prisoner of this mechanical universe and the servant of its deterministic destiny.
To the poetic imagination, such a view of the world was worth despising.14 The sleepwalking of Newton’s reason was for William Blake the way of death:
You dont believe I wont attempt to make ye
You are asleep I wont attempt to wake ye
Sleep on Sleep on while in your pleasent dreams
Of Reason you may drink of Lifes clear streams
Reason and Newton they are quite two things
For so the Swallow & the Sparrow sings
Reason say miracle. Newton says Doubt
Aye that the way to make all Nature out
Doubt Doubt & dont believe without experiment
That is the very thing that Jesus meant
When he said Only Believe Believe & try
Try Try & never mind the Reason why.15
Lost in the deism and the determinism of the Newtonians, the new science reduced down to an instrument the will and imagination of humanity’s freedom. In this instrumentalism, the human imagination was made nothing. Reason was all. In the eyes of the poet, mankind had been denigrated and rendered meaningless. Newton was sleepwalking like a ghost of a man in a machine the world was not. Science had made insignificant the true dignity of the race. The split between the rational or reasonable person and the passions of the artistic imagination is evident here.
Two cultures, the Technological and the Humanitarian, are evidently alienated from one another in this development. Here was created the deep rift between the sciences and the humanities that still prevails in our universities. Here is the root of a chasm that would tear apart the fabric of our modern society, an abyss in which many a scream has been heard. I believe that we may trace from this development the subcultures that flourished in the ’60s of the United States. Against the established lifestyles of our industrial success, a generation of the flower-children fled their homes, and their escape into drugs made tragically vivid the consequences of this dualistic notion of the relationship between the reasonable and the imaginative. The fruit of this abyss is still prevalent in our culture today.
The struggle between rationality and the poetic genius of the race has created a schizoid tendency in our society. This tendency contains the seed of a self-destructive character now well known in our culture. When human meaning and purpose become divorced from the ways we are taught to function in this world, the being and acts of humanity are alienated from one another. The chasm we saw developed between the heavens and the earth in the Ptolemaic cosmos is echoed in this abyss between reason and human freedom in the mechanical system of the world embraced so tightly by the Newtonians. The lesson to be learned here is, I believe, that neither a “reductionism upwards” or a “reductionism downwards” of thought is to be embraced. Neither is an appropriate mode for the human context in the nature of the universe as God’s creation. We are to learn to articulate the real relationship we are given to know between God, humanity, and the world in some way that does not allow either of these “reductionisms” to occur.
The beauty of the revolutionary work of Albert Einstein lies with this lesson. In his science, we face the beginning of another great transformation of world-view in the history of the development of human thought. Working from the basis in our grasp of the nature of light bound up with Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell, Einstein sought afresh to understand the physics of the world, with light and its constant speed given special place. He re-envisioned the nature of space and time and the energy and matter of the universe in the light of this light. With Special and General Relativity Theory, he brought our scientific understanding into more objective relations with the reality of the nature of the universe than ever before in the history of science.
The real beauty of this development is realized when we appreciate its way of knowing the world as we experience it on the ordinary level of our lives. Our particular experiences of the nature of the world can be set into objective relations with the actual existence of the universe’s space and time through the miracle of our mind’s ability to grasp reality in all of its depths. Theory and experience are wed inherently in the real nature of the universe of light. Einstein gave us an understanding of the world the beauty of which has captured the imagination of many today. For those who have been able to follow the significance of his theory, the present progress of our scientific culture is an exciting and very meaningful time.16
Sometimes a lonely figure among those who sought to develop 20th-century science, Einstein always insisted that the nature of God and His interaction with the world could not be divorced from our understanding of science and our scientific methodology. His famous sayings about the “Old One” are well recorded.17 Torrance has been for the past few decades attempting to argue that the achievement of Einstein in science may be viewed as parallel to what the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth had accomplished in theology.18 Both of these creative contributions give us a fresh understanding of the foundations of the knowledge we claim to possess about the nature of God and the universe. They signify a revolution in the way we must daily take in order to build up the widest possible comprehension of the intelligibility of that objectivity with which science and theology have to do — the physical universe in the case of our scientific culture and God in the case of our theological enterprises.
But this struggle has been met in our time with considerable bewilderment. Early on accounts of Einstein’s universe were thought to be beyond the grasp of ordinary citizens. Barth’s work has been considered neo-orthodox by most of American theology and is not found fundamental to the way we must learn to experience and think of the Divine Being. The world generally has been feeling a great shaking at the foundations of our knowledge again, an earthquake in the orders of our experience in the world. We seem to drift in tides whose seas we do not understand, and we may find ourselves disposed to considerable giddiness whenever we try to gaze into our future in the world in this way. In this sense, perhaps, we may read the Irish poet William Butler Yeats as we have read John Donne:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.19
With Yeats, a winner of the Nobel Prize for his poetry, who knew well Blake’s animosity against the “rational man,” the toppled foundations of the orders of humanity’s experience in the world is once again bemoaned. The loss of the creature from its owner, the center hidden from the world’s complexities, and the significant question of humanity’s definition in the midst of the violent shaking of a chaotic society confront us once more in our time with a force that causes a primeval dismay. The poet wrote his melancholy lines in 1925, some ten years after Einstein had published his General Relativity Theory. The isolation of the scientist from the poet is evident here. One field is lost from the other. Humanity lives schizophrenically in the abyss of this chasm. The relationship between things that have escaped our attention spells fragmentation and alienation throughout the fabric of our lives. The fabric of life itself has been torn apart.
But Einstein’s science is not a call to relativism. It is not a call for a time when it is right for every man to do what is right in his own eyes. It is, in fact, a call to a new wholeness in our commitment to grasp the objectivity of the world’s intelligibility. It is a call that would seek to unify our theory and experience in the world. It would point us to discover a new way of integrating things in a relational wholeness that is vital for our existence. It is a call not to the violent upheavals of world wars and their holocausts but to an integrity of being and knowing and doing that could condition the race to priest, as well as God’s sacraments, the world as the creation of the “Old One.” It is really a call to follow the Lord as the mystery of His speaking makes known afresh in our time and in its real space the true nature our world. It is a call gone unheard by many. It is a call ignored by many. But it is a witness to the call of the Ancient One in the midst of the continued alienation and fragmentation that marks the history of the peoples of the 20th century.
In this call, freedom and order are bound up together with one another not as some logical contradiction but with the fact that the world in its created freedom and order belongs to rationality of the divine freedom and order of the being and nature of its God. Wonder and the power of a divine simplicity together must characterize the development of our understanding. We must learn afresh to grasp this reality in all its depths. Freedom and order beyond their paradoxical appearances compel us to hear this call and to face the glory of this Maker of the world with us. Real progress belongs to the miracle of this kind of understanding.20
Though the nature of the universe is quite different from God’s, still it is our humanity that studies both, and as such must be able to speak about the relationship between the two in real ways. This means that, while distinguishing between their natures absolutely, we cannot hold them utterly apart. Einstein referred often to the Lord of his Jewish background when pointing to the relationship between his physics and that grandeur of reason that was incarnate in existence. With this kind of metaphysics in mind, he could do his physics with a kind of clarity about the scientific conscience that has made him the legend he has become. The complexity of the world possessed a simplicity that was the goal of all real science. A unified reality of its freedom and orders ought to be found that had to do with the “Old One.” For Einstein, without this metaphysics science was impossible without this integration of things.
In this way, Einstein brought back to science’s domain the question about why things are the way they are rather some other. He put back on the map of the scientific enterprise the vitality of a “Cosmological Science” that would give back to our race the kind of transcendent air human personality needs to breathe besides the air about our planet. To unify in this kind of simplicity would mean much for us, and the great scientist devoted his years to pursuing a unified field that possessed an openness to these profound questions in our lives. To split apart the rational from the imaginative was impossible at the very foundations of his belief and understanding.21
In a similar way, Barth attempted to take seriously for the theology of the church the science of these foundations. His Church Dogmatics sought to argue for a definition of humanity that was rooted in the actual light of the self-revelation of God with us in a world that must be understood as the Lord’s creation. God’s Word provided that framework of knowledge by which the race might know the saving work of God as the Creator in his creation. His effort sought to grasp, as far as we may, the possibility of human experience and the potential for human thought together in a light that God provides for us in the world.
Though unfinished, Barth’s Church Dogmatics represents a huge effort to confront as a science of God the theology of the church of Jesus Christ. Foundations of knowledge belong to the Word of God, who is the revealer of the Father Almighty by the Spirit as the Creator and Redeemer of the world. Although there is no evidence that Barth read Einstein or that Einstein read Barth, study indicates the parallel character of their individual accomplishments in their respective fields. Neither sought to hold off against one another the fields of theology and science. Both sought for a better understanding of how they might be found in a real relational wholeness together. They belong to the same revolution in the progress of humanity’s knowledge in the world.22
We have here a call to a new way of thinking. Here we may take seriously both the freedom of God to be present with and over His world and with the meaningful freedom of humanity to develop its life within it. Objective relationships between the two freedoms obtain in the depths of the profound reality that must exist between them, the simplicity of which is to be explained from beyond the reductionisms in thought, whether from above or below, in the way we are to conceive our theories and our experience.
We must hear this call’s power to transform even the beginning of our thinking about the world. Just as we have looked at the great transformations of world-views in this essay, from the Ptolemaic cosmos, through Newton’s “system of the world,” to the cosmological revolution brought on by the legacy of Einstein’s relativity theory, we are faced today with an exciting and wonderful challenge to grasp reality in the depths of being where we are unable to cut God out of the picture. It is a challenge that will surely determine the future of the human race in the world. We are called to discover true correspondences between our will and imagination, our knowing and being in the world, and the real divine-human freedom of God with us. Though we may not confuse them, we may no longer hold over against one another our concepts of freedom and order, human will, imagination, and reason, and the light of the Word of God in the world.
For many, this is an earthshaking call, when the foundations of our thought are being tested as perhaps never before in the history of our development. For many, it is the latter days of the biblical world, the end-times of the Apocalypse, when our relationship with God is being judged in some ultimate sense. For many others, it is an end of a epoch and the beginning of a new world in which God and man and the creation shall be understood with a renewed commitment to the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, reason that cannot fail to belong to the Word and Light and Life of God Himself with us in the universe. But who can successfully deny that we are being called in this way?23
In any case, I believe our survey teaches us that we must learn from these great transformations of cosmological thought and its relational wholeness with the divine nature of God that He is One who would be known for who He truly is in the world with us. As such, he is active in history and the lessons history would teach us.
In an age when people are prone to seek in the mystical the rationale for the reality of our experience, in a time when the significance and meaning of our existence in the world has become profoundly questionable, it is vital for both scientist and theologian to provide an objective basis upon which both the freedom of our reason for being and the freedom of our human imagination are appreciated for what they actually are in the development of our thought. We need the power to move on beyond the abyss and the alienation we have experienced in our past into a new integration of our theory and our experience, where our communities will be free to overcome their deep isolation in their particular prisons from one another. We need to right our pasts and heal our wounds and self-destructive passions.
Torrance has repeatedly argued throughout his works that the science of the classical Greek fathers of Alexandria, Athanasius and Cyril for instance, are pertinent for the challenges we face today. He would show us that we need desperately to clothe ourselves in the Light for which we were meant of God, in the real Light that God is for us in the world.24
In this way, we may meet the need to overcome our tendencies to reduce either upwards or downwards the significance of our thought and experience in the world, and we may indeed learn to grasp, perhaps as never before in our history, the profound grace of this Light with us, facing our futures together with new hope and passion the new creation of God demands of us.
1 The standard text on this world is still Frankfort, H., et. al., Before Philosophy, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1949.
2 “Egyptian Myths, Tales, and Mortuary Texts,” trans. J.A. Wilson, in J.B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1969, p. 5.
3 Vorderasiatische Bibliothek, Leipzig, 1907-16, IV. pp. 122-23, lines 57-72.
4 L.W. King, The Seven Tablets of Creation, pls. 75-84, lines 42-50 quoted in T. Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1976, p. 149.
5 Plato and Aristotle may be dated around 300 b.c., Ptolemy of Alexandria about a.d. 140. It is remarkable to conceive that the view of the world they helped create would capture the imagination of the West through the struggles of Copernicus (a.d. 1543), Galileo (1642), and Newton (1727).
6 See T.F. Torrance, The Hermeneutics of John Calvin, Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh, 1988, for an analysis of the problems of knowing and being in Calvin’s humanism and knowledge of God. See page 85 for reference to the Ptolemaic world-view and the Augustinian split between the heavens and the earth rejected by Calvin.
7 S.L. Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1978, pp. 3-33, and M. Clagett, Greek Science in Antiquity, Collier Books, New York, 1955, pp. 118-125.
8 Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, The Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed Translation, Vintage Books, New York, 1950, Canto XXVII, p. 570, where love and light and the divine mind meet in the Paradise of the salvation of mankind.
9 For this characterization of Greek thought see T.F. Torrance, Transformation and Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge, Christian Journals Limited, Belfast, Dublin, Ottawa, 1984, pp. 61-106.
10 John Donne’s “An Anatomie of the World” in H.J.C. Grierson, ed., Donne’s Poetical Works, Vol I. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1912, lines 205-217, pp. 237-8. The editor says of these lines (Vol II, p. xxviii) that the new astronomy was bewildering to the poet just as Tennyson is bothered by the new geology of the period.
11 T.F. Torrance, Transformation and Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1984, chapter two.
12 E.L. Mascall, Christian Theology and Natural Science, Archon Books, Longman, London, 1965, pp. 27-32.
13 “We have no need then of this hypothesis.” That is, the world could function without the Creator. Ibid., p. 138.
14 I see this point as the source of the deep split between art and science in the history of our culture.
15 D.V. Erdman, ed., The Poetry and Prose of William Blake, Doubleday & Company, New York, 1965, p. 492.
16 I have in mind here the works of people like John Archibald Wheeler, Kip Thorne, and Stephen Hawking. The inspiration for seeking to understand “Black Hole” physics is rooted in the beauty of Einstein’s General Relativity Theory (see Kip S. Thorne, “Gravitational Waves: A New Window Onto the Universe,” in Critical Problems in Physics, Princeton University Press, 1996, p. 199, where excitement and wonder is invoked for the drive to discover an understanding of the science that shall come from Einstein’s revolution in scientific thought.)
17 These logia include such assertions as: “God does not play dice.” “God does not wear his heart on his sleeve.” “God is subtle, but not malicious.” All these assertions belong to the belief of the great scientist’s understanding of the miracle of understanding the reality of the world in all its depths.
18 See for instance his Reality and Scientific Theology, Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh, 1985. The argument runs that, just as relativity theory requires the transformation of Euclidean geometry into an appropriate four-dimensional form of the real space-time invariance of the universe of light, so natural theology conceived as an antecedent conceptual system, outside of the space-time of the place of God has chosen for Himself in Christ in the world, must be brought into the heart of God’s revelation and there transformed into a science appropriate for the world as God’s creation. I have tried to argue for the cogency of this point in my “Natural Theology,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, June 1997.
19 See A.N. Jeffares, The Poems of W.B. Yeats, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1984, pp. 201-5 for an analysis of this poem that appreciates the cosmos of the Irish poet’s world.
20 “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Out of My Later Years, The Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1956, p. 26.
21 I have argued in this paragraph from quite a few sources Einstein has provided us. See his Ideas and Opinions, Laurel Edition, 1981, p. 55 for the saying about religion and science. Everything for which I have argued here can be found in the various essays of this book, but for his argument with Neils Bohr, see A.P. French and P.J. Kennedy, eds., Neils Bohr, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1985.
22 In his The Christian Doctrine of God, T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1996, Torrance has argued that this way of knowing is rooted in the deep secret of the holy love of the One Triune God in his relational freedom to be present with and for us in a world that is his creation, pp. 13-31.
23 For an attempt at taking seriously the challenges of the transformation inherent in this epistemological revolution, see J.E. Loder and W.J. Neidhardt, The Knight’s Move, Helmers & Howards, Colorado Springs, 1992.
24 T.F. Torrance, The Ground and Grammar of Theology, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1980. Here is the scope of an argument that would show us to take seriously the Incarnation of the Light of the Word as a man in the creation of God.
Author: John E. McKenna