The Science of Theology

Theology was once considered the Queen of the Sciences. Philosophy was her handmaiden. From Theology came all philosophies and sciences. Great writers like Augustine and Boethius showed how theology is above philosophy and science. The lower philosophies did not contradict theology, but treat her as mother.

But something changed.

Science has disconnected itself from philosophy and theology. A break has occurred in the realm of knowledge.

The Origin of Species

Darwin2(1)We should look back to one of the “scientists” who’s work began the divide between sciences and philosophy, Charles Darwin. In his Origin of Species, Darwin specifies that the majority of natural philosophers use the same method f proving an idea as him.

It can hardly be supposed that a false theory would explain, in so satisfactory a manner as does the theory of natural selection, the several large classes of facts above specified. It has recently been objected that this is an unsafe method of arguing; but it is a method used in judging of the common events of life, and has often been used by the greatest natural philosophers.

Darwin is associating himself with natural philosophers, thought he often uses the term naturalist over the natural philosopher since the second denotes a Christian studying nature. In trying to get natural philosophers to call themselves naturalists, he is creating a divide between philosophy and ‘science’. The frame of Darwin’s study shows how he aims to disconnect from theology.

I may here premise that I have nothing to do with the origin of the mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself.

darwin map

Darwin limits his studies with two bounds. The first is the origin of life. His aim is not to explicitly explain the origin of life. He often ascribes the origin of life to some creator of sorts and has some higher power which he says is represented by natural selection which watches over all things. These origins of life and the processes there of are outside the proper scope of his work. The other bound is the origin of reason. He does not go on to explain how reason arose in man through natural selection and may have found difficulty in doing so if he tried, since the two deal with the philosophical and theological.

Darwin’s bounds are part of his strategy in gaining acceptance. By acknowledging some sort of creative force, he is able to gain the trust of the religious community. He writes, “I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of any one.” Darwin believes his work can escape the bounds of religion because of its bounds. Once a religious person believes his theory, Darwin can begin to separate them from their religion. Darwin believes his study can be removed from the influences of theology. If he can remove a small part from theology, perhaps all studies can be removed from under theology.

The Origin of Scientists

The split became finalized in 1833 at the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s third meeting. The Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge tells them to stop calling themselves natural philosophers for true philosophers dealt with the realm of ideas, not physical experiments. William  Whewell coined the term scientist as the proper term. Science no longer touches the intangible, but focuses on those which can be experimented on. The TED Talk above explains how scientific knowledge came to this conclusion, which was supported and pushed by Darwin. The speaker at the end warns of the dangers of scientific knowledge being locked off from all other knowledge. She quotes Darwin saying that it should be for the general populace. She closes with “Science is not only for scientists.” Science become the knowledge that everyone needs to know. Religion is no longer Queen, Science is.

The Origin of the University

9780300064056The overthrow of religion has not been universally accepted. Newman is one of the strong advocates for the study of theology in the university as a part of knowledge. Newman, in his work The Idea of a University claims that it is the job of a university to teach universal knowledge, which includes theology.

A University, I should law down, by its very name professes to teach universal knowledge: Theology is surely a branch of knowledge  how then is it possible for it to profess all branches of knowledge, and yet to exclude from the subjects of its teach one which, to say the least, is as important and as large as any of them?

A university must teach universal knowledge ipso facto. Theology is a branch of science and must be taught. The end of theology is religious truth, for the end of all knowledge is truth. However, “Religious Truth is not only a portion, but a condition of general knowledge.” Not only does Theology exist as its own branch, but its end truth is a condition upon all knowledge. One cannot properly have knowledge without religious truth.

When one removes religious truth from universal knowledge, “it is not only the loss of Theology, it it the perversion of other sciences. What is unjustly forfeits, others unjustly seize.” The other sciences are corrupted by the removal of religious truth and become unjust. Again, “the other sciences close up, or, in other words, they exceed their proper bounds, and intrude where they have no right.” Each of the sciences has a proper place including theology, physics, math, language, etc. However, they each have their own arena, even theology (though its truth is a condition of all knowledge). And while they all exist in bounds, they are all connected and make up the universal knowledge.

With so much universal knowledge with the danger of chaos, the University must step in and judge the bounds of each. The University is to act as an umpire.

It is, as I have said, the high protecting power of all knowledge and science, of fact and principle, of inquiry and discovery, of experiment and speculation; it maps out the territory of the intellect and speculation; it maps out the territory of the intellect, and sees that the boundaries of each province are religiously respected, and that there is neither encroachment nor surrender on any side. It acts as umpire between truth and truth, and, taking into account the nature and importance of each, assigns to all their due order of precedence.  It maintains no one department of thought exclusively, however ample and noble; and it sacrifices none.

The University is to be a judge between knowledge and apportion properly to each subject. One should call to mind Plato’s idea of justice as that which makes sure everything stays within its bound properly. This does not mean that all are equal, as some are given more attention due to their nature and importance. Since Theology affects all general knowledge, it has great precedence and all proper universities must teach it in an integrational manner. It can not be a department separate from all others, but it must be integrated into all learning.

Biola University does this well. Recently Biola launched a campaign, calling people to “Think Biblically About Everything.” Here at Biola we give Theology the true place it deserves.

The Redemption of Natural Philosophers

In the final pages of the Torrey curriculum, the natural philosopher is once again addressed. C. S. Lewis defends the ideas of science, saying that if they are disconnected from a universal knowledge known as the Tao, then it will die. This is where the natural philosopher comes in.

abolition_of_man_791Is it, then, possible to imagine a new Natural Philosophy, continually conscious that the ‘natural object’ produced by analysis and abstraction is not reality but only a view, and always correcting the abstraction? … The regenerate science which I have in mind would not do even to minerals and vegetables what modern science threatens to do to man himself. When it explained it would not explain away. When it spoke of the parts it would remember the whole. While studying It it would not lose what Martin Buber calls the Thou-situation.

The new natural philosopher would be able to connect theology and science. Even in studying the intricacies of the cell, he would not forget the one who created the cell. He would not try to explain away the creator, but remember that he is in each part. This is the redemption of the natural philosopher. This is the call of the christian scientist.

Further Reading

A University Should Be A University by Dr. Peters


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