I mentioned in a recent post that while on sabbatical in England I found myself reading a good bit on the question of origins (of man and created order) and on the nature of science. Another wonderful find has been the work of Peter Harrison. The book I am reading is his The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science (Cambridge, 2007). In this volume Harrison argues that there is a correlation of sorts between one's anthropology (doctrine of man) and one's view of science. If one sees man as truly fallen, where sin effects one's ability to think, reason, understand, etc., then this will manifest itself in a view of science which advocates strenuous efforts to think hard and long about the created order and what it means (i.e., since we are fallen science is a lot of work). If one does not have as serious/rigorous view of the fall, then the scientific endeavor is not saddled with such an uphill and difficult intellectual battle.To cut to the point, the Reformation traditions (themselves indebted to Augustine) took seriously the noetic effects of the fall, and that one of the goals of science was to repair what Adam lost in the fall. Having just wrapped up my book, The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life (Crossway, 2010), I found myself quite intrigued with his argument. As Harrison sees it, at the inception of modern science was a type of theological quest--the quest to restore what Adam lost in the fall--and one of the things he lost was a greater and more expansive knowledge of things. I think it is clearly biblical that sin effects our intellectual life (and hence the gospel is necessary to any meaningful recovery of the intellectual life). Thus, modern science was--at least in part, and at one point--rooted in a theological understanding of reality (man as created and fallen and in need of redemption), and (1) there was a theological rationale motivating science, and (2) science had a transcendent and theological telos (end or goal)--to help man become what he might become (now in light of his fallen status).
During my recent sabbatical I found myself enjoying reading a variety of things on the question of origins--as in the origin of man and the world. One of the most fascinating persons I discovered was Steve Fuller. Fuller teaches Sociology at the University of Warwick (remember--in the UK it is pronounced "Warick" :)).
Fuller is a fascinating man. Not a confessing Christian, he nonetheless argues that the Christian faith has historically been an impetus, not a hindrance, for science. Indeed, Fuller ultimately argues that contemporary science (on the whole) can no longer justify its own existence, at least in the sense of providing some sort of captivating and compelling reason for why someone would want to spend a lifetime exploring the traditional domains of science: man and the created order. Fuller argues that (1) the traditional evolutionary/Darwinian mechanism (random mutations and natural selection) cannot ultimately account for the nature of reality as we know it, and (2) that it is traditional Christianity (or what Fuller sometimes calls the "Abrahamic faiths"--a broader category) which provides a compelling justification for the scientific quest. The book I read of Fuller's was his Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design's Challenge to Darwinism (Icon Books, 2008). Another book by Fuller, Science Vs Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution (Polity, 2007) is perhaps a tad less provocative and punchy in its tone and presentation, but it is perhaps a bit clearer.
Fuller is interesing for lots of reasons, not the least being that he testified in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District court case (2005), and he testified on behalf of the Intelligent Design folks. This was the case where the judge parroted the "Intelligent Design is creationism, and is not science at all" line. Fuller offers a compelling criticism of the judge's thinking and decision. Fuller is prolific, and has a number of additional books in the works.
I have recently purchased T. Desmond Alexander's From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Kregel, 2008). Originally published in the U.K. with IVP-UK, it is now available in the U.S. Alexander has written a number of works in biblical theology, and in particular was one of the editors for IVP's New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. His From Eden to the New Jerusalem promises to be a very helpful entry into the exciting world of biblical theology. Alexander starts with Revelation 20-22, where John writes about a "new heaven and a new earth," the "holy city," the new Jerusalem. There is no temple at this point (21:22), for "its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb." Then Alexander goes back to Genesis--the garden--and begins to unfold his own understanding of the overarching story line of the Bible. I look forward to finishing it, and am considering using it in my Biblical Theology course at Union. At around 200 pages it look like it might function as a perfect introduction to thinking about "whole Bible" theology.
It is a joy to see a former student—Laura Rector—thriving and doing doctoral work. She has taken the opportunity to respond to a former professor (me) in print (on 11/08/09, to my 10/25/09 Sun piece on health care). It is all the more interesting because her current mentor (Dr. Glen Stassen) was my professor in Christian Ethics twenty years ago at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A small world.
(Note: it appears that my original piece and Ms. Rector's has "timed out" and is no longer on the Jackson Sun web page).
I was not sure whether to write a response. But given the nature of Ms. Rector’s response, and how her response entails a bit of a caricature and misrepresentation of my piece, I thought I would post this response.
- Category: Recommended Reading Recommended Reading
- Published: 17 December 2009 17 December 2009
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