Thursday, April 14, 2005

Academy for Christian Thought Seminar: The Natural Sciences & Christian Theology


The next ACT seminar on April 16th [What Every Christian Ought to Know About Science and Christian Theology] at the Empire State Building will be delivered by Ron Choong. This 3 hour seminar will consider the philosophical commitments intrinsic to the natural sciences and Christian theology. Each field of inquiry assume the significance of metaphysics to shape its ontology. The proposal for a doctrine of science will assess Alister McGrath's appropriation of Roy Bhaskar's critical scientific realism. In what he calls a scientific theology, McGrath argues for an a posteriori critical realist methodology to articulate a possible dialogue between science and theology. In addition, Wentzel van Huyssteen's postfoundationalism and Nicholas Rescher's mathematical notion of transversal rationality will be considered for a democratic platform by which to buttress McGrath's model. Ron Choong's notion of science as discovery of divine disclosure (DDD) and theology as a commitment to a convictional confession (CCC) will be used to describe a creational origination of reality. The case study for this will be an interdisciplinary redescription of the Christian doctrine of creation which can account for a scientific quest for the question of origins (universe, life and reflective consciousness). If it is possible to articulate a biblically faithful doctrine which is both coherent to revelational reflection and corresponds to observational speculation, a major advance may be claimed for progress towards a true theory of everything (TTOE), not one limited to just physics ala Stephen Hawking's TOE.


jacksons said...

TTOE - thats so funny! Anyway, I would love to go as soon as someone call please give me a sypnosis and definition of the following:

1. critical realist methodology
2. Wentzel van Huyssteen's postfoundationalism
3. Nicholas Rescher's mathematical notion of transversal rationality

R Choong said...

You cartoon...Here's my attempt to summarize.

The Vienna Circle influenced Bertrand Russell and A. N. Whitehead at Cambridge to formulate in their Principia Mathematica the philosophy of logical positivism (nothing that cannot be described or explained by the sciences and mathematics exists). This form of idealism hit a major setback and is now almost extinct except for a handful of philosophers who continue to wonder if they themselves exist. Realism is now the accepted form, meaning that matter exists outside of our apprehension of them. So even if you are blind, what you cannot see can exist. As you can 'see', this is important for a notion of God. But realism is too extreme so critical realism is a moderate form of ontology (philosophy of existence) which argues that stuff exist but some stuff which exists are affected by the observer. Here's a quote from Roy Bhaskar. "the three major distinctive things about critical realism are: its transcendental and dialectical character; the content of its particular theses; and the fact that it is critical of the nature of reality itself, in the first instance social reality, including the impact of human beings upon the natural world in which they are embedded and in which they are at present creating so much havoc.

Van Huyssteen is a professor of theology and science at Princeton and Gifford Lecturer (Nobel Prize of Theology) who coined the term postfoundationalsim to avoid the extremes of foundationalsima nd postmodernity. He argues for a 'democratic space' for interdisciplinary dialogue in which we acknowledge a common resource for the different kinds of rationalities employed in belief structures for both science and theology.

Transversal rationality is a mathematical notation used in theology in which different rationalities meet as they lie across each other without violating the other's integrity, like a line tangential to a circle. It has a locus without extension so that it can be placed without taking up space. This simply means it is possible for two different rationalities to talk to each other.

got it?

SY said...

I think he regrets asking :D

SY said...

now it sounds even more complicated.

jacksons said...

Hi Ron, thanks for the summary, it's really helpful. I haven’t really studied any Epistemology yet, so I have a lot of catching up to do. Any recommended books to read for a beginner? Also what’s the title of Van Huyssteen’s book?

Anonymous said...

Beginner? Difficult since its a graduate type topic.

Typically, the field includes history of sc, philosophy of sc., historical theo, systematic theo and philosophical theo. Then you hit the Bible with freash eyes!

John Hedley Brooke's Sc and Religion is a classic. It is the history of the relationship between the two fields.

Why don't you start with getting the methodology right. Try Alister McGrath's Science of God. This is a summary of his 1000+ 3 volume methodology.

For vH, his award winning book is The Shaping of Rationality. Here, he draws on many sources to argue that we all use a coomon resouce of rartionality even if the type used differs in its purpose (science and say, theology). He is my adviser in my doctoral work and is about to publish a major book of Human Uniqueness.

Another good intro book written for the church is Richard Swinburne's Is there a God? I studied with him 2 years ago and he was named by Anthiny Flew, the recent atheist-turned-deist as the most important apologist in the English-Speakingw orld today. Not bad when a world-class atheist calls you that eh?.

I will be in KL in August to do a series of lectures on philosophy for NT studies and theology. Be sure to attend and we can do supper with the Agora Group. Check with Pastor Richard Toh of Calvary Baptist.



Anonymous said...

Please note wrt my earlier comment that my lectures on philosophy has been cancelled by Calvary Baptist due to poor response. Instead, i will be speaking on something else.

Anonymous said...

Communiti Baptist Church ahs confirmed that I shall be in Malayisa speaking on Science and God on Aug 5 and 6, 2005.

BTW, you check out the ACT website for newly posted pics and also new articles in