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An encounter between science and religion preliminary observations

Chapter

Abstract

It is appropriate to introduce the present volume by explaining what was in our minds as we planned the organization of this Conference on Science and Religion. In order to avoid any misunderstanding it is emphasized at the outset that these ‘preliminary observations’ do not constitute a synoptic attempt to introduce the articles and summaries contained in this book. In this respect the reader is confidently left to his or her resources. Besides, although the pronouns ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ are used frequently, the observations made and developed in the paragraphs which follow are presented by one person only, who is solely responsible for their contents. The intention is to describe what was seen and experienced at the point where all the letters and telephone calls met, where they heightened or lowered existing tensions, depressions and expectations, and where they required urgent (new) decisions to be taken. In fact, the organization of this Conference, which truly exacted great industry, was particularly gratifying in the many ways that it established and extended personal contacts. And it was a pleasure to receive so many letters in which participants expressed their thanks for what had proved to be for them an unexpectedly rewarding encounter!

Keywords

Great Industry Religious Matter Sophisticated View Christian Theism Critical Spirit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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References and notes

  1. 1.
    The preceding conference was held on 13–16th. March, 1986, in the Evangelische Akademie Loccum, Federal Republic of Germany. For the papers presented at that conference see: Svend Andersen and Arthur Peacocke (eds.), Evolution and Creation, Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, 1987; this book also briefly reviews the origins of that conference.Google Scholar
  2. 2a.
    See e.g.: Ian G. Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion, SCM Press, London 1966Google Scholar
  3. 2b.
    R. Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science, Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh 1972, p. 105 e.s..Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    The terminology reminds us of the present World Council of Churches’ programme on Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation, which is in preparation of the World Convocation with the same name, scheduled to take place in 1990.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Compare: ‘Die eigentliche Aufgabe, mit der die Möglichkeit eines wahren Weltfriedens steht und fallt, ist die Verwirklichung des menschlichen Selbst’; see: Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, Der Garten des Menschlichen, Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 1977 (3rd. impression), p. 252.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    The adjective ‘untouchable’ has been added to emphasize that true otherness implies a breakdown of the usual methods of categorization with regard to what is ‘other’. Compare e.g. Emmanuel Levinas, Totalité et Infini, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1974, pp. 52–53. (‘Le face-à-face, relation irréductible’: ‘Le Même et l’Autre ne sauraient entrer dans une connaissance qui les embrasserait.’)Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    A classic text which describes the experience of conviviality together with all relevant modes of scientific cognition is provided by Martin Buber’s description of his encounter with a tree. See: Martin Buber, Ich und Du; reprinted in Martin Buber, Dialogisches Leben, Gregor Müller Verlag, Zurich 1947, pp. 18–20; English translation: I and Thou, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh 1971 (3rd. edition), pp. 57–59.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    For the integral text of the Statement of intention see p. 8Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    J. Sperna Weiland et al, Erasmus, de actualiteit van zijn denken, Walburgpers, Zutphen 1986; see p. 55. As the author, G. Th. Jensma, explains, Erasmus’ irony burst the closed world of the Middle Ages into the open space of the Renaissance.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    J. Sperna Weiland et al, op. cit.; see p. 47. Truths that lie in the texts are necessarily ‘contextual’. Truths that do not depend on their contexts, that is, which lie beyond any context, are called ‘eternal’. In fact, we have here a hermeneutical spiral running the opposite-to-normal way round and leading to mystical knowledge.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    J. Sperna Weiland et al, op. cit.; see p. 35. The author, G. Th. Jensma, explicitly identifies a mystic element in the theology of Erasmus. Compare reference 9.Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    The term ‘free-thinker’ may lead to misunderstanding. It is used here more or less in the sense explained in the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘One who refuses to submit his reason to the control of authority in matters of religious belief. The Dictionary adds that the term was claimed as a designation by ‘the deistic and other rejectors of Christianity at the beginning of the 18th century’. But, in addition to similar uses of this term, it also gives a quotation of an entirely different nature: ‘The modern free-thinker does not attack Christianity; he explains it’. We hold that it is legitimate to look upon Erasmus as an early free-thinker in the sense of the last quotation. Clearly, Erasmus was not an atheist in disguise. This misconception, which still can be found in the literature today, should be strongly criticized; see e.g. S. Dresden in J. Sperna Weiland et al, op. cit., p. 102.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    J. Sperna Weiland et al, op. cit.; see p. 90. According to the author, J. Sperna Weiland, the Utopia of Erasmus was a Utopia of erudition, humanity and everlasting peace. His Utopia was ‘critical’ none-the-less; for a Utopia which is critical, compare Georg Picht, Hier und Jetzt, Philosophieren nach Auschwitz und Hiroshima, (II), Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1981, pp. 335–349.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    Compare Isaiah, chapter 6 verses 6–7. Some languages called ‘theological’, for instance, creationist and cosmological languages, imply in their theoretical constructions a conceptual effort concerning the Name — where iconoclasm would be in place.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    A basic, though by no means ‘easy’, book to be consulted in this connection is:Google Scholar
  16. Ilya Prigogine, From Being to Becoming, Time and Complexity in the Physical Sciences, W.H. Freemann, San Francisco 1980. After summarizing the consequences implied by the (non-)existence of relations between different levels of description, the author arrives at the following conclusion (see p. 215):Google Scholar
  17. ‘The increased limitation of deterministic laws means that we go from a universe that is closed, in which all is given, to a new one that is open to fluctuations, to innovations.’Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    An analogous standpoint is taken by A. R. Peacocke in his Science and the Christian Experiment, Oxford University Press, London 1971, p. 170: ‘Science by eliminating a naive literalism has restored the credibility of the early Genesis stories as dramatic accounts, not so much of history, but of the way things are.’Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    When struggling at the threshold of the future, man encounters the other. Compare Genesis, chapter 32 verses 24–31.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    A. Peacocke and G. Gillet, Persons and Personality, A Contemporary Inquiry, Ian Ramsay Centre Publication, nr. 1, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1987; see p. 204. The full quotation from Ware’s contribution reads: ‘… [It is our vocation] to find within us the place of encounter between the human and the divine, the centre of the self where our created personhood opens out upon the uncreated personhood of God — what Thomas Merton styles le point vierge, the ‘little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty’ that is ‘the pure glory of God in us’. Having found this centre, or ‘little point’, we then become mediators in the truest and fullest sense, through the power and after the example of Christ, the unique Mediator.’Google Scholar
  21. 18.
    Any conceiving of Ware’s ‘little point’ as an indication of a place would imply a serious misconception, not only of what Ware is aiming at, but also of all Christological disputation. Compare the misplaced conception of the pineal gland as a ‘point’ of contact in Cartesian philosophy.Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    Clearly, we cannot discuss here in any detail the significance of the disputes in and around the Church Council of Chalcedon, held in 451.Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    Zechariah, chapter 14 verse 7c.Google Scholar
  24. 21.
    Nevertheless, we give the translation: ‘in the midst of living we are dead, in the midst of death we are alive’.Google Scholar
  25. 22.
    A. Peacocke and G. Gillet, Persons and Personality, A Contemporary Inquiry, Ian Ramsay Centre Publication, nr. 1, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1987; see p. 202.Google Scholar
  26. 23.
    A phrase taken from: A. R. Peacocke, Science and the Christian Experiment, Oxford University Press, London 1971, p. 176.Google Scholar
  27. 24.
    In this connection the reader is reminded of the opinion of Erasmus that humanity may be characterized by a plurality of positions. In the context of the present Conference this may be explained, for instance, by adding: ‘Jewish’, ‘Christian’, ‘Islamic’, ‘Bahá’i’ etc..Google Scholar
  28. 25.
    The translation of the Greek text is as follows: ‘Today the Virgin gives birth to the One that surpasses being, and the earth turns the cavern towards the Unapproachable… (Proper of the Season. December 25)’. The words of this strophe may be reasonably taken as introducing a critical conception of man’s scientific and technological endeavour.Google Scholar
  29. 26.
    Also in modern Greek!Google Scholar
  30. 27.
    Compare Martin Buber, op. cit.. On p. 29 of the German edition we find: ‘Das aber ist die erhabne Schwermut unsres Loses, dass jedes Du in unsrer Welt zum Es werden muss.’; and on p. 68 of the English translation we read: ‘This, however, is the sublime melancholy of our lot that every You must become an It in our world.’Google Scholar
  31. 28.
    After the title of Die Dialektik der Aufklärung — The dialectics of the Enlightenment — by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, first published in 1947. This book holds a key position in the ongoing discussion on the transition from modern to post-modern times in our era.Google Scholar
  32. 29.
    See Gianni Vattimo’s Das Ende der Geschichte in H. Kunneman and H. de Vries (eds.), Die Aktualität der “Dialektik der Aufklärung”, zwischen Moderne und Postmoderne, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt 1989, pp. 168–182.Google Scholar

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

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