Cognitive Science and Christian Theology

  • Charlene P. E. Burns


Concerns about the impact of scientific discoveries on Christian theology have been a reality for at least 400 years. From Copernicus and Galileo came the first major challenges to humanity as the imago dei and its home as the center of God’s purpose-filled creation. Subsequent discoveries compelled theologians to rethink everything from the meaning of miracles to the creation story itself. Again and again, doomsayers and scientific reductionists decreed the demise of religion under the burden of scientific “truth.” Yet religion survived and theologians carried on the task of interpreting doctrine in light of a rapidly changing world. But today, say some, theology might finally collapse under the weight of science.This is so because the cognitive sciences offer a challenge to so many aspects of theological reflection. As science uncovers the ways in which neurochemistry affects the mental life, serious questions arise about what it means to say we have a soul, that humanity is created in the image of God, that we sin yet have free will, that we can encounter the divine through prayer, mystical experience, and revelation, even to say that there is a personal God.


Single Photon Emission Compute Tomography Cognitive Science Religious Experience Mental Life Mystical Experience 
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© Kelly Bulkeley 2005

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  • Charlene P. E. Burns

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