What’s the Relationship Between Science & Theology?

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Given the multifaceted historical and present discussions between Christian theology and science, many have come to wonder about the relationship between them. As such, it is a discussion that interests many. As some analysts have noted, there are two major ways in which Christian theology and science are seen to relate to each other.

It is clear that there are those religionists who insist that there is no conflict between the two. Then there are those who see the possibility of such conflict. For many it would seem rather tempting to avoid the question altogether by simply claiming that science and religion cannot ever come into conflict. But as notable theologians such as William Lane Craig have come to see, such an assertion is quite problematic (1).

Those who claim that there is no conflict between theology and science hold to one of two views: the double-truth theory or complementarianism. On the double-truth theory, one holds that something could be scientifically false but theologically true. The view complementarianism, moreover, which says that science and theology are two non-overlapping domains. This latter view would well remind some readers of the late Stephen Gould who claimed that religion and science are essentially “Non-overlapping magisteria” (2). This position argues that science provides us facts and theology gives us value and meaning. The problem raised here is, however, is that there is objective truth about the way reality is, at least which is proposed by objective realists. So, in a way of an example, if scientific truth suggests that the universe is finite then it would be no good for theology to suggest that it is infinite, and thus a truth claim made in the realm of theology can clash with those made within the realm of science.

But what then of complementarianism? Some would argue that it is impossible to separate theology and science from each other. If one were to examine from a historical point of view,  Christian theology makes historical assertions that are either true or they are false. As such, there is no third alternative. For the Christian, either Jesus was crucified or he was not, either he healed people supernaturally from illnesses or he did not. Scientifically, either the universe begun to exist as stated in the book of Genesis or it did not. For many looking at the relationship between Christian theology and scienc, this would suggest that one cannot avoid the possibility of conflicting truth claims within science and religion. This would no doubt pose some theological questions for Christians given that scientific and historical claims could well put biblical claims in an uncomfortable position. However, the opposite could be true as well in that science could benefit Christian theology if it could be shown to provide verification of Christian theological truth claims.

References

1. Craig, W. 2009. Who Made God?: And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions on Faith. p. 58 (Scribd ebook format)

2. Gould, S. 2002. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life.

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