With this issue of Zygon, the journal is in its seventh year. The first seven years may be called the seven good years of plenty or the seven lean years of drought, depending on our perspective. In this editorial and in the republished review of Zygon by an outsider, we shall contemplate and evaluate the first seven years. Then here and in the papers we shall be responding to elements of the review.
The first seven years have been good, if we measure them by the rich contributions of many significant papers and by the generous support of members and friends of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) and of Meadville Theological School of Lombard College—the two institutions which in 1965 undertook jointly to publish Zygon.
When in 1936 a volume of essays was published in celebration of Karl Barths fiftieth birthday, the philosopher and mathematician Heinrich Scholz contributed an article entitled What Is to Be Understood by a Theological Statement? It marks the end of a discussion which took place between Barth and Scholz some years before, with reference to the possibility of scientific or scholarly claims for a protestant theology. In a lecture presented to Barth and to his students at Bonn and published in 1931, Scholz had spelled out the minimum conditions that every science in the broad sense of the word should meet.¹ Barth reacted in the first volume of his Church Dogmatics in 1932, and his answer resulted in an uncompromising rejection.² …
¹ Heinrich Scholz, Wie ist eine evangelisch Theologie als Wissenschaft moglich? Zwischen den Zeiten 9 (1931): 8-35.
² Karl Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik (Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag, 1932), 1(1):7.
Wolfhart Pannenberg is professor of systematic theology at the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Munich University in Germany and director of the Ecumenical Institute there.
Theological Modeling and Experimental Theology: A Call for Theological Responsibility by James B. Miller
Perhaps one of the most serious consequences of the conflict between science and theology from the trial of Galileo in 1633 to the Scopes monkey trial in 1925 has been the separation of the scientific and theological disciplines. As P. H. McDonald has written in Cybernetics and Theology, many theologians have retreated into the splendid isolation of intellectual monkery while their scientific breathren flushed with the acquisition and display of a little knowledge … have now come hard upon the hidden rocks of origin, destiny and purpose in a scientifically expanded universe.¹
This apparent separation of the two cultures is of increasing discomfort for those growing numbers of persons who live and work between the disciplines of the humanities and those of the sciences. For men and women such as these, this disciplinary division is no mere intellectual inconvenience. It is rather the source of a critical vocational ambiguity.
In my own case, I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, presently engaged in educational research and development within an engineering department in a state university. In order to escape vocational schizophrenia it has been necessary to attempt to reach some personally adequate reconciliation between my two cultures. The past two and a half years can mark only the barest beginning of the task. Still, certain general conclusions are beginning to take shape. It is these which will be the substance of this article.
It will be my contention that not only is this separation between science and theology a false one, resting upon an improper distinction between objective and subjective ways of knowing, but that, in addition, the perception of the theologian in his own discipline is dependent upon his incorporation of the work in the other discipline. In order to illustrate these assertions I will point first to the subjective, nonrational bases of the sciences, then to the common modeling process found both in the sciences and in theology, and finally to the possibility of a theology which develops from a methodological synthesis with science. …
¹ P. H. McDonald, Cybernetics and Theology, A Guide to Dialogue between Science and Religion (1967), p. 47. This paper is part of a collection of documents compiled by the Study-Research Group on Science and Theology at the conclusion of the Experimental Study of Religion and Society at North Carolina State University.
James B. Miller is a teaching technician in the Department of Engineering Mechanics and chairman of the Chaplains Council, North Carolina State University at Raleigh.
One of the prime elements of a scientifically grounded theology is the rebirth or renewal of credibility in an objective reality that determines destiny. Religious belief systems characteristically involve mans relation or adaptation to some ultimate realities which vastly transcend mans power and whose laws man must discover and obey if he is to be saved, that is, if he is to have a good life or even any life. Such realities are known as gods, or in the higher religions as the one God or the one ultimate reality. I wish to point out how closely contemporary scientific belief systems portray mans relation to a similarly all-encompassing and all-controlling reality and to examine the relevance of this scientific portrayal for religious belief in an age of science.
In scientific discussions there is little doubt about the function of what Darwin called natural selection in determining or shaping the evolution or destiny of organic species. Human genetic heritage, or mans genotype, is increasingly understood to have been established and continually maintained by natural selection. In this essay, I wish to examine some of the parallels between the religious concepts of, or characteristics ascribed to, God and the scientific concepts of, or characteristics ascribed to, nature and natural selection. If what appears to me to be the case is further substantiated, it may be that instead of a dead God killed by modern knowledge, as Nietzsche suggested, we may shortly come to see that we have a very live God, revealed (unveiled) by the sciences mostly since the time Nietzsche wrote. Moreover, I suggest that this God will be found to possess many of the same prime characteristics as the divinity of the higher religions and will become the focus of mans concern, the guide for his moral behavior, and the comfort of his soul—in short, the center of the rebirth of a religion adapted to universal viability among all people in a coming age of science and scientific technology in which mans civilization will rise to heights scarcely yet dreamed of by most men alive today. …
Ralph Wendell Burhoe is professor and director, Center for Advanced Study in Theology and the Sciences, Meadville/Lombard Theological School. Chicago.
Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, vols. 1-5, 1966-70, reviewed by Patrick Milburn