Three months ago, contextualizing the articles that appeared in the third number of this twenty-seventh volume of our journal, we focused upon theologys efforts to take scientific understandings of the world into account and to interpret them in useful and fruitful ways. Zygon has made this effort a central element of its agenda. The articles in this volumes fourth number approach the same underlying task from a different perspective.
For more than three decades, Gordon D. Kaufman has been recognized as one of this countrys most distinguished theologians. In a volume honoring him, James Gustafson selects a phrase from Kaufmans own work to characterize his understanding of theologys function: to create a framework of interpretation which can provide overall orientation for human life (in Theology at the End of Modernity, ed. Sheila Greeve Davaney, p.62). The articles that follow in these pages, by theologians Kaufman, Karl Peters, and Don Browning, all take scientific perspectives into serious account and wrestle with creation of such frameworks of interpretation. In Kaufmans piece, we catch a glimpse of his most mature efforts to date, facets of his large work, In Face of Mystery, which will be published next year. Reinforcing Gustafsons comments, he states his hope that a reconceiving of the symbol God can perform once again its important function of helping to focus human consciousness, devotion, and work in a way appropriate to the actual world and the enormous problems with which men and women today must come to terms.
In this paper I attempt to bring the ancient symbol God into a meaningful and illuminating conceptual relationship with modern understandings of the development of the cosmos, the evolution of life, and the movements of human history. The term God is taken to designate that reality (whatever it may be) which grounds and undergirds all that exists, including us humans; that reality which provides us humans with such fulfillment or salvation as we may find; that reality toward which we must turn, therefore, if we would flourish. I suggest that the cosmos can quite properly be interpreted today in terms of two fundamental ideas: (1) a notion of cosmic serendipitous creativity, (2) the expression of which is through directional movements or trajectories of various sorts that work themselves out in longer and shorter stretches of time. In a universe understood in these terms, the symbol God may be taken to designate the underlying creativity working in and through all things, and in particular working in and through the evolutionary-historical trajectory on which human existence has appeared and by which it is sustained. The symbol God can thus perform once again its important function of helping to focus human consciousness, devotion, and work in a way appropriate to the actual world and the enormous problems with which men and women today must come to terms; but the ancient dualistic pattern of religious piety and thinking in which God is regarded as a supernatural Creator and governor of the world—so hard to integrate with modern conceptions of nature and history—is thoroughly overcome.
cosmic process • cosmic trajectories • dualism • evolutionary process • God • human history • mystery • myth • serendipitous creativity • teleology
Gordon D. Kaufman is Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity, Harvard University Divinity School, 45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Interrelating Nature, Humanity, and the Work of God: Some Issues for Future Reflection by Karl E. Peters
This essay suggests some future items for an agenda about human viability, defined as survivability with meaning and purpose, by exploring interrelations between nature, humanity, and the work of God. It argues for intrinsic and creative value in nature, so there is a value kinship, as well as a factual kinship, between humans, nature, and God-working. It considers humans as webs of culture, life, and cosmos and suggests some implications of this notion of human nature for viability. And it asks what human fulfillment can be in light of the awesome creative-destroying-recreative activity that seems to be the ground of an evolving universe.
contingency • evolution • fulfillment • human • meaning • nature • survival • value • viability • work of God
Karl E. Peters is professor of philosophy and religion at Rollins College, Winter Park, FL 32789-4496. He is also coeditor of Zygon. This article is a revised version of his paper at the Templeton Symposium, Human Viability and a World Theology, organized by Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science and the Chicago Center for Religion and Science, 15-16 November 1991. This symposium and its publications were made possible through the generosity of the John M. Templeton Religion Trust.
Sociobiological theories have had little impact on Christian concepts of neighbor love. Since sociobiological theories of altruism depict love as a form of egoistic interest in enhancing ones general fitness, they are often thought to contradict Christian theories of love. However, altruism as defined by sociobiology has more affinity with Roman Catholic views of Christian love as caritas than Protestant views of extreme agape. Sociobiological views of altruism may provide more updated models for defining the orders and priorities of love, which has been an important aspect of Roman Catholic ethics. The familys role in mediating between kin altruism and wider love for the community is investigated.
Keywords: agape • altruism • caritas • eros • family • kin altruism
Don Browning is Alexander Campbell Professor of Religion and Psychological Studies in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, 1025 East Fifty-eighth Street, Chicago, IL 60637.
A Prescription for Generating a New Paradigm in the Context of Science and Theology by Francis O. Schmitt
Many centers are now active in the study of the interaction between science on the one hand and theology on the other. Suggestions are made as to how such study might be furthered. The central proposal in this paper is based on the authors experience in founding and, over many years, operating the Neurosciences Research Program (NRP). The faculty of this group were highly competent in many fields of science and were able to deal with many of the major issues. It is here further suggested that if an NRP-like organization were established, capable of productively interacting with both science and theology, it might well generate new concepts and possibly a new paradigm in this context.
consciousness • mind-brain problem • neuroscience • science • spirit • theology
Francis O. Schmitt is Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Foundation Scientist of the Neurosciences Research Program and its Foundation. His address is Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Room 16-512, Cambridge, MA 02139. This article was originally delivered at the Templeton Symposium, Human Viability and a World Theology, organized by Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science and the Chicago Center for Religion and Science, 15-16 November 1991. This symposium and its publications were made possible through the generosity of the John M. Templeton Religion Trust.
Van Huyssteen Response to Robbins: Does the Postfoundationalist Have to Be a Pragmatist by Wentzel van Huyssteen
The beauty of the universe presented by modern science under the positivist approach is regarded as sufficiently great that human contemplative capabilities are exceeded. An example of bottom-up viewing is presented and described as capable of producing levels of excitement best described as dangerous neurological storms. The existential quiescence resulting from apprehension of so much grandeur is discussed. It is suggested that our religious propensities need extensive rehabilitation and that appreciation of the beauty revealed by the positivists is likely to result in a cosmic paradigm shift that could destabilize traditional views of human identity.
beauty • cosmology • evolution • logical positivism • positivism • reductionism
Thomas K. Shotwell is president of a consulting firm which specializes in the development of medical products. His home address is 13243 Glenside Drive, Dallas, TX 75234.