Monday, January 25, 2010

The end of science is the beginning of theology

I particularly like the end of the book, Foundations of Dialogue in Science and Religion, Alister E. McGrath (Blackwell, 1998, p. 208-9):
let me end by posing a question: what is the most significant difference between the natural sciences and religion?
One answer is suggested by George Herbert's poem, "The Elixir" which speaks of the possibility of seeing beyond the natural order to discern the divine:

A man that looks on glass
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it passe
And then the heav'n espie

This is a major theme of Christian theology - that the natural world, while wonderful in itself, offers a way to begin to discern the glory of God. For Calvin, the natural order is a theatre in which the glory of God is displayed to humanity, and through which something of the majesty of God can be known.....
C.S. Lewis addressed this issue in a remarkable sermon entitled "The Weight of Glory," preached before the University of Oxford on June 8, 1941:
The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
One can study the natural order, and stop at that point - or one can go on, and discern what lies beyond and behind it, realizing that, from a religious perspective, the natural order beckons us onwards to discover its creator. Perhaps one of the most significant differences between science and religion thus lies not in how they begin, nor even in how they proceed, but in how they end.

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