Friday, August 27, 2010

What is the object of our study?

Last week I had a nice discussion with Ben Seligmann about my paper on Emergence and Theology. One helpful question he asked is "Why is the concept of emergence helpful for theology?" Perhaps the paper does not answer this clearly enough. When one has an emergent perspective in science the focus is on the object and phenomena under study (e.g. turbulence in fluids). What is its nature? What principles and concepts describe its behaviour? One avoids getting distracted by a reductionist approach which looks for some "deeper" and more "fundamental" phenomena (e.g., the molecular nature of fluids).

So the focus of theology should be on the Tri-une God revealed in Jesus Christ. One needs to be careful about being distracted by genealogies, hermeneutical issues, sociology, church government, .....

As Barth, said:

“If theology allows itself to be called .... a “science”, in so doing it declares:

1. that like all other so-called sciences it is a human concern with a definite object of knowledge,

2. that like all others it treads a definite and self-consistent path of knowledge, and

3. that like all others it must give an account of this path to itself and to all others who are capable of concern for this object and therefore of treading this path….

to the discharge of its own task it must absolutely subordinate and if necessary sacrifice all concern for what is called science elsewhere. The existence of other sciences, and the praiseworthy fidelity with which many of them at least pursue their own axioms and methods, can and must remind it that it must pursue its own task in due order and with the same fidelity”

Church Dogmatics 1.1, The Doctrine of the Word of God, p.7-8.

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