Saturday, March 12, 2011

A theology of car repair?

It sounds silly and it is. I just say it to make a point.
This week I was talking to a friend who made the helpful distinction between "A theology of music" and "Theological reflections on music." He considered that the former was actually not possible or appropriate but the latter was.
Theology is concerned with the knowledge of God. Scripture says very specific things about who God is, how he has acted in history, and how we should relate to him. But there are many topics about which it is silent or circumspect. Yet we are often not comfortable with this, particularly on subjects we are passionate about and want to argue that a definitive theology of topic X is possible.

I find it interesting that such a perspective of limited interaction seems to have been Karl Barth's perspective on the relationship between science and theology. This is something for which  I believe he is unfairly lambasted by those who consider integration of science and theology to be crucial.
Here is what Barth said in his Preface to Church Dogmatics 3.1, The Doctrine of Creation:

The theological principle which I accept without a rival has made it almost compulsory that I should first present the doctrine of the work of the Creator as such in the old-fashioned form of a radical exposition of the contents of the first two chapters of the Bible. ..... It will perhaps be asked in criticism why I have not tackled the obvious scientific question posed in this context. It was my original belief that this would be necessary, but I later saw that there can be no scientific problems, objections or aids in relation to what Holy Scripture and the Christian Church understand by the divine work of creation. Hence in the central portion of this book a good deal will be said about “naive” Hebrew “saga,” but nothing at all about apologetics and polemics, as might have been expected. The relevant task of dogmatics at this point has been found exclusively in repeating the “saga,” and I have found this task far finer and far more rewarding than all the dilettante entanglements in which I might otherwise have found myself. 
There is free scope for natural science beyond what theology describes as the work of the Creator. And theology can and must move freely where science which really is science, and not secretly a pagan Gnosis or religion, has its appointed limit. I am of the opinion, however, that future workers in the field of the Christian doctrine of creation will find many problems worth pondering in defining the point and manner of this twofold boundary.
So, theological reflections on science may be worthwhile but a theology of science or an integration of science and theology is moving away from the core mission of theology.

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