Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Upcoming book on "Christology and Science"

Christology and Science
Pairing these modes of inquiry -- Christology and Science -- may seem odd to many readers, but I am increasingly convinced that one of the major challenges for Christian witness to Jesus Christ in postmodern culture will be articulating christological doctrine in dialogue with contemporary sciences such as biology, sociology and even physical cosmology.
The searches for the historical Jesus (at least the first two anyway) were in large part driven by Lessing's threatening ditch, and the drive for universality implicit in modern criticism and later positivism. But these are not so threatening anymore, and so talking about the particularity of Jesus and the significance of fidelity to his way of life is not so alien in postmodern culture.
However, many of the WAYS in which we talk about this particularity and fidelity are problematic insofar as they presuppose ancient or early modern philosophical and scientific assumptions. In my upcoming book on "Christology and Science" I attempt to spell out some reconstructive directions for the doctrines of the incarnation, the atonement and the parousia.
But for this blog, I would like to invite reflection on the way in which we -- as persons interested in a conversation between the church and postmodern culture -- respond to the challenges and opportunities implicit in such an endeavor.
Here are a couple of paragraphs from the Introduction, encouraging us to attend to the delightful terror of such an interdisciplinary engagement:
"In every generation Christian theology is faced with the task of articulating the intuitions of the biblical tradition about the significance of Jesus Christ in a way that engages its own cultural context. This task feels especially daunting and dangerous in the context of interdisciplinary dialogue with contemporary sciences such as evolutionary biology, cultural anthropology and physical cosmology, which question the coherence and plausibility of many traditional Christological formulations. However, as we reflect on the philosophical shifts that have shaped the conceptual space of late modern discourse about human life in the cosmos we may find that these challenges also provide theology with new opportunities for explicating and clarifying the Christian experience and understanding of Jesus Christ.
This book is my attempt to show that engaging in this interdisciplinary endeavor is both possible and promising. The task of reforming Christology will indeed require the reconstruction of previous doctrinal formulations, as it has throughout church history. Many traditional depictions of the person, work and coming of Christ are shaped by assumptions about humanity and the world that no longer make sense in light of contemporary science. One way of responding to these challenges would be to try to insulate theology from science, defensively maintaining one’s favored ancient or early modern doctrinal formulation. Or one might try to insulate science from theology, defensively reducing the human longing for redemptive transformation to one’s favored disciplinary explanation. Extreme responses are often the easiest.
However, the more difficult reconstructive response, which attempts to maintain the integrity of theology while integrating relevant scientific and philosophical insights, will also be the more rewarding. As we will see in the following chapters, reconstructing Christology has always been an important part of the ongoing reformation of the Christian church.
This brings us to a second sense in which this book aims at reforming Christology. The study of Jesus Christ ought to have a reformative effect on contemporary life. An articulation of Christian doctrine should not only help us make sense of our experience in the world; it should also facilitate the reformation of our ways of living in the world.
Many traditional formulations of Christology rely so heavily on ancient concepts of substance or medieval concepts of jurisprudence that they seem irrelevant to the concrete concerns that shape late modern culture. Yet, the human longing to understand and be understood, to love and be loved, to hold and be held onto in healthy relations with others is as strong as ever in contemporary life. One of the functions of Christological discourse is to illuminate the origin, condition and goal of these desires. Bringing Christology and science into explicit, concrete dialogue will have a disturbing effect on many of our comfortable assumptions about our life together, but this is an important part of any deeply transformative process.
It is important to face the fears that we bring to such an endeavor. Some theologians will be concerned that discussion of particular claims about Christ may offend the pluralist sensibilities of the interdisciplinary community, while others will be anxious that serious engagement with science will simply render implausible some cherished Christological formulations. Some scientists will worry that talking about Jesus in public will undermine their reputation among their colleagues, while others will suspect that religionists are encroaching on their territory. Some laypersons will fear that any change in inherited formulations brings the destruction of faith itself, while others will wonder whether maintaining the centrality of Christology is really worth the effort."
I then try to enhance the desirability of engaging in the reconstructive task of interdisciplinary dialogue without obscuring the real terror that it brings.
But I would be curious to know how those who follow this particular blog conversation respond to the very idea of such a reconstructive engagement? Posted by LeRon Shults in Theology the church and postmodern culture: conversation contemporary philosophy...for the church...in the vernacular conversations hosted by Baker Academic coordinated by Geoff Holsclaw series editor: James K.A. Smith

1 comment:

  1. These two essays provides a unique starting point re considering the relationship of "christ" to science.
    And a critique of the reductionist mindset that mis-informs exoteric religionists who write such books as the one featured in this blog posting.

    1. www.dabase.org/christmc2.htm
    2. www.dabase.org/spacetim.htm