Versus

08.04.2009

According to Richard Dawkins and the new atheists there is a war going on between science and religion. Creationists and intelligent design (ID) proponents agree. Both erroneously define science against religion — or even more incorrectly, reason against belief.

As Rmj noted in a comment to one of his posts, it is ignorance of science that gives rise to ID, just as it is ignorance of theology and philosophy of religion that gives rise to the new brand of atheism. Rmj then concludes, “Funny how those two groups are joined at the hip, and yet fight so hard with each other. In fact, maybe that’s why...” These are wise remarks.

Biological evolution does not contradict the essentials of Christian belief — in fact, they do not even overlap. In a rigorous and devastating review of Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial, Nancey Murphy posits that biology should not be turned into theology. She sees them as two different disciplines and domains.

The new atheists almost never talk about theology as a field of study, except to state that it is not really one and it should be set aside and not engaged with. On the other side, the scientific method is ignored. They have a lot in common in their lack of charity and openness towards other perspectives. Their debate is unfruitful. Reading an astute theologian is more enlightening:

Both the theological and the scientific critics of the belief that religion is an aspect of the human spirit define religion as man’s relation to divine beings, whose existence the theological critics assert and the scientific critics deny. But it is just this idea of religion which makes any understanding of religion impossible. If you start with the question whether God does or does not exist, you can never reach Him; and if you assert that He does not exist, you can reach Him even less than if you assert that He does not exist. A God about whose existence or non-existence you can argue is a thing beside others within the universe of existing things. And the question is justified whether such a thing does exist, and the answer is equally justified that it does not exist. It is regrettable that scientists believe that they have refuted religion when they rightly have shown that there is no evidence whatsoever for the assumption that such a being exists. Actually, they have not only not refuted religion, but they have done it a considerable service. They have forced it to reconsider and to restate the meaning of the tremendous word “God.” Unfortunately, many theologians make the same mistake. They begin their message with the assertion that there is a highest being called God, whose authoritative revelations they have received. They are more dangerous for religion than the so-called atheistic scientists. They take the first step on the road which inescapably leads to what is called atheism. Theologians who make of God a highest being who has given some people information about Himself, provoke inescapably the resistance of those who are told they must subject themselves to the authority of this information.[1]

______________________

[1] Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), pp. 4-5.