Life and Destiny

A Science of the Real: The Renewal of Christian Cosmology

Stratford Caldecott

"The world must be given back [its[ sacramental quality, its dimension of mystery, . . . such a reorientation . . . would spell the final demise of mechanism as the paradigm of cosmic order."

Throughout the twentieth century the "new physics" of Bohr, Planck, Heisenberg, and Shroedinger has been a congenial breeding-ground for mystical philosophies of all description.1 It seems that the door of science is open once again to the idea of levels of being, to ontology and final causation—elements in ancient cosmology that remain perennially valid. This possibility is important not least because of the urgent need to uncover (and treat) the deep roots of the environmental crisis, and to foster in our culture a less aggressive, more harmonious relationship with nature.2 I want to explore here the contribution of Hans Urs von Balthasar to the conception of contemplative science or science of "qualities"—meaning the qualities of the divine nature reflected in creation.3 Although Balthasar thinks that modern science "has its ready-made metaphysics in Aquinas's doctrine of order and relation," he tries to develop Thomism in certain important respects.4 Balthasar's reflections on the Christian Trinity and the drama of divine and human freedom—themselves, of course, neither uncontroversial nor "final"—offer an intriguing vision of a distinctively Christian cosmology.


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