Fall 2001

Introduction: Faith, Metaphysics, and the Sciences

Adrian J. Walker

In his 1999 encyclical Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II affirms that "the human being can come to a unified and organic vision of knowledge" (FR, 85). The present issue of Communio explores two themes that, while at first sight seemingly unrelated, in fact converge in providing an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the unity that John Paul II insists human knowing can, indeed, must, attain in order to overcome the "fragmentation" that threatens the "interior unity" of the person (ibid).

The title of the first of our themes, "Faith, Metaphysics, and the Sciences," suggests a somewhat unaccustomed approach to the much-debated question of Christian faith and modern science. "Modern science," before being an inquiry into physical nature, is a paradigm of knowledge that is present to one degree or another in all of the academic disciplines. The judgments about reality as a whole that this paradigm carries offer an objective basis for grasping the intrinsic unity between theology and science, while resolutely avoiding facile concordisms and premature reductions.

In "Trinity, Creation, and the Order of Intelligence in the Modern Academy," David L. Schindler argues that "the integrated transofmration of the creaturely subject implied by the call to holiness and the liturgical destiny of the world comprehends the dimensions of order and intelligence, via an intrinsic analogy taking its bearings from the trinitarian christocentrism indicated in Gaudium et Spes 22." On this basis, Schindler offers an account of the "secularization of the intelligence," which translates into a critique of the academy insofar as its paradigm of knowing is shaped by that secularization. The retrieval of holiness as "a matter not only of (subjective) will but also of (objective) intelligence," far from diminishing the integrity of the academic disciplines, promises their liberation from the dis-integrity of the dualism between a mechanistic intelligence and an arbitrary freedom that, Schindler argues, is at the very core of the secularization he describes.

Adrian Walker's "Christ and Cosmology: Methodological Reflections for Catholic Educators" advances a similar claim, arguing for the possibility of an affirmation of Jesus Christ's intrinsic pertinence to cosmology that has real consequences for the self-understanding of the natural sciences while ensuring due respect for their "legitimate autonomy" (GS, 36). In this context, Walker shows the "neutrality" vis-à-vis ultimates often claimed for the sciences actually conceals a substantive judgment about ultimacy. It is acceptance of the intrinsic pertinence of faith in Christ to the doing of science, not a "neutrality" claim (which, Walker argues, is finally self-contradictory), that best embodies the openness of reason to the real at the heart of the authentic autonomy of the knower, including the scientific knower.