Fall 2001

Introduction: Faith, Metaphysics, and the Sciences

Adrian J. Walker

The next three articles enter more fully into the specifics of the relation between Christian faith and the natural sciences. In "Faith in God the Creator and Scientific Cosmology," Wolfhart Pannenberg, noting the apparent "consonance" between Big Bang cosmology and the doctrine of creation, explores what any such "consanance" should entail for a theology of creation called to "use the science of its own day, as did the Biblical account itself, in order to explain with its help the affirmation that the universe was created by the God of the Bible." Presupposing a correlation between the unity of the Creator and the unity of the world, Pannenberg proposes a rethinking of creation as an ongoing production of novelty that assures "law" its due place, while avoiding reductive understandings of whatever purpose might underlie nomological order. God is "spirit," but spirit is not much so bodiless reason as "a movement . . . that permeates everything and by its tension contains the entire cosmos." God's creative activity is personal, but not anthropomorphic; the divine immensity and eternity are themselves the "origin and basis of our created space-time," present to temporal existents "through the future, which continually gives rise to new events, but also holds out the promise of a possible wholeness."

W. Norris Clarke's "Metaphysics as Mediator Between Revelation and the Natural Sciences" complements Pannenberg's argument by dwelling upon the role of metaphysics as "the most basic and indispensable mediator between the realm of revealed knowledge . . . and that of all other natural knowledge, in particular the natural sciences." Metaphysics' mediatorial function is twofold. It monitors "conclusions proposed by scientists . . . purportedly arising from their scientific work" that would block any integration with higher Christian wisdom," but it also reflects man's role as "microcosm" who mediates "the return of the material world" to God, not only from the top down, but also from the bottom up. Clarke concludes with examples of an "applied metaphysics" that critically unfolds the implications of scientific discoveries, opening a deeper appreciation of hitherto underdeveloped aspects of the theological and metaphysical traditions.

In "New Sins: Technology and the Frontiers of Catholic Social Teaching," Stratford Caldecott highlights the role of the "discernment of spirits" in this critical unfolding. Writing, not in the name of Luddism, but of a "regenerate science," Caldecott argues that—lest they collude with the "culture of death"—Catholics need to examine critically the philosophical and theological assumptions underlying technology and the science that inspires it, a task, he insists, that must now move to the forefront of the Church's social teaching.