Do Christian Revelation and Scriptures represent legitimate sources of knowledge on the Origins ?


Does the Christian Orthodox Tradition represent a legitimate source of knowledge on the world’s origins or is this question the exclusive domain of science?

Questions about the world’s origins inevitably put the Christian faithful in front of a problematic : that of the relation between scientific knowledge and theological knowledge.

Some scientists along Stephen J. Gould have claimed that science and theology are not in conflict with each other since they deal with very different spheres of knowledge. The question of the Origins however, would represent a perfect illustration to the contrary. It shows that the teachings of science and theology can -and do- sometimes overlap over the same fundamental issues.

The question of the Origins has always been of great interest to both scientists and theologians. The Fathers of the Church such as saint Basil the Great, blessed Augustine, saint John Chrysostom and many others have composed scores of treaties dealing with the question of the origins of the universe as well as studies on anthropological questions, etc.

Today, there are some within the scientific community who have raised serious objections about the very relevance of these contributions by theologians. “What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot ?” wondered Prof. Richard Dawkins, popular scientist and author of “The God Delusion” (The God Delusionp.56-57)

The theoretical physicist Dr. Sean Carroll expressed similar doubts about the relevance of a theological perspective on cosmogonical questions in a recent debate : “If you go to cosmology conferences there’s a lot of talk about the origin and nature of the universe, there is no talk about what role God might have played in bringing the universe about. It is not an idea that is taken seriously.” (Debate between Sean Carroll and W.L.Craig, The Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture, New Orleans, Feb.2014, Sean Carroll’s opening speech)


For the likes of Prof. Dawkins or Dr. Carroll, cosmogony and anthropology are topics that belong only to Science: “Don’t fall for the argument that religion and science operate on separate dimensions and are concerned with quite separate sorts of questions, claims Prof. Dawkins. According to him,“religions have historically always attempted to answer the questions that properly belong to science” . On this perspective, biblical cosmogony is long outdated and represents at best a form of pre-scientific knowledge : “Religions offer a cosmology and a biology, a theory of life, a theory of origins, and reasons for existence. In doing so, they demonstrate that religion is, in a sense, science; it’s just bad science” he concludes (“Is Science a Religion?“, by Richard Dawkins, Published in the Humanist, January/February 1997) 

Today, Orthodox Christians who undertake the task of addressing questions relative to the Origins must be fully aware of the range of objections that they will encounter. On the one hand, they must always bear in mind that the questions of the origins cannot be addressed independently from scientific research. On the other hand, they must also be fully aware of the unvaluable contribution of Orthodox theology on such questions. The first challenge facing the Orthodox Theologian today would consist in being capable of explaining the relevance of Theology over such fundamental issues as the Origins of Creation. 

NEXT: Why we need a theological perspective on the Origins?


Posted February 14, 2014 by genesisandscience

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