October 2016
volume 28 (2)

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Distinguishing Doctrine and Theological Theory – A Tool for Exploring the Interface between Science and Faith

Pages: 55-73


This article explores the value of the distinction between doctrine and theological theory for creating space at the interface between the natural sciences and theology. It argues that in a taxonomy of theological statements, doctrines have a different role and greater weight from theological theories. Doctrines express the teachings of the church that guard Christian identity and regulate the Christian life. As such they also make truth claims that can be in tension with scientific theories, for example concerning the origin of the human species. However, these tensions are often experienced more particularly at the level of theological theories, which are developed to gain a deeper understanding of the reality of the Gospel behind these doctrines. Though these theories are important as an expression of our desire to know God, in order to understand the different facets of human experience and for apologetic reasons, they are of secondary importance compared to doctrines and should be held more lightly. Because theological theories are often more deeply shaped by available cultural thought-forms than doctrines, they can be and sometimes should be exchanged for alternatives that make more sense in the light of the totality of our experience, including insights gained from the natural sciences.


The Bible, Science and Human Origins

Pages: 74-99


This paper considers whether, and how, the current scientific consensus about human origins can be related to the relevant biblical passages. The scientific consensus is outlined, noting points that might seem problematic from a biblical perspective. It is argued that the Bible should be understood using ‘the principle of incarnation’ as a hermeneutic approach. This requires taking seriously the historical and cultural context, and the contemporary literary forms, of its inspired writers. Genesis 1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 42-49 and Romans 5:12-21 are discussed, noting theological points that may be relevant with regard to the scientific consensus. It is argued that the Bible’s purpose is not to give us scientific information about human origins but to reveal theological truths about the nature and purpose of humans. How these theological truths might be related to the scientific consensus about human origins is then discussed. Two particular models for relating the biblical story of Adam and Eve and the Fall to the scientific story are presented. These are not the only possible models that are compatible with both the biblical theology of human origins and current scientific evidence. The important thing is that such models are possible.


Going beyond the How and Why of Science-Religion? Senior Christian Leaders on Science and Personal Faith

Pages: 100-116


In popular discourse today, ‘science’ versus ‘religion’ is a common binary opposition and science and faith are often defined by their assumed opposition to one another. Religious believers are often assumed to be anti-science on the basis of their faith. But how do people of faith actually relate to science? This pilot study addressed this question by focusing on a particular segment of faith communities: senior Christian leaders in England, who have significant influence on values in their organisations as well as in the wider British society. As part of our preliminary data collection we interviewed fourteen leaders, Anglican bishops and directors of other Christian denominations and organisations, exploring how they actually relate to science and conceptualise various science-religion questions. This article considers the implications of science for personal Christian faith. We explore how the interviewees understand the relation between faith and science, how they deal with the difficult questions of evolution and creation and the interpretation of Scripture. We show how the main tension in the conversations about science and faith with Christian leaders is between scientific claims on the one hand, and Christian faith and especially Scripture on the other. A key theme which emerged is an opposition, shared by a majority of the interviewees, against fundamentalism and biblical literalism. We also look at the role of the ‘how/why’ distinction in their approach to science-theology questions (‘science and religion are separate but equal: science answers ‘how’ questions’, religion answers ‘why’ questions.’) We suggest that while many of the senior leaders find this model too simplistic, some may use it as a strategy to avoid the difficult theological and scientific questions in the intersection between science and theology. We conclude that further exploration of these tensions, and research into effective ways to equip Christian leaders to engage with science, is necessary if we want to encourage a deeper, richer science-faith dialogue.


Book reviews

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Human evolution: genes, genealogies and phylogenies

Graeme Finlay (Tom Hartman)
Pages: 117-118

Chance or Providence – Religious Perspectives on Divine Action

Louise Hickman (ed.) (Denis Alexander)
Pages: 118-119

Dealing with Darwin: Place, Politics, and Rhetoric in Religious Engagements with Evolution

David N. Livingstone (Jonathan W. Chappell)
Pages: 119-121

All In The Mind?: Does Neuroscience Challenge Faith?

Peter Clarke (Malcolm Jeeves)
Pages: 121-123

Beyond Matter: Why Science Needs Metaphysics

Roger Trigg (Rodney Holder)
Pages: 123-124

The Territories of Science and Religion

Peter Harrison (James Hannam)
Pages: 124-125

The Runes of Evolution: How the Universe Became Self-Aware

Simon Conway Morris (David C. Lahti)
Pages: 125-127

Can Science Explain Religion? The Cognitive Science Debate

James W. Jones (Roger Trigg)
Pages: 127-129

Technofutures, Nature and the Sacred: Transdisciplinary Perspectives

Celia Deane-Drummond Sigurd Bergmann Bronislaw Szerszynski (eds.) (Graham Nevin)
Pages: 129-130

Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible between the Ancient World and Modern Science

Kyle Greenwood (Denis O. Lamoureux)
Pages: 131-132

Saving the Original Sinner: How Christians have Used the Bible’s First Man to Oppress, Inspire and Make Sense of the World

K. W. Giberson (Simon Kolstoe)
Pages: 133-134

Inventing the Universe: Why we Can’t Stop Talking about Science, Faith and God

Alister McGrath (Chris Oldfield)
Pages: 134-135

Suffering: If God exists, why doesn’t he stop it?

John Morris (David Girling)
Pages: 136-137

Origins: The Scientific Story of Creation

Jim Baggott (Peter J. M. van der Burgt)
Pages: 137-139

Origins: God, Evolution, and the Question of the Cosmos

Philip A Rolnick (Graeme Finlay)
Pages: 139-140