Re: [asa] Theology of Nature

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Thu Oct 23 2008 - 17:57:31 EDT

I don't know if there is any simply expressed or universally agreed-upon
Theology of Nature, but there are of course the time honored concepts
and nomenclature associated with the way God manifests himself in and
interacts with the physical world. There is also the "two books"
approach to revelation which embodies a theological perspective, for
example involving the weighting of revelation from the Bible and nature.

But for me, and perhaps others "wired" like me, there are other theology
aspects, messages that nature can deliver that are distinct and
persuasive, and not subject to the uncertainties and limitations of
human language. Aside from the aesthetic aspects of Creation, it
continues to awe me that the number of forces (4 so far) that govern its
mechanics over scales from subatomic to intergalactic, and that there
are only a few simply expressed relationships that describe electrical
and magnetic manifestations and interactions (Maxwell's equations), that
there exist intriguing simple relationships like e^i(pi)= -1, and so on.
I am further awed by the simple fact that there exists a peculiar
language that not only enables description of these relationships, but
that this language is the only one which is essentially universal,
unequivocal as to what its expressions in themselves mean, and even
incapable of carrying subjective baggage and limitations that
characterizes other human language. In light of that, I marvel the
discoverability of nature, that we have matched curiosity and ration
which is sufficiently well-matched to our physical ambiance to permit us
progressively understand more and more about its workings.

This reinforces my basic persuasion that there is a designer, an
intelligent one. I say this at the risk of slighting the Creator by such
an anthropometric attribution (and at the risk of being associated with
the ID movement). I am persuaded to add to this that Creation was made
to be discoverable by such as ourselves, in the fullness of time.

I take as profound and foundational in itself (informing thoughts and
actions) the observation that many and diverse things, both magnificent
and profound, can be accomplished via just a few foundational
principles. The key admonitions of scripture are few and profound. That
should preach for several Sundays!

Moreover, these attributes suggests to me something counter to the idea
of a hidden deity, namely that we are intended (encouraged) to explore
and think about the Creator, with the expectation that in some measure
we can learn of and have some measure of relationship with the Creator,
however diverse and insufficient our human conceptualizations of that
Creator might be. I take anything apparently hidden not to be so by
intent, but simply as a consequence of the differential between our kind
of being and that of the Creator.

OK, 'nuff said, though much more could be said. This is all theology
(though not very systematic!), and everything meaningful as to content
is lost if the context and substance of nature is removed from the
paragraphs above.

So I am disposed to think that there are indeed theologies of nature.
Following your concluding lead, there does seem to be much neglected in
this space, a consequence perhaps of the bifurcation that occurred
somewhere after the age of Newton et al, considering science and
theology as distinct from one another. It's an unfortunate consequence
(in my view) that the power of the formalized scientific method lent
itself to this artificial partitioning. It would seem to be a pivotal
component of today's stewardship to foster reintegration of these
domains at the expense of neither in the important stuff.

Or so it seemeth to me... JimA [Friend of ASA]

Gregory Arago wrote:
> Hi Ted,
> Following on one of your recent responses to Timaeus (which mentioned
> H. Bergson), a thought crossed my mind that has not yet ceased. So, I
> express it here below:
> How can there be a ¡theology of nature¢? We see many cases where/when
> natural things are used in 'the service of' *personalities* in
> Scripture. This does not mean to ¡depreciate¢ nature in the eyes/ears
> of humanity. Rather, it means to raise a question of the priority of
> ¡nature¢ in contrast with ¡human nature¢ (that rather problematic
> duo), the latter which seems to be something unique as a result of
> being *ensouled, e.g. given character (psyche)*.
> Surely there can be a 'science of nature.' But is there a distinct
> ¡theology of nature¢ and what does it (or might it) mean in today¢s
> academy?
> Regards,
> Gregory
> p.s. I write this having recently attended the International
> Sociological Forum wherein ¡sociology of environment¢ and ¡sociology
> of the body¢ were among the most popular sessions.
> John Cobb, Jr. (process theologian) says:
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Received on Thu Oct 23 17:57:55 2008

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