Saturday, January 31, 2015

Concerning Theologian/Scientists and Scientist/Theologians

How tempting it is to speak on subjects that we really don't understand! Especially when we know just enough about the subject to sound like we know what we're talking about. Consider the ease with which scientists slip back and forth between playing with science and playing with metaphysics. Think, for instance, of Stephen Hawking's book The Grand Design, where he argues that God's existence is not necessary and attempts to do so on scientific grounds.
Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
Hawking does his best to give scientific-sounding arguments for this conclusion, but at the end of the day one has to ask how one could ever come to such theological conclusions from physical observations without making some sort of metaphysical assumptions at the beginning of the whole enterprise?

It isn't only scientists, however, who are guilty of moonlighting as poor theologians. Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot. Consider William Lane Craig, who almost a year ago pointed out in answer to a question on his blog that the "evidence for inflation" is confirmed by the research of the BICEP team.
The team went to great lengths to ensure that the polarization pattern detected was not due to error in instrumentation or the influence of cosmic dust or galactic factors.
Earlier that week, Craig appeared on Fox News arguing that the BICEP team's research confirms "the Christian view of the universe." He also spoke with Kerby Anderson on the subject. Inflationary expansion, of course, serves as a powerful confirmation for the cosmological argument for God's existence, which argues that if the universe had a beginning, it must have been God who was the cause of that beginning. This argument is a favorite arrow in the quiver of many Christian Apologists. This may be exciting for the moment when the news emerges, but things get less exciting when backpedalling becomes necessary.

The New York Times, in an article posted yesterday, says that things have changed since March of last year: "Now a new analysis, undertaken jointly by the Bicep group and the Planck group, has confirmed that the Bicep signal was mostly, if not all, stardust, and that there is no convincing evidence of the gravitational waves. No evidence of inflation." Is God's existence now more likely? Less likely? Has anything changed? If inflation is no longer "confirmed" does that mean Christian theologians will need to wait for further research before they can feel comfortable telling people that God exists?

As time goes on, I suspect more and more that theologians are far better off speaking of that which they know and not having an apologetic methodology that can be buttressed by one team of scientists only to be thrown into disarray the next moment when that team's flawed methodology is later exposed.

Earlier this week in one of my classes, my homiletics professor, Dr. Charlie Wingard, made an important comment in passing. He said, "In your preaching, when you give an illustration or an argument, never pretend as if you're a scientist or a doctor if that isn't your area of expertise. Inevitably someone in the audience will know better than you and you will lose your credibility."

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