Academy for Christian Thought -New York Theological Seminary

2020 Winter Term

 

Science & Theology: An Introduction

January 07-23, 2020 Tuesday and Thursdays 6:00-9:30pm plus two museum tours on January 18 Saturday from 10am-6.00pm

DESCRIPTION AND PURPOSE OF COURSE:

This foundational course offers an introduction to science and theology. The goal is to introduce the main issues that 21st century pastors, missionaries, evangelists and theologians face. We shall compare and contrast the different methods and sources of both science and theology and discover how much they share in common, simply because God created everything, so science is the discovery of divine disclosure. We end with the test case of biological evolutionary and the doctrines of creation and revelation.

 

REGISTRATION DETAILS:

For NYTS Students as a 2-Credit Course: https://www.nyts.edu/prospective-students/applications-and-forms/

In New York City: $500 (includes museum tours and Dr. Choong’s readings): https://nytssat120.eventbrite.com

Online: $200 (Livestream of class only, link to be provided in class): https://nytssat120.eventbrite.com

Museum Tour Only: $50 (link to be provided in class: https://nytssat120.eventbrite.com

REQUIRED TEXT:

Wentzel Van Huyssteen, Duet or Duel? Theology and Science in a Postmodern World (SCM/Trinity Press, 1998).

Ron Choong, “The Quest For Interdisciplinary Convergence” and “Doctrine Of Creation & Theory Of Nature” in Do we Sin because we are Sinners or are we Sinners because we Sin? (New York: ACT Publications, 2009). These readings will be provided to the class free of charge.

COURSE SCHEDULE :

Week 1

January 7 – Creation and Revelation

Primary Doctrines of the Christian Creeds. We shall study in detail what the various versions of the Nicean and Apostles’ Creeds say about God’s revelation and creation of the heavens and the earth, and most importantly, why they state that, in the contexts of Roman imperial history. Then we shall look at how modern astronomy, biology, chemistry and physics describe God’s creation and consider how the Creeds might have been written in the 21st century. This will help us speak to this generation of believers and skeptics alike.

January 9 – Interdisciplinary Investigation – How do we know what we think we know?

What are the sources of knowledge and methods of understanding in science and theology? In the sciences they are largely Bottom-Up (observation, measurement, inference) while in theology they are largely Top-Down (inherited authority, interpretations of sacred texts and traditions). These sources are never completely Bottom-Up or Top-Down but a combination of both. Science also rely on taboos and traditions, hunches, gut feelings while theology is often influenced by scientific discoveries, technological innovations and medical advances. Both fields of inquiry are affected by accidents and incidents of geohistory such as wars, natural disasters (famines and floods) and cosmic events (sunspots, solar flares, cometary movements, etc.). Our goal is to understand how knowledge is acquired, both from the scientific and Christian perspective.

REQUIRED READING: Ron Choong, “The Quest For Interdisciplinary Convergence” in Do we Sin because we are Sinners or are we Sinners because we Sin? (New York: ACT Publications, 2009).

Week 2

January 14 – Convergence and Rationality in a Multilayered Reality – Life is complex.

The most promising methodology for dialogue between the natural sciences and Christianity is a convergent interdisciplinarity to preserve a convictional confessionalism while acknowledging the fallibility of human understanding. This method invites interdisciplinary dialogue between seeking a convergence of insights. At the heart of the matter is the problem of rationality in a complex multi-layered reality to which neither science nor theology has perfect access. Christians recognize that God transcends any final intellectual grasp, so the Christian quest for understanding is incomplete without the quest for ultimate meaning, purpose and significance. Our goal is to understand why convergence in the the scientific and theological quests comes down to how we understand rationality.

REQUIRED READING: Ron Choong, “The Quest For Interdisciplinary Convergence” in Do we Sin because we are Sinners or are we Sinners because we Sin? (New York: ACT Publications, 2009).

January 16 – Postfoundationalism – Why we change what we think?

We can only understand what we can explain. Belief in God assumes that reality is multilayered, so neither science or theology alone cannot detect or explain everything. What do we in practice do when we seek to know? In fact, different fields of knowledge demand different reasoning strategies because they represent different strata of reality. For example, to understand the human body from the perspective of biology, we need to understand fluid dynamics, while a chemical perspective is concerned about reactions of atoms and molecules as elements and a physical approach uses models to explain the structure of matter from the smallest to the largest. All three fields of scientific inquiry of the same human body describe different levels of reality. This is why scientific inferences are always being revised as we discover new strata of realities such as subatomic particle physics or combine fields into biophysics and physical chemistry or biochemistry. Theology also uses different tools of investigation to learn about God down the ages, starting with oral and then written testimonies, descriptions of experiences and reading of sacred texts. But at every stage of Christianity’s history, science plays the most important role as God’s revelation to refine past knowledge. Our goal is to observe that both science and theology use multiple strategies to make sense of their theories and doctrines.

REQUIRED READING: Ron Choong, “The Quest For Interdisciplinary Convergence” in Do we Sin because we are Sinners or are we Sinners because we Sin? (New York: ACT Publications, 2009).

SATURDAY January 18 – Geohistory – What makes you think you are rational?

Includes Museum Tour

How is your rationality shaped? Many Christians claim divine revelation as their source of knowledge which they interpret theologically. This assumes that we have direct access to absolute truth and can distinguish truth from falsity. But theology is not the only means to interpret divine revelation. We do not have direct access to absolute truth because our apprehension relies on interpretation, which itself is conditioned by emotions, memory and consciousness. Each of these mediators of understanding are fragile biomechanical systems subject to electrochemical circuitry inside the brain. The goals of both science and theology are to understand and explain reality rather than to acquire truth per se. Explanations are contingent and geohistorically contextual, expected to undergo revision as the margins of error increase, but truths are absolute and geohistorically universal that we can never fully attain simply because we are not God. Theology further seeks to provisionally understand testimonial truths from the written scriptures we have inherited that cannot be proven within the scientific method of observation and inference. Our goal is to show that truths are universal while explanations of truth are contextual, so our idea of God will always be revised by new insights where spirituality and science meets.

REQUIRED READING: Ron Choong, “The Quest For Interdisciplinary Convergence” in Do we Sin because we are Sinners or are we Sinners because we Sin? (New York: ACT Publications, 2009).

A Guided Tour of the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of the Universe and Hall of Human Origins.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdCACVGPtvc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDZJMKEWdUk

Week 3

January 21 – God’s Creation of Scientific Nature

We shall consider CREATION through the doctrine of creation and the science of nature. Distinguish between creation, nature and non-nature to show that the Biblical text is consonant with a mechanism of evolutionary creation by natural selection. This important step brings together two fields of inquiry that synergizes well as one brings insights into the emergence of the universe as the other attempts to work out the mechanism of this emergence. The science of origins postulates the Big Bang Model as the starting point of energy-matter which led to life on Earth while the doctrine of creation in the Christian Creeds formulated the intentional appearance of material reality.

REQUIRED READING: Ron Choong, “Doctrine of Evolution & Evolution of Doctrines” in Do we Sin because we are Sinners or are we Sinners because we Sin? (New York: ACT Publications, 2009).

January 23 – A Transformative Doctrine of Creation

A transformative doctrine of creation fuses the protological doctrine of creation with the eschatological doctrine of redemption by reversing the flow of divine history. The open future that unfolds into the present preserves a free will agency of creation alongside the sovereignty of the creator by a kenotic framework to explain the nature of autopoiesis or self-creation by God’s co-creators. In God’s original creation, perhaps what cosmologists refer to as the Big Bang, the future is truly open and we are free to exercise our wills with no divine restraint because our actions reflect creatio originalis in its creatio continua or autopoietic processes by which children are born, life replaces death and in this limited sense, we are God’s co-creators, agents of the divine. The Bible is consonant with evolutionary creation by natural selection because the doctrine of creation affirms the intentional appearance of material reality as God’s creation while the science of origins postulates the Big Bang Model as the starting point of energy-matter, which led to life on Earth and to us. Our goal is to see that science and theology not only co-exist, they need each other for a fuller appreciation of God’s creation and revelation.

REQUIRED READING: Ron Choong, “Doctrine of Evolution & Evolution of Doctrines” in Do we Sin because we are Sinners or are we Sinners because we Sin? (New York: ACT Publications, 2009).

 

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