Religion Can't Afford to Ignore Science

By McAteer, Michael | Anglican Journal, January 1999 | Go to article overview

Religion Can't Afford to Ignore Science


McAteer, Michael, Anglican Journal


The church needs a reconstructed theology to get its message across in this age of "startling new scientific insights and their provocative technological implications," a U.S. theologian says.

Past theologies were constructed and expressed in the "thought-forms of their time," and ethics were always defined by the technical possibilities of those times, says Rev. Ronald Cole-Turner, associate professor of theology and ethics at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminar.

The task of today's theologians, he said, is to do what theologians of previous centuries did-to reconstruct theology so it articulates anew the core beliefs of the church and expounds the "Gospel for our time."

Mr. Cole-Turner says those outside the church, especially young people, see the world through science. And those outsiders, "citizens of the contemporary, secular, scientific culture, are perplexed at a church that ignores science and technology, that ignores their world, and yet thinks it has something to say to them.

Mr. Cole-Turner, a United Church of Christ minister with a keen interest in the relationship between science and technology and the church, is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's first advisory board on science and religion.

He was interviewed by the Journal following last year's third annual Templeton summer workshop at the University of Toronto on the design of academic courses on science and religion, at which he was a keynote speaker.

All too often, he said, "we in the church" think and act as if there were two worlds: one where God, church, soul, morality and immortality have their part, but which is wholly beyond the scope of scientific research, and another where God and soul and morality are utterly absent.

"There is but one world," Mr. Cole-Turner said. "If God and soul and spirituality and moral obligation have any place at all, if they mean anything at all, they will have their place and meaning in this one world which our God has created: the same world explored by science and altered by technology."

In an age in which both our thinking and our acting are "pervasively conditioned by science and by technology," there is no question more urgent than that of "our humanity and the prospect of its technological alteration."

It is a question that asks "not merely what we are but what we should become, and what means, spiritual or technological, we should use in remaking ourselves. …

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