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Diversity and Uncertainty: A productive interface between science and Christianity?

Diversity and Uncertainty: A productive interface between science and Christianity?
Presented by Professor Gareth Jones at the ISCAST Vic Intensive 2010

 

Gareth Jones gained degrees from the Universities of London, Western Australia, and Otago, and is currently Professor of Anatomy and Structural Biology and Director of the Bioethics Centre at the University of Otago.

Abstract

Putting aside science for a moment

Thoughts about Clark Pinnock and Jim Wallis on their role as controversial evangelical thinkers; relevance for science-faith debate. Illustration of problematic piece of applied ethics and applied theology. 

God’s care versus human care

We repeatedly encounter an apparent contrast between human and divine control, with its potential to generate conflict. The reason for this is that, as human control has become increasingly precise, the questions it raises have also become increasingly precise. This precision forces us to consider whether we expect God’s control to be expressed in comparably precise terms. This, in turn, elicits a theological query, namely, whether God micro-manages our lives. 

Reflection on Luke 12:7: “even the hairs of your head are all counted” (Luke 12: 7). Is this to be taken literally, and what is the modern equivalent? Also vv 4-7, and 22-31. This discourse pounts to a view of God’s care, not his control. What matters is not the exact number of hairs we have or even the precise formulation of our genes (important as the latter are), but the manner in which we are able to cope with the hairs and genes we do or do not have. And our coping is against a background of God’s care and concern for us as people. 

God’s care reminds us also that what is important for our actions is the way in which we care for others; not the way in which we attempt to control others and laud it over them. This, in turn, will determine the manner in which we use technology to the benefit of others, rather than for our own aggrandizement. The character of our lives, both as individuals and as communities, demonstrates the extent to which we image God and honour him.

Being human

Psalm  8: 4-6; Hebrews 2: 5-9.

For the biblical writers, the grandeur of the human condition cannot be ignored, even while acknowledging that much has gone wrong, that human beings have lost their way, and that they need direction. While these words taken in isolation do not pretend to provide a complete theology of the human situation, they remind us of crucial juxtapositions: our elevated stature alongside our mortality, our authority over the creation alongside our own need to be subject to a higher authority, the way in which we are cared for by God over against the care and control we are to exercise over the creation and others in the human community. Importance of working out these juxtapositions, and of appreciating the role of science within God’s economy.

Preventing the future? 

Looking into the future; world of 2080? Two significant points emerge. The first is that the origins of all the possibilities are already with us. The second is that human beings, no matter how changed in some respects, will be substantially similar to today’s people. Between our world and that of 2080 is a continuum.

Everything we touch is eschatological; it’s future-oriented. The future can be a future of hope even as we face incredible unknowns. But we are to face it head on; we are to be realistic, accepting that many aspects of the future will not be the same as the present, let alone the past.

Forging hope rather than fear

Contrast transhumanist vision of Aubrey de Grey and reality of life expectancy gap between rich and poor in UK (or any comparable socioety). Our attention should be directed towards the second of these items, not the first. Health inequality is something about which something can be done. It touches the lives of real people who are loved by God, and who should be loved by us. It brings together our commitment as Christians and our ability to utilize scientific abilities in the service of others. It is an area that should be hopeful rather than fearful, no matter how tragic some of the situations we encounter. To look forward to new heavens and new earth. To be prophetic voices recognizing the prospect of productive interface between science and theology. This interface is not simply a theoretical and academic one, it is the commitment of redeemed people who are made new in Christ, to do God’s will and usher in hints and touches of God’s kingdom.


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