The Science of God

The Science of God

"The Science of God" is a book by Alister McGrath summarising his three-volume "A Scientific Theology".



1. Prolegomena

2. Nature

3. Reality

In this section McGrath suggests "inter alia" that "one approach to the failure of the Enlightenment is to argue for a communitarian approach to knowledge" [Citing Richard Rorty] but "there are a number of difficulties with this approach." He discusses George Lindbeck's coherentist approach as "inadequate" and needing to be supplemented. He criticises the (naive) foundationalism of Descartes and Frege, suggesting that this "has now been rejected by virtually every major epistemologist and philosopher of science ... the belief that foundationalism is philosophically indefensible is the closest thing to a philosophical consensus that there has heen for a long time". [ p99, he cites the later Wittgenstein, Karl Popper, W. E. Sallars and W.V.O. Quine] He commends the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and suggests that Roger Penrose in Shadows of the Mind "argued that the most satisfactory explanation of the beauty and structure of mathematics is that they were somehow given by God". [p 116] He thinks John Milbank is unquestionably right ... to affirm the importance of the Christian tradition in the theological enterprise" whilst suggesting that Milbank, mistakenly, refuses to engage with other traditions, tends to marginalise the role of scripture, and objects strongly to dialogue between traditions. [pp 123-125]

In Chapter 9 "The Foundations of realism in the Natural Sciences" he commends Polkinghorne's critical realist approach, as against idealism, positivism, instrumentalism and post-modernism, and in Ch 10 "Critical Realism: engaging with a stratified reality" he specifically commends and explores the critical realism of Roy Bhaskar, continuing to cite Polkinghorne. He especially likes the concept of "stratified reality ... the word must be regarded as differentiated and stratified. Each individual science deals with a different stratum of this reality". [p 146] In Ch 11 sketches "The Contours of a Scientific Theology" which he says:
# takes the form of a coherent response to an existing reality
# is an "a posteriori" discipline
# takes account of the unique character of its object
# offers an explanation of reality [p 153]

4. Theory

McGrath suggests that "theories, whether scientific or theological ... are constructed in response to an encounter with existing reality". [p 171]

In "Chapter 12: The Legitimacy of Theory within a Scientific Theology", he suggests that "the driving force behind theory is intellectual curiosity ... the relentless human yearning to see the 'big picture'". [p 172, he calls this an 'eros of the mind' (Augustine of Hippo)] He cites Irenaeus, Heidegger and Habermas and Wlad Godzich and suggests that there is a progression::observation -> theory -> worldview

He prefers to use the term "doctrine" as "a theory which is the accepted teaching of the Church".


Reviews and comments

In this unusual book, based on his more academic trilogy "A Scientific Theology", the author discusses in some detail how systematic theology should be conducted in the light of an understanding of the natural sciences. While "resolutely evangelical in orientation", his approach has been commended by a variety of both Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians. [ [ scroll for title] ]

Publication information

# Paperback: 256 pages
# Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (29 April 2004)
# Language: English
# ISBN-13: 978-0567083531

Notes and References

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