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The World in the Trinity

The World in the Trinity: Open-Ended Systems in Science and Religion

Joseph A. Bracken
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    The World in the Trinity
    Book Description:

    Joseph A. Bracken argues that the failure of theology and science to generate cohesion is the lack of an integrated system of interpretation of the Christian faith that consciously accords with the insights and discoveries of contemporary science. In The World in the Trinity, Bracken utilizes the language and conceptual structures of systems theory as a philosophical and scientific grammar to show traditional Christian beliefs in a new light that is accessible and rationally plausible to a contemporary, scientifically influenced society. This account opens new possibilities for rethinking the God-world relationship, the Trinity, incarnation, creation, and eschatology within the context of a broader ecological and cosmological system. In re-describing these articles constitutive of Christian belief, the author is conscious of the vital importance of retaining the inherent power and meaning of these concepts. This volume freshly retrieves pivotal themes and concepts constitutive of the Christian tradition in a conscious rapprochement with current scientific understandings of nature.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8755-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the years since Ian Barbour’s first set of Gifford Lectures titledReligion in an Age of Science,¹ the contemporary literature on the topic of religion and science has expanded exponentially. While this extended conversation between theologians and scientists has opened up many new avenues for fruitful exchange of views on controversial issues, other “doors,” so to speak, remain closed. For example, scientific materialists consciously or unconsciously seem to be proposing the equivalent of a secular religion, that is, a belief-system opposed to the belief-systems of the various theistic religions; but their own secular belief-system can no more be proven...

  5. Part I.

    • 1 Language and Reality
      (pp. 15-38)

      Does language simply reflect the world in which we live, or instead shape it so that we see things differently as a result of using one language to express ourselves rather than another? On the basis both of personal experience and of the conclusions reached by some major European philosophers, I would say “yes” to the second alternative. With respect to personal experience, for example, in the 1960s after being ordained a priest at a Jesuit seminary here in the United States, I received permission from my religious superiors to do a final year of spiritual reflection and pastoral training...

    • 2 The “Inside” and the “Outside” of Everything
      (pp. 39-64)

      At the end of the last chapter, I indicated the problem posed by the wave-particle complementarity (or, in the view of some, duality) for theoretical physicists working in quantum mechanics. A scientist can no longer stand apart from and objectively analyze the empirical data as was generally assumed to be the case in early modern natural science. The scientist, with his choice of experiment and equipment for accurate measurement of the data, is an integral part of the experiment and the results thereby achieved. She also has to take into account her own finite powers of perception and understanding. As...

    • 3 Panentheism Hierarchically Ordered Systems of Existence and Activity
      (pp. 65-90)

      Readers of theSumma Theologiaeby the celebrated medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas are sometimes startled to read in one of the opening chapters, titled “Does God Exist?” the initial answer: “it would seem not to be so.”¹ Reassurance comes shortly with the recognition that Aquinas is employing the style of argument in the public academic disputations of his day: namely, first with various arguments to deny the truth of the proposition at issue, then to offer counterarguments for its truth, and afterwards to state one’s own position along with an answer to each of the initial objections. As I shall...

    • 4 Other Approaches to Panentheism in the Current Religion-and-Science Debate
      (pp. 91-112)

      In 2004 Philip Clayton and Arthur Peacocke published the papers of an academic conference on panentheism that brought together many prominent natural scientists, philosophers, and Christian systematic theologians.¹ Given their large number (eighteen), in this chapter I will primarily focus on the essays of the systematic theologians in preference to those written by natural scientists and philosophers since in the chapters to follow I will be addressing various theological issues related to a number of classical Christian beliefs. The first essay to be considered, titled “God Immanent yet Transcendent: The Divine Energies according to Saint Gregory Palamas,” was written by...

  6. Part II.

    • 5 “Incarnation” as Key to the Argument for Panentheism
      (pp. 115-136)

      Part One of this book was basically philosophical in its orientation. In chapter 1, I proposed that our understanding of the world around us is at least partly conditioned by the language we habitually employ. Given our Western emphasis on the priority of nouns to verbs in sentence construction, we tend to see the world in terms of individual things with various contingent relationships to one another. An emphasis on verbs, however, might lead us to the belief that physical reality is in flux and seems to be constituted by coordinated processes or systems. Moreover, contemporary scientists tend to think...

    • 6 A Systems-Oriented Approach to the Trinity
      (pp. 137-162)

      In the last chapter I outlined a systems-oriented understanding of the doctrine of the Incarnation. In this chapter I will use the same approach to present the doctrine of the Trinity in a new light. In both cases, the basic idea of a system as the byproduct or ongoing result of the dynamic interrelation of component parts or members remains the same. But the component parts or members are not the same in each case. With respect to the doctrine of the Incarnation, the system in question is the dynamic synthesis of the divine and human natures in Jesus as...

    • 7 Tradition and Traditioning Church as Both System and Institutional Entity?
      (pp. 163-188)

      Without question, the Roman Catholic Church and all other Christian denominations are longstanding institutional entities in the contemporary world. But is their reality as institutional entities here and now ultimately secondary to their deeper reality as historically grounded systems or processes for handing on a specific doctrinal and liturgical tradition from one generation to the next over hundreds or even thousands of years? In other words, is the Church primarily an institutional entity with a relatively fixed identity as a result of its longstanding doctrinal and liturgical heritage, or is the Church primarily a process or system for handing on...

    • 8 Miracles and the Problem of Evil
      (pp. 189-216)

      It might initially seem strange to link analysis of the possibility of miracles, that is, special divine interventions into the workings of the natural order, with the longstanding philosophical problem of evil in a book dedicated to a process-oriented understanding of the God-world relationship. For, if the symbiotic relationship between the natural and the supernatural order of events is working properly, then there should be no need for God to suspend or even to tinker with the normal workings of nature so as to help human beings to deal with some catastrophic series of events in the world of nature...

    • 9 Resurrection and Eternal Life
      (pp. 217-246)

      Some years ago a collection of essays written by natural scientists and Christian theologians on the projected end of the world was published with the titleThe End of the World and the Ends of God: Science and Theology on Eschatology. It began with the following grim assessment of the projected end of the world from a purely scientific perspective:

      Not only our individual life but also the universe is doomed to physical decay. This scientific insight of the twentieth century poses a great threat to theology and the faith of all religions. How can we believe in God and...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 247-262)

    In the Introduction to this book, I noted how Wentzel van Huyssteen has tried to bridge the current gap between scientifically oriented and religiously inspired worldviews in the postmodern Western world by proposing a new kind of interdisciplinary rational reflection, namely, what he calls “transversal rationality.”¹ This new type of rationality is not theory-based or purely cognitive but likewise a performative praxis: “the practice of responsible judgment, that is at the heart of a postfoundationalist notion of rationality, and that enables us to reach fragile and provisional forms of coherence in our interpersonal and interdisciplinary conversations.”² My counterargument was that,...

  8. Index
    (pp. 263-274)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 275-275)