Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gregory on the Christian distinction

Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study
"Every finding and every possible finding of natural science is compatible with a notion of God whose radical otherness is precisely the possibility condition of his presence throughout the physical world. If the biblical God of traditional Christianity is real, then the empirical findings of the natural sciences from astronomy and experimental physics to paleontology and evolutionary biology could not diminish God's presence in and through the world."

     Brad S. Gregory, "No room for God? History, science, metaphysics, and the study of religion," History and theory 47, no. 4 (December 2008): 509-510. But the key here is the notion. It must be the traditional notion of a God "who cannot in principle be conceived as part of, alongside, or in competition with the natural world"; who "is not a 'highest being' or a 'supernatural entity' that can in any sense be properly conceived within or as a component of a more comprehensive reality"; who is "radically distinct from the universe", i.e. "metaphysically transcendent" (502-503); and so forth. So away with the profoundly meta-scientific assumptions of modern scientism rooted ultimately in "late-medieval nominalism" (Duns Scotus on univocity). "A radically transcendent God would be neither outside nor inside his creation. . . . Rather, if real, such a God could be wholly present to everything in the natural world precisely and only because he would be altogether inconceivable in spatial categories. Divine transcendence would thus be not the opposite but the correlate of divine immanence. So, too, God in this sort of view would be neither temporally prior to nor a cosmic observer of sequential events as they unfold. . . . Rather, God could be fully present to all events and every moment precisely and only because he would be altogether inconceivable in temporal categories. Divine eternity would then be not the opposite but the correlate of divine providence" (503). "The intellectually unjustified misstep that provides the foundation for scientism and ideological secularism in the modern academy derives not from science, but from the transgression of science's own self-imposed limits" precisely (506). Nothing new here, but he sure brings his fellow historians up to speed. Outstanding! Great footnotes, too.

No comments: