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In the beginning ...

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

An inaugural blog on the constructive relationships among science, theology and culture.

Was the Big Bang an event, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"? Some would say so. Such might be called heroic existentialists. They might affirm that Homo sapiens are a meaning making species but they would also affirm that the universe as a whole is ultimately meaningless. Others would hold that the universe has an a priori meaning that is being revealed through time. These might be called essential creationists. This blog intends to take a middle path; what might be called existential creationism. Here the creation is not a thing that has a history, it is its history. The meaning of the creation emerges by virtue of the actions of its constituents.

Some might be put off by the use of the terms "creation" and "creationism." All I mean by referring to the universe as creation is that the universe does not fully account for itself but rests within a ground that provides the foundation which makes possible the making of meaning. That ground might be something like Paul Tillich's "Ground of Being," but not exactly the same. Perhaps the ground is more like the axioms and definitions of Euclidean geometry. These make geometric proofs possible but are not themselves proved. The ground about which I am speaking is not a meaning but the frame of meaningfulness, that which allows meaning making.

Virtually every human culture has acknowledged such a ground. Many names have been given for it and the cultural celebrations of this ground are diverse.

In a 1953 volume, Philosophers Speak of God, Charles Hartshorne and William Reese identify ten expressions, personal and impersonal, of this ground as forms of theism. They provided examples of philosophers whose writings exemplified these types of theism. They also included four types of theo-philosophical skepticism along with examples.

The type of ground that is presupposed in this blog series is what Hartshorne and Reese identified as modern panentheism. Pantheism understands that all creation is God. Classical theism understands that God absolutely transcends creation. In contrast to these panentheism understands that all creation is in God. In other words "we live and move and have our being in God." (Acts 17:28)

A second presupposition that lies at the foundations of this blog are the relationships among the religious, religion and theology. Among these I understand the religious to be the foundational term. In my view the adjective, religious, refers to anything having to do with the meaning of "personal passage." By that phrase I simply mean the dynamic of human living in the full range of its nested contexts: psychological, social, culture, biological, terrestrial, cosmic. Religion, then, is the concrete expression of the religious in the form of institutions, symbols, texts, practices, and traditions that embody or express a particular understanding of the meaning of personal passage. Theology, then, is the reflection upon and the explicit construction of and articulation of a particular understanding of the meaning of personal passage.

Thirdly, this blog presupposes that science is the empirically tested inquiry into the structures and processes of nature for the sake of understanding them. Science-based technology is the product of the application of that understanding in the form of structures and systems that support human needs and interests.

Well, all of this has been about as exciting as an obscure 19th century tome on philosophy. But, to use the geometry analogy again, it is a bit like the definitions and axioms at the beginning of a geometry text. Not as exciting as the proof of the Pythagorean Theorem (I guess you have to be something of a math geek to think of that as exciting) but necessary in order that the proof makes sense. Similarly, the "definitions" and list of presuppositions above provide the starting point for the reflections that will follow in this blog . Hopefully, the discussions that follow will be more provocative.

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