Mathematics and Theology
|September 28, 2012||Posted by johnnyb under Culture, Mathematics, Religion, Science|
I thought you all might be interested in an article I wrote titled Mathematics and Theology: Seeing to Infinity. The basic purpose of the article is to show how the “limit” concept from mathematics can be incorporated into theological reasoning. The larger purpose is to get theologians thinking more deeply about mathematics as a tool in theological reasoning.
One of the disheartening things about modern theology is how disconnected it is from the rest of human knowledge. It doesn’t need to be disconnected — it’s just that there is a habit of thought that has developed over the past two centuries that separated out theology as “other” (perhaps as a euphemism for “fictitious”) and math and science as “real”. This case was strenuously made in Stephen J. Gould’s article on non-overlapping magisteria (abbreviated as NOMA) — saying that science and theology are both good, but they should never, ever talk.
I believe in the integration of knowledge, so I tend to take the idea that they are non-overlapping as intending that one of these is false. Certainly, domains of knowledge have their boundaries, but those boundaries do overlap.
NOMA has been surprisingly effective. I think one of the things that makes it effective is that theologians don’t want to learn other people’s subjects. Theologians, on the whole, don’t want to really learn science and math. The want to give it lip service, but not really engage. The few who do engage, tend to only engage in one direction – have theology learn from science. What we really need is a full, two-way engagement which has been missing since Darwin.
This NOMA view has negatively affected both science and theology. It has hurt theology by removing from it concrete connections with reality. It has hurt science by making any hypothesis which can touch theology be considered out-of-bounds, thus limiting the freedom of inquiry for the scientist. My hope is that more theologians will pursue an active, two-way engagement with science and mathematics. NOMA has hurt everyone, and we need to put it to rest.