Sunday, Oct 16, 2005: “Science and Religion: Session 5”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Faith, Science, and Understanding by John Polkinghorne
Discussion Led By Prof. George John
Sunday, October 16, 2005




Faith Science & Understanding

I. Part I. Consists of Chapters 1 through 5

A. Brief comments about Chap 1

B. Discuss the Methodology of Science cited in Chap 2

C. Use detection of radioactivity emitted by Coleman Lantern
Mantles as a means to demonstrate observation and identification of
“unseen” emanations.

1. Relate historical development of the discovery and
properties of electrons

2. Emanations from mantles, called Beta particles, have the
same characteristics as electrons, hence they are electrons.

D. Relate electrons to atomic theory of matter

E. Properties of “free” electrons versus electrons bound in atoms

F. Excitation and de-excitation (decay) of atomic states. Nuclear atom
and radioactive decay,; origin of beta particles

G. Bound electrons require Quantum Mechanics to account for their
behavior whereas Classical mechanics can describe some properties of
free electrons.

II. Contrast methods and results of science with those of theology

III. Respond to Questions

IV. Chapter 3: The Role of Revelation—Mike Kreutzer.

Some notes on Revelation

(Compiled by Rev. Mike Kreutzer)

Part 1: from The Experience of God: an Invitation to Do Theology 
by Dermot A. Lane; revised edition, Dublin: Veritas Press, 2003, pp. 46-72

“There is nothing more vulnerable in life than unquestioned presuppositions.”

Whenever a change in focus occurs, especially in an area of fundamental theology, it takes time for the Christian community to adjust to its implications.”


Different theories of revelation:


1) the propositional theory: “It claims that God communicated basic truths, hitherto unknown, about God’s self in history to a privileged people, and that these were written down in a human language and passed on in Scripture and the tradition of the Church.”

2) “revelation as history” theory: “Revelation is about the action of God in history which is available to us in the great events of salvation history… Revelation is a series of different historical events which are ‘open to anyone who has eyes to see.'”

3) subjectivist or existentialist theory of revelation: “It is claimed that revelation takes place only when humanity responds in faith to God’s message contained in the Bible. This happens when Scripture actually changes and transforms the life of the person.”

4) “A balanced theology of revelation must attempt to integrate these three complementary points of view as well as add to them.”

· “It is reasonable to assume that God in divine revelation follows, more or less, the built-in created capacity that humanity has for human revelation. God deals with people as they are. He takes the human condition as it is and draws it to perfection in grace. The gift of grace does not bypass human nature; it develops from within nature.”

· “Human revelation entails a process of self-disclosure between persons that normally takes place through words and deeds. This communication between people reaches a special level of integrity when the words become deeds and the deeds reflect the words in unity. If the exchange is to be complete, then there must be some mutual interaction between the parties involved. This takes place through the medium of human experience which is essential to revelation… These basic elements which make up the dynamics of human revelation also belong, with some qualification, to the process of divine revelation between God and humanity.”

· “A fundamental unity exists between revelation and faith. There can be no divine revelation without the response of faith which receives it, and there can be no faith without the grace of God’s self-revelation which draws forth faith in us…. The reception in faith of God’s gracious offer of God’s self in experience and history by the individual, and ultimately by the community, is what constitutes revelation.”

· “Religious experiences are those moments in life when we perceive a world of meaning as grounded in the immanent yet transcendent reality we call God.”

· “The revelation of God in experience is something that cries out for imaginative interpretation in linguistic symbols: narratives, stories and doctrinal statements. In fact interpretation assisted by imagination is an essential part of the revelation of God in experience. A fundamental unity exists between experience, imagination, and interpretation.”

· “Revelation is about the personal communication and dialogic relationship that exists between God and humanity in past and present history.”

Part 2: from Faith, Science & Understanding by John Polkinghorne
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000

“God is always there, just as the laws of nature are always there, but it may well be that there have been particular moments in history that have been unusually open to the divine presence, particular communities unusually responsive to the divine will, particular individuals unusually aware of the divine nature. These transparent occasions and inspired persons are the vehicles of God’s self-manifestation, sources of the spiritual insight whose record is what constitutes the revelation preserved in a religious tradition. Such a concept of revelation is one that should not be uncongenial to a scientist. The close analogy is with the astronomer’s observations than with the physicists’ experiments, since encounter with the divine cannot be induced or contrived but it can only be received as gracious gift.” (p. 37)




· suspicions of many people: They seem to think that religious believers enter into intellectual discussion with the ace of trumps of revelatory certainty hidden up their sleeves and with the brazen claim that it is the Holy Spirit who has put it there.” (p. 53)

· “Two kinds of responses could be made, one broad in character, the other more specific.” (p 53):

> (pp. 53-56) “The broad point is to challenge the scientist’s innate inclination to favor generality over specificity and at the same time to question the assertion that the repeatable is always a more reliable source of evidence than the unique.”

> (pp. 56-57) “To this general argument can be added a further and more specific consideration. It arises from the actual experienced power of scripture to speak across the centuries, and across all the many cultural changes that intervene, to enlighten us in our day in ways that are meaningful and powerful. The fact of continuing study of the Bible by many people is something to be taken into account… Persistence of a people and their writings is a phenomenon that is worth investigating. It calls for an explanation.”

· “The possibility of revelation, of God made known through persons and events, is one that deserves a place on my agenda of rational inquiry.” (p. 57)

· “Appeal to revelation is not the closure of theological discussion, but the ground of its initiation.” (p. 58)

· “There is an inescapable tension involved between, on the one hand, the acknowledgement that uniquely significant events may well have about them unusual or unprecedented characteristics which are part of the reason for believing them to carry a revelatory significance and, on the other hand, the recognition that also there must be some degree of resonance with ordinary human experience if these events are to be intelligible to later generations.” (pp. 58-59)

· “For me, the Bible is neither an inerrant account of propositional truth nor a compendium of timeless symbols, but a historically conditioned account of certain significant encounters and experiences. Read in this way, I believe it can provide the basis for a Christian belief which is certainly revised in the light of our twentieth century insights but which is recognizably contained within an envelope of understanding in continuity with the developing doctrines of the Church throughout the centuries.” (pp. 64-65)

Group discussion ended by discussions as to whether God reveals himself to individuals today and if so, how does one determine if whether that person is a true prophet of God or not?  Mike was asked if he thought there were any modern-day prophets to which he responded in the affirmative and suggested that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may be considered a good candidate for that title!


Other references:

“What is the Universe Made Of?” by Charles Seife

“Postmodernism Disrobed” by Richard Dawkins