I am currently reading Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning by Nancey Murphy, a book that I have been wanting to read for years. I am through the first quarter of the book and so far I am led to believe that this may be one of those books. You know, an absolutely foundational book that makes you ask yourself, “Why has it taken me so long to find this out?” or exclaim after reading it, “I can’t imagine life without it.”
So, it looks like a good book.
For a summary, one need look no further than the preface where Murphy describes her motivations for writing the book.
The philosopher of science must answer the question “In what does the rationality of science consist?” Few besides my teacher Feyerabend would question that science is rational. The philosophy of religion, on the other hand, must in these days provide an apologia for the very possibility of religious knowledge.
Philosophy of science has made great strides in this generation by careful study of science itself – as opposed to arm-chair investigation of the ‘logic’ of science. It seemed to me, therefore, that philosophers of religion needed an equally thorough knowledge of the cognitive aspects of religion…
… I saw that Scripture, history, and the church’s ongoing encounters with God in community life and worship could be the data for a scientific theology. Theology itself (doctrine) could be accounted theories in a theological “research program.” The analysis of the relations between data and theory, and criteria for acceptance of theories, would come from the philosophy of science of the late Imre Lakatos. (p xi-xii)
Let me make it clear from the beginning that I do not believe that for theology to be intellectually acceptable or a worthwhile endeavor that it need to be scientific. Too often, disciplines outside of traditional science want to label their fields as scientific or use scientific terminology or methodology to make their disciplines seem more relevant in today’s scientific climate. I don’t think this is necessary because I believe all disciplines have their own intrinsic value, but then again I teach at a Christian liberal arts college so that is to be expected. However, since I am a scientist and thus think and structure my ideas in the ways of science, Murphy’s approach is very inviting to me, personally.
Should her approach be inviting to more than just me? Should she have a broader audience? I think so, but you tell me. Do you agree with the following paragraph? Do you think what she’s stating is a valid and current problem for theology?
So, to sum up, the theologian’s options, as Stout sees them, are: (1) ignore Hume, with the consequence that theology becomes irrelevant to the segment of the culture that has been affected by Enlightenment thought; or (2) take Hume’s work for granted and either: (a) find some other vindication for theology (moral, aesthetic, existential), with the consequence that theology loses its cognitive content and becomes uninteresting; or (b) redefine terms so that theology has its own peculiar form of ‘rationality’, with the consequence that theology becomes unintelligible to those who operate with the same standard epistemology. (p 14)