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c) The Resurrection in Relation to Science

i) The Resurrection of Christ. Certainly the normative and defining theme for Christian theologies of most varieties is the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and out of this event, the development of theologies of the incarnation. How, if at all, are these ‘miracles’ to be put into intelligible relation to the natural sciences? Scholars in general who deal with the Resurrection may feel free to overlook its relation to science; For a recent, representative, instance see Stephen Davis and S. J. Daniel Kendall, and Gerald O'Collins, Editors, The Resurrection (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).still, it is clearly a challenge which must be addressed by the ‘theology and science’ movement.

Arthur Peacocke and John Polkinghorne offer responses whose differences illuminate the delicate choice between, and subtle consequences of, giving priority to theology or to science when conflict seems unavoidable.Compare Arthur R. Peacocke, Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming-- Natural, Divine and Human, Signposts in Theology Series (London: SCM Press, 1993). and John Polkinghorne, Scientists as Theologians:...Both agree that the resurrection is more than mere psychology. Polkinghorne, however, is more committed to an ‘empty tomb’ than is Peacocke. Again, Polkinghorne views the incarnation as evidence of both God’s divine action and Mary’s human agency, while Peacocke insists on filtering out the birth stories from an incarnational theology.See for example Peacocke, Theology for a Scientific Age, p. 280; John C. Polkinghorne, Reason and Reality: The Relationship Between Science and Theology (London: SPCK, 1991), 103. See also Philip Clayton,...

ii) The General Resurrection. We have seen that the interaction with evolutionary biology and the cognitive / neurosciences has led many scholars to reject body/soul dualism. What result might this have on the meaning of the resurrection of humanity in general?

Peters sees theology and science as being in consonance here. According to Peters,Ted Peters, "The Physical Body of Immortality," CTNS Bulletin 15.2(Spring 1995); Ted Peters, "Resurrection of the Very Embodied Soul?" in Neuroscience and the Person: Scientific Perspectives...the rejection of body/soul dualism has been seen by some as undermining the Christian view of life after death. But there are, in fact, two views here: a) the death of a person and their resurrection at the end of time as a psychosomatic unity, and b) the survival of the immortal soul after death and its reunion at the end of time with the resurrected body. For theological reasons Peters prefers the former, based on ancient Hebrew anthropology, over the latter, with its Greek body/soul dualism. Given the former view, the cognitive sciences and Christian theology are in fact consonant: both reject anthropological dualism, including such contemporary examples as Frank Tipler’s view that life can be reduced to disembodied information processing (see below). Meanwhile, a theology of the resurrection of the person can be pursued further in light of science.

John Haught, too, rejects both a dualistic anthropology (i.e., soul and body) and a dualistic cosmology (i.e., spirit and matter). Instead he offers a trinitarian process interpretation of personality in relation to other persons, nature and God. Death liberates us from the restrictions of this life to a relationship to the entire cosmos.John F. Haught, Science & Religion: From Conflict to Conversion (New York: Paulist Press, 1995), 136-9.With Karl Rahner, Denis Edwards stresses the cosmic significance of the resurrection as “the beginning of the transformation of the whole universe.”Denis Edwards, Jesus the Wisdom of God: An Ecological Theology (Homebush, Australia: St Pauls, 1995), 83-87, 153.

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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