Are modern science and Christianity really in conflict, as new atheists proclaim? The key proposal in the upcoming Gilhousen lecture is that Christian theology and science may be thought of as being in a “coinherent” relationship, not a conflicted one.
Incoherent, You Say?
Coinherence is difficult to say, let alone understand! It sounds incoherent to some! The term means mutually indwelling without loss of identity. Each is in the other, yet each is not the other. Each enriches and animates the other, while each is more fully itself for being in the other.
The term has deep theological roots. Coinherence was used first of the relationship between the divine and human natures in the one person of Christ. The two natures of Jesus were unmixed, unconfused and yet mutually in the other, in the one person of Jesus Christ. Since the already existent divine person took into himself a human nature, the divine nature was always considered to have priority, even though he was fully human.
The term was also used of the three persons of the one triune God. And this gets to the heart of the Christian gospel—this triune God who is for us, has created the cosmos from the overflowing riches of his triune coinherent love, and has come into union with humanity and creation at the incarnation in order to redeem it.
An Analogy for the Relationship Between Theology and Science
That coinherent union between God and humanity creates the analogy for the relationship between theology and science. Each in the other, each not the other. Mutuality and particularity. Theologians don’t tell scientists how to do their research or what results are legitimate, and vice versa. First order creedal theology has a revelatory priority for Christian theology, but this does not diminish the validity and distinctness of science and the need for an encyclopedic theology that accounts for all reality.
The lecture will show, for example, that how we know is similar in theology to how we know in science—empirically, and by critical realism. No Christian can afford to neglect theology or science in their attempts to know God.
And I will also try to show that who the triune God is in his being is reflected in the essential ontology of the cosmos—its relationality, its agency, its beauty. From the perspective of Christian theologians, given that the triune nature of God is crucial and central to Christian theology, it would be somewhat disconcerting if there were no signs of the Trinity in creation and in science, though there is a need for discernment.
Revelation of the Trinity must begin with God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, and not with the vestiges; and the signs of the Trinity or “intimations of divinity” will not be expected to be obvious, like 3-leaf clovers!
In this lecture I hope to have taken a step towards overcoming the warfare model between Christian theology and science which persists in scientism and in popular culture fostered by the reductionism of popular atheists and also in Christian fundamentalism.