Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Trinitarian Thinking

A coffee cup can be "known" as an organization of atoms and molecules. But is this kind of knowledge really knowledge? Is this knowledge the best knowledge? To understand or know the coffee cup we must also see it in relation to coffee and to human beings, to breakfast and coffee pots. Science, like Augustine in his conceptual division between the nature of God and the relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit, has bracketed off "things" from their "relations." Science studies things in isolation from their relationships and claims that this kind of knowledge alone qualifies as "objective" and "scientific" knowledge. But what if we jumped ship, so to speak, what if we listened to the voice of St. Athanasius calling from across the ages, and followed the patristic mind in its revolutionary notion of being? What if we assumed that the nature of a thing is not to be divorced from its relations with other things? What if we took note of the fact that the very being of God is fundamentally relational? What if we believed that God is Father, Son and Spirit, and therefore that relationship is a first order, ontological category? And what if we moved from our theology to posit that all things exists in relationship and thus that relationship figures into what they are? In such a scenario, to be "objective" and "scientific" one would have to think relationally.

According to Guiseppe Del Re, "Major conceptual advances in science now require that we recover a view of the universe in which every single thing or event is in fact related to everything else." It appears that the old Newtonian notion of the universe as a grand machine or great clock is proving itself to be woefully inadequate. Indeed Del Re contends:
Today, science has had to accept chance and organization as key concepts for understanding and predicting facts, and another cosmological metaphor appears more consistent with what we know about the material universe. It is the image of the Great Dance.1
As he states it in his preface, "all there is participates as it were in a great harmonious Dance."

If such a vision proves to be true, then not only will a new, more relational, mode of rationality or thinking emerge–as T. F. Torrance and Michael Polanyi have called for–but also a new series of scientific questions. If everything is related to everything else, then the obvious question is how? How are all things related? What is the point of connection? What is the thing (or person) that holds all things together? And with this question, are we not here a hairs breadth away from needing a science for sciences, as Del Re suggests, or dare I say a queen of the sciences which is dedicated to understanding the larger unity of the cosmos, and thus the one truth underneath all other truths and the point of unity in all the disciplines of thought?

Is it possible that the hidden structure of the universe, that the rhyme and reason of human life and relationships, that the connection between human beings and creation, are all alien to the Triune life of the Creator? Would the Triune God create a universe that was structured in antithesis to the way the Father, Son and Spirit live and move and have their being? It stands to reason therefore that to plunge ourselves into the truth about God revealed in Jesus Christ will give us new eyes to see, and a mode of thinking that is inherently in tune with the deepest truths about our world. Is it really that odd that as science braves the frontiers of knowledge it finds itself crying out for the ancient concept of perichoresis? And is it that strange that at this moment in history the Spirit is leading the Western Church beyond Augustine's dualism back to the early Church’s Christ-centered, and thus, Trinitarian theology? The truly strange thing here is not the direction of scientific thought, but the fact that we have not been having this conversation for the last 1600 or so years in the West. Why have we not been exploring our world through Trinitarian lens? Where is our Trinitarian theory of politics, of economics, of psychology, or of physics, medicine and education? Where is our Trinitarian anthropology or sociology? Where is our Trinitarian theology?

1. Guiseppe Del Re, The Cosmic Dance: Science Discovers the Mysterious Harmony of the Universe (Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2000), p. 15.


Jerome Ellard said...

Thanks, Baxter! So...the grand unified field theory that Albert Einstein sought for unsuccessfully for so many years turns out to be...perichoresis, the Great Dance! Yes, the heavens declare the glory of God!

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

Amen, may the scientific world (and the church) come up to Christological speed.