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Diversity and Uncertainty: A productive interface between science and Christianity? D Gareth Jones.

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Presentation on theme: "Diversity and Uncertainty: A productive interface between science and Christianity? D Gareth Jones."— Presentation transcript:

1 Diversity and Uncertainty: A productive interface between science and Christianity? D Gareth Jones

2 Putting aside science for a moment Clark Pinnock, controversial theologian  ongoing debate on ‘biblical inerrancy’ and ‘open theism’  willing to change his position  aimed to be true to the biblical witness  Prepared to stand up for unfashionable positions

3 Putting aside science for a moment Jim Wallis  long-time activist on social justice, biblical orthodoxy, and the contribution of evangelicalism to social issues  being biblically prophetic rather than politically ideological  Meets considerable opposition for his political activism

4 Putting aside science for a moment Force us to confront diversity and uncertainty within the Christian community Any differences are theological, and not mainly political or scientific Are we being sufficiently biblical? Local illustration of problematic reading of current events Care and discernment are needed in bringing a Christian voice into the public square

5 Putting aside science for a moment At boundaries of science and faith we lurch from science into theology and from theology into science We are tempted to present a definitive front, yet the interaction between the two realms constantly raises difficulties for us

6 God’s care versus human care Apparent contrast between human and divine control Does God micro-manage our lives? “Even the hairs of your head are all counted” (Luke 12:7) – Is this to be taken literally? What does this mean in terms of nerve cells and genes? God’s care of us (Luke 12: 4-7); also Luke 12: 22- 31

7 God’s care versus human care A view of God’s care, not his control What matters is not the formulation of our genes, but how we are able to cope with the genes we do or do not have Human control over biological processes is increasing, the challenge is to direct these abilities in ways that will help individuals and communities

8 God’s care versus human care What is important is way we care for others; not how we attempt to control others Character of our lives demonstrates extent to which we honour God and image him Significance of Christians being like Jesus Christ

9 Being human Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could compare various possibilities in neat objective terms? Quantify everything – ready distinction between therapy and experimental categories? This is not how human beings function, nor is it how God deals with us

10 Being human “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet.” Psalm 8:4-6 (NRSV)

11 Being human “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals that you care for them? You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honour, subjecting all things under their feet. Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus....” Hebrews 2: 5-9 (NRSV)

12 Being human Biomedical scientists are condemned for acting as if they were gods The biblical writers could not ignore the grandeur of the human condition Crucial juxtapositions; our elevated stature alongside our mortality We should not shun the possibilities inherent in being designers of the future – requires immense wisdom and discernment

13 Being human We need to begin to take science seriously and appreciate its role within God’s economy Can be misused and can mislead But provides means of overcoming limitations Need sufficient faith to recognize God’s hand in blessings that scientific achievements bring

14 Preventing the future? Can bioethicists prevent one kind of future while encouraging another? To look into the future is a hazardous pastime We are notoriously poor at predicting what will turn out to be of scientific value

15 Preventing the future? Imagine the world in 2080 Information will be nearly instant, although the problems with this will be considerable … there will be no surgery in the old fashioned sense … Alzheimer’s disease will be a phenomenon of the past … Infertility will have been conquered and few people will have babies naturally … Clones will exist as perfectly ordinary members of society … Over 30% of the population will have artificial parts

16 Preventing the future? It is difficult to know what is real, the idea of the natural seems to have disappeared … organs are regularly replaced, the implants are said to function better than the natural ones … only healthy babies are born. However, people still die.

17 Preventing the future?  The origins of all the possibilities are already with us  Human beings will be substantially similar to today’s people The world has become dependent on technological ‘fixes’, though technology can let them down Everyone will still wither and die

18 Preventing the future? Between our world and that of 2080 is a continuum If the world of 2080 is a nightmare, that nightmare is a present reality We are not surrounded by Frankenstein-like scientists aimed at conquering the world

19 Preventing the future? Many Christians cling on to the maleficence of science, exaggerating the issues in order to provide something frightening to combat and argue against We are missing the tenor of the actual debates We are to be Christ’s people in the consulting room, in the lab, on the committees The future can be a future of hope even as we face unknowns; we are to face them head on

20 Forging hope rather than fear Aubrey de Grey, transhumanist  Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence  getting old is the biggest health crisis facing the world  committed to curing death and ushering in a form of physical immortality  prompts reactions of fear and foreboding

21 Forging hope rather than fear  More realistic: life expectancy gap between rich and poor people in England is widening (10 years)  if African-American people in the US had the same mortality rates as white people there would have been 800,000 fewer deaths over a decade  health inequalities - cost lives, damage people’s health and stunt educational opportunities

22 Forging hope rather than fear These inequalities should cause us deep concern Scientific knowledge is part of the answer (public health, vaccination etc) Our attention should be directed towards health inequalities not transhumanism

23 Forging hope rather than fear Health inequality touches lives of real people who are loved by God and who can be helped We should be hopeful rather than fearful, no matter how tragic some of the situations Contrast the two items: efforts put into each of them highlight our priorities

24 Forging hope rather than fear Christians look forward to new heaven and new earth: new Jerusalem Christians are to work towards rectifying the groaning creation Science is not the answer, but it is a contributory facet Balance scientific contributions and ethical drivers; hope in God and his good purposes

25 Forging hope rather than fear A productive interface between science and theology - the commitment to usher in God’s kingdom Honest in our  scientific investigations and in applying scientific data  theological and biblical exposition and interpretation Science can be used productively even in such unnerving territory

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