The relationship between science and theology is an interesting one. For starters, I fully reject any notion of incompatibility between the two – the mythical ‘faith versus reason’ conflict is simply a bankrupt idea. Indeed, if historians of science such as Stanley Jaki are to be believed, science could have only come about in a Christian climate. This is a thesis he develops with incredible rigor in his book ‘The Roads of Science and the Ways to God’.
Contrary to the wishful thinking of those who desire to posit a bloody conflict between science and faith, I think the two share some similarities. Theology and science both seek to come to conclusions based on data – science about the physical world, theology about God (theology literally means the study of God). Now, I’m obviously not putting God on the same level as any other physical object – God is most definitely not merely one subject to be studied among many others. Indeed I would say that God is what makes the study of anything possible. But we are given data (in a sense) about God in the sense that the Holy Scriptures tell us things about God. We can come to conclusions based on the data we have received as well as our experience.
When we ask questions such as ‘what is the nature of the atonement’ or ‘what is the nature of the Trinity’ or any theological questions like that, we are to an extent engaging in a scientific theology. We are trying to come to conclusions based on the data we have that we have studied.
There are differences, of course, between the empirical sciences and theology. Theology is by nature a personal enterprise – it’s very subject matter is personal, and as such the discipline of theology must be pursued in a personal way. One cannot engage in theology otherwise.
‘A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian.’
– Evagrius of Pontus
Blaise Pascal wisely pointed out that if any kind of theological or spiritual study is undertaken, it must be done first and foremost in a personal way – one must seek with the whole of the heart, soul and mind. Theology cannot be a detatched discipline – apart from union with Christ theology cannot happen. Apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit, theology cannot happen. Though theology can be an methodical academic endeavor, it remains at its heart a personal, worshipful science.