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The Theological Definition of Cosmic Disorder
by Richard Kirby, Aug 15, 2006
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The Theological Definition of Cosmic Disorder In the writings of Thomas Forsyth Torrance by Richard Kirby, Ph.D. thesis from the University of London, King's College London, 1992

This thesis presents the results of research into the theological definition of cosmic disorder in the writings of T.F. Torrance, and offers a thorough examination of his approach to theology "through science". In seven chapters the thesis traces the presuppositions of Torrance's theology, through his understanding of cosmos and disorder in theological and scientific terms, to his account of the eschatological dimensions of cosmic disorder, and finally to a statement of the soteriological issues relating to the future of cosmology as it is formed and shaped by theology and science in mutual modification. Chapters four and five examine specific definitions of cosmic disorder through science (the concept of entropy) and theology (the concept of evil) respectively. Torrance's pioneering interdisciplinary presentations of Einsteinian cosmology are examined in detail.

The thesis proposes that two dominating ideas in the relevant areas of Torrance's thought are "Theology through Science" and "Theology through Christ". By bringing these two themes together: in the context of the theological definition of cosmic disorder it is shown that science and cosmology themselves, partaking in the Fall of man and contributing to cosmic disorder, can also partake in redemption and salvation through Christ and can therefore contribute to cosmic re-ordering. The result would be a new theology-philosophy of science with practical consequences for the Church; a new, "theological" cosmology in fulfillment of Torrance's goal of theology and science in mutual modification; and a resultant non-dualistic comprehension of the theological definition of cosmic disorder, as that which by (ecclesial) definition also diminishes it, by God's grace.

In addition to the general bibliography, two appendices present materials for comprehensive primary and secondary bibliographies of the works of Thomas Forsyth Torrance. Four indexes are provided, to facilitate reference to names, subject, Scriptural citations and citations in this thesis of works by T.F. Torrance.

(Excerpt from Final Chapter)

In the earlier chapters of this thesis, the twin themes of "Theology through Science" and "Theology through Christ" were shown to permeate and govern Torrance's thought. The first three chapters described and discussed the central concerns of Torrance's theology, dealing with its intention to be scientific, its Juxtaposition with cosmology, and its central concepts of order and ontology. Chapters 1 and 2 examined Torrance's approach to theology "through science", and considered how he applies this to cosmology. The third chapter, which studied Torrance's account of the created order, demonstrated the centrality of Christ in Torrance's theology of the cosmic or created order. The order and the ontology of the cosmos are described by Torrance in profoundly Christocentric terms. The cosmos is exhibited by Torrance as being, most essentially and in every significant sense, Christ's cosmos. The contingent or derivative order of the cosmos also makes it contingently intelligible, and hence open to investigation by science. Such investigation, typified by Einstein, has also in turn led to a profound recovery of ontology and shattered the dualisms which had previously vitiated so much theological and scientific thought (TCFK, p. 273). One outcome of such post-dualistic theology could be conceptualised as an inter-disciplinary counterpart to "Theology through Science", namely "Science through Christ". This may be the essential identity of the "new science" sought by Torrance science.

The notion of "Science through Christ" is also a partial antidote to the errors of scientism, and a remedy for the illusion that science (as opposed to God in Christ) saves. Torrance's theology offers a contemporary resource for Science and Christ in harmonious partnership. Just as Einstein's physics exemplified Science and Religion working together (_Christian Theology and Scientific Culture_, p. 7; cf. _Ground and Grammar of Theology_, pp 5-6). In this way, "Science through Christ" promises a deeper fulfilment of the Baconian vision of "human science as a form of man's obedience to God" (GOT, p.5). Torrance's theology stipulates that such obedience comes only through the mediation of the Son (MC, passim), and so "Science through Christ" is the fulfilment of man's priestly and redemptive role, through science, in creation. But in Torrance's theology it is by definition man redeemed, not unregenerate man, who is capable of "science through Christ". For man, seized of evil, produces a disordered science and technology (DCO, p. 130).

The portrayal by Torrance of the cosmos as ordered by Christ thus leads on to the theological problems raised by the disorder of the cosmos. In chapters 4 and 5 it was shown how Torrance's theology describes this disorder scientifically (analogically, through the thermodynamic concept of entropy) and theologically (directly, through the idea of evil as an anti-cosmic force) respectively. Collectively, these two chapters were intended to provide a test of the "theological science" method, of the capacity of "scientific theology" to describe or define cosmic disorder. They showed Torrance's belief that John Archibald Wheeler's programme of "Meaning Physics" could find fulfilment in Christian theology.

The sixth and penultimate chapter was a discussion of Torrance's eschatological thought, and it displayed both his "Theology through Science" approach in his ambition to think together scientific cosmology and Christian eschatology, and his "Theology through Christ" approach in his profoundly Christocentric definition of the Last Things as being utterly fulfilled in Christ, and in Him alone. The encounter with scientific cosmology was shown to lead to the possibility of systematic Christian contributions to cosmological theory through cosmological model building, in this way potentially enriching theological empiricism.

The foregoing chapters leave an interesting theological legacy for this final stage of the thesis. By holding together "Theology through Science" and "Theology through Christ" in relation to the twin themes of cosmology and disorder, they invite a theological account of the Cosmos-as-Christ's in such a way as to harmonise the varied ambitions of Torrance's theology: in particular, the desire to think together scientific cosmology and Christian eschatology while giving adequate attention to the actual disorder of the cosmos. Indeed, Torrance's recognition of this disorder led him to hope that such inter-disciplinary efforts might contribute to the preservation of the human race (CFM, p. 47).

The necessity of describing cosmic disorder theo-scientifically, with Christ at the centre, while working in inter-disciplinary ways for the salvation of the human race, suggests the theme of cosmic salvation as the climax of Torrance's theology of the cosmos. It is thus the task of this final chapter to find in Torrance's soteriology the key principle - the salvation of the world (cosmos) in Christ - and to present it as definitive of the horizons and boundaries of cosmic disorder in both theology and science. This task is indeed possible, because Torrance does maintain his "theology through science" approach in the field of soteriology as well as in his doctrine of creation, his Christology and his trinitarian thought. Our concluding synthesis of "Science through Christ" does require the maintenance of the realisation that science, as part of fallen cosmic order, requires itself to be saved and regenerated if it is to take its proper place in the redemption of the world (DCO, p. 130).

Man's priestly role as scientist must be through Christ in every respect. The theological definition of cosmic disorder thus calls for the explication of scientific cosmology "through Christ" in theory and practice, and in technological application, as the promised fulfilment of Torrance's inter-disciplinary ambition. In this way the Barthian, or "through Christ", and Einsteinian (or "through cosmology") strands of his thought can be harmonised.

Since Torrance's is a Reformed theology which regards the Word of God as normative for Christian theology, it is appropriate that the soteriological argument of this concluding chapter should be geared to the Biblical conception of Christ as the "Saviour of the World [kosmos]", the One through whom the world may be saved.

1.2 Introduction to this chapter

As a prelude to this final chapter, it is worthwhile to recall the Christian relevance of the theme of cosmic or world disorder, for Torrance's theology asserts that non-dualistic thought cannot separate meaning from application. The "true" Christian theology should also be that which is efficacious, participating in the salvific thrust of the Creator--Redeemer-Sanctifier, for God's Being in His Act and vice versa (GOT, p. 153). Thus, this thesis has explored the resources of Torrance's theology for a Christian theme of maximum relevance and salvific significance: the predicament of contemporary man, visible in the disorder of the world.

This thesis has thus been a report on research into the meaning of world disorder, indeed of cosmic disorder as observed, interpreted and judged by Christian theology represented by T.F. Torrance. The faithful Christian, inquiring into the meaning of faith in the contemporary world, cannot but search the resources of the Christian religion for the meaning of the disorder of the world. For example, the growth of the world population has resulted in the appearance on our planet of billions of new human beings, the majority of whom seem still to be doomed to lives of frustration and misery, in accordance with Thomas Hobbes' dictum that the whole life of man is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short".

Although Hobbes's aphorism may have been coined to apply to a different, indeed an imaginary situation, it remains true of innumerable people today.

Hobbes was writing in the Seventeenth Century, but many contemporary philosophers have been equally horrified by the human predicament. The moral philosopher Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) declared that his energies were equally mobilized by the study of philosophy and by what he called the "tragic disorder of our whole terrestrial hive"....

Thus, after showing Torrance's ambition to link the Christian theory of salvation with contemporary science - in this way restating his "Theology through Science" approach - the ideas with which we are concerned in this [final] chapter centre upon the emphasis which is placed by Torrance on the mediation of Christ, the world Saviour, in Incarnation, in the Atonement, and in his revelation of the Triune Being of God. These Christocentric concepts lead on to Torrance's theory of Man as Priest of the Cosmos, in relation to which we see how man's priestly and redemptive role in the cosmos are to be expressed in the Church. Man's nature and destiny are to be understood only in the Body of Christ, and this necessitates the placement of Torrance's thoughts about man-as-scientist in the context of his ecclesiology. The presentation of the role of the Church in the salvation of the world, or at least its sanctification, prepares for the conclusion of the chapter.

A central theme of the conclusion is that science and cosmology themselves, demonstrably partaking in the perpetration of cosmic disorder, require comparable participation in Christ's redemptive work - receiving His redemptive Spirit and sharing in His salviflc work. Such salvation applied to science and cosmology not only reduces cosmic disorder but begets a new science and a new cosmology as the work of man-redeemed rather than man-fallen. Such new science/cosmology is the proper, but as yet only the potential, future offering of man the scientist as man the priest of creation: "the servant of divine love" (GOT, p. 14). Such new science/cosmology geared through love to the unification of science and worship is the proper, but future, contribution (by God's grace) of man redeemed to the salvation of the natural order (DCO, p.130) as well as to the preparation of the whole created order for fitness to worship the Creator. The investigation of cosmic disorder thus leads the Church to the definition of the new science which man redeemed, in Christ, offers to the Creator. (GOT, p.5) The Baconian vision thus receives, through Torrance's theology, a new, Christocentric statement. The "birth" or "creation" of modern science in Baconian times may therefore be followed by its "redemption", and perhaps its sanctification, in our times, following the pioneering work of T.F. Torrance.

URL: http://www.wnrf.org/cms/cosmic_disorder.shtml

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