Theology & Science – Part 3
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Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Theology & Science (Part 3)
This blog series will cover my final exam for my recent Theology & Science class. Here is the first question and part three of my answer.
Click HERE for Part 1.
Click HERE for Part 2.
Write an essay explaining (A) what hermeneutics is about, (B) what hermeneutics has to do with theology and science, and (C) why hermeneutics was important for the topic of this course (give examples).
C) Most of the time, hermeneutics is done quite naturally. We do it better with more and more experience. However, there are some extenuating circumstances that can make hermeneutics a much more difficult task. One of those is the analyzing of very old communication, such as biblical texts. Another is when we look at texts that are interdisciplinary, especially when we are unfamiliar with the language that is used in one of the disciplines.
When a scientist who is used to reading science books picks up a modern-day novel, they seem to know it’s a novel and they seem to have the ability to read it as such. However, possibly due to influences from popular, often uninformed theology, the same scientist often seems to be unable to remove their scientific proclivities when they pick up the bible. Maybe they have looked past the fact that they have put down the reading of one genre and picked up a book of another genre. Certainly all scientists are not guilty of this offence just like all Christians are not guilty of this genre mistake. However, Christians have often been unable to remove their narrative proclivities when looking at science.
Young Earth creationists have needlessly gone to great lengths to attempt to explain away scientific findings. When there were scientific findings in the single digits that needed to be explained away, the task wasn’t so great. But, it seems to me that there has gotten to be so many things now that scientists have found regarding the age of the Earth and evolution and such, which these well-intentioned folks feel they have to explain away, that the weight of the task has made the arguments in defense of a young Earth look a bit foolish.
I remember a number of years ago listening to a Christian making the claim that the “so-called” dinosaur bones that were “discovered” were all fake. Or, that God miraculously put them there to test our faith. I also remember thinking, “Really, all of them are fake? There sure do seem to be a lot of them.” Regarding the planting of fake bones, well, obviously that kind of act would go against everything scripture claims about the character of God.
The trouble is, according to Charles Foster, that both the Atheist (Dawkins) and the Young Earth creationist are looking for one grand theory that explains all the difficult questions of the world. It seems to me that this is a failure of hermeneutics. Good hermeneutics would recognize the milieu and genre of each discipline and modify their interpretation of things accordingly. Here the scientist or the fundamental Christian may shriek, “How dare you modify!” I remind both that science and theology has to modify when new information comes along. Copernicus modified his science when new information and a relooking at old information came along and many expectant Jews who were looking for an earthly warrior Messiah modified their theology when Jesus came along. So, hermeneutics is always interdisciplinary at some level.
Reynhout has supported this claim in his introduction as well as throughout his book. He says that, “theology’s interdisciplinary character is fundamentally hermeneutical” on page xii (emphasis his). The very definition of hermeneutics includes interpretation, which is at the very least one person with their own set of notions attempting to correctly understand another from their own set of notions. This, of course, comes after the step of interpreting the data provided to the first person. Let us not forget that if I asked someone to show me science they would likely wander off and bring back a science book or drag a professor in to talk science. Either way, they would be bringing back science as communication. Reynhout shows that they would be sharing meaning and this meaning has to be interpreted. Imbedded in all of this is an “author, context, and receiver” as well as a gap between the author and receiver. This gap is where either communication or miscommunication can happen. (122-123)
Since this is the case, it is most prudent for both the scientist and the theologian to study hermeneutics.