God, Strings, Emergence, and the Future of the World
By Nicola Hoggard Creegan
This paper is a part of a larger project in which I argue that a reconnection with nature, and a reconceptualization of nature, are necessary accompaniments to a well developed sensus divinitatis. Schleiermacher talks about faith being neither a knowing nor a doing but a kind of feeling, a sense of absolute dependence, and a consequent understanding of all things in and through the infinite. Calvin mentions the sensus divinitatis directly, and also the connection between this sense and the natural world. Like any capacity, however, it may remain undeveloped or under-developed. The sensus divinitatis may be awakened by connection with, and participation in the natural world—as centuries of mystics testify—although this connection is then explained by and made meaningful in sacred narratives.
The twentieth century has not been an easy time for a theology of nature. This was the century of Karl Barth and a turn away from nature in the interests of affirming the otherness and holiness of God. At the same time, neo-Darwinians taught us to look at all order as only design-like (spandrels). The indeterminacy of the quantum level, combined with the random nature of biological mutation, made any sense of divine presence in nature much more difficult to discern.
The resulting mix of positions in science and theology tended to gravitate either towards a deism, like that espoused by the 2006 recipient of the Templeton Prize, John Barrow, or to the process-like position of many others, like Ian Barbour. Even with the latter, however, there is little sense that God is revealed in nature; in a process theology of nature there is only the presence and influence of God understood as a continuous but perhaps indiscernible lure.
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