Tuesday, May 21

The shortcomings of science, theology and rational thought

As some of you may know, I am presently working on my Doctorate of Ministries.  My present coursework has had a strong emphasis on theology (specifically 20th century theologians like Chardin, Kung, Lonergan and their ilk) and has been exceptionally thought provoking.  One of the most profound things which has come from this study and reflection is a simple observation as to the inadequacy of it all.

Theology is "the systematic and rational study of concepts of God and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary." ( Wordnetweb.princeton.edu, SN: Theology)  The key words here are 'rational'  and 'learned'.  It is a study of the mind.  While this is all well and good (and I mean that...it is good and fruitful), it has a fundamental flaw, which is in dealing with the primary source - God.

Encounters with the Divine, which are the core of faith, are essentially experiential and a-rational.  It is not that they (and their fruits, Faith) are unfounded or  lack reason, but rather they are entirely beyond the capacity for systematic, logical examination.  At base, they are matters of the heart, not of the mind.  This shortcoming is not a new phenomenon or startling revelation.  It is what the Angelic Doctor was referring to when he wrote "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

A systematic, rational and learned approach to an inquiry of study has great value, to be sure, but to describe love as a set of biochemical receptor changes or compassion in statistical trend analysis misses the entire point.  Such things defy reason, analysis or explanation.  As Balzac said more succinctly, "We love because we love."


  1. Great post! We live in an interesting time when in Western culture rational thought and science are viewed as the sole dimensions of existence. IMO, this is highly correlated with the materialism and consumer mentality of our culture, although I am not sure which is the cause and which is the effect.

    I have a couple of posts on my blog on this trend which have generated good discussion as a related trend of religious persons to deny science (which I believe is equally dangerous)


    W. Ockham

  2. Religion is for people who can't handle the math of real science.
    No wonder Divinity schools complain that they get the worst grad students (along with Education programs); anybody with any real brains goes into Medicine or Engineering.