In the last essay, we saw why science cut ties with Christianity. Now we shall examine the details of what happened. In order to do this, we must have a understand how closely science mirrors faith.
A good scientist is a prophet if only because science was born from religious faith. Consider the two aspects of science: the content of observable experience and the power, that is, the logic, to properly consider true causes and true effects. A well-informed scientist can correctly predict the outcome of a scenario. He knows the properties of the objects in the event, he knows how these properties interact, he can thereby foresee the future.
Faith works in a very similar way. It has two aspects: the content of human experience and the power by which that experience is understood and believed. Like the scientist, the faith-filled prophet is able to foresee the future. The difference lies only in the way it is forseen.
Science and Religion
The scientist knows the qualities of interacting objects intimately and is thereby able to accurately describe the outcome of an interaction. The prophet has intimate knowledge of the qualities of the One who moves the objects. As a result, he is also able to accurately describe the outcome of an interaction. As Scripture tells us over and over, the false prophet, like the poor or uninformed scientist, is marked by his inability to accurately predict what will happen next. Similarly, the false prophet, like the poor scientist, is unable to read the signs of the times, he is unable to understand the significance of something that does not turn out as expected.
This is the basic difference between science and religion. Pure science means to study and elucidate the relationship between objects. Pure theology studies and elucidates the relationships between persons. Applied science attempts to coordinate the relationships between objects in order to benefit persons. Applied theology, also called religion, attempts to properly coordinate the relationships between persons.
Science determines the qualities of an object by intensive study of the object itself. Theology determines the qualities of the person by inviting the person to reveal himself. This is one of the principle differences between science and theology: objects can be revealed by external study, while persons are only self-revealed. No amount of study will fully reveal the qualities of a person - only the person’s own decision to reveal himself will do that.
Science can become confused with theology because the human person is a body-soul duality. That is, each person is at once an object, by virtue of his body, and a person, by virtue of his soul. As a result, the worldview that sees everything in terms of object relations has a tendency to ignore or not fully regard persons. Theology, on the other hand, has a tendency to ignore the object relations in preference to the interpersonal relations. Thus, it is bad science to look at a human being merely as an object, just as it is bad theology to look at a person merely as a soul.
Science is similar to Christian theology in aspect and method precisely because science grew out of that theology. Judeo-Christian belief is unique in saying that creation is good in itself, created out of nothing into goodness. By insisting on creation ex nihilo, the Judeo-Christian understanding insists that the existence of reality has an over-arching purpose. God brought reality into existence for a reason.
Luther as Buddha
Now, one corollary of this insistence of both the Creator and His Creation is the conclusion that evil does not have its own existence. God created everything good. He did not create evil. Since He is the source of all that exists, evil is an absence of good, not a presence of itself.
This distinction is important. Whereas the Hindu and the Buddhist insist that reality is an illusion, the Christian insists that reality exists, good exists and evil exists, but the last only in a negative fashion. For the Christian, evil is a deprivation, a distortion of the good – it does not have existence itself, rather, it is the absence of existence. To say that something is evil is to say that it has lost part of the existential qualities we would normally expect it to have. A thing is evil because it has, in a certain sense, fallen partly out of existence.
The corollary to this is quite stunning. Any theology that asserts the flesh is completely corrupted, full of nothing but evil, implicitly agrees with Eastern mysticism – the flesh is an illusion. America is a famously Protestant culture. The complete corruption of the flesh is a famously Protestant doctrine. The antagonism between Western science and Western religious faith is at its worst in Protestant cultures. This is the reason.
Protestant theology insists both on the total corruption of the flesh and reason as the whore of the devil. It has to. If Luther is right about the total corruption of the flesh, then the total uselessness of reason necessarily follows. All that evil reality leaves is intuition, which Protestants endorse as “blind faith.” Many theologians have attempted to make a correlation between the Christian Desert Fathers and Eastern mysticism, but seen in this light, the real correlation with Eastern mysticism can only be found in Lutheran theology and its offshoots.
But there is another point. Because Protestant theologies insist on the “alien righteousness” of God, it insists on treating God as object instead of subject. If God is object, if God is not person in the way we understand persons, then He should in principle be subject to scientific scrutiny.
In fact, God is Bridegroom. Demanding that God should be subject to scientific scrutiny in order to know Him is much akin to demanding that every prospective spouse be subject to scientific scrutiny in order to determine if marriage should take place: it is exactly the wrong way to go about things. The objectification of God built into the very structure of Protestant theology is, perhaps, why Protestant Faith insists so strongly on the need for personal relationship with God. It is an explicit counter-weight to the insistence on God as alien.
The Right Path
Catholic Christianity takes a different tack. As the Church has always taught, as a very recent papal encyclical again demands, faith and reason are both necessary to personal relationship with God. Faith is not blind and it is never contrary to logic or the accurate perceptions of the senses. Faith is based on personal knowledge of personal relationships lived out in material reality.
If you and I were life-long friends who had been through every trial and tribulation for the last forty years, and you told me you would meet me on the corner of Fifth and Main tomorrow, then I would have forty years of evidence to support that statement. Those years of evidence tell me not only whether or not you will, in fact, be there, but it tells me what car you are likely to be driving and might possibly even tell me what you will be wearing when you get there. I have not yet met you on that corner, but I know what I will find when I get there. I have faith in you because I know you.
I have faith in God in precisely the same way. I have seen how He acts in my life, I have seen the witness of others throughout history. They gave me historical documents describing how He acts in their lives. I have millenia of lived experience to base my faith on. As a result, I have more faith in Him then I have in the sunrise tomorrow, for if the sun does not rise tomorrow, I know that lack is not for evil, but for my good. This is a level of faith that we can never derive from objects alone, but only from the self-revealed knowledge of the One who wields those objects.
Science is no longer acquainted with this understanding. Because Luther shares common ground with an Eastern world-view that is antithetical to the Christian statement “reality exists,” science, especially American science, has found it necessary to reject Christianity in toto. It can hardly do otherwise.
Protestants insist Catholic Faith is false. American science, insofar as it has been developed by Protestants, is predisposed to draw the same conclusion. Catholic Faith has always been foreign to American culture; Catholics have long been an immigrant, illiterate and very minority population whose ideas are rejected out of hand by Protestant worldviews. Thus, most American scientists know Christianity only through its Protestant variants. Since Protestant Christianity is opposed to the basic worldview required in order to do good research, that is, since it explicitly rejects reason and embraces the total corruption of reality, implying that the world is essentially an illusion, science is perfectly correct to reject it.
Unfortunately, by the only variants of Christianity it knows well, it thereby insists that it rejects all Christianity. In short, science throws the baby out with the bathwater. It has now largely rejected the very idea that brought it into existence.
Christianity is built on the understanding that reality has a purpose, that it is brought out of nothing into existence precisely so that God could take on flesh and walk among us in a way our senses can perceive and that He will return in that self-same literally sensible way.
In rejecting Christianity, modern science believes it must also reject purpose, for Christianity is the only world-view that insists reality has a purpose. By rejecting Christianity in toto, science simultaneously and explicitly embraces the idea that the interaction of objects within the universe does not display purpose. This creates a problem.
If objects and their interactions are purposeless, then science cannot exist, if only for the mundane reason that scientists are part of that reality, which means scientists have no purpose. In short, by denying Christianity, we deny that we can explain anything at all. We can only note the movement of purposeless objects, and wonder why we note them since we are nothing but purposeless objects. If the human soul is but a biochemical interaction, if there is no Prime Mover, then reality is indeed functionally an illusion. The Eastern mystics are right.
Here is the great irony. Christianity describes the reality that calls science into existence. By rejecting all of Christianity because of one mistaken variant, science thereby embraces the very Eastern mysticism that its philosophy most adamantly opposes. Unless it realizes its folly and returns to its Catholic roots, Western science will eventually become the means by which Western culture decomposes into Eastern mysticism and non-science. Science will self-destruct.
In his book, The Lotus and the Robot, Arthur Koestler points out that Hinduism is built around the concept of self-annihilation. As he puts it, India is a “culture of Thanatos.” It is no coincidence that Pope John Paul II described Western society as a “culture of death.” We need only look at Western fertility rates, contraception, abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality. We have already embraced Eastern self-annihilation. There is but one difference between us: the East pursues this annihilation through the self-manipulative techniques of yoga while the West pursues it through the techniques of science, the manipulation of others. In this case, it hardly matters - both roads lead to the same end.