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How far may theology be reconciled with science in explaining the nature of, and reasons for, the miracles of Jesus?

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Introduction

Laura Howe How far may theology be reconciled with science in explaining the nature of, and reasons for, the miracles of Jesus? The debate about the relationship between science and religion has been ongoing for centuries. It can be traced through scholars such as Thomas Aquinas, to the emergence of 'Modern Theology' in the 19th Century, and the teachings of 20th Century scholars such as Rudolph Bultmann. However, before considering whether theology can be effectively 'reconciled' with science regarding the question of miracles, it is important to firstly define what is meant by 'theology' and 'science'. 'Theology' is 'the systematic study of Christian revelation concerning God's nature and purpose'1. It derives from the two Greek words 'theos' and 'logos'. 'Theos' is a title for God, it describes the trinity of God and 'logos' means words. This means that theology is 'words about God'. Theology deals with why things happen, for example God's love, and the purpose for mankind. God is the author of life and 'the cause' of all things. At its narrowest, Theology bases its belief on God's word - the Bible. This is the absolute, and what is written in the Bible is taken literally. Science is 'the systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement'2. It is something that depends upon observation, hypothesising, and definite proof. Science deals with how things happen, for example, how a foetus is formed, and how natural, observed processes work. ...read more.

Middle

The followers were afraid, but Jesus said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid."' (John 6:19-20) This may not have been a miracle at all, but Jesus might have been walking around the shallow water on the coast. John could have written this so that it looked more miraculous, so that it would encourage more believers. This is a Laura Howe Miracle that is referred to as a 'nature miracle', these can be explained scientifically more easily than the healings and exorcisms. Another of Jesus' miracles was when he calmed the storm: 'The followers went to Jesus and woke him, saying, "Master! Master! We will drown!" Jesus got up and gave a command to the wind and the waves. They stopped, and it became calm.' (Luke 8: 24) This is another example of Jesus' 'nature miracles'. By broadening our theological view on this miracle, it may be that the storm was naturally coming to an end, and that this was not miraculous at all. Storms last for an indefinite amount of time - this could have been a short storm, so when Jesus commanded it to stop, it was when the storm was ending, and been coincidental. However, it may have been a supernatural occurrence, where we would have to broaden our view of science. One of Jesus' healing miracles was the healing of the blind man: 'Jesus said to the man with the crippled hand, "Stand up here in the middle of everyone." ...read more.

Conclusion

If we broaden our view of science, then as with the Lazarus miracle, maybe the laws of death and decomposition are not irreversible. In conclusion, I believe that theology and science can be reconciled in a context of the miracles of Jesus. Dr. Ron Rhodes makes the point that 'It is not nature and scripture that contradict; rather, it is science (man's fallible interpretation of nature) and theology (man's fallible interpretation of Laura Howe Scripture) that sometimes fall into conflict'9. If we broadened our view of science, we could conclude that science is, on occasions, not an 'absolute', which provides all answers and can never be contradicted or changed. Instead, possibly, events happen which occasionally question science and render it fallible. This may cause us to think that maybe there are some scientific laws that are yet to be discovered. If we broaden our view of theology, then maybe the recorded miracles in the Bible were not quite as they were reported. Maybe there were more 'natural' events, with a scientific explanation, which were simply interpreted in a supernatural way to give theological meanings. This shows us that science and theology can be reconciled, if one or both are viewed in more a liberal way. Thus, science can be reconciled with theology when we consider the miracles of Jesus, but we need to view science and theology properly; our understanding of both these need to be broadened. Personally, I find it easier to broaden my view of science, as 'science is in a constant state of change'10, whereas Christian theology has admirably stood the test of 200 years of severe modern scientific scrutiny. ...read more.

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