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Alan G. Padget

Creation by Design

There is a long and venerable tradition of Christian reflection upon natural philosophy, or as we now call it, natural science. Since the world is God's creation, Christians who value all of God's gifts, including the natural world and their own reason, have wished to incorporate the sciences along with the best theology into a meaningful world view, at once scientific and faithful to the gospel. Origen's First Principles, written in the second century A.D., was the earliest attempt to formulate such a comprehensive Christian world view; the most impressive is doubtless the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, who reconciled Aristotelian science with Christian theology.

While I do not believe that science provides a true challenge to faith in the long run, there can be large areas of apparent conflict between religion and science. In fact, the historical connections between them are a fascinating study in complexity and a good antidote to the usual stereotypes. The burgeoning interest in the religion-and-science dialogue has even created a new chair in religion and science at Oxford University, which has just been filled by the historian John Brooke. Professor Brooke recently gave the prestigious Gifford Lectures with his colleague Geoffrey Cantor (another historian of science). The published version of the lectures, Reconstructing Nature, provides us with a rich array of thinkers across the centuries "whose science and theology were interrelated in interesting, unpredictable, and extraordinarily diverse ways."

Most thoughtful religious intellectuals would agree that we are faced with significant new challenges to religion from the biological sciences, at least on the face of things. After the work of Einstein, Bohr, and Hubble, the physical sciences no longer seem the threat they once did (if indeed they ever were). Since the days of Darwin, on the other hand, biology has provided a series of apparent challenges to Christian thought. Recent developments in genetics ...

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