Navigating the "human" and "divine" natures in a holistic world

Lawson, F. (2018) Navigating the "human" and "divine" natures in a holistic world. In: European Society for the Study of Science and Theology 2018, 17-22 April 2018, Lyon, France. (Unpublished)

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In a world in which it might be argued strict materialism is under threat, it is necessary to question whether nature and that which is “beyond” are as distinct now as they once were, or whether the rise of scientific accounts of holism fundamentally challenge our categories of “material” and “immaterial”. Science now raises deep and unavoidable metaphysical questions in a way that perhaps haven’t been seen since it was understood as “natural philosophy” and offers a worldview in which holism, and a move towards a holistic account of the incarnation challenges our definition of “natural” being amenable to scientific discovery. If we are to understand fundamental reality as something that is neither material nor immaterial, or as being based in a relational ontology then the question of the nature of the hypostatic union becomes a question of how we are to define “divine” and “human” “natures”. This is not to imply that the incarnation is to be understood in purely semantic terms, but that the divide of part-whole and substance-accident that can be applied to the medieval models also produces a far more productive division of the discussion than can be achieved by the traditional modern divisions. The reason for this division of the discussion rests in the fact that once one removes the properties of “material” and “immaterial”, “body” and “soul” as ontological categories, the distinction between different “substances” comes down to a discussion of different “properties” in a way that is more meaningful than accidental qualitative properties, but that isn’t occurring at the ontological division of “substance”. The reason that the move to ontological holism as opposed to reductionism offers such a paradigmatic shift for our understanding for our theological discourse rests in the very fact that understanding the metaphysics underlying the incarnation is fundamental in understanding the doctrine as a whole.

This paper will examine the theological implications of holism on our understanding of “nature” with a particular emphasis on the relational models of holism proposed by Michael Esfeld. Having examined the importance of our definitions of “material” and “immaterial” at an ontological, rather than purely semantic, level I argue that these need to be radically changed in order to capture the nature of the incarnation, and conclude by tentatively setting out how God may be understood to sit within (or without) a natural world in which “material” and “immaterial” and indeed “human” and “divine” are not incompatible bi polar categories.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology > BT0010 Doctrinal Theology (General) > BT0198 Christology
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Finley Lawson
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2018 09:44
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2018 09:44

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00