In Faith magazine, physicist Stephen Barr discusses whether modern physics had anything to teach metaphysics and theology :

Might the discoveries of modern science have implications for theology? They certainly cannot alter the substance of “the faith once delivered to the saints”. They can, however, affect our cosmological and philosophical ideas and thus change the way we conceive of certain religious truths. To take an obvious example, even though the Church had no teaching on the location of Hell, it was once generally supposed by theologians to be somewhere inside the earth. Today this view would strike most Christians as extremely implausible, if not absurd. This is not a question of a change in doctrine, but of a change in “World Picture”, to use a term of the Polish physicist and philosopher Fr. Michat Heller.

In every age, people naturally form World Pictures that are syntheses of ideas derived from various sources - prevailing scientific theories, philosophical speculation, revealed truth, widely accepted notions, and “common sense”. In this way, non-theological currents of thought, including scientific ones, inevitably and often unconsciously influence the ideas of theologians. Clearly, there is a danger of theologians becoming too wedded to current, and possibly transient, scientific theories. But, as Fr. Heller notes, it is also risky for theologians simply to ignore scientific developments, as many do, for they may then unwittingly retain in their thinking elements of older, scientifically obsolete World Pictures. There are no simple rules here; discernment and prudence are required.


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Articles by Joe Carter

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