The great change in the modern world picture was not the abandonment of the Aristotelian and Ptolmaic cosmology. That, argues David Hart (The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, 58-9) was only a ripple on the surface. The really big change came in the idea of causation:

“The loss of the larger sense of an integral unity of metaphysical and physical causes, and of a spiritual rationality wholly pervading and sustaining the universe . . . opened an imaginative chasm between the premodern and modern worlds. Human beings now in a sense inhabited a universe different from that inhabited by their ancestors. In the older model, the whole cosmos - its splendor, its magnificent order, its ever vaster profundities - had been a kind of theophany, a manifestation of the transcendent God within the very depths and heights of creation. All of reality participated in those transcendental perfections that had their infinite consummation in God and that came to utterance in us.”

As Hart says, even modern Christians adjusted their world picture to the new mechanistic idea. The older view, though, “was a vision of creation’s rational order immeasurably remote from the Deist’s or Intelligent Design theorist’s notion of the world as a wonderful machine, designed and fabricated by a particularly enterprising superhuman intellect.” In the older model, the cosmos was not “an artifact” that reflected divine power. It was instead “wholly pervaded, unified, and sustained by a divine intellectual power, at once transcendent and immanent.” It was a “reflection of God’s nature, open to transcendence from within.”

More on: History, Science

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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