Theology: Knowledge about Nothing?

UFOlogists, like people who study Bigfoot, don’t receive much respect from serious scientists. Certainly, some UFOlogists have devoted their lives to studying reports and photos and other evidence that suggest that aliens have visited and continue to visit the planet. They can provide details about famous UFO incidents, such as the Roswell, New Mexico, UFO crash and the abduction of Barney and Betty Hill, as well as lesser known UFO encounters. Yet, UFOlogists are denigrated because they have all this information about UFOs -- something that scientists largely deny exists.

Theology finds itself in much the same situation. Theology is the study of God. In most of Western culture, that means the study of the God of Judaism and Christianity. In the past, theology was considered one of the greatest of the areas of study. Many people have devoted their lives to the study of God and some of the greatest and most influential thinkers in western history such as Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes and John Locke were either theologians or well-versed in Christian theology. In fact, Christianity has a rich intellectual history that is at least equal to any other philosophy on the planet.

Still, theology has come to be seen as the poor step-sister of the other sciences. Today, religion is arguably seen as a branch of anthropology where scientists study this strange group of people who claim to believe in God in much the same way that scientists might study the customs of the Hutu tribe in Africa. Theology, consequently, is reduced to little more than an interesting side note in this cultural phenomenon.

In many ways, it has come to be viewed in the same light as the study of UFOs, i.e., a light of disfavor. After all, it’s reasoned, there’s no more proof that God exists than UFOs. Since both deal with matter incapable of proof, they should be treated the same. In other words, the problem with theology is that it is knowledge about a thing that some claim doesn’t even exist at all -- God. To that end, theology has come to be seen as the detailed study of speculation.

But is it true that serious knowledge can only come from things known to exist? Aren’t there areas within science itself that are merely speculative yet are considered to be serious areas of inquiry deserving of scientific respect? In fact, many scientists are experts in theoretical areas that are as equally devoid of substantiation as UFOs. For example, many scientists theorize about the origin of the universe, yet their theories are based on the existence of such things as superstrings of energy and multiverses which themselves remain unproven and may possibly be incapable of proof. Yet, string theorists are well-situated within the scientific community. If the denigration of theology is the result of its somewhat speculative nature, why aren’t string theorists also denigrated?

Of course, the truth is that scientists have reason to believe that superstrings and multiverses exist even if such evidence hasn’t been derived from a direct examination of these things. Mathematics and other sciences provide some evidence (albeit inconclusive evidence) for the existence of these types of things which are incapable of being directly studied.

Just so, there are many arguments that support a belief in the existence of God. Once it is accepted that such arguments make the existence of God possible, then it becomes every bit as much appropriate to study the nature of God as it is to study the nature of superstrings and multiverses. In all three, the evidence may be insufficient to establish absolutely that any of the three exist, but just as it is appropriate to become knowledgeable about superstrings and multiverses that don't exist, it is euqlly appropriate to study what the God who these arguments strongly suggest exists would be like.

In short, theology is the study of something that it cannot be absolutely proven exists (even though I would argue that the evidence is, at minimum, clear and convincing that God does exist). That inconvenience, however, is insufficient reason to treat theology as a lesser knowledge than other fields of study. In fact, if God does exist as the majority of the Western world seems to agree (according to polls), then it seems as if the study of His nature while leading to uncertain results would be the highest and most important of all the fields of knowledge


G.M. Grena said…
I agree wholeheartedly with your message here. In recent years NASA's WMAP project has convinced scientists that the universe mostly consists of, what I would call, Stuff Requiring Faith:

~4% ordinary baryonic matter (atoms)
~23% unknown "dark matter"
~74% mysterious "dark energy"

Basically 96% theoretical things, & only 4% tangible things, & we all know from grade-school science that the so-called tangible things are actually impossible to see. I haven't seen any good photos of an atom lately.

I would like to suggest that the historical record of Jesus Christ is more than equivalent to science's 4% baryonic matter, & the rest of Christian theology is the 96% dark stuff.

By the way, I'm not anti-science. I believe in the existence of "dark matter" & "dark energy":

"'Do I not fill the heavens & the Earth?' saith the LORD."--Jeremiah 23:24

G.M. Grena

P.S. "euqlly" s/b "equally" in your post. You've probably been reading too much "euangelism" lately!

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