Monday, March 21, 2011

Mind Pinball

Last Monday I attended my first class at the seminary.  It’s a lecture given by a father and son team.  The father is a retired seminary professor, and the son is a physicist.  The topic was: Science and Theology – does there have to be conflict between the two?

The main things I carried away from this class are:
- Scientists are easier to understand than theologians.
- Theologians like to disagree.

Maybe it’s because I hang out with scientists, but I could readily understand these statements that the physicist made:

1.  Before class started, the bell outside chimed the hour at 9:55 AM.  It had chimed an hour ago, at exactly 8:55 AM. The physicist remarked, “The bell is precise, but not accurate.”  Ha!  I was familiar with this terminology because my son brought this concept home from his chemistry class during the first week of school. 

2.  A scientist expects experimental results to be reproducible.  This is more true in the hard sciences, and less true in the softer sciences.  I know this to be true, because I practice the Dismal Science (economics), a soft science if there ever was one.  Economists are always wrong because they can’t go in a lab and do double-blind, controlled experiments.  Predictive economics is just glorified guessing.

3. God created the world in such a way that God’s existence cannot be deduced through the scientific method.   That is either beautiful or sneaky, depending on your point of view.

The theologian, on the other hand, was very hard to follow.  He seemed to assume that all of us in the class had been intensely studying theology for the past 10 years.  He would veer off topic, charging through lists of philosophers and theologians like a bee in a flower shop.  You all know what Schlegelbinger would say...  (WHO is Schlegelbinger?) “You can’t read Barth without reading Kant....”  (I have read neither.)  Hegel said the world is rational.”  My conclusion there is that all theologians have German surnames.

Both speakers agreed that the Greeks – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great – are responsible, more than anyone else, for the way our culture views the world.  It’s so pervasive we don’t even notice it.  For starters, these Extremely Dead Guys brought us deductive and inductive reasoning.  The physicist gave us a crash course in logic:

Deductive reasoning goes from the general to the specific:
(a) All men are mortal.
(b) Socrates is a man.
(c)Therefore Socrates is mortal.

Inductive reasoning goes from the specific to the general:
(a) Every piece of ice I touch is cold. 
(b) Therefore, all ice is cold. 
See how I expertly used inductive reasoning above, to conclude that all theologians have German names?    

After this brief course in logic, it was again the theologian’s turn.  I think his main point was that Aristotle promoted the idea that the human being is rational. But he dropped theologians’ names ever faster, making my mind ping around like a pinball.  “Bullinger was right, Calvin was wrong.”  I have no idea who Bullinger is, or what he was right about.  Dr. Theologian was severely dismissive of “process theologians,” thereby proving my hypothesis that theologians disagree with most everybody except themselves.  He gave his lecture with a twinkle in his eye the whole time, so I don’t think he would advocate violence.  But in History, Christian leaders seem to have invented the practice of burning each other at the stake, so it makes me squirm.

The theologian ended by saying something about The Ineffable Experience.  My brain was ineffably fried by this point.  Is it any wonder that, when I was given the opportunity to skip class today, I took it?   I’ll try again next week, when my brain is rested up.


Angie Kay Dilmore said...

When did you decide to go to seminary? You did not tell me about this. Good for you! What's the plan?

Common Household Mom said...

For now, I'm just taking this one class. There is no plan beyond that. This class was the perfect fit for me - no homework (at least I don't think there is!), it meets during the day, lasts 4 sessions, and a great topic.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Well, maybe it's the theologian, not theology in general that's obtuse. However, I do love me some science and theology that go together nicely.

Joanie said...

One of your most satisfying posts; a pleasure to read with a twinkle in my eye and a smile on my face caused by you!