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Junior paper presentation - 27 August 2014 - Schillebeeckx centenary conference: http://schillebeeckx.nl/edward-schillebeeckx-100-conference?langswitch_lang...
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Schillebeeckx on Theology and the Sciences

Published on Nov 18, 2015

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Schillebeeckx on Theology and the Sciences

Junior paper presentation - 27 August 2014 - Schillebeeckx centenary conference: http://schillebeeckx.nl/edward-schillebeeckx-100-conference?langswitch_lang...
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  • is theology a science?
  • experience
  • deep history
This paper will first discuss the relation between science and theology, in partuclar regarding the study of religion. Although Schillebeeckx did not develop a systematic perspective on this relation, I believe his work nonetheless to be relevant in this regard. It will become apparent that Schillebeeckx argued for a dialogue with theology, suggesting that theology itself is a science.
The second part of this paper will explore some aspects of the notion of 'experience', both from an evolutionary perspective and from the perspective of Schillebeeckx's theology. Without claiming to offer an exhaustive account of 'experience', neither in Schillebeeckx's theology, nor in evolutionary science, this exploration will sighed some light on the differences between both perspectives.
The third part of the paper will suggest that evolutionary explanations have to be put in a historical perspective, called 'deep history'. This allows us to look beyond the details and see the bigger patterns in our species' evolutionary history. It will become clear that our evolutionary history shows the emergence of critical abilities in our species, paralleling Schillebeeckx's view on experience. This exploration will enable us to criticize evolutionary studies of religion as 'retro-reductionist' and therefore uncapable of adequately grasping the complex reality of religion.
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Is theology a science?

  • Dawkins: no
  • Schillebeeckx: yes
Schillebeeckx: theology part of sciences ('deel-wetenschap') - need for consilience?

Schillebeeckx argues that theology needs to integrate the insights that other sciences offer, without these other sciences ever becoming normative for theology's conclusions, or limitative for what theology can study.
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Is theology a science?

  • conflict
  • independence
  • dialogue
  • integration
Schillebeeckx: dialogue - between theology as part of science and other sciences
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Experience: Evolutionary Perspective

  • agency where there is none
  • 'raw' experience
Unconscious processes, analoguous to biological mutation and natural selection, have formed 'raw materials' or 'implicit beliefs' into the religions we now know.

Relation experience/relation?
Photo by Hindrik S

Experience: Theological Perspective

  • experience(d) interpretation
  • interpreted experience
Experience/interpretation complex

Rational element/moment in experience.

Experience: Mind the Gap!

  • to discover meaning/to project meaning
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Deep History

  • axiom 1: mediation meaning
  • axiom 2: surplus experience, stretching meaning
  • axiom 3: metaphorical process generates new meaning
  • conclusion: use science to create new meaning
  • Schillebeeckx: use science to inform praxis Kingdom God
Philip Hefner: Religion And Science, Engaging the Richness of Experience.

Why a dialogue between theology and science? Not so much for apologetic reasons, rather for theology's sake itself.

Deep History

  • axial religions
  • critical reflection: part of our heritage
  • no 'retro-reductionism'
Evolutionary theory is valuable source for theology; cfr. History - Deep History.

See Robert Bellah.


  • evolution = history
  • a boy and his bike
Trust in the ongoing relation god-humanity.
Trust that evolutionary theory does not necessarily leads to atheism.
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