Th.D. Thesis (draft)

I am currently working on my Th.D. thesis. I decided to publish my working draft here in the hope that it may be of interest to others and provide for a better understanding of what I am about theologically. It also serves to document the originality of my work.

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As a theologian, I understand the object of my discipline to be the human need for primary and durable meaning (logos) and the ways we construct it. Traditionally, theologians have taken little notice of the difference between logos itself and the symbols we use to represent it (theos). Judaism, Christianity, Islam and most other spiritual traditions are based upon a cosmology in which divine entities and powers are in control of everything in our world. These gods and their powers are believed by their adherents to be the source of all human knowledge and understanding, revealed through sacred stories and people, and from which is drawn the meaning that enables them to thrive. In this understanding, logos and theos are one, and agency belongs to powers beyond and outside of human control.

The essence of this cosmology of divine forces was universal across human cultures until about 2600 years ago when a creative thinker named Thales, living in the Ionian city of Miletus, recognized and began to employ his own power of rational thinking in order to discern and understand himself and his existential situation. Thales began a process whereby we humans took the previously divine power of agency over truth and meaning and claimed it for ourselves. Over time, this resulted in a new cosmology which we came to call “nature.” The power Thales took from the gods evolved into what we now call “science.”

Over the centuries these two ways of seeking truth and meaning have become entirely separate and incompatible cosmologies. Today the idea of truth sourced in powers and stories from beyond nature are dissonant with the scientific cosmological understandings that human reasoning and scientific investigation have discovered.  Although many people still find much comfort in believing in supernatural powers and the ancient stories and traditions, those who live in the cosmology of modern science find it increasingly difficult to make sense and meaning from them.

Theologians have a large body of knowledge and experience concerning meaning. We deal with how human beings inculcate, share and maintain the meaning in human life, community and culture that is essential for our survival. Unfortunately, because we have been reluctant to deal with the difference between meaning itself and the symbols and myths that contain and convey it, we have remained theologically trapped in the cosmology of the supernatural. Increasingly, this has resulted in our finding ourselves excluded from much of the scholarly, intellectual and scientific discourse that is rationally working to understand who and what we are, and the nature of the cosmos in which we find ourselves.

It is my thesis that theology has a valid and vital contribution to make to the on-going search for the truth about ourselves, our understanding of our cosmos, and the meaning we draw from them. But to be a part of that conversation, we theologians must acknowledge the difference between theos and logos, and rise to a perspective transcendent to the gods we have served. We must free ourselves from irrational supernatural thinking and re-ground ourselves in the evolving contemporary natural cosmology. We must take on the daunting task of re-mythologizing our knowledge and get to work developing rich new symbols, narratives and liturgies in order to be able to facilitate making durable meaning in systematic harmony with the contemporary scientific worldview. 

WHP