It is not surprising that theology ruled the entire area of medieval Europe’s so-called Dark Ages. Theology was the dominant religion in every area, from theocracy and regalia. The magnificent palace ruled over by theology was dominated entirely by science, and it was considered heterodox. The conflict between science and theology was grave at that time. Or, more precisely, it was the cruel oppression science suffered by theology. Bruno, an Italian scientist and philosopher, was put to death by the Inquisition of Rome in 1600 for his belief in scientific truth. Galileo, a great physicist, was imprisoned for believing in and promoting Copernicus’ Heliocentricism.1 This was in the context Western European fanaticism and made it impossible for science to develop. Science advanced rapidly until the 17th and 18th century and eventually defeated theology. God became “master of the universe” and Newton became “chamberlaine throughout the world”. It happened in Europe. It is important to understand the history of modern science. We first need to look at Western traditional weltanschauung.
The Western tradition weltanschauung (or Western traditional weltanschauung) is a form of dualism. The dualistic attitude of Westerners is often towards no matter what religion, nature or morality. The two-valued logic of Aristotle, which is based on false or true duality, continues to be used today. The dualism of mind, body, subject, object, noumenon, phenomenon, ideal, reality, collective, individual, and so forth could be easily found in Western culture and history. The West held a dualistic view, especially in metaphysics and religious beliefs. We can look back to the origins of this dualistic worldview by looking at ancient Greek philosophy and Christian theology.
Plato’s Theory of Forms stated that there is no one realm.4 Aristotle attempted to defeat Plato’s dualism of actual things and Forms, but he did not abandon the dualistic idea5 of reality and phenomena. The distinction between matter and form.
Theology of Christianity is another element of the Western dualistic Western worldview. The Bible clearly identifies the differences between the city and the city. Faith and reason, as well as the city and city of God, are distinct. The Christian faith affirmed that all values and ideals that cannot be fulfilled in this world can be attained in paradise if one believes in God. Any moral or ethical value or temporal ideal is immediately negligible if compared with the absolute Christian beliefs. Jesus replied to questions regarding tax payment with “Give therefore to God the things which are God’s and to the Emperor the things that are the emperors’.” (Matthew 22-22: 22). This was typical of the dualistic nature of Christian theology.
Combining the Christian theological thought with Plato’s Theory of Forms and Aristotle’s metaphysics, the vast system of scholasticism was created. The dominant ideology of Western Europe was Christian theology for more than 1000 years of the medieval ecclesiastical system.
This context shows that even though scientific researches never stopped completely, scientific exploration and scientific searching of nature, and all secular concerns, were subject to the perfect, pure, and transcendental realm created by Christian theology. They were also subject to neglect, oppression, and despisal. The West’s only absolute standard, Christian theology, was used to persecute those who disobeyed. Theology held almost all power over the secular and holy affairs, and science had very little space for development. However, the theological worldview was not necessarily always valid and victorious. The West would lose its faith in Christianity if it faced heterodox thinking or holistic changes.
Renaissance was first revolted in the 15th- and 16th centuries. Humanism, the sense of self-awakening and revival of ancient Greek or Roman cultures broke down the unity that was maintained under the rule of theology. Man became the scientific master rather than God in the theological realm, and science was able to flourish.7 Science also got rid of the religious restriction of theology. The ideological liberation of Western Europeans was further realized by the Enlightenment in Europe’s 17th and 18th centuries.8 Faith fell to the background as reason replaced it. Modern science was born as the times required.
Modern science was born out of the intellectual revolutions mentioned above. However, in the end, its origins can be traced back to the fall of Christian theological worldviews and the rise scientific worldview. The intellectual revolutions of Reformation, Enlightenment and Renaissance all contributed to the decline of Christian theological worldview. It could, however, be explained by the inherent problems in the Christian theological worldview and the attack of “heterodox” thoughts from the outside.
The first was the medieval scholasticism, which wholly stood for Christian theology. Although it attempted to reduce the gap between faith and reason, but because of its insistent on “faith superior than reason”, the balance and harmony between faith & reason was lost. J. D. Scotus’ theory about “double truth” was one thing, while mysticism was the opposite. Mysticism obviated all secular affairs and transformed the theological dualistic worldview into a transcendental monistic view that rejected any interference from human reason. W. Ockham’s nominalism opposed the doctrines of scholasticism, and the arguments for God’s existence. His principle of simplicity, known as “Ockham’s razor”, stated that “what can’t be explained with fewer principles can be explained needlessly by more.”11 This became a “prodder that put medieval theological system in disintegration.”12 As a result, Western Europeans in the late Middle Ages began to rely on reason and lost faith in Christian theological worldview.
Second, Copernicus’ heliocentricism impacted the worldviews of current scientists and philosophers in Renaissance. Geocentricism of Copernicus’ theological worldview was also seriously challenged. The superiority of Christian theology in the cosmos was lost by humankind and the dualistic relationship between heaven and earth became loose. At that time, scientists e.g. Galileo regarded God only as the prime efficient cause of the world, and deprive God of the title. The power and omnipotence God had were challenged. Bruno, another scientist who was influenced by scientific exploration, adopted a pantheistic view as a replacement for the theological dualistic worldview. Modern philosophy began to work with science to rationalize our world. Descartes, for example, “first used God’s existence to objectivity and reality of the physical universe and then locked God in coffer and explained how the world works in a scientific perspective.”13 The problem of the transcendental realm in theology was “hanged”, and it became a “pseudoproblem”. Spinoza’s pantheistic metaphysics rejected the existence of a transcendental world. This also proved fatal to dualistic theological worldviews. The empiricism of Locke, however, developed to Hume into a radical positivism. This essentially denied spiritual substance and the existence causal necessity. It also denied all attempts at the argument of God’s existence via human reason and empirical facts. This greatly fluctuated the foundation of theology. Kant’s theory about the antinomies, and critical rational theology, argued that the transcendental or noumenal universe, God’s existence, and immortality of soul couldn’t be proven. Thus, theology was omitted from human knowledge. Hegel’s rationalistic dialectic philosophy viewed the variational process in the real world as the self unfolding of absolute spirit. This transformed the dualistic worldview of Hegel into absolute idealism. Hegel’s system evanesced Christian theological beliefs and the dualistic worldview was finally abandoned. The dominant ideology in Western Europe was the scientific worldview, which won out over the theological dualistic worldview.
Modern science would not have its birth if the dualistic view of the world was changed. Weltanschauung, or the ultimate understanding of the universe or the human life of people, is capable of potentially predominating the ultimate attitude towards and activities in the lives of social workers, thinkers, and the masses of a particular region. This is possible only if the old theological worldview was replaced with a reason-based worldview, viz. The rise of modern science may have been possible only if the scientistic worldview was replaced by a new reason-based worldview. The collapse of the theological dualistic worldview, and the dominance of the scientific worldview were the main causes of the rise of modern science.
Both positive and negative effects have been had by the conversion from science to theology on Western history. The Western Europeans were able to live a more realistic life, their material civilization advanced rapidly, and the exploration of geography and nature was improved. Technology was also dramatically improved. As a result, Western countries saw a steady rise in their scientific development while Eastern countries suffered. It is not impossible to see the impact of the conversion from science to theology. H. Butterfield, a historian, pointed out that it could have an unmeasurable impact on Western European culture.14 “Weltanschauung” can be described as a type of holistic experience that has the greatest potential to affect any country’s cultural atmosphere, e.g. “Weltanschauung” can be described as a comprehensive experience that has a profound impact on the cultural environment of any country or society.
The traditional dualistic worldview, which was dominant from the Aristotle through the late Middle Ages was what Western Europeans soaked in and took as a given. This was why the spiritual crisis of Western Europeans was just days before the theological worldview fell apart. Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, among others, all fell in the same context as the theological worldview. Nietzsche was also prevalent. In 19th century, the philosophical ideas of Existentialism were introduced in an accidental way to rescue the spiritual crisis and regain the lost psychic home of Western European.
Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, thought existentialist. This was his reaction to Hegel’s rationalism. He rejected Hegel’s neglect of theology. He also argued that Christian beliefs and theological knowledge are subjective truths that cannot be transcended in universal objective information. He believed that Hegel and others held the supremacy and control of reason. This reduced the transcendental world to abstract idea and negated the paradoxicality of theology. He also thought Hegel and similar were not congruent with reason, but with emotions and faith. Russian novelist Dostoevsky uncovered the problem of existence’s fate after the fall of the theological worldview. He discussed the ways to find the spiritual path out of the decline in faith in God, and he wrote novels ranging from Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. He suggested that Westerners could not find a solution to their spiritual crisis without Christian beliefs and theology. Will Nietzsche was also an initiator of existentialism. He was also a representative figure in philosophy. However, he criticized rationalism. The assumption that “God is dead” (Nietzsche believed that Western Europeans had lost their theological worldview) He claimed that the fall of the dualistic worldview meant that all morality, philosophies, and theologies had to be revalued. The Superperson, who is able to balance the Dionysian elements with the intellect, should establish new values and ideals. His theory of Will to Power is the basis of his philosophy about the Superperson.16
The argument above shows that while the West gained high-tech civilization from science and theology, it also created deep spiritual crises for the West. Scientistic worldviews would consider reason the only standard for evaluating all values. This would exclude any “unscientistic” worldviews. It would also reject the value and meanings of faith and affection, and would completely displace people from the awareness of existence. The danger of scientific technicalization would also have increased due to the advancement of scientific theories. The greatest danger of scientific technicalization is that it eliminates reason of value by instrument, and allows people to forget about their true existence and become “massmen” or “common horses” in the mathematically-mechanical process. The true Christian beliefs were lost in the context of religious secularization and theological dualistic worldview was lost.
There are incompatibilities between science and theology. In a narrower sense, science is the study of the physical world. It mainly explains phenomena and laws. Theology, on the other hand, is the study of the immaterial world. It primarily resolves the problem and questions of faith and the transcendental universe (God and Heaven). The contradictions and conflicts between science and religion have been a problem since the Middle Ages, especially in modern times.17 While we don’t deny the oppression of theology in medieval times and the immense impact science has had on theology, science and theology can be reconciled. Numerous prominent scientists, including Isaac Newton, M. Faraday and C. Maxwell, as well as many academicians from the Royal Society, have been able to reconcile science and theology. All have deep Christian faith or an interest in theology. Scientists sometimes believe that science and religion are compatible and fulfill the same mission through different approaches. In recent years, scientists as well as theologians and philosophers of religion have paid more attention to the dialogue between science & theology. Various theories about the relationships between science and religion have been presented. Wang Pisheng, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, claims that dialogue between science and religion is not a new phenomenon. He believes it has been a continuous tradition.19 He also stated that top scientists are well aware of the value of learning from philosophy and theology to gain deeper insights into scientific work and to find breakthroughs in their research. It is possible to conclude that science and theology can coexist and harmonize. A phase of science-theology harmony will hopefully be possible if both sides can understand their limitations and the implications for human existence.
People in the New Century cannot enjoy peaceful living due to the rapid development of science after they have suffered the horrors of the World Wars and succumbed to nihilism, hedonism and other hedonisms. All of these factors have increased the anxiety, fear, and insecurity of people, directly or indirectly. The tsunami caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake at the end last year has left thousands dead. A trail of disasters, including the Pakistani earthquake, hurricanes in North America, hog disease, and bird flu, have also made it clear that science cannot be trusted to deal with these fearful disasters. However, the unprecedented global humanitarian assistance that has been provided since the start of the year just shows that faith and affection are the spiritual springs that sustain human solidarity and peace. This revelation is profound: tensions and conflicts between science, theology and religion are detrimental to human peace and development. However, mutual-complementation and reconciliation between them are likely to be the best way to save people from drowning. Paul Tillich’s Culture of Theology states that they shouldn’t be isolated from one another, and that they need to be aware of the dangers of living in isolation.
A. N. Whitehead believes that religious symbols give humanity the meaning of life, while scientific modes empower people with the ability to change nature. Science and religion have so many influences that human history’s future direction will be determined by how people view science and religion. This clearly shows that science and theology are essential to human development. Both ‘God and ‘Newton are essential for human development. Both are deeply rooted in human inner worlds and point to our ultimate concern for humanity. This awareness would allow science and theology to overcome their conflicts. Science and theology could both rediscover their true existence within the mind of man and give him ultimate meaning, creative wisdom, and courage to love.
1 F. Engels, Dialectic of Nature (zi ran bian zheng fa: “Natural Science sent its martyrs at the stake or the prison of Inquisition.”
2 Fu Weixun. From Western Philosophy to Zen Buddhism 1989, p158.
3 Bertrand Russell, in A History of Western Philosophy states that “Plato’s philosophy rests on the distinction between reality & phenomenon.”
4 Sammuel Enoch Stumpf & James Fieser. Socrates to Sartre & Beyond A History of Philosophy. Seventh Edition 2003. p55.
5 Aristotle believed God, as a pure idea, was eternal happiness and self-actualization. Contrarily, the sensible universe is imperfect, has life and desires, and belonged to the impure ideas. His dualistic outlook also reflects the idea.
6 According to A History of Europe, a collection of 11 European historians, God and heaven were the center of thought during the Middle Ages. However, Renaissance brought the focus of people to the real world and man. This conversion had a profound impact on science. Theology has lost its superiority, and the interest in nature and human beings prevailed.
7 Luther states: “Each Christian may interpret the Bible in his or her own way,” which is against ecclesiastical authority. Only the Church is able to interpret the Bible, and that interpretation is the only one.
8 A History of Europe claims that nature will develop according to its own laws of development. This means that human intervention should be minimal. Reason asks man to continue to learn from nature.
9 Wollf comments about Scotus’ “double truth” theory that undoubtedly promoted worldly research enterprise.
10 Paul Tillich. Theology of Culture 1988.
11 Samuel Enoch Stumpf & James Fieser. Socrates to Sartre & Beyond A History of Philosophy. 7th Edit., 1966. p. 185.
12 Fu Weixun. From Western Philsophy To Zen Buddhism, 1989. p.161.
13 Idem, p. 162.
14 Wang Pisheng. “Science seeks God: The new phenomena of dialogue between science, theology,” Report of the Research Center of Chinese Christian Religions. Second Issue 2002.
Fu Weixun 15
16 Nietzsche wrote, “I regard Christianity to be the most fatally seductive lie ever known – as the greatest lie and most impious.” This is a fatal fault on Christianity’s slavish morality.
17 Dong Xiaochuan “Science and Theology: The Two Pillars of Modern American Civilization”, [http://xueshu.newyouth.beida.online.com/data/data.ph3]
19 Wang Pisheng. “Science seeks God: The new phenomenon of the dialogue between science, theology.”
20 Paul Tillich: Theology of Culture.
Alex Mingchuan Tu is a Postgraduate of the Research Institute of Chinese Intellectual and Cultual History in Wuhan, China P.R. 430062