Structure not substance: Theological realism for a pluralistic age

  • Christopher Knight


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  1. 1.
    See I. Barbour, ‘Religion in an age of science’ (London, SCM press, 1990), chs. 1–3 for a concise summary of the ways in which the relationship between the two languages have been seen.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See especially A.R. Peacocke,Intimations of reality (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1985); J.M. Soskice,Metaphor and religious language (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1985); J. Polkinghorne,Reason and reality (London, SPCK, 1991); I.G. Barbour,Issues in science and religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice Hall, 1966), pp. 162ff.Google Scholar
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    Barbour, Religion ⋯, op. cit., p. 43.Google Scholar
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    N. Murphey,Theology in the age of scientific reasoning (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1990), p. 198. For her own analysis of the problematic nature of critical realism see her ‘From critical realism to a methodological approach: Response to Robbins, Van Huyssteen and Heffner’,Zygon 23 (1988), pp. 287 ff.Google Scholar
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    Leplin, op.cit., p. 4Google Scholar
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    See C. Knight, ‘An authentic theological revolution?: Scientific perspectives on the development of doctrine’,Journal of religion 74 (1994), pp. 524ff. for an alternative approach to parallels between the two languages in terms of the Kuhnian concept of ‘puzzle solving ability’.Google Scholar
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    Soskice, op. cit.Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., S.P. Schwartz (ed.),Naming, necessity, and natural kinds (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1977).Google Scholar
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    R. Harré,Varieties of realism (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 101ff.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 316 referring to D. Bohm,Wholeness and the implicate order (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980).Google Scholar
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    Peacocke, op. cit., p. 42.Google Scholar
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    Soskice, op. cit., p. 152.Google Scholar
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    V. Lossky,The mystical theology of the Eastern Church (Cambridge, James Clarke, 1957), pp. 25ff. analyzes the general Western tendency to see the relationship between cataphatic and apophatic theology in these terms, by reference to Thomas Aquinas,Quaestiones Disputatae, VII, 5. He notes particularly the Thomist assertion that negations refer simply to themodus significandi — the mode according to which we understand finite perfections when we attribute them to God. In this Thomist view, from which Lossky dissents, it is still proper to affirm such perfections of Godmodo sublimiori, such affirmations relating to theres significata, i.e., to the perfection which is in God in a fashion other than that in which it is in creatures.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 33.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 42f.Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., R.D. Williams, ‘The philosophical structures of palamism’,Eastern Churches Review 9 (1977), pp. 27ff.; K.T. Ware, ‘The debate about palamism’,Eastern Churches Review 9 (1977) pp. 45ff.Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., J. Pelikan,Reformation of Church and Dogma, 1300–1700 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1984), pp. 187–203.Google Scholar
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    K. Ward,A vision to pursue (London, SCM Press, 1991), p. 175 defines such a pluralism neatly in terms of the belief that ‘most, and probably all, traditions will need to be revised to approximate more nearly to a fuller unitary truth which none of them yet fully encapsulates. Such a view will be exclusivist about truth; but add that no one tradition has a monopoly or a complete grasp of truth. The truth lies ahead and is always capable of fuller formulation⋯’.Google Scholar
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    Soskice, op. cit., p. 115.Google Scholar
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    F. Ferré,Basic modern philosophy of religion (London, George Allen & Unwin, 1968), p. 375.Google Scholar
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    M. Devitt and K. Sterelny,Language and reality (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1987), p. 181.Google Scholar
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    R. Boyd, ‘Metaphor and theory change’, in A. Ortony (ed.),Metaphor and thought (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 358.Google Scholar
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    Boyd, op. cit., pp. 358ff.Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    Such insights may, indeed, point to the way in which there is an arbitrary element in all attempts to ‘cut the world at its joints’. From a scientific point of view, certainly, questions of this sort arise from the holistic aspects of modern physics, especially as interpreted by Bohm (op.cit.). From a more purely philosophical point of view, too, there are important questions about ‘ontological relativity’ of the sort posed by W.V. Quine in hisOntological relativity and other essays (New York, Columbia University Press, 1969). It is not my purpose here, however, to explore the implications of such analyses to theology, other than simply to note their possible relevance to the paragraphs that follow.Google Scholar
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    J. Hick,The metaphor of God Incarnate (London, SCM Press, 1993).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Knight
    • 1
  1. 1.Von Hugel InstituteSt. Edmund's CollegeCambridgeEngland UK

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