cropped-1108-JohnDunsScotus-01.jpgEvolving Franciscan Studies

Does the world of science cause you to doubt the Christian scriptures and the traditional faith of the church? Do you feel you must choose between faith and science?

You don’t need to worry. There are ways of putting science and faith together. Come on a journey with me as I explore two great Franciscan theologians of the Middle Ages but looked at in the light of modern science. Their’s was a very different world view to ours but we can still find relevance in what they wrote. 

The postings on the drop-down menus are mainly  essays on aspects of Francisan theology and faith in God  and Christ in the light of modern science. There is also some devotional material. 

Although the main focus in this study is upon these two Franciscans I am also including other insights from an Ecumenical collection of other Catholic writers (Karl Rahner, Teilhard de Chardin and Ilia Delio), Lutherans (Paul Tillich, Jurgen Moltman and Wolhaft Pannenberg) and Anglicans (Charles Gore and John Poilkinhorn) and Orthodox (Kallistos Ware).

I therefore hope this project will be of interest to anyone of any church tradition trying to make links between Christian faith traditions and modern science, to overcome perceived conflicts and to develop a wholistic view of science with Christian faith today.

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Faith and Science conflict? A crisis of faith?

There is in many people’s minds today a percieved conflict between between science and religion. Certainly the bible texts and much traditional theology comes from very different world view to what we have today. For many people that seems to mean either giving up on traditional beliefs or rejecting scientific discoveries and theories that don’t seem to match a specific conservative or traditional perception of the biblical world and Christian revelation and teaching.

This apparent conflict between natural observation of world and recieved faith and traditions has been going on for centuries, often with defensive responses on the part of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches,  trying to reject scientific theory and developments that did not or do not fit in with recieved views of the bible or developed doctrine.

On the other hand we also have a tendency of science today trying to view the world on purely naturalist and rational grounds that tries to leave anything relating to divinity out of the picture altogether or religate relgion to the ethical and moral spheres of life.

Such a conflict and segregation of science and religuous belief to separate spheres of life and knowledge is uneccessary and we can and should seek legimate ways to review the bible texts and religious traditions in a way that reduces any potential conflict

It helps to see biblical and religious texts in their historical context and not trying to pretend they are infallible in matters of science and that we can have some unchanging view of God and the world that they had. We have also to see science research and natural discovery in a divinely unified way, that embraces the world as we are coming to know it and still retain faith in a purpose of life from the multitude of areas knowledge and revelation.

We can to see Christian faith and religious traditions today in the light of the long cosmic history of about estimated 14 billion years and also the evolution of humanity as revealed and suggested by modern science. Indeed we must make links between modern science and faith and belief otherwise Christian faith loses all credibility with those who have a science knowledge or training. The church will have no credibility with students of science coming into church if what they hear in the worship, liturgy and from the pulpit is in conflict with what they hear in science lessons at school or  college. It’s no help to a visitor or young people in the congregation to have such a conflict and have to decide between faith and scientific findings. All truth from discovery and all revealed truth has roots in the eternal truth of God, who is author of both.

Over past decades of the twentieth century and the beginning of our own era people from different church and faith traditions have been making links between science and theology today and this is my own attempt by looking at specifically Franciscan traditions, as expressed originally by Duns Scotus and Bonaventure seen in a modern light, and expounded by some modern writers and interpreters of their works.


Why my focus on two medieval theologians; Duns Scotus and Bonaventure?

Some years ago I became a member of the Anglican Third Order of the Society of St Francis and as a result I heard about them and gained an interest in them. They were both great teachers in their generations and  it seems to me still have things to teach us and ask us to consider even with our very different perspectives.

Scotus and Bonaventure both represent interpretations of traditional Catholic faith often different to the historial dominance of Thomas Aquinas in the Catholic church from about the same period of history. They lived at a critial time when the newly rediscovered writings of Aristotle were providing an intellectual challenge to recieved traditions of thought about God and the world. Scotus and Bonaventure both tried to use and critique the philosophy of Aristotle and other Greek and Latin philosophies in their day. In this they are both examples of critical engagement with philosophies of their day and hence examples of how we may also engage with contemporary science and philisophy today to make fresh expressions of what a valid Christrian faith can still be.

Scotus and Bonaventure both tried to consider the world of the senses and reason in relation to received faith and doctrine. In a similar manner we also have to use and critique science and reason and recieved traditions in our own day, in order to continue to expound a credible interpretation of the bible and church traditions seen in the light of modern knowledge as it comes to us. We need to do this to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the Good News) relevant to the scientific and critical generation of our time, just as they did in their times. Their writings do not always agree and are profoundly different, but both still suggest some interesting ideas and faith and tradition to explore.

I confess I am writing about Bonaventure and Scotus as a student rather than as an expert and for further academic information on them the reader is directed to other resources under pages “Explorations” and “Scotus et al”. My aim is not a detailed account of everything they wrote or even an agreement with everything they wrote, rather this is about certain aspects of their philosophies and theology that may still have some relevance in the light of modern science.

I am also supplementing this study with an ecumenical range of other authors and therefore while having a Franciscan emphasis I hope others will also be interested in both following my study journey and also finding relevance for both Scotus and Bonaventure today whatever religious tradition you may come from.

This is my basic confession of an evolving faith..

God is the Holy and Blessed Trinity; Uncreated Being (Father), Word (Son) and Holy Spirit. A three-fold unity of “persons” , of the same stuff as each other and hence united in that. God is communal but united and as one. Who exists and loves and acts as one.

That which is the Divine Word, from God and part of God, that is made present in Jesus Christ is the Origin and the Centre of the Cosmos, its future and all its meaning. He is the centre of a meaning for all of life. We lack meaning unless we refer to this revealed truth and seek to understand it.

The Cosmos and all life we know is from the Trinitarian God who has given it freedom to evolve and change with both great beauty but also the potential and reality of evil, suffering and physical death.

We evolved from social yet tribal animals. We have great rationality, intelligence and the capacity for Divine Love, unlimited loving. We so often never reach out fullest and loving potential that God desires us to have. We frequently remain tribal and selfish, never being our divinely intended selves.

In a world of natural and  climatic catastrophe, and with ethnic, religious and civil conflicts, we must learn to overcome our evolved tribal past and selfish tendencies to become a New Humanity in thought and deed. We must become the New Humanity that our Saviour and Exemplar Jesus  shows us, enables us and desires us to become. 

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The drop-down menus can lead you to the following essays.

Christ: Salvation in Christ 1. Part 1 of an exploration of the meaning of the death of Jesus.

This is a look at what Bonaventure and Duns Scotus wrote in relation to the idea that Jesus death on the cross was a “satisfaction” for our sins. Scotus in particular had a very radical view about this. The goodness of Jesus covers our sins.

Previously added:

Jesus Christ- An introduction; Jesus who is the Christ.The Primacy of Christ

This is about the idea that Jesus is predestined to glory and to be the centre of all creation.

The Divine -Human union. Jesus Christ as the Exemplar of God and the Exemplar of our New Humanity and Way to Be.  

The Virgin Mary – examining Scotus view of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, free from sin, or as I would see, it a special favour given to a normal girl.


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Explorations –. More about the aims of my study including some referenced sources. 

Scotus et al – some biographical notes on Scotus, Bonaventure and some other authors I have been exploring for a more modern context.

 Third Order  – about the Anglican Third Order of the Society of St Francis. Its Principles and Aims that are relevant today.

Cosmic God – Several essays about God in a modern science context; Knowledge of God, Transcendence and Immanence, First and Final, Infinite Being and Trinity. The Spirit.

Humanity–aspects of evolved humanity, including family and the evolved origins of love, and transcending our biology.

Sections also on “The Fall” (our waywardness from what we are intended to be) and what that may mean in a modern context today.

Bible– The need for a critical approach to the bible. Bonaventure on the Dimensions of Scripture. Duns Scotus on the Sufficiency of Scripture. The Law and Prophets in the light of natural law, and a critical historical view of the biblical writings.

Future Plans (Coming in 2018)

Salvation in Christ, Part 2. Resurrection and some modern perspectives on the meaning of the death and resurection of Christ and cosmic  salvation.