School of Divinity

Research Vision

The project addresses three areas organised around our central "Book of Nature" theme, starting from existing work in science-engaged theology, but aimed specifically towards building theologies of nature.

In spite of decades of theological research into the doctrine of creation and its scientific ramifications – much of it falling inside the science & religion field – this enterprise has brought us no closer to a meaningful unified view of the natural sciences, nor even of nature as the singular created arena of the sciences. The problem is that the unity of science/nature is assumed in such work but is not addressed directly. There still remains little in the way of theological reflection on science per se, still less the reasons why science (and thereby 'nature') is so varied, diverse and disunited. What is needed, we suggest, is not more theological work on creation so much as theological work which engages the content, objectives and methodologies of the contemporary natural sciences in all their diversity and disunity.

Thus, instead of trying to unify the 'sciences/nature by adopting an external theological perspective ('creation'), we suggest a revival of the early modern (and internal) perspective characterised by the 'two books” metaphor. Hence, we are suggesting the need for work which regains the lost metaphor where thenatural sciences are God’s Book of Nature, in spite of the philosophical unifying questions which nevertheless remain.

Sub-themes, questions, and methodologies

Within the over-arching theme of the Book of Nature, we have identified three distinct sub-themes. Many alternative sub-themes could have been chosen (eg. the question of teleology in theological treatments of human evolution), but we believe that these offer the most tractable way into the research question for a 33-month research project, since they make use of reasonably well-contained, and already-existing, research emphases in the science-and-religion field (including the themes of creation and divine action). And this is where we believe that the novelty of our approach comes in, since our over-arching theme of the Book of Nature allows us to re-contextualise and combine these research emphases into a larger inter-disciplinary framework for theologies of nature. In operational terms, each sub-theme will be the focus of its own cohort, composed of at least two of the network’s research groups (where a research group is itself composed of a postdoc and mentor at a specific host institution). The three sub-themes are: