Thinking with the mind renewed in Christ

In this series we're looking at what Thomas F. Torrance (TFT) has to say in The Christian Frame of Mind concerning the integration of science and theology in light of the Incarnation of the Word of God. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1345.

Last time we saw how the Greek Church Fathers taught that the Word of God, via the Incarnation, assumed our fallen nature (mind), and then through his life, death, resurrection and ascension, healed it. In and through the "personalizing person" of Jesus Christ, the corrupt human mind has been renewed---set on an entirely different foundation. And now, by faith, through the Spirit, we are enabled to think with, in and out of that mind, which is the mind of Christ. Though once we were blind, now, by grace, we can see things as they actually are.

The Church Fathers (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In Scripture we are told that Jesus has made "all things new" (2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5), and that includes our corrupted minds, which renewed in Christ are now able to look anew at both theology and the natural sciences. In The Christian Frame of Mind, TFT has a great deal to say about how theology and science, rightly understood, together address the same reality---the reality of a cosmos created by, redeemed by and sustained by and in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Rejection of pagan dualism

Sadly, much thinking in our world continues to proceed out of the fallen mind. This results in the false (but common) view that theology and science are, at best, entirely separate; or, at worst, hopelessly at odds. Thankfully, there are theologians and scientists who, thinking with and through the mind of Christ, have rejected this pagan dualism. They understand that in Christ, all things live and move and have their being. An openness to this foundational truth, has led to the principal advances in the natural sciences, though, at times, progress has been impeded by old patterns of dualistic thinking---what Christian philosopher and scientist Michael Polanyi calls "destructive tendencies" in the human mind. TFT comments:
In all basic scientific activity we rely upon a deep intuitive accord between the laws of our mind and the laws of nature, so that any disharmony in that relationship gives rise to 'noise' in the functioning of our minds, distorting the patterns of thought which we develop in our attempts to grasp the orderly structures inherent in the universe that God has created. Thus the deeper and the more refined our scientific research becomes, the more we need the sanctifying reconciliation of the human mind with the Word of God that is mediated to us through Jesus Christ. Some intersection of symmetries between the order of redemption and the order of creation seems to be called for. It is just here, then, if we are to follow out the implications of the teaching of St. Basil and St Gregory Nazianzen [Greek Patristic Fathers], that deep-level coordination between theological and natural science should prove helpful. (p. 11)
John Chrysostom
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Helpful indeed! And how blessed we are to have testimony to these truths from men who thought with and out of the mind of Christ---men like the apostles Paul and John (who testified in the New Testament), and the Greek Patristic Fathers (who testified in the Nicene Creed), and on down the centuries with others like John Chrysostom who understood that there is "an inner, divinely ordained bond between the natural and the moral order." As TFT notes, Chrysostom understood that "a covenanted economy of righteousness and grace undergirds and stamps the whole creation.... It is in the existence and life of man as a physical and spiritual being that natural law and moral law overlap" (p. 12).

Understanding contingent order 

As TFT notes, early theologians like the Cappadocian Fathers and Chrysostom understood that the order (and thus intelligibility) of the natural world, is a contingent order:
The natural order is unceasingly contingent on God in such a way that he not only upholds and sustains it in its creaturely reality, but makes its coherent [intelligible] arrangement serve his supreme purpose in the communion of the creation with the Creator. The natural order, therefore, is to be regarded, not simply as the actual order in which things happened to be arranged, but rather as the kind of order in which things ought to be arranged under the imperative of God's Wisdom and Will. This deletion of the notion of accident or chance by the Christian concept of contingent order under God, carried with it the idea of an overall moral perspective in which the good is blessed and evil falls under judgment. (p. 12, italics added)
This theologically informed understanding was a radical change from the impersonal, naturalistic and fatalistic outlook that arose from the dominant, dualistic Greek philosophies. The change came into the world in the Incarnation of the Son of God and was promulgated throughout the world in the proclamation of the gospel of grace---the good news of the mind renewed in Christ, That mind gave us a view into a reality of a "hitherto unheard-of intimacy, in which God, as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, is intimately involved in all of his creation," a creation he brought about in love and for love out of nothing (ex nihilo). What these theologians understood and declared is that God, in the person of Jesus, interpenetrated the order of creation in a final and decisive way, setting it wholly upon the basis of God's grace.

Advances in the natural sciences

It is with this mind renewed in Christ that humanity has been enabled to see (to comprehend) the reality of how things actually are. And this, in turn, gave rise to huge advances in the natural sciences brought about by people, who as Christian believers, put on the mind of the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ. TFT comments:
Under God we have been rediscovering the contingent nature of the universe and its open-textured order which point beyond themselves altogether to the transcendent source and ground of their rationality in the Word of God. That is the very Word who became flesh in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. In him, as Paul has taught us, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, created through him and for him. He is before all thins, an in him all things consist and hold together. Moreover, it is in and through him that we who once were alienated and hostile in our minds are now reconciled to God and are at peace with him. With minds inwardly transformed and sanctified in Christ we may look in new light upon the whole universe of space and time, with its astonishing order and beauty daily being disclosed by our science, as the theater of God's self-revelation and the sanctum for our worship and praise of the Creator and Redeemer (p. 14).
Amen! And next time we'll look at how these truths have given rise to the great breakthroughs in both natural science and theology. Stay tuned.