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Weak Theology According to Postmodern Christianity

Biblical literalists and advocates of sola scriptura have blamed Weak Theology, Postmodern theology, and the Death of God theology for softening up modern Christianity to accept the advent of Christian Atheism. Is this blame deserved, or do the Biblical literalists lack solid arguments to challenge Weak Theology?

Antony Kagirison

When Galileo Galilei proved that the earth moves around the sun, the church persecuted him because his finding undermined belief in the Christian faith. This was one of the opening salvos of the conflict between religion and scientific empiricism which ultimately ended in the defeat of religion following the collapse of the Third Reich and the foundering of grand narratives as the postmodernism age set in.

During the time of Galileo, people believed that the earth was stationary and flat, and everything in the universe revolved around it. Some present-day Christian dogmatists and followers of Kabbalah still believe that the earth is flat, stationary, and is located at the center of the universe. Today, this flawed conception of the universe is called the geocentric model or simply geocentrism, and is associated with the Planetary Hypotheses developed by Ptolemy in 150 AD (which is why it is also called Ptolemaic Geocentrism). Even during the time of Ptolemy, his hypotheses were rejected by the Neopythagoreans who insisted that the sun is at the center of the universe. This Neopythagorean model is today recognized as the heliocentric model.

The astronomical model described by Galileo was not the Neopythagorean heliocentric model, but the Copernican heliocentric model whereby the earth revolves around the sun, and the sun is stationary but it rotates on its own axis (as Galileo noticed that sunspots on the surface of the sun were not stationary but instead moved). Today, this Copernican heliocentric model has been updated as astronomy has discovered that the sun revolves around an axis known as the barycenter. Moreover, the solar system revolves as a unit around the axis of the Milky Way, with a complete revolution calculated to take approximately 200 million years.

solar system gnosophia org
The sun is shown generating the gravitational field by wrapping the force field of the solar system. The Earth can be seen along with its moon. place. CREDIT.

To the persecutors of Galileo, any idea that Earth was not the center of the universe was bound to upset the fundamental religious dogma that everything that happens in the universe does so for the sake of human beings, and this is why God placed them at the center of his creation in the universe (according to the Bible). If the sun was at the center of the universe, then it reasons (according to the contemporaries of Galileo) that human beings were not the center of attention of the universe, and maybe even God was not very much concerned with human affairs. It is for this reason that Pope Urban VIII in 1633 ordered that Galileo be tried for heresy, and be judged as a heretic if he did not disavow his heliocentric findings.

Mainstreaming of Critical Inquiry and Humanism in Early Modernity

This event in post-Renaissance Europe reveals the divide that existed in what was regarded as justified knowledge. This was the period of Early Modernity when post-Renaissance skeptics, philosophers, and scientists had developed a theory of knowledge that divided existing knowledge into knowledge that was regarded as objective facts and knowledge that was regarded as subjective opinions/beliefs/faiths. It is this divide between objective and subjective knowledge that gave birth to the method of critical inquiry for testing knowledge, theories, and beliefs. This method was later refined into the scientific method, with the skepticism of critical inquiry establishing itself in the scientific method as the null hypothesis that is chosen by default before testing any hypothesis.

Logicians who adopted critical inquiry did so as a way to establish a boundary between rationality and irrationality. This necessitated the need to create categories, an act that ended up widening the chasm between religion and science. Some of these categories were paired as binary opposites e.g rational versus irrational, objective versus subjective, and impersonal versus personal. Thus religion was categorized as irrational, subjective, and personal (or emotive), while science was categorized as rational, objective, and impersonal. This categorization during Early Modernity showed that religion was inferior to science – which was disconcerting to the elites of that era because religion validated and formalized the existing political order (which was almost universally based on the divine right of the monarch to rule). Thus, science was not only threatening religion, it was also a threat to the existing political order. Science would also lead to the development of a philosophy known as humanism. This is why humanism validated itself using science, thus allowing science to gain a bridgehead into the domains of religion, ethics, and politics.

As humanism thumped religious dogma, the phenomenon of atheism started to become normalized among educated Europeans. Atheists used the existing categories to establish atheism as an ally of science and frequently presented atheism as rational, objective, and impersonal. However, the idea of rationalistic scientific atheism was quickly disproved as empiricism and philosophy lifted the horizon of thought and revealed that the observable world was much more complex than initially thought.

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