Paul is a philosophical theologian working in the science, religion and society arena. He has written books on theological epistemology (Faith’s Knowledge 2013) and Christian metaphysics (Returning to Reality 2014; De-Fragmenting Modernity 2017). Paul directs the Emmanuel Centre for the Study of Science, Religion and Society at Emmanuel College, University of Queensland.
Description: Theology, as Aristotle uses this word, is equivalent to first philosophy, which the ancients also called metaphysics. Here theology is concerned with the primitive and divine realities underpinning any system of rational and observation-based credible understanding. To Aristotle, the foundations, the first premises, of any reasonable knowledge are revelations such as the reality of intelligible truth itself. One reasons from a firm trust in divine primitives to a partially true (and improvable) knowledge of the tangible and rational cosmos. But one cannot derive the divine primitives from their products. The primitives are not the product of reason and observation, but reason and observation are the products of primitive theological realities. The basic contour of Aristotle’s approach to the foundations of true knowledge is the exact inverse of typically modern attempts to derive the foundations of truth from within the irrefutable products of reason and observation, or (failing irrefutable ‘proof’) from within pragmatic or probabilistic conceptions of reason and observation. Arguably, postmodern critics of modern truth have confirmed that Aristotle was right about how first philosophy actually works. If – as I shall argue – Aristotle is right, this has two interesting implications. Firstly, modern rationally and/or empirically foundational science – treated as a functional life-world first philosophy – can only be a defective theology. Secondly, if the life-world of modernity is built on faith in modern science as its first philosophy, then our entire way of life will be theologically defective. I will argue that this is actually the case. I will conclude by suggesting that modern science needs credible theological underpinnings to flourish. This, I believe, is a task that any serious Christian theology of creation must seek to fulfill.