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Title: Human significance in theology and the natural sciences : an ecumenical perspective with reference to Pannenberg, Rahner, and Zizioulas
Author: Fisher, Christopher L.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2004
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The rise of the natural sciences is supposed to have rendered the medieval worldview that regarded humanity as the center of the universe completely obsolete. However, a high view of human significance in the cosmos continues to be inherent in much contemporary ecumenical theology, particularly in those streams that take a realist view of God’s action towards the world in Jesus Christ. This thesis defends the concept of critical anthropocentrism, which seeks to acknowledge a theological sense of human significance while being sensitive to contemporary scientific issues and perspectives on human nature. In part I, three modern ecumenical theologians - Lutheran Wolfhart Pannenberg, Roman Catholic Karl Rahner, and Greek Orthodox John Zizioulas - are examined for their understanding of human significance. The twin doctrines of the imago dei and the incarnation provide the focus for the investigation, which shows that human beings are significant because in them, certain eternal purposes and values are realized in creation. This is not accidental, but is part of the divine plan in creating the world. Human nature uniquely images God in the cosmos, most clearly and profoundly in the person of Jesus Christ. The incarnation is for various reasons a focal point in cosmic history, and so humanity, as the locus of the incarnation, occupies a position of vital cosmic significance. This becomes even clearer in eschatological perspective. While nuances of approach are evident in the three ecumenical theologians, the analysis shows that their theology is deeply and intrinsically critically anthropocentric. In part II, some epistemological boundaries are established for the dialogue between theology and science, with regard to the limits of the science and the scope of theological explanations. Some of the traditional arguments that are supposed to show that humans are insignificant in the cosmic scheme are examined. The investigation shows that modern natural science agrees that in human beings something very special has appeared in the universe. Contemporary science highlights unique features of human nature in relation to the non-human creation. This is evident in, among other things, the comparison of human with animal, hominid, artificial, and extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available