On the Fusion/Integration Model

In a not-long-ago post, I introduced 4 models describing the relationship between science and theology: conflict, non-overlapping magesteria (NOMA), complementary, and fusion. Since then, I have adapted the 4 models Ian Barbour proposed in one of his books: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration.

I didn’t write much about the integration (fusion) model at that time. Given the questions I received, I need introduce different aspects of this model.

The integration model has science and theology working together and influencing each other, however, the line of demarcation between dialogue and integration is not clear. Although the dialogue model portrays a constructive relationship between science and theology, which field serves as the primary driver of the dialogue leads us to different integration models. I will introduce three of these: natural theology, theology of nature, and process theology.

Natural theology, primarily based on William Paley’s work, uses the existence of God as a given from the evidence of nature’s design. Since biblical interpretations drive the integration of science, natural theologians adjust the science to fit their theological framework. This mind set allowing for an intervening God, as in God of the gaps, who takes credit for the successes in nature, but not the failures.

Theology of nature also takes God as a given, but unlike natural theology, new revelations in science cause theological understandings to change. While theology of nature accepts religious traditions and theological framework, scientific knowledge of nature serves as a basis for reformulating religious thought. That is, God’s relationship with nature reflects of view of nature. Given topics as creation and evolution, these natural theology and theology of nature provide different interpretations.

Process theology, primarily based on the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead, both science and theology contribute to a comprehensive view of order and new possibilities. Through its natural laws, God granted a free will to the universe to carry out change – thus God influences the world, but does not determine it. Not only does process theology believe creation is an unfinished process, it sees every event as a product of past causes, divinely established natural processes, and the activity of the new entity created in the process. Thus, by building on past events, God provides possibilities.

Theologian and scientist Ian Barbour states the following about process theology: “Process thought holds that the basic constituents of reality are not two kinds of enduring entities (mind/mind dualism) or one kind of entity (materialism), but one kind of event with two aspects or phases. The philosophy recognizes that events can be organized in diverse ways. …. For process thinkers, God is the source of novelty and order. Creation is a long and incomplete process. God elicits the self-creation of individual entities, thereby allowing for freedom and novelty as well as order and structure.”

I hope this helps with at least introducing the different types of integration models.