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.

13 thoughts on “On the Fusion/Integration Model

  1. At the risk of sounding dense, wouldn’t process theology lead to a “fire and forget” kind of God, a creative deity that launched existence, and then just sat back and watched? I’m not sure many theologies would happily accept such a hands-off model for a deity. I would personally have to lean to a theology of nature, as this seems (at least to me) closest to the Einstein quote I often mutilate, about not studying physics to find God, but studying it to find out how God makes things work.
    You know, you should slide these discussions back a couple days in the week. Then you could have Theology Thursdays! 😀


    • A bar near my office holds “Tequila Thursdays” – I think if we put those together with Theology Thursday – we would have quite an interesting discussion.

      I don’t find process theology (full disclosure: I am a process theologian) to reveal a “fire and forget” God as much as a “take ownership of what I give you” God. In healthy families, when a parent sends their child to college that parent doesn’t go to the school with the child, make the decisions, do all the homework, show up at the bar and drag the child out, sober them up and help them take the test. Just because the parent doesn’t do those things – does not mean the parent doesn’t care. The parent gives the child every good piece of advice, financial support and hopes the child makes good decisions. I find much in the same way, God does not puppet us but has given us a system of a world, with an abundance of potential -minerals, food, water, and hopes we will make good decisions.

      The first time I officiated a funeral for a child (killed in a reckless driving accident) and the mother looked at me and said “How can a loving God let this happen?” I became acutely aware that we can’t keep claiming God finds us parking spaces and car keys – but allows innocent children to die. There is a system – an order – and a free will in decisions. God’s tears are the first to fall. God is not forgetting the child, and God is begging us, inspiring us, and hoping we do better. However, God did give us the keys and God doesn’t seem wiling to take them back.


      • Thanks, Beaglezmom. That was a great explanation! I figured I had it wrong, because it seemed too infer a distant, uninterested God, and while I don’t think He is fiddling with every little thing going on, I found it equally hard to believe, as I put it, that he “forgot” about Creation after launching (or “firing”) it on its’ way. (Gee, can you tell I have a slight obsession with military equipment? 😀 )
        And no problem on whatever variation you follow. I’ll happily discuss any variation – as long as I understand what the particular variation means!
        By the by, when I was in college, my friends forbade me to drink. They all said I was far too introspective and, to use modern terminology, “a total buzzkill”. So you might just have something with the Tequila/Theology Thursday. 😉


        • John,
          Tequila/Theology Thursday with an introspective John. Wow … that’s a lot to ponder in itself! Glad Beagz was able to clarify your question & thoughts.


      • Beagz,
        Many thanks for answering John’s question. I knew you would come through! I appreciate these lines:
        1) “we can’t keep claiming God finds us parking spaces and car keys”
        2) “take ownership of what I give you” God

        Many thanks for sharing!


  2. Hmm. You’ve got me thinking about the ways natural theology and theology of nature interact and mutually inform each other. The “value” of process theology in all this is, I think, its emphasis on the collaborative aspect of the world. God’s involved and we are too. Not one without the other but partners in a sense.


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