Or Is Theology the Queen of Sciences?
I question whether there is not some equivocation in failing to specify the virtues which entitle sacred theology to the title of ‘queen’. It might deserve that name by reason of including everything that is learned from all the other sciences and establishing everything by better methods and with profounder learning …. Or theology might be queen because of being occupied with a subject which excels in dignity all the subjects which compose the other sciences, and because her teachings are divulged in more sublime ways. — Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Dowager (1615)
Today, there is a group of theologians who go by the Radical Orthodoxy project, led by John Milbank and his interpretation of the idea that “Theology is the Queen of the Sciences.” As such, what you get is an ecclesiology that has a huge need for linguistic gatekeepers, since only Christians are able to understand the language of Christianity, ala post-liberalism (at least my reading of it). Each Radical Orthodox book I have read has the same blueprint: engage in what seems to be scathing critique of some “secular” discipline and practice, say, economics, and then use the last chapter to talk about how THE CHURCH is the solution to the problem.
Obviously, this take on RO on a blog may seem polemical, and granted, I am capable of more complex and generous reading of RO theology, but the reason why I introduce RO at the start of my introduction to my series on Racial Justice and Science Fiction. The implications for RO/THE CHURCH theologies is that they are closed, anti-conversational, and more biased/less critical towards traditions that just are not liberating. If indeed the RO/THE CHURCH theologians are correct, what is the point of doing other disciplines for? And furthermore, where in history has THE CHURCH been the leading teacher for solving the world’s problems? It seems to me that RO/THE CHURCH Christian thinkers are way too utopian in their collective praise for Aquinas and company.
Take the literary genre of science fiction, for example. In Adam Roberts’ Palgrave History of Science Fiction, Roberts’ argues that the emergence of Science Fiction happens in part to the Protestant Reformation. Much of the ways of knowing the world (epistemology) that the Reformers promoted was a PROTEST (zing!) against things like Geocentrism and Sacramentalism (according to Roberts), and in Roberts’ words, “Catholic fantasy.” I reject Roberts’ binary (read: Anti-Catholicism) but his argument has some merit. There cannot be science fiction prior to the birth of the scientific worldview. One could say then that Science Fiction, from the beginning was a theological, and continues to be a theological enterprise from its very inception. No, I am not saying that all science fiction works make a case for God or Higher Being of some sort, but what I am contending is that Science Fiction writings, plays, and movies have always reflected our (humanity’s) ultimate concerns.
If theology is seen as a closed conversation, since she is viewed at the top of the pyramid (ala Milbank), then prophetic critiques from the “outside” “secular” voices hold no weight. However, if theology is viewed in a non-hierarchal and conversational manner, then maybe perhaps the “secular” becomes a very integral part of the life of “THE CHURCH.” After all, the body of Christ is to be a community of the Word, which in Scripture, usually means a dialogue, and covenant, which eventually means a quest for justice.
This leads me to this series on Racial Justice and Science Fiction. Sometimes, theologians find the strangest of allies, but when it comes to advocates for racial justice and critical race theorists, perhaps this pairing is a bit too odd. Make no mistake this series will not be a dismantling of any science fiction texts on the level of my and Adam’s take on William P. Young’s The Shack (even though that is a possibility). Instead I have decided to take a random sampling of some of my favorite science fiction writings to share with the audience, and give examples have these texts can “make it plain” to folks what antiracism looks like, and in so doing, opening up the possibility for people to dream, and then work for racial justice, like that great Trekkie, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Texts/Authors included are:
Olaf Stapledon’s The Last and First Men
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy (special focus on Perelandra–the 2nd piece)
Octavia Butler’s Kindred
- The Shape of Things To Come: Blogging for Black History Month (politicaljesus.com)
- Upcoming Book Reviews And I’m Taking Suggestions for Posts (politicaljesus.com)
- Upcoming Panel Presentation for Regional AAR 2012 (politicaljesus.com)
- Galileo on the relation between science and religion (http://lippard.blogspot.com/)