The Science of Christian/Secular Anthropologies: Putting Taylor, McGrath and Plantinga to work

Apparently, the question “What are human beings?” always had a somewhat troublesome status. For many, it is clearly being answered. For quite many others, this question represents a textbook-example for philosophical questions one should remain agnostic about. Yet the first group must acknowledge that there are in fact very different answers around, as the latter group must acknowledge that there are pressing issues behind that question, bringing us time and again to a point where we must give an answer – some of the more recent of such issues include matters of gender as well as biotechnological advances, some of the more timeless ones revolve around matters such as human dignity, the quest for meaning, and others.
This presentation surveys some ‘definitive answers’ to the question of what it means to be human by taking into account the perspective of Christian (Protestant) faith for one, and the perspective of the so-called life sciences for another. The aim is to cover much of the present academic discourse in the West: Regarding accounts of Protestant theology, it is argued that there are surprisingly similar challenges within obviously different conceptions of theology, such as cases of German liberal theology (e.g., Christian Danz) vs. cases of US-Evangelical conservative accounts (e.g., Wayne Grudem). Regarding accounts of the life sciences, it is argued that there is more unity within the relevant literature, yet that the case(s) being made by Campbell, Purves, and others on what it means to be human show evident shortcomings given the methodology advocated by these very proponents.
In the face of certainty expressed while in fact finding examples of ambiguity regarding both methods and actual construals of what it means to be human, this presentation argues that both ‘science’ and ‘theology’ share a common challenge: The move from warrant to construal. This move has been underdeveloped both in theological method and in the philosophy of science. By drawing on thinkers such as Charles Taylor and Alister McGrath, the presentation draws conclusion both for (systematic) theology and the philosophy of science on the one hand, and for anthropology on the other.

3 thoughts on “The Science of Christian/Secular Anthropologies: Putting Taylor, McGrath and Plantinga to work”

Leave a Comment