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How scientific knowledge chages theology: a case study from original sin
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, Studies in Faith and Ideologies. (Luthersk teologi och etik i ett efterkristet samhälle)
2010 (English)In: How do we know?: Understanding in Science and Theology / [ed] Dirk Evers, Antje Jackelén & Taede A. Smedes, London: T&T Clark , 2010Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Can and should a change in scientific knowledge be taken into account when theology reflects on central doctrines? In the paper, I argue that one of the criteria contemporary theology must meet is to incorporate current scientific knowledge - at least when knowledge of scientific facts from the time when the doctrine was established has had a direct impact on conclusions drawn from the doctrine. This might seem self evident, but in the paper I present a case study where theology still has to reflect further on the role of scientific knowledge for the deconstruction and reconstruction of theological “truth”.


The doctrine of original sin has become more or less invisible in contemporary western theology and liturgy. At the same time science, dealing with anthropology in different respects like evolutionary biology and psychology, more often points to aspects of the human condition they find problematic. One of the causes for this change of scene is that the doctrine of original sin, in western theology, depends on classical Aristotelian biology.


The paper analyses the effects of bringing in modern science, e.g. Darwinian biology, for the doctrine of original sin. What do we need to change and what would this mean for central theological issues? Two specific issues are highlighted. Firstly, what are the consequences for the doctrine on original sin of accepting our close relationship with other living beings? Secondly, what does an acceptance of “the fall” as not a moment in history, but rather a narrative on the human condition, mean for understandings of “the Christ event”?


Finally I argue that a change in science might be a necessary condition for a change in such theological doctrines that depends on scientific knowledge, but it is far from sufficient. Several other conditions must also be met, especially when theology turns from deconstruction to construction.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: T&T Clark , 2010.
, Issues in Science and Theology, 6
Keyword [en]
scince-theology dialogue, original sin, evolution, change, deconstruction
National Category
Religious Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-138009ISBN: 978-0-567-13265-9OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-138009DiVA: diva2:378727
Available from: 2010-12-16 Created: 2010-12-16 Last updated: 2010-12-17Bibliographically approved

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