The Sacred Cosmos

The World of Matter & Spirit United in Praise of Its Creator

Ever since the landmark 1966 publication of Ian Barbour's Issues in Science and Religion, the modern science-faith dialogue has flourished. The widening range and depth of relevant scholarship, interdisciplinary work, centers for study, and full academic chairs in the field, are evidence of the health and vigor of the program. Nonetheless, the dialogue has remained very much one-sided in the sense that science continues to enjoy the advantage of priority. Science has "slain" its theologians (T. H. Huxley) and issued its challenges. Faith invariably reacts in rearguard defensive maneuvers, trying to explain how we can still think religiously in a scientific world. Theologians and believing scientists first submit to the primacy of science, then labor to escape the implications of its strict materialist presuppositions, which in fact prohibit any meaningful ontological status to religious categories. Religion must always answer to science, but the converse is almost never the case.

Arguably the most fundamental and enduring problem at all levels in the dialogue is the conceptual difficulty in satisfactorily reconciling matter and spirit. Sarah Lane Ritchie has defined this point of contact, the so-called causal joint, as "that theoretical nexus at which a nonphysical God could affect physical processes." It is the problem of divine action in the material creation, and the dualistic context in which it is usually framed makes the resolution of the problem nearly impossible.


Jonathan R. Bryan , Ph.D., is a Professor of Geology and Oceanography at Northwest Florida State College, and a vocational deacon at Immanuel Anglican Church, Destin, Florida. An early award winner in the Templeton Foundation Science & Religion Course Program, he developed and taught Issues in Science & Religion at NWFSC for 15 years. He is the senior author of Roadside Geology of Florida and a licensed professional geologist in Florida.

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