Science, Philosophy and Theology as Studying One Reality

Saint Augustine of Hippo
Saint Augustine of Hippo

Science studies what is detectable by normal human sensation extended by tools such as microscopes, telescopes and mathematics. We call the objects of such bodily investigation the “physical” realm. The Catechism characterises the physical discoveries of modern science in this way:

The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that… creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other… The order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. Man discovers them progressively as the laws of nature (340-1).

Positing such natures and patterns is to begin “metaphysics”. This studies what these physical relationships and our knowledge of them tell us about what lies beyond. It asks: “What founds the physical realm?” In the Catholic tradition, the non-physical (spiritual) realities which we thereby discern are God himself, angels and the human soul.

Theology studies what God personally and publicly revealed to us about creation, about ourselves, and about Himself, ultimately in and through becoming Man – the Incarnation. Doing theology therefore entails studying the Old and New Testaments and the teaching of the Church in its creeds and other doctrinal statements.

This revelation, as the highest Wisdom, synthesises and illuminates all the insights of the lower sciences. So, while scientific enquiry, philosophy and theology retain their own proper methods, there’s only one reality, illuminated by both reason and revelation.

YOUCAT says: “There is only one truth to which both faith and scientific reason refer. God intended reason, with which we can recognise the rational structures of the world, just as he intended faith. That is why the Christian faith demands and promotes the natural sciences” (23).

If the history of the world comes from the Mind of God, the “Word” of John 1:1, a synthesis of science, philosophy and theology must ultimately be possible.