The school of Athens by Raphael Sanzio, presents as a representative fresco of the Renaissance, that period of cultural renewal and intellectual stimulation, that forms the foundation of Europe as a civilization. At the center of the mural, stand Plato and Aristotle, represented with contrasting attitudes: Plato is painted as Leonardo da Vinci, with his finger pointing upward, towards Heaven, and with Timaeus in his left hand; Aristotle is represented with his hand pointing downward, towards the Earth, and with Ethics in his left hand. Both figures stand as giants and influential persons in Greek philosophy, representing in their differing concerns, the contrasting orientations present within philosophical inquiry: the desire for transcendence, for an elevation beyond the temporal life in a rational attempt to surpass the powers of reason; and the movement towards immanence, in a love for the natural world that recognizes the inherent value of temporal life and of the physical world. Both orientations, are present within the Christian religion, in the recognition that, despite the utter transcendence of God and of the catastrophe of history, the world is inherently good.
In the present climate, it appears though, that, it is rationalism that reigns supreme. It is an epistemological position according to which, human reason is the sole criterion of truth and the final arbiter on reality itself, setting aside, the realm of divine Reason, to the unknowable. Because of rationalism, it is the materialism of atheistic positivism that is the organizing framework according to which, the natural world is understood: in other words, science presents itself as the final authority on knowledge and the most reliable source towards arriving at a truth, that in reality, is provisional. Behind an inductive logic that organizes its series of experiments, it investigates nature, thus, limiting all of reality to that which can be experienced by the senses; in the end, reality is limited to a universe of time and space, matter and energy, setting aside the qualified reality of Eternity that figures as irrational, for it cannot be brought under the power of quantity, of a scientific experiment.
It is evident, that, what is needed, is a science that bridges the gap, the frontier, between religious metaphysics and naturalism, a natural theology, for that fact, that can succeed in transitioning beyond the paradigms of natural science, the provisional nature of scientific truth, that seems to leave nothing as definite, but instead, constantly leads to the denial of Truth – Negation. The form of natural theology that is needed, evidently considers, all forms of life as the fruit of a Divine Creation, of an Intelligent Design, that conceives, natural history as directed towards a sensible goal, a purpose hidden in the life of man, in the cycles of civilization, in the trajectory of culture. There is needed, in fact, the recognition of the Logos, as the ordering principle of the universe, of a force and of a power that unifies reality, and that grants the universe, the power to evolve, and move beyond itself, in a law of being that is generous, that seeks to diffuse itself, communicate its life and its attributes, and generate within nature, new life; a principle, that, truly orients towards the recognition that an Eternal Law guides the world, according to the designs of necessity and freedom.
A natural theology, is the necessary development within natural science, it is in fact, its tangent, for the simple realization that, there is a purpose hidden within the universe, that governs its evolution and that directs human civilization. Man, needs to sense that he is a part of the universe, that he can not only experiment on nature, study and understand it, but also commune with its forces for the good of his species, but also, for the intellectual integration of the cosmic powers of the universe under one rational concept: the Word. The natural world, is alive, teeming with a power that animates it, and that is communicated to all forms of life. The human person necessitates a novel, a fresh conception of nature, that elevates it from its inertia, the inertia and the chaos of matter, into a sensible order, that recognizes the universe as the product of an Intelligent Design, and not of chance, nor mutation. Only by the recognition of this reality, is it possible to recover a sense of humanism, of an optimism that values the human person and that sees the possible in human life, in an ideal that transcends the temporal life, and infuses it with purpose and Divinity.