Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 14, Issue 10/12, 2004

From Globalization to Synergy of Dialogue and Universalisms

Wacław Hryniewicz
Pages 9-23

Hope for Man and the Universe. On Some Forgotten Aspects of Christian Universalism

The paper attempts to show that Christian hope is not a product of religious fantasy. It finds today an ally in the dialogue with the natural sciences which started in recent years on the topic of the ultimate destiny of the world. The natural sciences have confirmed that the universe is doomed to physical annihilation. Humanity with its cultural riches, scientists say, is only an episode in universal history and doomed to perish. Hence, if the Earth is nothing more than an island of rationality in a cosmic void, then the only thing we can do is to keep up a heroic attitude worthy of human beings towards our own fragile existence. Contemporary science’s visions of the future are pessimistic: abundant, though short-lived, evolution culminating in a sense of final futility and the ultimate destruction of all life in the universe. Such forecasts question religion’s claims for the eschatological transformation of all creation. Christian eschatology does not accept, however, reductionist presuppositions about the very nature of reality. The universe contains levels of meaning far richer than what we have been able to discover so far. Theology’s task is not to provide easy consolation, or generate false hopes. It has a good reason to avoid catastrophism, and maintain calm in its strivings to keep up our faith in God’s concern for the destiny of all His creatures. Theologians have to take a serious stand on the very concept of finitude, furthered by natural and social sciences. This, in turn, will require critical review of such concepts as the world’s future in God, hope and new creation. This effort must be undertaken in dialogue with the scientific views of the world’s finitude. Both sides are prone to stereotype judgements and shallow answers which must be corrected in consideration of the complexity of the issue at hand. Christian theology has to justify its claim to truth, but certainly not by launching battles with science. Christian hope shows the new creation not as annihilation and destruction of the old but as its ultimate transfiguration and salvific transformation. It speaks about the paradox of continuity/discontinuity in this new universe’s emergence. Special attention is paid in the paper to the “logical” structure of matter. If the world of ultimate events is, in fact, to be a new world of the resurrection, created by transition into new reality, then certain scientific suggestions and data on the present world’s processes could prove helpful in grasping the truly cosmic dimensions of Christian hope. Crucial here will not so much be particular data but rather a sort of meta-science allowing the deduction of general concepts from the detailed achievements of scientific research. Such generalized insights include today the following elements: 1) the dynamic concept of physical reality, 2) the relationality of its processes and, 3) a deeper understanding of the complexity of matter/energy as carriers of a specific information-bearing pattern. It appears that there are some similarities in science’s and theology’s strivings for a deeper understanding of the truth of reality, which continues to evade our theories and teaches us modesty. Neither method nor concept has yet managed to explain everything. There exists no universal key to a comprehensive interpretation. The postulate to avoid reductionism in approaching the manifold richness of reality is addressed to scientists and theologians alike.