The second talk was by J. Wentzel van Huyssteen, a Professor ofÂ Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, and it was an instance of Â â€œtheological anthropology,â€ full of earnest gobbledygook about embodied minds and larded with evolutionary tidbits drawn from Frans de Waal, Steven Mithen and others.Â In the discussion period I couldnâ€™t stand it any more and challenged the speakers: â€œIâ€™m Dan Dennett, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and we are forever being told that we should do our homework and consult with the best theologians. Iâ€™ve heard two of you talk now, and you keep saying this is an interdisciplinary effortâ€”evolutionary theologyâ€”but I am still waiting to be told what theology has to contribute to the effort. Youâ€™ve clearly adjusted your theology considerably in the wake of Darwin, which I applaud, but what traffic, if any, goes in the other direction? Is there something Iâ€™m missing? What questions does theology ask or answer that arenâ€™t already being dealt with by science or secular philosophy? What can you clarify for this interdisciplinary project?â€ (Words to that effect)Â Neither speaker had anything to offer, but van HuyssteenÂ blathered on for a bit without, however,Â offering any instances of theological wisdom that every scientist interested in the Big Questions should have in his kit.
But I learned a new word: â€œkenoticâ€ as in kenotic theology. It comes from the Greek word kenosis meaning â€˜self-emptying.â€™ Honest to God. This new kenotic theology is all the rage in some quarters, one gathers, and it is â€œmore deeply Christian for being more adapted to Darwinism.â€ (Iâ€™m not making this up.) I said that I was glad to learn this new word and had to say that I was tempted by the idea that kenotic theology indeed lived up to its name.
From Dan’s report on the “symposia on faith and religion” sponsored by The John Templeton Foundation as part of the Darwin bash at Cambridge University: