Heresy in a Theological Debate

– Tom Uytterhoeven –

Yesterday, May 22th, I presented a paper “Towards a Theology of Toolmaking”, on a conference on Nature, Technology and Religion, in which I use Philip Hefner’s concept of ‘Created Co-Creator’ as a starting point for further reflections on technology. It went alright, considering I only slept for 3-4 hours the night before (I suffer from a mild form of insomnia, regularly having a few nights in which I almost don’t sleep until I’m completely exhausted, after which I return to a normal sleeping pattern), and I will develop the paper further. Received some good, interesting comments (e.g. read Heidegger on Gelassenheit to develop my thoughts on the relation between technology and theology further).

But at one point someone called my position “a heresy” because I mentioned God has a purpose with creation (I assume the speaker thought that’s a priori synonymous with predestination). That made me think on how (not) to engage in theological debate. Regardless whether e.g. Philip Hefner makes the fallacy of predestination or not – which I think he doesn’t, stressing human freedom and responsibility as he does, and giving sufficient attention to a balanced view on grace as he does – using the heresy-argument is definitely on my “don’t-list”. It immediately short-circuits the debate, putting a big red stamp on the accused. I think there is a difference between pointing out unclarities, (theo)logical inconsistencies, etc. in someone’s argument, and calling him or her a heretic. If we accept the heresy argument in a theological debate, which should be about exploring new possibilities, trying out new perspectives, we have to admit that theology in the end cannot truly be a free, academic enterprise. I think it’s McCauley who made that point recently.

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