UP receives a collection of books to enhance theology and science debates

Posted on April 09, 2013

There are two South African tertiary institutions, the universities of South Africa (Unisa) and Cape Town (UCT), that have been engaged in scholarly research on the topic of the interface between empirical science and religion, but the Faculty of Theology at UP is the only place where the debate is explicitly pursued as a research niche.

The Head of the Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, Prof Danie Veldsman, explained the importance that the Faculty attaches to the interface between science and religion, a topic that has been widely researched by theologians locally and internationally. His Department has developed a specific interest in the topic and intends establishing it as a research niche. ‘The impact of empirical science on theology has to date related directly and deeply to the credibility of all theological reflections,’ he said.

The donation of the book collection came about as a result of an application to the ISSR by the Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Prof Johan Buitendag. The reviewing of the application underwent competitive adjudication and UP faced stiff competition from many reputable institutions. The University has now joined a select group of only 150 institutions worldwide to receive a full set of these books, consisting of volumes covering all areas of science and spirituality.

Prof Buitendag said that there has long been an acrimonious relationship between science and faith. Instead of conflict or even contrast, he pursues a relationship of convergence that goes beyond the former two. This could be seen as a collective endeavour by systematic theology and other sciences to understand reality. ‘Such a constructive empiricism could indeed lead to an understanding of reality where reality is more than idealistically conceived. In my view, truth is therefore to be replaced with a pragmatic, yet value-laden concept of understanding,’ said Prof Buitendag.

Prof Buitendag said the classical view that empirical science answers the what question and theology the why question is totally inadequate, hence the endeavours of many researchers of both theology and the empirical sciences to find a synthesis of the why and what in order to come to grips with reality.

Prof Buitendag also emphasised the importance of interdisciplinary research and the contribution this endowment makes towards this end.

The Director of the Department of Library Services at the University of Pretoria, Mr Robert Moropa, acknowledged the initiative taken by Prof Buitendag to apply for the book collection which resulted in the Library’s acquisition of reference material on science and theology. ‘This puts us on par with many of the finest university libraries in the world,’ he said. He added that the acquisition of the books strengthens the partnership that the University’s Department of Library Services has with the faculties, especially the Faculty of Theology.

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