What science? who’s theology? : a reformed theological response to Andrew Newberg’s neurotheological model

Du Toit, Dubois (2016-03-01)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Religious, mystical and spiritual experiences are some of the most important and complex experiential qualities of human life. It has always been our greatest endeavour to make sense of our reality, and these experiences have permeated our theories, analogies and theologies since the beginning. The rise of the modern scientific enterprise has given us access to previously unattainable perspectives and insights into just how significantly these experiences influence us on a psycho-somatic level. In no other field of study has this investigation seen more prominent development than in the neural sciences. Their studies and findings gave us the opportunity to engage our experiences critically, but researchers started asking questions regarding the experiences’ causal nexus as well – where some even dismissed them as an evolutionary by-product of brain function. In reaction to this position, a new field of study emerged that endeavours to reconcile the scientific study and theology of these experiences, namely, neurotheology. Andrew Newberg, a proponent of neurotheology, is currently spearheading an attempt to establish neurotheology as a autonomous discipline. However, his perspectives on the goals, principles and neurological basis of a neurotheology raise some concern from both the scientific and theological communities. Thus, it will be the task of this study to critically evaluate Newberg’s neurotheology from different interactive perspectives, while focussing on the relevance of its contribution and possible relationship with regards to neuroscience and theology. In order to undertake this task it is necessary to provide a few frameworks which will be able to accommodate neurotheology, neuroscience and theology. An argument will be made for the specific use of a cognitive neuroscientific and critical reformed theological model with respect to the unique thrust of this study.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Godsdienstige, mistieke en spirituele ervaringe is van die belangrikste en mees komplekse ervarings-kwaliteite van die mensdom. Dit was nog altyd ons grootste strewe om sin te maak van ons werklikheid. Hierdie ervaringe het van die begin af ons teoretiese, analogiese en teologiese refleksies deurspek. Met die opkoms van die moderne wetenskap het ons toegang verkry tot voorheen verskuilde perspektiewe en insigte, tot hoe noemenswaardig die psigosomatiese impak van hierdie ervaringe op ons is. In geen ander studieveld het hierdie ondersoek meer prominente vooruitgang getoon as in die neurale wetenskappe nie. Hul studies en bevindings het ons die geleentheid gegee om krities om te gaan met ons ervaringe, maar die navorsers het begin vra na die kousaliteit hierin betrokke – dit het sommige gelei om die ervarings bloot te ontslaan as ’n byproduk van die brein se funksie. In reaksie hiertoe het ’n nuwe veld ontluik wat streef om die wetenskaplike studie en die teologie van hierdie ervaringe te versoen, naamlik, neuroteologie. Andrew Newberg, ’n voorstander van neuroteologie, is tans besig met ’n poging om neuroteologie te bevestig as ’n navorsingsveld uit eie reg. Sy perspektiewe op die doelstellings, beginsels en neurale begronding van neuroteologie het egter kommer gewek vanuit die wetenskaplike en teologiese gemeenskappe. Dit sal dus die taak van hierdie studie wees om Newberg se neuroteologie krities te evalueer vanaf verskeie interaktiewe perspektiewe, terwyl daar gefokus word op die relevansie van sy bydrae en die moontlike verhouding ten opsigte van neurowetenskap en die teologie. Met die blik op hierdie onderneming sal dit nodig wees om ’n aantal raamwerke te voorsien wat in staat sal wees om neuroteologie, neurowetenskap en teologie te akkommodeer. ’n Argument sal gemaak word vir die spesifieke gebruik van ’n kognitiewe neurowetenskaplike en ’n kritiese gereformeerde teologiese model, met betrekking tot die unieke invalshoek van hierdie studie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98707
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