In his book Science, Truth and Democracy, scientific philosopher Philip Kitcher argues that the old way of doing science with its hierarchies, taxonomies and categories, such as could be applied to species, must be challenged. Did the species simply originate and we labeled them accordingly, or are our categories an attempt to organize and understand an overwhelming world? The problem with our firm categories is that we force new findings into them. This puts the integrity of the research and the findings at risk. Approaching the new data with our preconceived ideas and taxonomies compromises the whole process as well as the results. Also, the whole idea of species articulated by Darwin included the evolutionary process… that entities could develop, change and evolve. But if our categories are too rigid, it doesn’t allow for this. Kitcher suggests that we loosen our commitment to these categories in order to inject new energy into and open new horizons for scientific research.
Is it possible that the same thing must happen with theology and ecclesiology? Why are many of us still working with and within old categories that are obviously long outdated? Is it a possibility that, for instance, the strong reaction to Rob Bell’s and other modern writers’ ideas, is an old taxonomy competing with a new taxonomy? Do we sometimes oppose even the search for a new taxonomy?
So let’s take a hot example: Hell. The old category says one thing, with a physical place, flames and eternal suffering. But a new movement is afoot trying to understand the concept of Hell in a new way. Is it enough to simply chuck the whole idea because it is repugnant to us? Or should we continue our research until we discover a new way to understand and articulate the concept that isn’t offensive to the modern mind and conscience?
The same can be applied to sexuality. The old categories insist on married sex between a man and a woman only, and that if you don’t fit within this category then you are an abomination. But is there new research, evidence and findings that might suggest new categories are necessary that are more in keeping with the spirit of the text as well as with what is most beneficial to the human race?