John Templeton Foundation
Artwork above: The traditional image of The Old Testament Trinity was painted in tempra on wood, c. 1410, by the Russian monk and inconographer Andrei Rublev.
Home Approach Chair Participants
Purpose Contact: Mary Ann Meyers, Ph.D., Senior Fellow

The first in a series of symposia on "Relational Ontology in Science and Theology," the conversation taking place at The Academy of Athens will focus on the scientific domains of physics and mathematics. Its purpose is to begin a process of exploring the potentially wide-scale significance of developing relationality as an ontological concept. The long-term aim of the overall project is to stimulate progress in several areas of scientific research, as well as in theological research, by focusing intently on the task of generating new ideas for modeling reality with rigorous, nuanced, nonreductive descriptions of ways in which objects exist in their relations to or, indeed, in "communion" with one another. In our view, intellectual journeys must be undertaken in a number of discrete areas in any attempt to gain knowledge of the intrinsically paradoxical, "deep" aspects of reality in which rigorous description takes seriously the dynamics of relation, relativity/invariance, and entanglement. Within the domain of physics and mathematics, they include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Understanding quantum collective "emergent" phenomena;
  • Probing the deep mystery of the physical nature of time;
  • Advancing the quest for unification in physics, especially in quantum gravity/cosmology;
  • Evaluating Machian-relational theories of gravity and inertia;
  • Grasping the logic of the relativistic invariance structure of events in space and time;
  • Understanding non-local quantum reality, especially entanglement; and
  • Exploring complexity theory and the behavior of holistic systems.

In theology, two locus classicii for efforts to develop lessons from relational ontology involve:

  • Conceptualizing the relation of God and the world, including how that relationship may be articulated within the framework of "panentheism" in which the world is described as being emergent within the ground of being of the Divine Reality; and
  • Articulating a theology of the Trinity in which God is described as a community of love unifi ed in interrelation.

Under the aegis of the John Templeton Foundation in partnership with The Academy of Athens, twelve scholars and scientists have come together in Greece to wrestle with the need of both acknowledging the substantial
degree of relationality and interconnectedness in the conceptual world of modern physics while at the same time doing justice to our everyday experience of a significant degree of separability between objects in the macroscopic universe. As in theology, the challenge is to find some way of combining unity with difference since it is only to the extent that one can recognize a distinction between entities that one can also speak of their
being in communion.