As i understand you prothero, science can be elevated to the metaphysics of the machine. But in accepting the power and worth and insight of science, we do not have to
raise it to that metaphysical grand narrative. So, can the metaphysical belief in god still be maintained in the modern (post modern) context, while still keeping qualities of love and power....... and personal two way relationship? If so how is it modified?
Prior to science the laws of nature were open to the will of the gods such that a god could not only will a great flood ..... but the flood was understood as gods will. With spiritual intent. Science shows that we can now understand many natural phenomena without that scheme of understanding, but actually something akin to
physical mechanism. Although for some this of course gets rid of the need for god also, for others it places god in a new context.
God created nature. Nature has its physical laws, and we abide by them whether we believe in god or not. Immediately though, for those who believe in god (and accept science as generally true of the physical world) god would have to actively interfere in the world either in a way that we might conceivably scientifically detect his interference because the laws of nature would be violated, or that the laws of nature are not entirely fixed. There is good evidence for the latter being quite possible. Nevertheless if god acts in a way that generally does not violate the laws of nature, then why the laws of nature? Why science?
What also follows from the latter is that we are probably therefore as humans, limited to what we can do generally by the laws of nature. It seems very much that way. So science reveals the constraints and context of physicalism for us, and quite probably god too. However, if nature is not fixed in time, but flexible enough to respond to some extent to our will and desires then moderns should recognise that also. It is quite possibly neither extreme. Neither fixed nor completely free.
So why would god create us in a world where science is generally true and our freedom is limited?
This brings in the aspect of a personal god. We are limited and god is also limited (maybe by gods choice) in how the relationship can manifest itself in this universe. It may be that because of our limitations with regard to free will and spiritual power that god relates back to us in the same way.
So what of natural and man made suffering? The abuse and terribly painful death for example of small children?
Well first of all we are not gods. We are limited. We suffer not least because of those limitations. God created us (at least temporarily) in this way. Why science, why limit our abilities?
Well is it temporary? This is a big question. Does it make sense to conceive of a loving powerful personal god who creates us with limitations, pain that will necessarily ensue from those limitations AND thats all we get? ie no afterlife, here or elsewhere.
Thats difficult for us. Those who believe in god have a strong tendency to believe in an afterlife. An afterlife with limitations and suffering? Well thats more of the same, so the afterlife is potentially
without this level of suffering. That means an afterlife that does not comply with science, because science reveals painful limitation.
There is of course the buddhist option of enlightenment whereby we return to limitation but do not suffer because suffering is not necessarily
tied to limitation of free will and desire. But its still afterlife through reincarnation. And that does not negate the suffering of the unenlightened child.
Suffering in this world, through limitation (physical or spiritual). It has always been the key question to a personal relationship with a god.
The pain of birth? A necessary consequence of not being a god? A right of passage? I think these are still the spiritual concepts we have to wrestle with. They directly relate how we behave now
to our afterlife.
The afterlife blows science out of the water as a metaphysical philosophy.