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John C. Polkinghorne, internationally renowned priest-scientist, addresses fundamental questions about how scientific and theological worldviews relate to each other in this, the second volume (originally published in 1988) of his trilogy, which also included Science and Providence and One World.
Dr. Polkinghorne illustrates how a scientifically minded person approaches the task of theological inquiry, postulating that there exists a close analogy between theory and experiment in science and belief and understanding in theology. He offers a fresh perspective on such questions as: Are we witnessing today a revival a natural theology—the search for God through the exercise of reason and the study of nature? How do the insights of modern physics into the interlacing of order and disorder relate to the Christian doctrine of Creation? What is the relationship between mind and matter?
Polkinghorne states that the "remarkable insights that science affords us into the intelligible workings of the world cry out for an explanation more profound than that which it itself can provide. Religion, if it is to take seriously its claim that the world is the creation of God, must be humble enough to learn from science what that world is actually like.The dialogue between them can only be mutually enriching."
About the Author
John C. Polkinghorne is an Anglican priest, a fellow of the Royal Academy past president of Queens’ College, Cambridge University, and former professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge. Polkinghorne resigned his chair in physics to study for the Anglican priesthood. After completing his theological studies and serving at parishes, he returned to Cambridge. In 1997, Dr. Polkinghorne was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for distinguished service to science, religion, learning, and medical ethics. He was the recipient of the 2002 Templeton Prize. He lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
This volume, the second of a trilogy, begins where its predecessor, One World, left off - with natural theology. The author was formerly a professor of theoretical physics at Cambridge University but, since 1982, has been an Anglican priest. John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, admits quite honestly `I certainly cannot pretend to write as a professional theologian, but only as a scientist deeply interested in the understanding of religion.' As a scientist of considerably lower stature myself but also with an interest and some training in philosophy, to this extent I share a background with the author. The author says that `Theology cannot just be left to the theologians' because too often they ignore totally the findings of science and write as if their scriptures presented truth about the natural world. The remainder of this short book suggests how science can be used to provide evidence for the existence of the God of western religion.
Chapter 2, Insightful Inquiry, suggests how science and theology share the common objective of gaining `a coherent and satisfying understanding of the world in which we live.' Polkinghorne suggests that the anthropic principle, as well as the fortuitous values of the natural constants in the universe pointed out by Paul Davies, form part of the evidence of a beneficent God. Chapter 3 on Order and Disorder expands on this theme. Rather than the meaningless interpretation of Nature given by Jacques Monod's "Chance and Necessity", Polkinghorne says that the potentiality inherent in the properties of matter `is so remarkable as to constitute an insight of design present in the structure of the world.'
Chapter 4 on Creation and Creator takes us back to theology and Genesis.Read more ›
John Polkinghorne was (and is) a top physicist and he was ordained midlife and served a curacy in this city.
Although he is very orthodox, he isn’t fundamentalist when it comes to creation, seven days and all that.
Just as Islam teaches that Allah reveals himself through two books: the Holy Quran and the book of science, so this author is one of those who: believe in the unity of knowledge and who consequently think that theology must take account of all that we know about the world in the course of its inquiry.
We need to share that mystery that many scientists have already grasped: There has grown up a widespread feeling, especially among those who study fundamental physics, that there is more to the world than meets the eye. Science seems to throw up questions which point beyond itself and transcend its power to answer….. It is because we come to know God in His transcendental Majesty and Truth, and know Him to be greater than we can ever conceive or express, that we acknowledge the limitation and relativity of all our forms of thought and speech about Him. Theological knowledge is thus profoundly relative because it is relative to the Absolute.
Theology is not merely a secular subject, though I was indoctrinated to believe so: Worship and prayer is the context in which theology has to be practised; the academic departments of religious studies in our universities are like schools of science unfurnished with laboratories.
Otherwise, all our ideas about God are idolatrous. There are always prophets who challenge ideas that come from our seeking wish-fulfilment.Read more ›
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Polkinghorne talks about the theological and scientific paradigms by asking some very fundamental questions about how they relate to one another. Some of the questions he poses include what is the relationship between matter and mind, a subject I find extremely fascinating. How are the realms of "becoming" as we experience it and the world of "being" as he believes the way the world of physics describes it relate to God's involvement and the physical universe. How do the supposed insights of what he believes modern physics and the intertwining of order and disorder relate to the Christian doctrine of creation? These are some of the questions he asks and attempts to answer in this book. Notes at the end of the book, a bibliography and a subject index are most helpful.
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