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Theology in the Context of Science Paperback – April 20, 2010

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Gifts of the Dark Wood: Seven Blessings for Soulful Skeptics (and Other Wanderers) by Eric Elnes
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An important contribution to theology, successfully showing the role that scientific knowledge must play in theological work."-Keith Ward, Oxford University

About the Author

John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, is fellow and retired president, Queens’ College, Cambridge University. He was founding president of the International Society for Science and Religion and in 2002 was awarded the Templeton Prize. The author of numerous books, he lives in Cambridge, UK.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300164564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300164565
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,122,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is intended primarily for theology students and practicing theologians. However, if the general reader can get through the first fifty pages, (s)he will be rewarded with brief, insightful discussions of open theology, complex systems, quantum physics, the "new" natural theology, the anthropic principle, multiverses, theodicy, and divine providence.

Chapter six (Motivated Belief) is particularly good. In it, Polkinghorne describes his motivations for his religious beliefs, which do not consist of "irrational acceptance of unquestionable propositions," but rather two kinds of motivation: (1) "general aspects of the human encounter with reality," and (2) "the particularities of personal experience, including . . . specific acts of divine disclosure expressed through uniquely significant events and persons."

Even though it starts out slowly, I highly recommend this book for science-minded readers seeking to integrate Christian faith with their scientific worldview. Plus there is quote near the top of p.71 that is almost worth the price of the book, particularly if you enjoy understated British humour.
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By Eric O on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first of this author's books that I have read. I'm glad I started with it as the text has more of a "step back and look" perspective to it, giving some of the "why?" answers.
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Format: Hardcover
Polkinghorne is the John McCain of science: a man of good sense and many virtues, among which dazzling communication skills are not especially prominent. The writing style here seems especially cumbersome; I enjoyed his Faith of a Physicist more. Maybe that was also because he's recycling some old ideas in this book. As a writer myself, I don't blame him for that -- but the amount of original material in this book seemed rather low.

Most of what he says seems sensible. For example, instead of simply repeating cliches about "the arrow of time," he points out that there are "four such arrows:" "cosmic history," thermodynamics, increase in organization, and our psychological sense of moving forward in time. Though logically distinct, they all point in the same direction, suggesting that the direction of time is not just a matter of perspective.

Polkinghorne is also sensible (and informed) when writing about theology:

"The writers of the NT were driven to use both human and divine categories as they sought to express their experience of the risen Christ, without being able to give a coherent reconciliation of the seeming paradox involved."

That is, indeed, what the Gospels look like: a scattering of raw data by some historical "Big Bang," that the first Christians are trying to bring together and sort into cognitive galaxies -- theological postulates. (I think I'm borrowing a metaphor P uses elsewhere.)

Like McCain, Polkinghorne is a moderate, reconciling the insights of science and theology, trying to be fair to both:

"The notion of a plain text with a single meaning may suit the cookery book, but it will not do for writing that sets out to explore the multiple richness and depth of reality, either human or divine.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
ONE of the most perplexing and indeed, \difficult issue for this writer has been reconciling science and religion,spirituality.I NOW REALIZE I WAS SEEKING AN EXPLANATION WHICH RATIONALLY DISSOLVED THEIR DIFFERENCES SO FAITH WOULD BE REDUCED TO SOMETHING WITHIN MY CONTROL.SUCH IS FOLLY,THERE IS NO WAY AND JP MAKES THIS ABUNUNTLY CLEAR. FAITH CANNOT EXIST APART FROM MYSTERY.
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