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Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming-Natural, Divine and Human (Theology and the Sciences) (Theology & the Sciences) Paperback – December 1, 1993

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Product Details

  • Series: Theology & the Sciences
  • Paperback: 452 pages
  • Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Publishers; Enl Sub edition (December 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800627598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800627591
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #639,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I found this book to be very engaging and full of ideas that either confirmed many things I had been thinking for years or stretched me further along. I highly recommend it to those interested in an intellectually compelling development of a scientifically-informed theology. My only criticism of the book is that I found it a bit laborious to read, as Peacocke's writing style is, to me, overly wordy, and the language is somewhat stilted. Nevertheless, it is definitely a volume worth reading and thinking about.

Peacocke's basic premise is that theology, for it to remain alive and relevant, cannot ignore the knowledge generated by science and must find ways to embrace it and incorporate it into its concepts of God and its understanding of the meaning of the life of Jesus Christ. Peacocke's approach requires that the integrity of scientific knowledge be preserved in theology. He sees the orderliness of how the physical universe operates as a characteristic of God that is to be revered. This also, however, makes it necessary to be careful in understanding miracles and not to accept the breaking of normal physical laws naïvely or literally. He calls his approach "critical realism".

Peacocke accepts evolution as God's way of creating life and very meaningfully depicts the ongoing nature of this process as God's continuing interaction with creation. He calls this divine "becoming", as contrasted with God's nature or "being". He conceives God's interaction with the world as a top-down causation, but this does not interfere with the orderly functioning of physical processes or with human free will.
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Genesis vs. Geology? Creationism vs. Darwinism? Religious ["spiritual'] people who accept Evolution do not have a dog in this fight. The ultimate encompassing Mystery beyond the reach of strict scientific tools seems to be using the chance and selection of evolution to progress to more desirable forms of being. [Rather be pig, paramecium, or person?] If you are interested is seeing how someone who rejects both dogmatic fundamentalisms--Biblical Literalism and Materialist metaphysics masquerading as pure science--can relate science and religion in what Ian Barbour calls creative dialogue and integration, this is a book for you.

Peacocke--trained scientist and theologian--shows the limitations of reductive scientism [scientific imperialism] and its inability to answer questions which arise at the limiting edges of legitimate scientific inquiry [e.g.: What was going on before the "Big Bang"? How do minds influence brains and bodies?] He suggests the clue to the nature of God's causal relation to the World is the mind-body relation in human persons. In both we have "top-down [rather than "bottom-up"] causation at work. More complex wholes exercise constraints upon simpler parts. He illuminates, but does not quite explain, what he calls the 'causal joint' between minds and bodies, and between God and the World. He finds panentheism helpful, but not altogether convincing. The fulfillment of human life is to participate with God in our sacramental universe [pp.342-45]. See Ian Barbour, Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues, and his later When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners?
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Format: Paperback
No amount of superlatives can do this book justice. The marvelous thing about it is that it addresses a huge range of topics - no stone is left unturned as Peacocke sticks very close to his purpose and analyzes what today's science means for theology. Topics discussed include sociobiology and morality, multiverses and imaginary time, philosophy of mind and science, theories of divine action, attributes of God, virgin birth, resurrection, Christology (incl. divinity of Christ), theories of atonement (he is sympathetic to Abelard's moral influence theory).

Let me reiterate that the strength of the book is that it leaves no stone unturned and provides a complete, coherent Christian worldview. I have read many books that only deal with, say, evolution or morality or philosophy of mind, but never all at the same time. As a result, my worldview was rather shaky, with some strong coherent parts but other views from traditional theology that are untenable in a scientific age. Peacocke addressed it all, from a basic argument for God to a precise analysis of the human problem (sin) and how Christ atones. It likely averted a crisis of faith.

One note: this same virtue means that many of your traditional beliefs will be challenged. I was very shocked and angry at times as *inter alia* (a favorite phrase of Peacocke, BTW; means "among other things") many miracles, the virgin birth, a literal adam and eve and thus a "paradisical" perfect state, an intrinsically immortal soul, and God's direct communication (not mediated by natural means) were all confronted head on, scientifically dismantled, and shown to be incoherent.
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