- Series: Yale Nota Bene
- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (April 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300092113
- ISBN-13: 978-0300092110
- Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,354,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The God of Hope and the End of the World 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
In the 1990s, Polkinghorne (Belief in God in an Age of Science) met regularly with an interdisciplinary group of scholars to address what Christian theology and scientific inquiry might have to say about the end of the world. In 2000, the group issued an essay collection, The End of the World and the Ends of God, but they also assigned Polkinghorne to write a briefer, more accessible volume about their work for the general reader. The excellence of this book shows that their faith in Polkinghorne as a writer and theologian was not misplaced. Polkinghorne argues that the world will not end with some grand attainment of human perfection, "but in the whimper of cold decay or the bang of fiery collapse." Either alternative "is a challenge to which theology must respond." In the opening chapters, he posits that a credible eschatological Christian theology will include both continuity and discontinuity; in other words, the new world God creates will have some similarities with this one, but it will also be a truly unique creation. This fascinating argument is followed by chapters on biblical precedents for eschatology. Polkinghorne is the first to admit that he is not a biblical scholar, but he does a fine job of crystallizing difficult concepts. He does this not through storytelling or personal anecdotes, but through a careful yet concise explication of ideas. Readers interested in the ongoing explorations of Christian faith and cosmology will not want to miss this volume, particularly since Polkinghorne takes on fellow theology-and-science writers such as Arthur Peacocke.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* The rarest of hybrids, theoretical physicist and Anglican priest Polkinghorne sees in modern cosmology's grim predictions of universal decay the absolute necessity for a theological affirmation of human hope. That hope, he insists, depends upon the faithfulness of God, as revealed in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. To decipher what that miracle means for humanity and all other creatures, Polkinghorne scours the scriptural record, weighing not only the astonishing words but also their disquieting emotional tone. Surprisingly, Polkinghorne consults pioneering information theorists in interpreting these ancient texts. The puzzlement, even fear, of early witnesses of the risen Lord Polkinghorne regards as the understandable human reaction to the first-ever glimpse of a transformed and glorified life that transcended the natural cosmos and that will eventually redeem it. And modern science offers help in explaining how that transformed life could inhere in souls that--through God's grace--survive death as information-bearing patterns. Through this highly sophisticated exegesis, Polkinghorne thus reclaims a Christian doctrine--that of the physical Resurrection--discounted by many modern theologians as impossibly literal and naive. Though the casually religious will find him too technical, thoughtful Christians will find much to praise in this modern Aquinas. Bryce Christensen
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Polkinghorne then goes on to support his thesis. Although it draws its inspiration from an earlier collection of essays by a number of authors, this book stands on its own quite nicely.
For Polkinghorne, a foundation of the discussion "is the necessity of an interplay between continuity and discontinuity in speaking of God's purposes beyond the end of history." (p. xxiii) "There must be sufficient continuity to ensure that individuals truly share in the life to come as their resurrected selves and not as new beings simply given the old names. There must be sufficient discontinuity to ensure that the life to come is free from the suffering and mortality of the old creation." (p. 149)
"The equally necessary continuity between the old and new creations lies in the fact that the latter is the redeemed transform of the former. The pattern for this is the resurrection of Christ where . . . the Lord's risen body is the eschatological transform of his dead body. This implies that the new creation does not arise from a radically novel creative act ex nihilo, but as a redemptive act ex vetere, out of the old. God's total creative intent is seen to be intrinsically a two-step process: first the old creation, allowed to explore and realize its potentiality at some metaphysical distance from its Creator; then the redeemed new creation which, through the Cosmic Christ, is brought into a freely embraced and intimate relationship with the life of God." (p. 116)
"Therefore, we must expect that there will be a destiny for the whole universe beyond its death, just as there will be a post mortem destiny for humankind. We have seen that two remarkable New Testament passages (Romans 8:18-25; Colossians 1:15-20) do indeed speak of cosmic redemption." (p. 113)
Along the way, Polkinghorne offers his scientist-theologian thoughts on an intermediate state between death and resurrection, universalism, and annihilationism.
The book has footnotes instead of endnotes (as should be the case for all books) and a three-page Index.
I recommend it for any Christian interested in how to think about the end of the world from a scientist-theologian's point of view.
Of course, as mentioned before, the author in an Anglican priest, so he writes from the Christian perspective. But there is no hint of dogmatism in what he has to say; and no apologies or lack of conviction either. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his ideas, they are stimulating. For example, in contast to most earlier theologians who speculated that any future existence must be beyond time, and thus an eternal Now, Polkinghorne points out that human beings are creatures of space and time, that cherished art-forms such as music require time, and proposes that any redeemed universe would contain some type of both space and time. Although he does not, of course, claim to know what a redeemed time would be like, he envisions the new creation as having its own history. Though it would be a history of fulfilment rather than becoming. And it would be based on the template set by the old universe, tho the new would have God as the direct underlying basis of it, rather than the laws of physics as now, based as they are on death and decay, as well as on life and creation.
To the sceptics who bemoan the seemingly inevitable boredom of an eternal existence, Polkinghorne agrees that from our current perspective, even the most fanatical golf enthusiast might begin to tire of it after his millionth game. But the new creation he looks for would be one in which everyone could explore the endless beauties, interests, and possibilities of God's truly infinite, endless nature. In such a state, there would be a tension between continuity and discontinuity: for both the universe as a whole and the resurrected beings within it,the new life would have to be substantially different from the old. At the same time, the redeemed would truly have to be continuations of what they were in this existence, not just copies. Only in this way can redemption really be redemption. All in all, this is a book that should be read by anyone curious about a modern Christian perspective on eschatological questions.
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From chapter one, first line second paragraph, we have: “The universe* as we know it today emerged...Read more