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Theology in the Context of Science Paperback – April 20, 2010
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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.
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.Read more ›