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A revived natural theology

Chapter

Abstract

A Conference with the title ‘One World’ (which seems to me to be a very good title!) is bound to reject the idea that science and theology coexist in insulated separation. Yet this is, perhaps, the most widespread of the variety of mistaken views currently held about their mutual relationship. It has a certain specious plausibility. Science is concerned with matter, with asking the mechanistic question ‘How?’; theology is concerned with spirit, with asking the teleological question ‘Why?’. Each, therefore, has its own domain, its own language (indeed, its own language game, in the Wittgensteinian sense). So the story goes, and it leads to a modus vivendi, in which science is allocated its role in a public domain of fact, whilst theology is relegated to a private domain of opinion. (‘True for me’ is the best that it can aspire to.) Lesslie Newbigin has eloquently warned us of the dangers of such a compromise1. The true God is not a private, existentially-meaningful symbol; he is the Lord of all that is — the God of science as well as the God of the soul. Such a compartmentalised view of the relation between science and theology would be false to history. The two disciplines have always interacted with each other. One has only to think of the changes in the tone of theological discourse brought about by Darwinism and by discoveries of physical cosmology, to get the point. Necessarily science and theology impinge upon each other because, inescapably, they meet in us. We are both evolved physical systems, with a continuous history stretching back over thousands of millions of years, and also, if Christianity is true, men and women for whom Christ died. Science and theology just cannot be treated in isolation from each other.

Keywords

Physical World Grand Unify TheorieS Downward Causation Natural Theology Classical Dynamical System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    L. Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, S.P.C.K., 1986.Google Scholar
  2. 2a.
    P. Davies, God and the New Physics, Dent, 1983;Google Scholar
  3. 2b.
    H. Montefiore, The Probability of God, S.C.M. Press, 1985;Google Scholar
  4. 2c.
    A.R. Peacocke, Creation and the World of Science, Oxford University Press, 1979;Google Scholar
  5. 2e.
    J.C. Polkinghorne, One world, S.P.C.K., 1986,Google Scholar
  6. 2f.
    J.C. Polkinghorne, Science and Creation, S.P.C.K., 1988.Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    Davies, op. cit, p. ix.Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    B. Lonergan, Insight, Longman, 1957, p. 684.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    J. Barrow and F. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, 1986; see also Montefiore, op. cit..Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    J. Monod, Chance and Necessity, Collins, 1972, p. 110.Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    W.H. Vanstone, Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense, Darton/Longman and Todd, 1977, p. 63.Google Scholar
  12. 8.
    The material in this section is taken from: J.C. Polkinghorne, Science and Providence, S.P.C.K., 1989.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    W. Pollard, Chance and Providence, Faber, 1958.Google Scholar
  14. 10.
    J.C. Eccles would not agree.Google Scholar
  15. 11.
    Similarly, Heisenberg’s epistemological argument for the uncertainty principle has led the majority of physicists to embrace an ontological uncertainty for quantum entities; see J.C. Polkinghorne, The Quantum World, Longman, 1984.Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    A.R. Peacocke, God and the New Biology, Dent, 1986, p. 28.Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    I. Prigogine and I. Stengers, Order out of Chaos, Heineman, 1984, p. 16.Google Scholar
  18. 14.
    ibid., p. 300.Google Scholar
  19. 15.
    J.V. Taylor, The Go-between God, S.C.M. Press, 1972, p. 28.Google Scholar
  20. 16.
    M. Wiles, God’s Interaction with the World, S.C.M. Press, 1986, p. 100.Google Scholar
  21. 17.
    A. Farrer, A Science of God?, Geoffrey Bles, 1966, p. 87.Google Scholar
  22. 18a.
    J.C. Polkinghorne, Science and Creation, S.P.C.K., 1988, pp. 97–98.Google Scholar
  23. 18b.
    W.B. Drees, physicist and theologian, Staff member of Bezinningscentrum (Interdisciplinary centre for the study of science, society and religion), Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeEngland

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