Fortress Press

The Faith of a Physicist: Reflections of a Bottom-up Thinker

The Faith of a Physicist

Reflections of a Bottom-up Thinker

John Polkinghorne (Author)

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Review
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"It has become fashionable to write books with titles such as Religion in an Age of Science (Barbour), Theology for a Scientific Age (Peacocke), or Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (Murphy). They signify the recognition that the interaction between science and religious reflection is not limited to those topics (such as cosmic history) concerning which the two disciplines offer complementary insights. It involves also an engagement with habits of thought which are natural in a culture greatly influenced by the success of science. To take this stance is not to submit to slavery to the spirit of the age, but simply to acknowledge that we view things from where we stand, with all the opportunities and limitations inherent in that particular perspective. . . . My concern is to explore to what extent we can use the search for motivated understanding, so congenial to the scientific mind, as a route to being able to make the substance of Christian orthodoxy our own. Of course, there are some revisions called for in the process, but I do not find that a trinitarian and incarnational theology needs to be abandoned in favour of a toned-down theology of a Cosmic Mind and an inspired teacher, alleged to be more accessible to the modern mind. A scientist expects a fundamental theory to be tough, surprising and exciting.

"Throughout, my aim will be to seek an understanding based on a careful assessment of phenomena as the guide to reality. Just as I cannot regard science as merely an instrumentally successful manner of speaking which serves to get things done, so I cannot regard theology as merely concerned with a collection of stories which motivate an attitude to life. It must have its anchorage in the way things actually are, and the way they happen. . . . A bottom-up thinker is bound to ask, What makes you think this story is a verisimilitudinous account of Reality? The anchorage of Christianity in history is to be welcomed, despite its hazards. For me, the Bible is neither an inerrant account of propositional truth nor a compendium of timeless symbols, but a historically conditioned account of certain significant encounters and experiences. Read in that way, I believe it can provide the basis for a Christian belief with is certainly revised in the light of our twentieth-century insights but which is recognizably contained within an envelope of understanding in continuity with the developing doctrine of the Church throughout the centuries."
— from the introduction
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800629700
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 224
  • Publication Date February 12, 1996

Endorsements

"Based on his 1993-94 Gifford lectures, Polkinghorne's task here is to ask challenging questions of the contemporary scientific worldview and to show how the range of possible answers carries beyond biology to spirit and beyond physics to God. . . . The single most important work of his theological corpus."
— First Things

"An eloquent and enormously stimulating work, one that shows how 'faith seeking understanding' is not unlike a scientific quest."
— Wall Street Journal

"Especially valuable reading for Christian intellectuals who may be wondering whether they can fully embrace the best of contemporary science."
— Washington Times

"A scientific insider an no slouch at theology. . . . Polkinghorne steers a marvelously adept course between the Scylla of top-down theology and Charybdis of naive scientism."
— Commonweal

"If you are looking for easy and pat answers to difficult questions, you had better look elsewhere. John Polkinghorne's 'bottom-up' approach is entirely different from caricatures of religious thought. . . . Polkinghorne proceeds with laudable candor and intellectual integrity as he examines the credibility of major tenets of the Christian faith in the context of a contemporary, scientifically informed world picture."
— National Review

Table of Contents

    Acknowledgments
    Introduction
  1. Humanity
  2. Knowledge
  3. Divinity
  4. Creation
  5. Jesus
  6. Cruxifixion and Resurrection
  7. Son of God
  8. The Spirit and the Church
  9. Eschatology
  10. Alternatives
    Epilogue
    Glossary
    Bibliography
    Index
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