Belief in God in an Age of Science

John Polkinghorne

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March 30, 1998
150 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300072945
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Published with assistance from the Louis Stern Memorial Fund

Out of Print

John Polkinghorne is a major figure in today’s debates over the compatibility of science and religion. Internationally known as both a theoretical physicist and a theologian—the only ordained member of the Royal Society—Polkinghorne brings unique qualifications to his inquiry into the possibilities of believing in God in an age of science. In this thought-provoking book, the author focuses on the collegiality between science and theology, contending that these "intellectual cousins" are both concerned with interpreted experience and with the quest for truth about reality. He argues eloquently that scientific and theological inquiries are parallel.

The book begins with a discussion of what belief in God can mean in our times. Polkinghorne explores a new natural theology and emphasizes the importance of moral and aesthetic experience and the human intuition of value and hope. In other chapters, he compares science’s struggle to understand the nature of light with Christian theology’s struggle to understand the nature of Christ. He addresses the question, Does God act in the physical world? And he extends his ideas about the role of chaos theory, surveys the prospects for future dialogue between scientific and theological thinkers, and defends a critical realist understanding of the activities of both disciplines. Polkinghorne concludes with a consideration of the nature of mathematical truths and the links between the complementary realities of physical and mental experience.

John Polkinghorne, F.R.S., K.B.E., is past president and now fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge, and Canon Theologian of Liverpool, England. He is also the author of The Faith of a Physicist: Reflections of a Bottom-Up Thinker.

"In this lucid and honest work, John Polkinghorne states clearly where and why he agrees or disagrees with other contemporary writers. He presents a serious defense of a world view that must be considered seriously even by atheists."—Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


"An erudite and accessible examination of several key questions in science and theology. . . Polkinghorne has a clear, focused style, and offers much to the reader seeking a synthesis of science with the tenets of established religion."—Jerome Groopman, Boston Globe

"Belief in God in an Age of Science offers a scholarly presentation that should nevertheless have broad appeal, as Polkinghorne wields technical, scientific and theological terms with alacrity and eloquence without losing sight of the larger lay audience he clearly hopes to reach."—Edward B. Davis, American Scientist


"Polkinghorne finds faith strengthened by means of open dialogue between it and science, in which, for instance, chaos theory invites reflection on divine providence."—Booklist (From Booklist's Top 10 Books in Religion)

"Polkinghorne is clear that, by projecting on science his belief in God, he is following just one possible path in the human quest for meaning. This gives his book a feeling of mutual exploration that drew me in as a reader." —David K. Nartonis, Christian Science Monitor

"This book represents a concise reformulation of [Polkinghorne's] most recent Terry Lectures and provides a much-needed summation to his work as a whole. . . . Its prose is dense and its arguments intellectually challenging. . . . Polkinghorne's analysis is welcome. . . . [His] work offers an important reminder, . . . that underlying all scientific endeavor is the inescapable presence of social values "—Steven W. Hook, Crisis

"Polkinghorne is sound and scholarly."—Globe and Mail

"Polkinghorne’s mastery of science and theology makes for some startlingly original and arresting insights and analogies. . . . Polkinghorne’s book is full of . . . startling insights and observations. . . . The reader who invests the time and effort will find Belief in God in an Age of Science intellectually exciting and profoundly rewarding on the spiritual level."—James C. Roberts, Human Events

"An elegant, brief foray into the intersections of theology and science. While God-and-science appears to be a bandwagon, with a recent spate of books on this topic, few scientists or theologians could address its ramifications as gracefully as Polkinghorne of both subjects: a theoretical physicist of some renown, he is also an ordained clergyman and past president of Queens College. If you read one book on science and religion, this should be it." —Kirkus Reviews

"A new dialog between religion and science has begun, . . . and in that conversation Polkinghorne holds a special place." —Library Journal

"Those who wish to better understand the continuing debate about the compatibility of science and religion should begin here."—William C. Graham, National Catholic Reporter

"A sophisticated, scientifically informed outlook which is nonetheless animated by a firm, rationally supported religious faith. . . . Theologians and scientists alike will find food for thought here, and philosophers should take heed—for John Polkinghorne's intermarriage of scientific and theological insight may well presage a new 'post-secular' stage in Western thought."—Patrick Glynn, National Review

"Polkinghorne's argument for the proposition that God is real is cogent and his evidence is elegant."—Simon Ings, New Scientist



"With Polkinghorne the task is in excellent hands, and this book should be widely read."—Colin Tudge, New Statesman and Society

"Polkinghorne [presents] a polished and logically coherent argument." —Freeman J. Dyson, New York Review

"[This book is] short, accessible and authoritative. . . . It’s richly stimulating stuff."—Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

"A few major authors have helped convince readers that science and religion might have more in common than meets the eye, John Polkinghorne perhaps foremost among them."—Publishers Weekly

"A very impressive, intelligent, and lucid exploration into the relationship between science and religion."—Santiago Sia, Religion and the Arts

"Any individual actively involved in the pursuit of knowledge and truth would do well to read and understand the arguments and challenges presented within the pages of this book."—Clyde L. Webster, Seminary Studies

"Polkinghorne has a clear, focused style, and offers much to the reader seeking a synthesis of science with the tenets of established religion."—Jerome Groopman, Spirit and Science

"This book . . . presents many interesting arguments on the topics of theology and science. . . . The book presents an interesting and thought provoking discussion of the relationship between religion and science."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"Polkinghorne . . . is first and foremost a professional scientist, as he admits, and only secondarily a theologian. Yet his appeal for the need for more intense interdisciplinary work is a point well taken."—Barry Whitney, Religious Studies Review

Selected by American Library Association's Booklist as one of the Top Ten Books in Religion in 1998
 

Chosen as one of the Best Books Published in 1998 by Christianity Today Magazine

Winner of the 1999 Prize for Outstanding Books in Theology and the Natural Sciences given by The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences

Chosen as one of the Best Books of 1998 by Publishers Weekly

Shortlisted for a 2000 TORGI (Talking Book of the Year) Award, sponsored by The Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Chosen as one of the "Books of Distinction" in the Science and Religion category by the John Templeton Foundation

Winner of a 1999 Book Award given by Christianity Today
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