Sujet: Science Points to God
De: tothesource
Date: 01 Dec 2005 09:48:34 -0800

If you are having trouble viewing this email, click here.

Dear Concerned Citizen,

November 30, 2005

At age 48, Dr. John Polkinghorne resigned his Cambridge professorship of mathematical physics to enter Westcott House, an Anglican seminary in Cambridge. It was somewhat shocking news to the scientific community, given his success in academic research. He had not only published many papers on theoretical elementary particle physics and two technical scientific books, but he also played a significant role in a very big scientific event, the discovery of the very small particle of matter--the quark.

By all measures he is as influential in the clergy as he remains in science. First serving as a curate in a working-class parish, he went on to become president of Queens’ College at Cambridge. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997, founded the International Society for Science and Religion, and has written a bookshelf full of articles and books on the interrelationship of science and theology. In 2002 he won the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research for Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.

tothesource: It is all too common to see the relationship of science to religion either as one of antagonism or complete independence of one from the other. I take it from Science and the Trinity, that you heartily but respectfully disagree?

John Polkinghorne: Science and religion are complementary, both seeking truth through motivated belief but at different levels--science on the impersonal universe and religion on the level of the transpersonal reality of God.

tts: You speak of the "profound intelligibility of the universe." Is it profound enough that science could very well be pointing to God, rather than, as many prominent physicists have proclaimed, away from God?

JP: The deep intelligibility of the universe is no 'happy accident', but it reflects the fact that the Mind of God lies behind the wonderful order of the world and we are creatures made in the image of our Creator, that is, made so that we can understand that deep intelligibility.

tts: We are used to having theologians who are not scientists make grand claims about science, and scientists who are not theologians make even grander theological claims. You are both a scientist and theologian, a physicist and an Anglican priest. How has your dual background helped you curb some of the ambitions and excesses of such theologians and scientists?

JP: Scientists and theologians should listen respectfully to each other and not think they can tell the other side what they ought to think about their own specific concerns.

tts: I am sure that at least some of your fellow scientists find you taking Scripture with the utmost seriousness a bit odd. They might well ask, "How can a physicist lend any credence to the Bible, especially given the embarrassing number of alleged miracles?" How do you respond?

JP: In the realm of the personal generally, and in religion in particular, unique events can carry a unique significance. I see scripture as the record of God's special acts of self-disclosure. Miracles become intelligible in that context, not as divine conjuring tricks, but as unexpected consequences in unprecedented circumstances (rather like the way superconductivity goes beyond the everyday expectation of Ohm's law).

tts: In regard to evil, you state: "That there is cancer in creation is not something that a more competent or compassionate Creator could easily have eliminated, but is the necessary cost of creation allowed to make itself." Some might regard that as an inadequate account of evil. Or to approach the same difficulty from the side of God's power, what do you make of reports of cancer being cured by prayer? If such cures are real, then it would seem that a compassionate Creator can eliminate cancer.

JP: Prayer is deeply personal, and the wholeness sought may come in different ways to different people-sometimes through physical recovery, sometimes through the positive acceptance of what is happening.

tts: You do not give up the Christian doctrine of the afterlife. Yet, you do not believe that we have immaterial souls that exist after death. Is your position more the result of your being a physicist or a theologian?

JP: I believe that the human soul has no natural expectation of a destiny beyond death (of a kind that science might investigate), but I believe that it will be preserved from perishing by the faithfulness of God.

Responses to Lewis's Beloved Narnia:

Thank you for your interesting essay on C.S. Lewis in the newsletter I received from you today, 11/23/05. I would like to point out one small error. You called The Lord of the Rings the Ring Trilogy. The "Note on the Text" to the 1993 edition points out the following: "The Lord of the Rings is often erroneously called a trilogy, when it is in fact a single novel, consisting of six books plus appendices, sometimes published in three volumes." A trilogy is a set of three distinct literary works that are related to each other by a common theme or by having characters in common. The Lord of the Rings is one. When you finish The Fellowship of the Rings or The Two Towers, you have not finished a story; each of the two ends in suspense, an emphatic nonending. However, as I said, I appreciated the essay overall. - R. B.

Hi. Just wanted to let you know the Narnia series doesn’t begin with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It begins with The Magician’s Nephew. I am reading the series out loud to my children. This is our second time through the books. Thank you for your newsletter; I enjoy reading it. - M. F.

Responses to other tothesource articles:

I am divorced and remarried. I am also a Christian. I had the blessing from my Pastor to remarry. I lived for 14 years in an abusive relationship. Physical, emotional, spiritual abuse, as well as a man who refused to work and provide for his family. I left for all these reasons. I know that I did the right thing, and that the Lord was with me and my children. Divorce is never an easy thing to go through and it is never what you want for your life. I do believe that it is forgivable, and sometimes you have no other option. - A. F.

I read the articles that come into my inbox quite regularly, and after reading some letters to the editor, I'm shocked. Specifically, letters written by H.F. and L.F. "divorce and remarraige" are compared to cancer? I'm sorry, but if divorce were disallowed, what is the alternative? Cheating? There's another sin. Adultry, so people can't go that way, based on Christian ideology. Killing the spouse? Yet another, bigger, sin. Murder. Both illegal and immoral and you'll go to hell for it. Not many options left. Spend the rest of your life with a possibly abusing husband/wife and be either killed or at the very least, miserable for the rest of your life? I don't think so. - B. G.

Send your letter to the editor to

Click for a Printer Friendly Version
Bottom-Up Apologist
Discussion (with Polkinghorne)
Official John Polkinghorne Website
Speaking of Faith
We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

tothesource is a forum for integrating thinking and action within a moral framework that takes into account our contemporary situation. We will report the insights of cultural experts to the specific issues we face believing these sources will embolden people to greater faith and action.
We invite you to subscribe to our free email service
that features informed opinion on current cultural issues.
  John Polkinghorne
John Polkinghorne, K.B.E., F.R.S., is past President and now Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, and Canon Theologian of Liverpool. Among his many honors is the 2002 Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. He is also the author of Belief in God in an Age of Science, The God of Hope and the End of the World, and Faith, Science and Understanding, all published by Yale University Press, among many other books.
tothesource, P.O. Box 1292, Thousand Oaks, CA 91358
Phone: (805) 241-3138 | Fax: (805) 241-3158 |

This email was sent to If you feel you have received this in error or you do not wish to receive future articles from us, please reply with the word REMOVE in the subject line.