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Faith, Science and Understanding

John Polkinghorne F.R.S. K.B.E.

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ISBN 10: 0300091281 / ISBN 13: 9780300091281
Published by Yale University Press, 2001
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Faith, Science and Understanding

Publisher: Yale University Press

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: New

About this title


In this captivating book, one of the most highly regarded scientist-theologians of our time explores aspects of the interaction of science and theology. John Polkinghorne defends the place of theology in the university (it is part of the human search for truth) and discusses the role of revelation in religion (it is a record of experience and not the communication of unchallengeable propositions). Throughout his thought-provoking conversation, Polkinghorne speaks with an honesty and openness that derives from his many years of experience in scientific research.

A central concern of Polkinghorne’s collection of writings is to reconcile what science can say about the processes of the universe with theology’s belief in a God active within creation. The author examines two related concepts in depth. The first is the divine self-limitation involved in creation that leads to an important reappraisal of the traditional claim that God does not act as a cause among causes. The other is the nature of time and God’s involvement with it, an issue that Polkinghorne shows can link metascience and theological understandings. In the final section of the book, the author reviews three centuries of the science and theology debate and assesses the work of major contemporary contributors to the discussion: Wolfhart Pannenberg, Thomas Torrance, and Paul Davies. He also considers why the science-theology discussion has for several centuries been a particular preoccupation of the English.


Faith, Science & Understanding is a brief, erudite collection of writings by John Polkinghorne, a fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge, and one of the world's leading experts on science and theology. Polkinghorne begins this book by exploring the place of theology in the university, the role of revelation in religion, and the particular relations that have formed between theology and various disciplines within the sciences. Building on these foundations, Part II of the book considers the question that dominated theology-and-science debates during the 1990s: "How we may conceive of divine agency in a way that respects the integrity of the scientific account of the process of the physical world and which also does justice to the religious intuition and experience of God's providential interaction within history?" Finally, Part III provides Polkinghorne's assessment of the entire English tradition of thinking about theology and science as well as his opinions regarding the work of his eminent colleagues in the field. Polkinghorne's lapidary English prose polishes his insights to a fine luster; this is not the kind of plain talking you'll find in Richard Feynmann. But the reader's patience is rewarded. Faith, Science & Understanding is a short book that expertly surveys a long history--an excellent orientation to a complex and important set of questions. --Michael Joseph Gross

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