Sunday, April 23, 2006

More Public Radio Amazement: Polkinghorne on Science and Christian Faith

Without question, John Polkinghorne, particle physicist and Canon Theologian of Liverpool Cathedral, is the leading contemporary thinker on the relationship of science and Christian faith. In a word, Polkinghorne sees the two as complementary, in a phrase, each as informing the other.

And a terrific place to hear him explain his ideas is on today's Speaking of Faith, a show produced by American Public Media. We can announce happily that the show is available as MP3 download, podcast or streaming audio. So you can listen now or take it along.

Gentle readers who wonder why SWNID is so enthusiastic an advocate for so-called "old-earth creationism" will perhaps catch a glimpse of the issue by listening. Polkinghorne explains clearly both the exegetical and the theological issues involved. Listeners must infer the advantages of integrating considerable empirical data with a theology that is at once biblical, consistent with experience and deeply satisfying.

In passing, we note with amazement and gratitude that the Church of England, hardly the most thriving religious institution, currently manages to produce some of the most important Christian theologians. We are happy to eat the crumbs that fall from their tables.


Justin said...

sadly enough, it seems as if the american church simultaneously produces 'non-thinking' followers. i dub them as 'sheeple.' This is more of a commentary on 'Americans' and less church. but since our churches are filled with Americans, well, that explains it.

Anonymous said...

All knowledge is complementary. That's a truism. There's nothing revolutionary about that. The current antagonism is not academic. It's philosophical, cultural, social, and religious (spiritual).

This lofty dude is merely stepping away from the battle to be a 3rd party observer. All good thinkers do this.

I have one bone to pick: If you take your faith seriously, the Bible always has a trump card.

We often make the mistake of saying the Bible says something when it doesn't. We can't correct that mistake by placing revelation in the same pot of soup (as science) and stirring.

Read the history of science. Science is littered with failure after failure. Newton was right, or was he? There was certainly a scientific consensus for 100 plus years until Einstein. Einstein was treated like a worm by the scientific community.

Our culture belives in scientism. Put simply, that is that science is the only path to knowledge.

My practical problem with a trite statement that "science and religion are complementary" ignores the oppressive reality of scientism today in our culture (the academy, the media, the seminary, the hoi polloi).

I love science. I am fascinated by science. I love technology too (which very few can differentiate). But the culture of science is piggish. That culture impedes the search for knowledge. It is uncomplimentary and forces the isolation of science (uncomplementarily).

Anonymous said...

Explain your old earth creationism. Are you a theistic evolutionist?

Justin said...

Wow, i loved what he had to say. Although the constant musical interludes made we want to poke my brain in, i thought the last 10 minutes were very well done. I love his mode of thinking, especially his thoughts on interepreting the poetry and theology of the OT as fact. like we so often do. It seems that if we accept the fact that the OT is not meant to be an exact account of historical happenstances, a lot of these issues become moot. Also, his thoughts on the more you capture truth, the more you capture who God is; outstanding.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

To anonymous a:

The history of theology and exegesis are also littered with failure. All means of acquiring knowledge must be undertaken with due humility.

Whatever role scientism may have in our culture, I don't really think that you can accuse thinkers like Polkinghorne of participating in it or contributing to it.

To anonymous b:

The reason for posting a link to this program was so that I don't have to detail my or anyone else's old-earth creationism. The beauty of the hyperlink is that it saves work. Listen to Polkinghorne, maybe give him a read too.

But we'll offer this much on the fly:

In sum, there are lots of reasons, IMHO, to think that (a) the universe is very old; (b) the God of the Bible made it.

Note that idea (a) is not just scientific but biblical: Ps 90; Prov 8:25; Job 15:1, Eccl 1:10, Hab 3:6, 2 Pet 3:5.