Belief in God in an Age of Science

Once known as the “queen of the sciences,” theology shaped people’s understanding of the natural world in the Middle Ages. However, as the Enlightenment swept across Europe, many scientific findings clashed with the theological thinking of the time, and science and theology evolved into separate disciplines. The rift between the two fields widened until 1859, when Darwin’s theory of evolution sidestepped the concept of a Designer and seemed to sever science from religion once and for all.

In the late 1990’s a renewed dialogue between scientists and theologians is bridging the gap. At the forefront of the discussion is internationally known particle physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne. An Anglican priest, Polkinghorne is the only ordained member of the Royal Society. How does he reconcile his Christian belief with his understanding of the physical world? In BELIEF IN GOD IN THE AGE OF SCIENCE, Polkinghorne articulates his faith while exploring repercussions of the latest scientific theories. He states from the outset that he believes “there is a divine purpose behind this fruitful universe, whose fifteen-billion-year history has turned a ball of energy into the home of saints and sinners.” He then goes on to propose a new version of natural theology that combines scientific insight with value and hope; compares the scientist’s comprehension of light as both wave and particle to the theologian’s understanding of Christ’s dual nature; and defends a critical realist understanding of science and religion.

Although this book presents an honest, lucid, and revealing view of the relationship between science and theology, it is not for everyone. Based on the 1996 Terry Lectures that Polkinghorne gave at Yale University, the material is geared toward those who have some knowledge of physics, theology, and/or philosophy. Yet it addresses universal questions concerning God’s action in the physical world, and so will reward the persistent reader with new and refreshing insight into the age-old battle between science and religion.