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Science and Religion in Quest of Truth

Reading John Polkinghorne’s book with no more than an O-level in physics achieved roughly 50 years ago is quite a test


By John Polkinghorne
SPCK Publishing: £9.99
ISBN: 9780281064120
Reviewed by: Martin Poole
Science and religion John Polk

Reading John Polkinghorne’s book with no more than an O-level in physics achieved roughly 50 years ago is quite a test. Whilst a slim volume, to a non-scientific mind some of the terminology and concepts, particularly in the area of quantum physics, represent a considerable challenge. Nonetheless as with most challenges the rewards make the exercise exceedingly worthwhile.

John’s scientific credentials cannot be in doubt – Fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge, formerly Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University. Neither can his deeply held Christian faith – he was the only ordained member of the Royal Society and is serving as priest and Canon Theologian at Liverpool Cathedral. He perceives so many key aspects of belief as harmonious with the cutting edge of 21st century science research and discovery. Whilst preserving the distinction between the How question of the scientific enquiry and the Why question of the theologian he has much to say about the interplay between the two disciplines.

Worryingly for fundamentalists John Polkinghorne does not debate the theory of evolution, treating it as a given but also seeing it as a friend rather than foe. For him this continually evolving universe brings God closer to his creation rather than the distant designer who can so easily cause the believer to drift unwittingly into what effectively amounts to a deist perception of God – the watchmaker who lets the clock run down. He also suggests that evolution can be an ally in the continuing challenge of suffering brought about by physical evil i.e. disease and disaster.

John Polkinghorne pursues the debate with science by focussing on important aspects of Christian truth such as Prayer, Miracle, Time, Eschatology and Revelation and Scripture. As a result the reader is provided with stimulating, cogent and inspiring concepts that will undoubtedly increase the confidence of every Christian who wishes to enter into serious debate with those who would consider faith rendered meaningless by science.

A richly rewarding read.

Martin Poole is a retired Baptist minister having pastored churches in Penarth, Godalming and Eastleigh
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