John Polkinghorne and the Task of Addressing a “Messy” World

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As a physicist-theologian, John Polkinghorne has done a great service for the community of scholars engaged in the theology-and-science dialogue as well as for a broader audience of interested persons. We examine Polkinghorne's theological method to see what it suggests about his understanding of the function of systematic theology and his philosophy of science. His strong emphasis on rationality in theology corresponds to his epistemological discussions. Polkinghorne links his methodology to “thinking,” so “experience” seems relegated to the minds, and not the lives, of the believers. Consequently, his theology does not easily engage ethical, political, and cultural landscapes where the concrete contexts of particular people's lives engage their faith. The challenge for those of us in religion-and-science is to come to grips with this messy, complicated world.

Keywords: Wolfhart Pannenberg; doctrine of God; epistemology; experience; faith; interdisciplinary work; natural theology; rationality; theological method

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Augustana College, 2: Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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