John Polkinghorne, Theistic Agency, and Clark Pinnock

A Review by Robert Brow   (web site -

(Posted on the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association discussion list, February 9, 1997)

 On February 7 and 8, 1997, Queen's University offered two lectures by Dr. John Polkinghorne on "Science, Religion, and Divine Agency." Polkinghorne began as a mathematician, then moved into mathematical physics, and taught in the area of sub-atomic particles and quantum mechanics at Cambridge University for 25 years. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974. He was later ordained as an Anglican minister and became Master of Queens' College, Cambridge.

 In his second lecture he said that most theoretical physicists now tend to need the idea of God as Creator to develop a grand unified theory. He suggested that what preceded the moment of creation (the big bang) is of little interest to science. What counts is the relationship of God to our world.

 In his second lecture he contrasted some models that could fit the picture that science offers of quantum and chaos theory and the resultant uncertainty and unpredictability at the sub-atomic particle level. No one model can be proved to be the correct one, but we should ask which model allows us to explain most of what we observe and experience. For example:


With this model God is not impassive and outside time, but involved in our holistic time-world of true becoming. It allows science to set out how things happen, and theology can work at why things happen. The imput of the Holy Spirit and our agency in the world can be pictured by information theory.

 John Polkinghorne's preferred theistic agency model of the relationship between God and our world seems to give a scientific account that corresponds to the biblical and theological model set out in Clark Pinnock (Editor), Rice, Sanders, Hasker & Basinger, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press; Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 1994).

 These two lectures at Queen's University were in part based on "Science and Christian Belief," the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, 1993.


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