Arthur Peacocke and John Polkinghorne are
two important British scientist-theologians active in the last 20 years. Both
have written importantly on Gods action in the world (see a classification of
theories of divine action).
They stem from different scientific traditions
and, though both Anglicans, reflect two different theological instincts.Different sciences suggest different relations with theology, and different
theological preconceptions lead to different approaches to the same data.
Polkinghorne is a physicist, at heart
one who analyses the mechanisms by which the material world operates, and
theologically somewhat conservative, much influenced by Jürgen Moltmann.
Peacockes science was the biology of
macromolecules, the ideal vantage-point from which to consider different levels
of description and the existence of irreducible levels of complexity.
Theologically he belongs to a much more liberal Anglican school, much
influenced by Geoffrey Lampe.
This difference can be seen in their two
approaches to panentheism:
Polkinghorne remains suspicious of the
concept. His theology holds the world at a distance from God, stressing divine
transcendence. His God seems always in some sense an operator on the physics of
the world. Panentheism, he thinks, will
be the condition of the creation at its culmination at the eschaton.
Peacocke wants to stress divine
immanence. The creativity of the world, of which biology is so eloquent, is for
him a sign of the divine omnipresence. And Peacocke is willing to consider a
range of metaphors for God in relation to the world (see Peacockes view of
divine action) He finds panentheism a helpful member of this range.
They differ too in their approach to theodicy:
Peacocke inclines to an Irenaean
approach which sees the world of suffering as a necessary context for the
growth of free beings towards God,
Polkinghorne to a free-will defence
- if beings are genuinely free they will be free to inflict suffering. (He has
also extended this to the problem of
such natural evils as earthquakes in his so-called free-process defence.)
See Peacocke and Polkinghorne: comparison
of models of divine action for more discussion of these two thinkers.
link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr.
Source: God, Humanity and the
Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)