Friday, March 11, 2011

Science and the Trinity

"Science and the Trinity" (John Polkinghorne) - I picked up this book because Polkinghorne is a guest contributor at Biologos. It is very short (180 pages), but a very slow read (Polkinghorne likes big words).

Biologos says its goal is to get conservative Christians to accept evolution. I don't think this goal is served by having liberals address the issue! (It does lead me to believe that no conservatives really support evolution, or at least, are not willing to publicly support it. One of their favorite conservatives, BB Warfield, is dead!).

Polkinghorne is a scientist, not a theologian, which makes it difficult to pin down exactly what his theology is. But it is obviously very far from orthodoxy. Some examples, just on page 46:
"It is not surprising, therefore, that we find attitudes expressed in the Bible that today we neither can nor should agree with. These include an unquestioned patriarchal governance of the family... an unhesitating acceptance of slavery" (emphasis added)
"Those who attribute no abiding significance to these timebound attitudes are recognizing that the canon of scripture is not of uniform authority." (He actually goes on more in this vein...)
"the many New Testament passages that speak of fearful and fiery judgement [sic] are rightly interpreted as implying that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ requires the punishment of unending torture for those who have not committed themselves to some kind of Christian orthodoxy in this life." (into page 47)
That's just in two pages, fairly early! It doesn't get better.

Polkinghorne seems to embrace open theism, at least to some degee:
"God does not use the prophets to provide a detailed preview of what must inevitably come to pass... God does not yet know the unformed future" (page 54)
"cosmic history is an unfolding improvisation and not the performance of an already written score" (page 80)
"God does not have that future available for perusal beforehand." (page 108)
I could go on. Polkinghorne manages to pack a lot of error into a small space. I am concerned mostly with the consequences of his theology, and its impact on the Gospel.

First we see the embrace of a sort of universalism (or at least, conversion after death):
"Yet the divine love will surely not be withdrawn in that world [death], but will continue to seek to draw all people into its orbit." (page 158-159)
He also seems to deny "absent from the body, present with the Lord":
"The soul, as I understand it, possesses no intrinsic immortality. The pattern that is me will dissolve at my death... we have no naturalistic expectation of a destiny beyond death... It seems a perfectly coherent hope to believe that the pattern that is me will be preserved by God at my death and held in the divine memory until... the new creation."
This is comparable to the belief of Jehovah's Witnesses, that God will recreate someone very much like you in the resurrection.

He also embraces "the best of all possible worlds" (the idea that God created the world with natural evil, because He is too weak to do any better):
"The existence of free creatures is a greater good than a world populated by perfectly behaving automata, but that good has the cost of mortality and suffering." (page 165)
Yet again, the god of human free will calls for the sacrifice of God's power and knowledge (also, I have reference to the sacrifice of God's holiness on page 94). I will stop here.

1 comment:

nedbrek said...

Unused notes:
p31 enacted stories (I actually agree with this idea, c.f. Wilson)

p57 Paul's use of the OT (you're no Paul!)

p58 Moltmann - scripture does not constrain

p72 Creation makes itself, cancer is necessary

p73 the Cross is sharing

p107 God is changeable, platonic? (not sure why I said platonic...)

p163-164 eschatology - different world, death is a gift of love