Friday, 16 October 2015

John Polkinghorne on the Theory of Everything; Or, Happy 85th Birthday, John Polkinghorne!

According to an interview in last week’s Church Times (yes, last week’s), today – 16 October, 2015 – is John Polkinghorne’s 85th birthday.

Of all the so-called scientist–theologians, I rate Polkinghorne most highly. He writes clearly, argues cogently and humbly, and approaches the science–religion dialogue from a traditionally creedal perspective. In my opinion, his best book is Science and Christian Belief (in the US, The Faith of a Physicist), and I’d recommend it as an ideal starting point for anyone new to Polkinghorne’s work.

So, even though I’ve never met him, I’d like to wish Polkinghorne a very happy birthday, and close with his final thoughts recorded in the aforementioned Church Times interview (conducted by Patrick Miles):

I think that theology is the theory of everything, because God is the ground of everything. It seems perfectly clear to me that science does not answer every question, and, therefore, we have to seek other insights as well. It’s not an argument that can be condensed into a sentence or two, but I believe that the most comprehensive way of understanding things is in terms of a theological view.

For example, the beautiful equations and deep intelligibility of the physical world are understood as being a reflection of the mind of God. Theology really does have a “scope” that enables it to be an integrating discipline. That’s why I say that I think the true theory of everything is theology. But, of course, that’s not a knock-down argument.

John Polkinghorne and Patrick Miles, ‘It depends what you mean by “gaps”’, Church Times, 9 October, 2015, pp. 24–26; quotation from p. 26


  1. I love John Polkinghorne. In an I'd-really-like-him-to-be-my-grandad kind of way. I saw/heard him speak at Greenbelt a few years ago and he had warmth, wit, gravitas and graciousness - as well as being ridiculously brainy and knowledgeable. I wish I could say I understood everything in his books enough to be able to agree or disagree with it, but I think he's pretty amazing.

    Though of course I would predictably have to give (yet another) shout-out to my very own Dr D. Alexander as a top science-faith dude, albeit a more theologically Reformed one. :)

    1. I'd give a shout-out to Dr D. Alexander, too. But it's not his 85th birthday today, is it? Or is it? Dang . . .

    2. More seriously, I probably rate Polkinghorne most highly because he's written quite a bit on divine action. I rate Alexander and would turn to him more if I ever decided to look at biologically related issues, e.g. genetics or creationism.

    3. It was Dr DA's 70th birthday back in July - though had to miss it as both sides of our families have inconsiderately timed sets of birthdays to coincide in July. Terrible bit of planning on the part of Providence... ;)

    4. Why blame Providence? Clearly, members of your families need better to communicate when they intend to, ahem, sow seeds. I recommend use of an online diary.