Synopses & Reviews
Do we live in a world that makes sense, not just now, but totally and forever? If, as scientists now predict, the universe is going to end in collapse or decay, can it really be a divine creation? Is there a credible hope of a destiny beyond death? In this engaging and intellectually scrupulous book, a leading scientist-theologian draws on ideas from science, scripture, and theology to address these important questions. John Polkinghorne carefully builds a structure of the hope of the life to come that involves both continuity and discontinuity with life in this world enough continuity so that it is we ourselves who shall live again in that future world and enough discontinuity to ensure that the second story is not just a repetition of the first.
Polkinghorne develops his argument in three sections. In the first, he considers the role of contemporary scientific insights and cultural expectations. In the second, he gives a careful account of the various testimonies of hope to be found in the Bible and assesses the credibility of belief in Jesus resurrection. In the final section he critically analyzes and defends the Christian hope of the life of the new creation.
"According to Boswell, Hume once remarked that "when he heard a man was religious, he concluded he was a rascal, though he had known some instances of very good men being religious." The face on both of these books must surely belong to someone in the small set of counterexamples that even Hume admitted. Sir John Polkinghorne -- fellow of the Royal Society, doctor of divinity, sometime professor of particle physics at the University of Cambridge, recipient of this year's $1 million Templeton Prize in religion -- beams out like an Anglican clergyman from central casting, white-haired, wholesome, and radiant: a one-man Ode to Joy. And on reading these volumes, one can see why. It is pretty uplifting to be a scientist-theologian, happy with the universe, confident of the ways of the Lord. It is especially fizzy to be such a figure in Cambridge, where Sir Isaac Newton himself, as well as writing Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, left nearly a million and a half words on theological subjects. Admittedly, another Cambridge professor, A.E. Housman, wrote that "malt does more than Milton can/To justify God's ways to Man"; but this is not Sir John's view at all. And Housman was not a scientist...." Simon Blackburn, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
"This well-informed and clearly written book places the reader before the ultimate choice: the futility of cosmic decay or the final fulfillment of Gods creation. Polkinghorne offers compelling arguments for the belief that divine love is the ground of a true and everlasting hope. I highly recommend the book to skeptic and believer alike." Miroslav Volf, Yale University
"Readers interested in the ongoing explorations of Christian faith and cosmology will not want to miss this volume, particularly since Polkinghorne takes on fellow theology-and-science writers such as Arthur Peacocke." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
John Polkinghorne, K.B.E., F.R.S., is past President and now Fellow of Queens College, Cambridge, Canon Theologian of Liverpool, and Fellow of the Royal Society.