The Top Peacemaker in the Science-Religion Wars: John Polkinghorne

Source: The Huffington Post

By : Karl Giberson runs the science and religion writing workshop at Gordon College

Paul Wallace wrote recently in Religion Dispatches, in a piece titled “Top Ten Peacemakers in the Science-Religion Wars,” that 2011 is the “beginning of the end of the war between science and religion.”

“Creationism,” he says, “cannot last.” And the so-called “new” atheists on the other end of the spectrum are not only not new any longer — if they ever were new in the first place — they are “getting old.” Wallace looks hopefully for an expansion of the “middle ground” where science and religion co-exist in harmony. The outliers that oppose this harmony, he says, “continue to wage battle but they look increasingly irrelevant.”

The article goes on to identify 10 people who have “helped to spread seeds of peace on the blasted-out battleground of science and religion.” (I was flattered to make Wallace’s list, coming in just two notches below Jon Stewart, who made the list because of a hilarious three-minute clip lampooning an atheist lawsuit to prevent a religious symbol from being erected at ground zero.)

I hope that Wallace continues his annual list but I would like to add an additional category: The Lifetime Achievement Award for making peace between science and religion. And for 2011, that award should go to John Polkinghorne, who has emerged in recent years as arguably the most significant Christian since C.S. Lewis.

Lewis was an important Christian for two reasons: He was clearly brilliant, undermining the argument that Christianity is a religion that only works for simpletons. He had, in fact, experience a celebrated conversion to Christianity from “old” atheism. And Lewis had something valuable to say. His books are still being read and studied and his classic “Chronicles of Narnia” stories are just now being given the full treatment on the big screen.

Polkinghorne wears similar shoes. He began his career as a British mathematical physicist and worked in theoretical particle physics for 25 years, making important contributions to our understanding of quarks, the basic building blocks of matter. I should add that, in the pecking order of science, mathematical physics is at the top. It is the discipline that explores the deepest and most fundamental questions in science. Newton, Einstein and Hawking all made their reputations as mathematical physicists.

In 1979, however, Polkinghorne stunned his physics peers by resigning his prestigious chair of mathematics at Cambridge University to become an Anglican priest, which he did in 1982. And he served for several years in the tiny parish of Blean — population 3,000 — visiting local townsfolk and becoming the spiritual leader of that small community. Every Sunday he administered the sacraments in a modest 13th-century church located in the long shadow of the famous cathedral at Canterbury where Thomas Becket was murdered. At no point did he find his celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday to be incompatible with the equations he once derived to describe quarks. In fact, Polkinghorne’s entire life could be described as something of a double helix, with religion and science entwining, constantly make contact and often providing mutual support.

For the past three decades Polkinghorne has been an enduring symbol of the compatibility of science and faith. In his role as an ambassador joining these two worlds he has written more than thirty books, delivered the Gifford Lectures, been knighted by the Queen, debated with leading atheists like Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg, and won the 2002 Templeton Prize.

Read more.

The Muslim Times’ Chief Editor’s comments

First something about the big picture, Christian apologists want to make a case for Christianity based on laws of nature and science, by showing that there ought to be a Transcendent Creator of our universe.  They make this case, in one breath, and in the very next, deny all of science, by insisting on Eucharist, man-God of Jesus, who is not Transcendent, resurrection and miracles that violate laws of nature.

Atheists are right in exposing the irrationality of the Christian dogma. However, the Christians are right in as far as their claim that there needs to be a Creator of this universe, Who employed natural means to do His work. However, both parties in their self-conceit are not listening to how Islam resolves their conflict; Islam as understood by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

In a trilateral discussion between atheists, Christians and Muslims, I believe we can appreciate reality better and come up with better theology, especially if the discussion not only involves the Creator and purpose of the universe, but, also His complete Transcendence, Original Sin and evolution of life on our planet, Trinity, Mother Mary and Eucharist.

Additional readings to demonstrate the above claims

Verdict of Science: Islam, Christianity or Atheism?

Clone a Neanderthal baby for the Sake of Science and Religion

The Root Cause of Conflict Between Religion and Science: Wrong Theology!

Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose?

Madagascar: An Exhibit for Islam against Christianity!

Darwinian Evolution: Islam or Christianity?

A Cordial invitation to Sir David Attenborough to be a Theist

Scientific American ignoring the Elephant in the Room: Darwinian Evolution: Islam or Christianity?

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