International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

Religion and Creation

by Keith Ward

Introductory Essay by Dirk Evers

Following a book on Religion and Revelation, this is the second volume in a trilogy of comparative theology in which the British philosopher and theologian Keith Ward traces major concepts in the scriptural faiths of the world. This volume focuses on the question of creation and intends to develop a Christian theological concept which is sound, coherent, and compatible with a modern scientific worldview.

Ward writes from a Christian perspective but wants to take note of various religious traditions in order to revisit his understanding and develop “a more comprehensive view which will be rooted in, but not limited to, its own historical tradition” [3]. In the first of four parts of the book, he deals with the concepts of creation and the creator in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. The main aim is not to reconstruct historical perspectives on different traditions, but to get into dialogue with authentic, contemporary, and representative partners. He chooses four such theologians: Abraham Heschel, Karl Barth, Mohammed Iqbal, and Aurobindo Ghose. Ward finds in all these thinkers “a greater stress on the importance of temporality, creativity, and individuality” [159] in their formulation of the idea of God.

This leads Ward to the second part of his book, in which he defends the objective reality of God against non-cognitive approaches which see religion as a way of perceiving the world without referring to any objective reality beyond concrete reality. Ward affirms the coherence of the theistic notion of a creator God who is a personal reality of supreme value, wisdom, and power. Although the divine being is beyond the grasp of the human mind, theology can talk of God not only metaphorically or symbolically, but also in literal ways which include reference to God’s relation to the created universe. Ward sees Heschel, Barth, Iqbal, and Aurobindo as engaged in the process of providing some of this literal, if analogical, description of the reality of God.

In part three of the volume, Ward moves from a defence of the coherence of theism to an elaboration of its core notions. He works on the concept of a powerful, wise, and loving creator who accounts for the creativity, intelligibility, and goodness of the universe and its created beings. Ward sees this notion contained in each of the four major scriptural traditions that he has been referring to. The interesting last chapter in this part, God and Time, claims that there must be at least an “analogue of time in God” [215].

Part four is dedicated to the explication of a specifically Christian doctrine of God as Trinity in dialogue with modern cosmology. Here Ward feeds in considerations of process philosophy as well as insights of John Polkinghorne, Ian Barbour, Arthur Peacocke, and others engaged in the dialogue between science and religion. A short but helpful summary of the whole argument as presenting “an intelligible and defensible doctrine of creation” [346] is given in the concluding remarks.