International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming - Natural, Divine and Human

by Arthur R. Peacocke

Introductory Essay by V. V. Raman

Arthur Peacocke is among the foremost science-religion philosophers in the modern Christian tradition. This is one of his three important books in the field, the other two being: Creation and the World of Science (1979) and God and Science: A Quest for Christian Credibility (1996).

As the title suggests, this book deals with issues pertaining to various levels and modes of relationship and lack thereof between science and theology. It rests on the idea that there is always a duality inherent in reality: natural and supernatural, the ephemeral and the eternal, mental and spiritual, and so on. But both science and theology approach reality in mutually interacting ways.

Peacocke considers the question of “What is there?” and urges us to go beyond the realm of matter and energy into that of life and ecosystems. He urges us to correct our fragmented understandings of the world and of human life. He analyzes the dynamical aspects in the world, from causality and time to predictability and evolution. He discusses consciousness and the emergence of personhood. In his search for meaning, Peacocke acknowledges that science alone cannot answer questions relating to our ultimate destiny. Answers to questions like “Why is there anything at all?” or “Why are we here?” cannot be given by empirical science, he maintains.

In his search for meaning and intelligibility, Peacocke is led to the Ultimate Being we call God. He gives a cogent explanation of God in the Christian framework, and passes on from there to the relationship between Christian theology and science. He talks about an anthropic universe and joy in creation, but also refers to natural evil and God’s suffering which is intrinsic to Christian theology. The book offers clear discussions on divine action, as also the role that God plays in sustaining the universe. Peacocke takes up this very difficult question and argues convincingly that it is not unreasonable or even unscientific to hold the belief that God does intervene in the universe in meaningful ways. He refers to the many layered nature of being human, and shows that it is not implausible that at some level one can witness God’s role in the world.

In a moving chapter entitled Divine Being becoming Human, Peacocke elaborates on his deep Christian conviction that, interpreted properly, the idea of God speaking to us via Jesus is a perfectly reasonable idea. This chapter may not be convincing to those not sharing the Christian worldview. (Perhaps other theologies can present similar interpretations.) However, this chapter can have a reinforcing effect on people of the Christian faith. Herein lies the strength of this book: It is a persuasive statement on how best to integrate science and theology which have been slowly drifting apart, especially in scientifically awakened societies. Peacock’s book may not convert atheists and Non-Christians. But it can serve the cause of Christian theology, and give it a respectable position vis-à-vis modern science in the intellectual framework of the modern world. The book is a thoughtful, informed, and scholarly validation of Christian theology.