HOME

 

 

    NEWS

INTERVIEWS

RESOURCES

ABOUT

View by:

 SUBJECT

 THEME

QUESTION

  TERM

 PERSON

   EVENT

Peacocke and Polkinghorne: Comparison of Models of Divine Action

Arthur Peacocke and John Polkinghorne are two important British scientist-theologians active in the last 20 years. Both have written importantly on God’s action in the world (see a classification of theories of divine action).

Though neither thinker would concede that they agreed with the other, their positions are not as dissimilar as has sometimes appeared. In particular, Polkinghorne’s recent essays make clear that his conjectures about the causal joint are not so adventurously precise as they first appeared (see Polkinghorne’s view of divine action). In a paper originating in 1993 he writes:

It is important to recognise that, in this scheme, the significance of the sensitivity of chaotic systems to the effects of small triggers is diagnostic of their requiring to be treated in holistic terms and of their being open to top-down causality through the input of active information. It is not proposed that this is the localized mechanism by which agency is exercised. I do not suppose that either we or God interact with the world by the carefully calculated adjustment of the infinitesmal details of initial conditions so as to bring about a desired result. The whole thrust of the proposal is expressed in terms of the complete holistic situation, not in terms of the clever manipulation of bits and pieces (emphasis ours). It is, therefore, a proposal for realizing a true kind of top-down causality. It may fittingly be called contextualism, for it supposes the behavior of parts to be influenced by their overall context.Polkinghorne, J, ‘The metaphysics of divine action’ in Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. by RJ Russell, Nancey Murphy and Arthur Peacocke (Vatican City: Vatican...

and in 1996

It seems entirely conceivable that God also interacts with the creation through the input of active information into its open physical process. We glimpse, in a rudimentary way, what might lie behind theology’s language of God’s “guiding” and “drawing on” creation, language often associated with talk of the Spirit working immanently on the inside of creationPolkinghorne, J, ‘Chaos theory and divine action’ in Religion and Science: History, Method and Dialogue ed. by WM Richardson and WJ Wildman (London: Routledge, 1996) p248

This is very close to Peacocke’s emphases on divine immanence, whole-part causation, and God as the ultimate boundary condition (see Peacocke’s view of divine action). Granted, Polkinghorne still wants to speak of the ontological openness of non-linear systems, and has been rightly criticised for the logic by which he arrives at this.See for example Murphy, N, ‘Divine action in the natural order: Buridan’s ass and Schrodinger’s cat’ in Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. by RJ Russell,...However, a system-open-to-God-as-overall-context is very similar to Peacocke’s whole-part-influence-on-the-world-as-a-whole, given that they both agree that

  • the future is not known to God - God is working with at least a genuine epistemic openness - and

  • divine action can have particular effects.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions CD-ROM Preview...
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.