Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Polkinghorne on Trinitarian theology as Theory of Everything

As a quantum physicist, I have been concerned with how that subject's veiled account of created reality might influence theology's understanding of God's relationship to the physical universe. Yet I have also wanted to make clear, as opportunity offered, that the central source of my own belief in God does not lie in such matters. Rather, it is to be found in my encounter with the figure of Jesus Christ, as I meet him in Scripture, in the Church and in the sacraments. For me, it is Trinitarian belief that is truly persuasive belief. Of course, that belief is much more complex than the simple recognition of the Mind of God behind the order of nature, just as modern quantum theory is more complex than Max Planck's original idea that energy comes in packets. Yet, Trinitarian belief is complex in ways that seem to me to be necessary to match the depth of experience and insight recorded in the Bible, and continued in the ongoing life of the Church.

I...make  what some of my scientific colleagues might think was an over-audacious claim, that a deeply intellectual satisfying candidate for the title of a true "Theory of Everything" is in fact provided by Trinitarian theology.

The exercise on which I... engage is somewhat similar to that which an earlier age might have been called the search for 'vestiges of the Trinity'. Of course, I am not claiming that the earth is full of entities stamped 'Made by the Holy Trinity'. God's work of creation is rather more subtle than that. What I shall claim is not that we can infer the Trinity from nature, but that there are aspects of our scientific understanding of the universe that become more deeply intelligible to us if they are viewed in a Trinitarian perspective. It seems to me that it would be perplexing for the Christian believer if no such indications could be found, but I also acknowledge that they will not prove to be of so unambiguous a kind as to force the minds of everyone necessarily into seeing things the way that I do. It is to be expected that God is neither totally hidden nor totally manifested in the works of creation.  -John Polkinghorne, Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality, pp. xiii, 61.HT Alan Bevere

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