John Polkinghorne, “The Faith of a Physicist”

The author is a former Cambridge professor of mathematical physics and a Fellow of the Royal Society, as well as an ordained priest and member of the General Synod of the Church of England.  The book is pretty dense in spots, and he does not believe that Scripture is inerrant (8, 119), but it’s worthwhile.  (By the way, he does think that John’s gospel and John’s letters have a common author (132).) He’d like there to be a Purgatory (171) and no eternal Hell (172).  His final chapter on “Alternatives” (i.e., other religions) is good and sufficiently immodest in discussing the problems with other religions vis-a-vis Christianity.  Below are some notes I made.

On page 104:  “Anthony Harvey has given a careful discussion in which he compares the miracle stories associated with Jesus with those current about other figures in the ancient world.  He comes to ‘the remarkable conclusion that the miraculous activity of Jesus conforms to no known pattern.'”

The book quotes Lord Wallace, Darwin’s rival of sorts (17):  “Natural selection could only have endowed savage man with a brain a little superior to an ape, whereas he actually possesses one little inferior to that of a philosopher.”

Another intriguing quote (152):  “The claim that the New Testament was inspired by the Spirit is reinforced by the consideration that the brief period of its writing saw the emergence in Paul and John and the writer to the Hebrews, of three thinkers whose creative insight has not been surpassed in the subsequent history of theological thought.”

Also this remarkable paragraph (118, footnotes omitted):

   There are twentieth-century Jewish writers who accept the emptiness of the tomb without thereby being driven to embrace Christianity.  Geza Vermes concludes:  “In the end, when every argument has been considered and weighed, the only conclusion acceptable to the historian must be … that the women who set out to pay their last respects to Jesus found to their consternation, not a body, but an empty tomb.”  The orthodox Jew, Pinchas Lapide, goes further.  He believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, but he does not accept him as the Messiah, let alone the incarnation of God.  “Thus, according to my opinion, the resurrection belongs to the category of the truly real and effective occurrences, for without a fact of history there is no act of true faith.”  I shall want to return in a later chapter to the question of the theological significance of the empty tomb.

I noted an important paragraph regarding how Christianity fits together (and, per Pascal et al., fits everything (else?) together); it’s the full paragraph on page 120 that you can read here [link: ].

Another significant paragraph I noted explains how Jesus’ status was an “extraordinary phenomenon” that cannot be equated to other charismatic religious leaders.  That paragraph beings on page 127 and runs on to page 128; you can read it here [link:].

Finally, I also thought important two paragraphs, the first beginning on page 149 and running on to page 150, and then the paragraph that follows and runs on to page 151; you can read them here [link:].  In my humble opinion,  and I mean that without irony, here’s the key sentence (150):   “The concept of divine interaction within cosmic process, through the input of information into its flexible and open development, which is the view put forward in these lectures, is perfectly consonant with the activity of the Spirit ‘really on the inside.'”