October 2009
volume 21 (2)

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Guest Editorial: The myth of physicalism

Peter Bussey
Pages: 98-100


Eternity and Temporality in the Theology of Karl Barth

Hilary C. Martin
Pages: 101-110


This study outlines Karl Barth’s doctrine of time in which he presents created time as outflowing from God’s eternity. God’s nature, seen as self-revealing, assumes the possibility of created time. Earthly temporality is understood as proceeding from the potentiality of God’s eternity. The Incarnation is seen as a breaking in of God’s eternity into humanity’s temporality, bringing about a healing and redemption of earthly time. The fusion of past, present and future into one is essentially Trinitarian, the paradox of the Triune God being reflected in Barth’s relationship of time and eternity. Barth’s doctrine of time is considered in the light of modern notions of time as revealed by science. The proposal is made that Barth’s comprehensive doctrine of time may serve to lessen some of the contradictions involved in reconciling God’s timelessness and his intimate involvement with the created order.


The Necessity of Chance: Randomness, Purpose and the Sovereignty of God

Paul Ewart
Pages: 111-131


Chance in creation is discussed in the context of purpose and meaning and its implications for the sovereignty of God. Disorder and chaos arising from chance are often seen as destructive and randomness per se as evidence that there is no purpose in the universe. Using examples from physics it is argued that chaos can be constructive. Chance is also shown to be consistent with meaning and purpose. By considering chance in theodicy, the randomness in the distribution of suffering, it is argued that chance is necessary both to allow human freedom and to preserve God’s sovereignty. It is concluded that chance has an important role in creation but exists also for a theological purpose. At the creative level random events provide a robust method to explore the range of possibilities allowed by physical laws. This interaction of chance and necessity is the mechanism of evolution. On the moral level the inability to predict outcomes creates a freedom to act that establishes real moral responsibility. At the theological level the inability of humans to predict outcomes in the presence of chance prevents us from exploiting the consistency of God and preserves his sovereignty. The conclusion is that chance is a necessary part of God’s creation in which creatures are allowed free will. As a result of this conclusion a refined definition of sovereignty is offered in which God retains an adequate degree of control to effect his will whilst allowing genuine chance to operate and in which he is involved at a detailed and personal level.


The Bible, Protestantism and the Rise of Natural Science: A Response to Harrison’s Thesis

Jitse M. van der Meer Richard Oosterhoff
Pages: 133-153


Harrison has proposed that the rise of modern science required as its most important condition the decline of religious nature symbolism (allegory) across early modern Western culture because it diverted attention away from nature to God. He identifies the main cause of this decline as the rejection of religious nature symbolism by the Protestant reformers. They rejected symbolic interpretation of Scripture texts because it made the meaning of the text indeterminate. We offer six reasons for doubting the proposed role of the Protestant Reformation and suggest other possible causes for the rise of modern science. There is another reading of Harrison’s thesis. For Harrison the rejection of symbolism in Scripture interpretation removes a veil from nature and its particular order the exploration of which still requires other causes. According to what we call the analogy thesis the rejection of religious nature symbolism removed a source of ambiguity and led to the use of precision in the language of biblical scholarship. By analogy of the two books this actively encouraged precise unequivocal language and attention to empirical detail in the study of nature. We argue that disagreements over Scripture interpretation render this thesis implausible as well.


The Bible, Protestantism and the Rise of Natural Science: A Rejoinder

Peter Harrison
Pages: 155-162


Scripture and an Evolving Creation

John Polkinghorne
Pages: 163-173


The interpretation of Scripture in the light of modern knowledge is an important dimension of the interaction between science and Christian theology. Particular attention is paid to the primeval narratives of Genesis 1-3, the wisdom literature and the prophets of the Exile. The Fall is reconsidered and associated, not with the origin of biological death, but with mortality, human anxiety at the transience of life consequent upon a chosen curvature into the self which alienated humans from the God who is the only true ground of hope. Evolutionary understanding encourages the concept of divine purposes being fulfilled through an unfolding process of continuous creation. A world in which creatures ‘make themselves’ is a great good but it has an inescapable shadow side. This insight offers some help with the problems of theodicy.


Book reviews

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Reconstructing a Christian Theology of Nature: Down to Earth

Anna Case-Winters, (Cherryl Hunt)
Pages: 175-176

Explorations in Neuroscience, Psychology and Religion

Kevin S. Seybold, (Peter G.H. Clarke)
Pages: 176-177

Cosmic Impressions: Traces of God in the Laws of Nature

Walther Thirring, (Peter Bussey)
Pages: 177-178

Christian Bioethics: A Guide for the Perplexed

Agneta Sutton, (Philippa Taylor)
Pages: 178-179

Does It Matter: The Unsustainable World of the Materialists

Graham Dunstan Martin, (Arthur Jones)
Pages: 179-180

The Many Faces of God: Science’s 400-Year Quest for Images of the Divine

Jeremy Campbell, (James Hannam)
Pages: 180-181

Science and the Bible: Evidence-Based Christian Belief

Ted Burge, (John J. Bimson)
Pages: 181-183

Ernan McMullin and Critical Realism in the Science-Theology Dialogue

Paul L. Allen, (David Watts)
Pages: 183-184

The Cultures of Creation

Simon Coleman Leslie Carlin (eds.), (Paul Marston)
Pages: 184-186

Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion

Karl Giberson Mariano Artigas, (Lawrence Osborn)
Pages: 186-187

Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design and Evolution

D.B. & L.D. Haarsma, (Stephen Walley)
Pages: 187-189

Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution

K.W. Giberson, (Stephen Walley)
Pages: 187-189

Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?

Denis Alexander, (Andrew Bowie)
Pages: 189-191

Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief

John Polkinghorne Nicholas Beale, (Paul Wraight)
Pages: 191-191

Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth

Mark S. Whorton, (Stephen Walley)
Pages: 192-192