Meet John Polkinghorne

"I am a passionate believer in the unity of knowledge. In my life and in my writing I have sought to take the insights of science and the insights of religion with equal seriousness. Together this ‘binocular vision’ gives me a deeper understanding of reality than I would gain from either on its own." (Contemporary Authors)

Is it possible to think like a scientist and still believe in God? Ever since the Enlightenment, this question has been vigorously debated in both scientific and religious circles. The differences of opinion between the two sides seemed irreconcilable—until now. As we enter the new millennium, a renewed dialogue between scientists and theologians is bridging the gap. At the forefront of the discussion stands John Polkinghorne, Anglican priest, respected theologian, and theoretical elementary particle physicist.

Born in 1930 in Weston-Super-Mare, England, Dr. Polkinghorne was brought up in the Church of England and has been a believer all his life. He earned his Ph.D. from Trinity College at Cambridge University, England, in 1955, and in 1968 obtained a position there teaching mathematical physics. His successful career as a professor and particle physicist spanned nearly three decades, until 1979, when he decided to take a different path. He stunned his colleagues by announcing that he intended to study for the Anglican priesthood. In 1981, he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England and served as curate of St. Andrew’s in Chesterton, as well as at St. Michael’s in Bedminster. Ordained a priest in 1982, he became a vicar in Kent from 1984 to 1986. Finally, in 1989, he became president of Queens College at Cambridge University, a post he held until his retirement. Dr. Polkinghorne has received several awards, including Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.). He is also the only ordained member of the prestigious Royal Society, England’s science fraternity.

A prolific author, Polkinghorne has written many articles and several books on "intellectual cousins" science and religion, including Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity and The Faith of a Physicist. Praised for his clarity and coherence, Polkinghorne makes difficult scientific concepts accessible to the general reader. In Belief in God in an Age of Science, he states from the beginning his belief that "there is a divine purpose behind this fruitful universe, whose fifteen-billion-year history has turned a ball of energy into the home of saints and sinners." He offers thought-provoking insights on the common quest for truth pursued by both science and religion; compares the scientist’s struggle to understand the wave/particle nature of light with the theologian’s desire to comprehend Christ’s dual humanity and divinity; expands upon his ideas on the role of chaos; and surveys the prospects for future dialogue between scientific and theological thinkers. Polkinghorne musters an impressive body of evidence to support his ideas, prompting Owen Gingerich of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to note: "In this lucid and honest work, John Polkinghorne states clearly where and why he agrees or disagrees with other contemporary writers. He presents a serious defense of a world view that must be considered seriously even by atheists."

Polkinghorne's recent works include Traffic in Truth: Exchanges Between Science and Theology, which explains common approaches and what each side has to offer the other; The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis (with Michael Welker), in which a group of experts present an evaluation of the controversial idea; Faith in the Living God (written with Michael Welker), in which theological horizons can be stretches as belief in God as creator, Christ as savior, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit are debated by the authors (provides references); and Faith, Science, and Understanding, which assesses God's self-limitation in creation; the nature of time; as well as the works of Pannenberg, Torrance, and Davies.

Dr. Polkinghorne lives with Ruth, his wife of 44 years, in Cambridge, England. They are the parents of three grown children, Peter, Michael, and Isobel.

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