John Polkinhorne (1930-2021): testimony of a biblical scholar

Re John Polkinghorne, by Dr. Tim Medowdroft, Senior Research Fellow, Old Testament, Laidlaw College I was sad to hear this week that John Polkinghorne had died. I am not a scientist (not even close) on two counts, first that I am trained in biblical studies, and secondly that my background to that training has been […]

Re John Polkinghorne, by Dr. Tim Medowdroft, Senior Research Fellow, Old Testament, Laidlaw College

I was sad to hear this week that John Polkinghorne had died. I am not a scientist (not even close) on two counts, first that I am trained in biblical studies, and secondly that my background to that training has been very strongly in the humanities. But I have come to realize that Christian engagement with scientific understandings of the good world that God has made is simply a sine qua non if the Gospel is to continue to find any foothold at all in contemporary Western society. That is a big call for somebody like me and I need helpful colleagues. One of those has been John Polkinghorne, although he would not have known that since my acquaintance has been through some of his writings. I have been greatly helped by him and others like him in the Society of Ordained Scientists to appreciate more deeply both the nature of God and the world that God has created, and encouraged in my conviction that our understanding of God must be in step with our understanding of God’s world. I have particularly remembered a phrase, possibly not verbatim, he used in an interview I once read where he said “God is not a deceiving demon” with respect to the world that it has been given us to discover. That has helped me greatly as I have tried to encourage others to acknowledge the importance of scientific enquiry. And there was a particular moment in my life, when my family was struggling to understand the nature of cancer, that the theology shaped in the crucible of scientific endeavour by Polkinghorne, Peackocke and others helped to form in me a better appreciation of what it means for humanity to be both imago Dei and imago mundi. Thank you, John Polkinghorne, for all of that and much more.

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