t f p g+ YouTube icon
i About the BioLogos Forum

The BioLogos Forum is designed to foster a serious and comprehensive discussion of Christian faith and the sciences. We believe that charitable engagement of different perspectives within the Church helps sharpen our thinking and deepen our commitment to the truth that is hidden in Christ. So while many of the articles and videos under the distinctive Forum banner come from BioLogos staff and Senior Fellows, we feature a range of voices, including those that disagree with us and with each other. Unless otherwise noted, views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here, and join the conversation in the comments section at the end of each post.

Searching for Motivated Belief: Introducing John Polkinghorne

Searching for Motivated Belief

Over the next few months, with permission from Yale University Press, BioLogos will offer edited versions of chapters from John Polkinghorne's best books, Belief in God in an Age of Science and Theology in the Context of Science, in order to help readers delve more deeply into some of his most important ideas.
Searching for Motivated Belief: Introducing John Polkinghorne

Searching for Motivated Belief: Introducing John Polkinghorne

Several times in my series of columns about “Science and the Bible,” I briefly discussed a few ideas from John Polkinghorne, one of the leading Christian thinkers of our time. Although I presented him mainly as a representative of the “Theistic Evolution” (TE) view, much of his published work is about other topics, several of them largely or entirely unrelated to TE. It’s time we got better acquainted with him.
February 14, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Lives of Faith 
1
 
Searching for Motivated Belief: Understanding John Polkinghorne, Part 1

Searching for Motivated Belief: Understanding John Polkinghorne, Part 1

Since science cannot provide the answers, [the New Atheists] proclaim, the questions themselves are meaningless; therefore, our efforts to answer them cannot produce evidence for God’s existence. I beg to differ.
February 28, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Lives of Faith 
292
 
Searching for Motivated Belief: Understanding John Polkinghorne, Part 2

Searching for Motivated Belief: Understanding John Polkinghorne, Part 2

To understand more clearly where Polkinghorne lies on the larger landscape of science and religion, let’s consider his approach to the Resurrection. Many contemporary thinkers, including some theologians and clergy, believe that “science” has somehow made it impossible to believe in the Resurrection, the deity of Jesus, and even belief in the transcendent God of the Bible.
March 14, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Divine Action & Purpose, Science & Worldviews 
312
 
Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 1

Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 1

Neither science nor religion can entertain the hope of establishing logically coercive proof of the kind that only a fool could deny. No one can avoid some degree of intellectual precariousness, and there is a consequent need for a degree of cautious daring in the quest for truth.
March 28, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Science & Worldviews, Science as Christian Calling 
34
 
Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 2

Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 2

Recent high-profile attacks on religious belief by some scientists have made much play of depicting believers as if they were simple-minded fideists [those who rely on faith alone] of an anti-intellectual mindset. The demolition of such strawmen is an unworthy polemical strategy. Christian theology’s pursuit of motivated belief demonstrates the misleading character of this kind of antireligious argument.
April 11, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Science & Worldviews, Science as Christian Calling 
81
 
Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 3

Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 3

The real problem of belief in miracle is properly a theological issue, not a scientific one, since claims of unique historical occurrences lie outside science’s competence to adjudicate. All it can do is reinforce the commonsense recognition that something like a resurrection does not usually happen. The real challenge to belief in miracle lies elsewhere.
April 25, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Christ & New Creation 
272
 
Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 4

Motivated Belief: John Polkinghorne on the Resurrection, Part 4

I believe that when the truth of Christianity is under consideration in the context of science, it is with these issues relating to the resurrection that the discussion needs to begin. Only when a case has been made for the belief that God was present in Jesus of Nazareth in a unique way does it then become possible adequately to attempt to enquire into the significance of his crucifixion.
May 09, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Christ & New Creation 
328
 
Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part One

Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part One

The world is not full of items stamped “made by God”—the Creator is more subtle than that—but there are two locations where general hints of the divine presence might be expected to be seen most clearly. One is the vast cosmos itself, with its fifteen-billion-year history of evolving development following the big bang. The other is the “thinking reed” of humanity, so insignificant in physical scale but, as Pascal said, superior to all the stars because it alone knows them and itself.
May 23, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Image of God 
4
 
Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part Two

Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part Two

Science rejoices in the rational accessibility of the physical world and uses the laws of nature to explain particular occurrences in cosmic and terrestrial history, but it is unable of itself to offer any reason why these laws take the particular (anthropically fruitful) form that they do, or why we can discover them through mathematical insight.
June 06, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Earth, Universe & Time 
23
 
Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part Three

Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part Three

The gift of Love must be the gift of freedom, the gift of a degree of letting-be, and this can be expected to be true of all creatures to the extent that is appropriate to their proper character. It is in the nature of dense snow fields that they will sometimes slip with the destructive force of an avalanche. It is the nature of lions that they will seek their prey. It is the nature of cells that they will mutate, sometimes producing new forms of life, sometimes grievous disabilities, sometimes cancers.
June 20, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Divine Action & Purpose, Problem of Evil 
315
 
Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part 4

Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part 4

It is precisely the recognition of the qualities of elegance, economy and naturalness which solves the problem of the under-determination of theory by experiment, so often pressed by philosophers of science, who sometimes speak of the process of discovery as if it were a dull routine of fitting curves to data points.
July 12, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Morality & Ethics 
5
 
Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part 5

Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part 5

The human paradox is that we perceive so many signs of value and significance conveyed to us in our encounter with reality, yet all meaning is threatened by the apparent finality of death. If the universe is truly a cosmos, if the word is really intelligible through and through, then this life by itself cannot be the whole of the story.
July 25, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Christ & New Creation, Divine Action & Purpose 
12