Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Science Boyfriend

Physicist and Priest
by Michael Fitzgerald
The Christian Century
January 29, 2008

Some of you know that I have recently developed an interest in reading about science - I don't know much about science, but find it fascinating. I love pondering the connections to be made between science and faith. For about a week now, I have been absorbed in reading the fat biography of
Albert Einstein (written by Walter Isaacson) that was published about a year ago. Will probably post about that in a couple of days. When I read about science - especially the super-technical disciplines like physics - some (much) of it goes over my head, but even when I do not fully grasp the concepts, I understand more than I did previously. If I can lift the curtain the tiniest bit and understand even a little of the intricate order of our universe, I am that much closer to encountering the creative power of God.

Several years ago a book group I was in read Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity by quantum physicist turned Anglican priest John Polkinghorne. I remember that I liked the book a lot, and was pleased to see this interview with Polkinghorne in the current issue of The Christian Century. Polkinghorne seems like a humble, gentle spirit - he published his autobiography last October. May have to consider reading it. I'm really quite smitten with Einstein, but since he has been dead since 1955, Polkinghorne may have to fill in as my science boyfriend.

Anyway, the interview is a good read - I do not think it is written with the simple elegance of the Polkinghorne book that I have read, but then it is a different medium. There were a couple of quotes that I particularly liked and wanted to share:

On his view of metaphor and its place in theology: "I prefer the word symbol to metaphor. Metaphor is essentially a literary device. A symbol is a way of representing reality that in some sense-a sense very hard to define-participates in the reality that it represents. Symbolism is indispensable to theology, because the mysterious infinite reality of God cannot be caught within the finite nets of human thinking in the way that the physical world, or large aspects of it, can be caught. The precise language of mathematics, which is so natural to physics, has to be replaced in theology by a different form of discourse."

On God not as the cosmic lawgiver but as the one guiding the process of creativity: "I'm very sympathetic to the idea that though God is the one who holds the world in being, the creation of the world is not the performance of a fixed score, but more like an unfolding improvisation in which God, as the great conductor of the orchestra, and also the individual creature players each have their roles. I think that's what the world looks like. It is also very much what I think you might expect the God of love to be like-not to be a chap who pulls every string-and also very much like the God of the Bible. A sort of cosmic puppet master doesn't seem at all to be the God of the Bible."

Think on these things. I love the orchestra/conductor/improvisation image.
Reverent Reader


At 1/30/08, 10:59 PM , Anonymous gatsby said...

Thanks for the nice thoughts, Reverent Reader. I would say John is not as clear when speaking as he is when writing. (He also talks really fast). But in writing, we get to revise.


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