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Enriching Our Vision of Reality

Theology and the Natural Sciences in Dialogue

Alister McGrath

Enriching our Vision of Reality is elegant, erudite, and animated by a constant enthusiasm for its subject. There is everything here—science, theology, philosophy, biography, even some poetry—all enlisted to help us to see the world as it is, both more clearly and with greater delight.” —Reverend Doctor Andrew Davison, Starbridge Lecturer in theology and natural sciences, University of Cambridge, and fellow in theology at Corpus Christi College

“It’s a pleasure to read an introduction to science and Christian belief that is both erudite and accessible. McGrath’s new book is rich with personal examples, biographies of famous scientists and theologians, and effective refutations of their detractors. This invitation to move forward from a bifurcated to an expansive view of reality is recommended for all who seek an ‘integrated understanding’ of science and Christian faith.” —Philip Clayton, editor of The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science

In this exceptional volume, leading theologian Alister McGrath writes for scientists with an interest in theology, and Christians and theologians who are aware of the importance of the natural sciences. A scene-setting chapter explores the importance of the human quest for intelligibility. The focus then moves to three leading figures who have stimulated discussion about the relationship between science and theology in recent years: Charles Coulson, an Oxford professor of theoretical chemistry who was also a prominent Methodist lay preacher; Thomas F. Torrance, perhaps the finest British theologian of the twentieth-century; and John Polkinghorne, a theoretical physicist and theologian.

The final section of the book features six “parallel conversations” between science and theology, which lay the groundwork for the kind of enriched vision of reality the author hopes to encourage. Here, we are inspired to enjoy individual aspects of nature while seeking to interpret them in the light of deeper revelations about our gloriously strange universe.

Preface / vii

Part 1 Setting the Scene

1 Intelligibility and coherence: the Christian vision of reality / 3                                                                                                                                                           
Part 2 Science and Theology: Three Practitioners

Introduction / 25

2 Charles A. Coulson / 27

3 Thomas F. Torrance / 42

4 John Polkinghorne / 59

Part 3 Theology and Science: Some Parallel Conversations

Introduction / 77

5 Theories and doctrines: ways of seeing reality / 79

6 The legitimacy of faith: proof, justification and intelligibility / 97

7 Analogies, models and mystery: representing a complex reality / 115

8 Religious and scientific faith: the case of Charles Darwin / 132

9 Human identity: scientific and theological perspectives / 149

10 Natural theology: the interface of science and theology / 164

Conclusion / 183

Notes / 185

For further reading / 213

"Enriching our Vision of Reality is elegant, erudite and animated by a constant enthusiasm for its subject. There is everything here – science, theology, philosophy, biography, even some poetry – all enlisted to help us to see the world as it is, both more clearly and with greater delight."

The Reverend Dr. Andrew Davison, Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge, and Fellow in Theology at Corpus Christi College

"It’s a pleasure to read an introduction to science and Christian belief that is both erudite and accessible. McGrath’s new book is rich with personal examples, biographies of famous scientists and theologians, and effective refutations of their detractors. This invitation to move forward from a bifurcated to an expansive view of reality is recommended for all who seek an ‘integrated understanding’ of science and Christian faith."

Philip Clayton, editor of The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science

"This is an accessible yet scholarly treatment that deserves a wide readership amongst scientists, theologians and all those interested in how science and faith mutually interact."

Denis R. Alexander, Emeritus Director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge, U.K.
“By reading McGrath, we gravely risk becoming inspired by an expansive vision of reality and doomed to be discontent with any cramped portion of it.”
David Lahti, associate professor of biology, City University of New York

BioLogos–September 2017

"A brilliant exploration of the relationship between Christian theology and the natural sciences by one of the world's foremost authorities."

Midwest Book Review–October 2017

“As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring, Enriching Our Vision of Reality: Theology and the Natural Sciences in Dialogue is an extraordinarily informed and informative read from beginning to end. One of those impressively memorable studies that will be of equal interest to scientists and theologians, Enriching Our Vision of Reality is very highly recommended for seminary, church, community, and academic library Christian Studies collections.”

Mary Cowper

Theological Studies 2018, Vol. 79(1) 182–223

“Reading this book is more like having an extended informal conversation with a mature scholar who has professional expertise in both science and religion. As such, it should be pleasant reading for all interested parties.”

Joseph A. Bracken, SJ