Ebook also available at:

The Heavens Declare

Natural Theology and the Legacy of Karl Barth

Rodney Holder

One of the central themes of inquiry for Karl Barth, the twentieth-century Protestant theologian, was the notion of revelation. Although he was suspicious of natural theology (i.e. the seeking of evidence for God’s existence in the ordered structure of the world), recent scientific advances (notably in physics and cosmology) and the flourishing modern dialogue between science and religion offer compelling reasons to revisit Barth’s thinking on the concept. We must again ask whether and how it might be possible to hold together the notion of revelation whilst employing reason and scientific evidence in the justification of belief.

In The Heavens Declare, author Rodney Holder re-examines Barth’s natural theology argument and then explores how it has been critiqued and responded to by others, starting with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Wolfhart Pannenberg. Holder then considers the contributions of two notable British participants in the science-religion dialogue, Thomas Torrance and Alister McGrath, who, despite their repudiation of natural theology in the traditional sense, also provide many positive lessons. The book concludes by defending an overall position which takes into account the ideas of the aforementioned theologians as well as others who are currently engaged positively in natural theology, such as John Polkinghorne and Richard Swinburne.

Holder’s new study is sure to be of interest to theologians, philosophers of religion, and all scholars interested in the science-religion dialogue, especially those interested in natural theology as an enterprise in itself.

Preface / vii
1. The Enterprise of Natural Theology / 3
2. Karl Barth: Natural Theology Challenged / 15
3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Disciple and Critic / 55
4. Wolfhart Pannenberg: Theology, Truth, and Science / 99
5. Thomas Torrance: Natural Theology Redefined / 139
6. Alister McGrath: Renewing Natural Theology / 169
7. Conclusion: The Way Forward for Natural Theology / 233
Notes / 251
Index / 269

In this eminently clear and readable account of contemporary theological assessments of the project of ‘natural theology,’ Rodney Holder steers the reader through complex terrain and insists on the continuing apologetic importance of the task. A judicious and fair-minded survey of the current debate, this book will prove an invaluable teaching tool—one that neither undermines the supreme value of revelation nor abandons the vital importance of engagement with secular science.

Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge

Can we argue from the world to God? In this important book, Rodney Holder astutely reinstates natural theology at the heart of the theological enterprise. It should be read by all who are concerned about the rational basis of religious belief.”

Roger Trigg, Kellogg College, University of Oxford