I have previously commented on the dearth of evangelical theologians willing to tackle the implications of biological evolution. While evangelical scientists, and in particular evangelical biologists, are grappling with the theological implications for their Christian faith, evangelical theologians for the most part have remained silent. Some, no doubt, fear retribution from the constituents and institutions they serve; others may simply fear exploring new ideas.
Here is what Polkinghorne has to say on the latter:
As a scientist I am often struck by theologians’ persistent fear of getting it wrong. [In science] a willingness to explore ideas which might prove mistaken, or in need of revision, is a necessary price of scientific progress. One would have thought that the intrinsic difficulty in doing theology would encourage a similar intrepidity. At times (the patristic period, the Reformation) that has been so, but not always. I am not of course, denying the existence of many wild flights of contemporary theological fancy, but saying that within the sober core I detect a degree of disinclination to take intellectual risk, particularly where it involves interaction with another discipline. Hence the widespread neglect of natural science by theologians.In some ways, Polkinghorne’s admonishment is too gentle. If theology is “faith seeking understanding”, then it is imperative that theologians deal with current issues, issues that may have been irrelevant to Christians in the past, but issues that puzzle, bewilder, and confuse us today. It is not sufficient to understand historic approaches to theology that may have been appropriate for the church fathers and the reformers. For the good of our faith we also need approaches that make sense of our modern and post-modern world.
From Science and Christian Belief, page 44
Polkinghorne later continues:
Theology without natural theology would be in a ghetto, cut off from knowledge of the physical creation; natural theology by itself would be vulnerable, apt to seem little more than a competing possibility alongside a thoroughgoing naturalism. Once again one sees how essential it is that theological inquiry is conducted as a fully integrated discipline.Over the past half-century Evangelicals have (thankfully) realized that the fundamentalist cultural ghetto serves only to silence the gospel, and we have begun to (slowly) break down those walls. What I’m not so sure we understand is that our theological ghettos are just as dangerous. If we cannot speak to the issues of the day, how can we expect others to be interested in the gospel? If we aren’t answering the questions that are being asked, why are we surprised when people (including our youth) look elsewhere for answers?
Evangelical theologians: This is not so much a complaint as a request for help.
Other Polkinghorne Quotes: [Introduction] [Previous]