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The God of Hope and the End of the World [Paperback]

John Polkinghorne
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 11 2003
Do we live in a world that makes sense, not just now, but totally and forever? If, as scientists now predict, the universe is going to end in collapse or decay, can it really be a divine creation? Is there a credible hope of a destiny beyond death? In this engaging and intellectually scrupulous book, a leading scientist-theologian draws on ideas from science, scripture, and theology to address these important questions. John Polkinghorne carefully builds a structure of the hope of the life to come that involves both continuity and discontinuity with life in this world-enough continuity so that it is we ourselves who shall live again in that future world and enough discontinuity to ensure that the second story is not just a repetition of the first. Polkinghorne develops his argument in three sections. In the first, he considers the role of contemporary scientific insights and cultural expectations. In the second, he gives a careful account of the various testimonies of hope to be found in the Bible and assesses the credibility of belief in Jesus' resurrection. In the final section he critically analyzes and defends the Christian hope of the life of the new creation.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In the 1990s, Polkinghorne (Belief in God in an Age of Science) met regularly with an interdisciplinary group of scholars to address what Christian theology and scientific inquiry might have to say about the end of the world. In 2000, the group issued an essay collection, The End of the World and the Ends of God, but they also assigned Polkinghorne to write a briefer, more accessible volume about their work for the general reader. The excellence of this book shows that their faith in Polkinghorne as a writer and theologian was not misplaced. Polkinghorne argues that the world will not end with some grand attainment of human perfection, "but in the whimper of cold decay or the bang of fiery collapse." Either alternative "is a challenge to which theology must respond." In the opening chapters, he posits that a credible eschatological Christian theology will include both continuity and discontinuity; in other words, the new world God creates will have some similarities with this one, but it will also be a truly unique creation. This fascinating argument is followed by chapters on biblical precedents for eschatology. Polkinghorne is the first to admit that he is not a biblical scholar, but he does a fine job of crystallizing difficult concepts. He does this not through storytelling or personal anecdotes, but through a careful yet concise explication of ideas. Readers interested in the ongoing explorations of Christian faith and cosmology will not want to miss this volume, particularly since Polkinghorne takes on fellow theology-and-science writers such as Arthur Peacocke.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The rarest of hybrids, theoretical physicist and Anglican priest Polkinghorne sees in modern cosmology's grim predictions of universal decay the absolute necessity for a theological affirmation of human hope. That hope, he insists, depends upon the faithfulness of God, as revealed in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. To decipher what that miracle means for humanity and all other creatures, Polkinghorne scours the scriptural record, weighing not only the astonishing words but also their disquieting emotional tone. Surprisingly, Polkinghorne consults pioneering information theorists in interpreting these ancient texts. The puzzlement, even fear, of early witnesses of the risen Lord Polkinghorne regards as the understandable human reaction to the first-ever glimpse of a transformed and glorified life that transcended the natural cosmos and that will eventually redeem it. And modern science offers help in explaining how that transformed life could inhere in souls that--through God's grace--survive death as information-bearing patterns. Through this highly sophisticated exegesis, Polkinghorne thus reclaims a Christian doctrine--that of the physical Resurrection--discounted by many modern theologians as impossibly literal and naive. Though the casually religious will find him too technical, thoughtful Christians will find much to praise in this modern Aquinas. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual and spirtual challenge Sept. 24 2002
I had to use my dictionary many times, and found myself rereading whole sections over, sometimes more than once. But I found the scope of Polkinghorne's book wonderful and challenging, from the physics of the Big Bang and the eschatological challenge of infinite expansion (vs. the Big Crunch) to pastoral implications for Anglican priests. This book is a condensation of a series of academic papers, certainly more dense and obscure, but it does a remarkable job of stretching our minds and perspective while still being inspriational. One of the most meaningful books of my spritual journey.
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1.0 out of 5 stars For scholars only May 30 2002
By A Customer
This book is NOT written for the general reader. The language is too complex for the average reader. Also, you must have a dictionary at hand, unless you are familiar with words like "ineluctably, noetic, reified, solipsistic, etiolated, hihilistic, irrupt, meretricious, soteriology, parousia" etc.
Polkinghorne states on page 128 that "it is surely also true, in the mercy of God, that those who, through circumstances beyond their control, have never truly heard the gospel of Christ, or never had a real opportunity to respond to its call in this life, will not be denied that opportunity in the clearer light of the divine presence in the world of the new creation." This contradicts Romans 1:18-20 which state (NIV) "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that MEN ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE."
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1.0 out of 5 stars What is Polkinghorne Saying? June 20 2002
An author is supposed to communicate with the reading audience. This book greatly misses the mark, unless of course you are a top intellectual professor. And even then you might have difficulty. The author's sentence structure is needlessly complex, and his vocabulary is filled with obscure words, rarely used in normal communication. The words are not there for any purpose other than to impress the reader with the author's intellect. I had to reread passages of the book numerous times in an attempt to comprehend what he was saying. I have two college graduate degrees, so I am no dummy. This book made my head hurt and I eventually stopped reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Other Reviewers Are Inept Sept. 20 2002
By A Customer
Regarding both of the other reviews: Having degrees doesn't mean anything in terms of your ability to understand a text. You would hardly expect an engineer to be able to pick up Karl Rahner and make anything of it at all. Don't blame the text; blame your own ill-preparedness and lack of determination to acquire the necessary vocabulary and ideational apparatus. There is an object called the OED which is useful in this regard. If you don't like complex prose, for Heaven's sake stay away from most decent literature; it'll give you a headache, too. Shakespeare will certainly send you running for your Excedrin.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Only for intellectuals. March 19 2003
By A Customer
The author is an intellectual thinker and speaks that language well. It's no surprise then that his audience will be other intellectuals. While the author talks over my head, there are many who can appreciate his writing. Afterall, it's not a sin to have an extensive vocabulary or high I.Q.!!! Only God can speak the language of 'all' people.
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