Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Alister McGrath

Augustine [says] we have been created with the intellectual resources which can set us on the way to finding God by reflecting on the creation.

In more recent years, the importance of this point has been explored by the physicist turned theologian John Polkinghorne, formerly professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University. Polkinghorne points out that some of the most beautiful patterns thought up by the mathematicians are found actually to occur in the structure of the physical world around us. There seems to be some deep-seated relationship between the reason within (the rationality of our minds – in this case mathematics) and the reason without (the rational order and structure of the physical world around us). The two fit together like a glove. So why are our minds so perfectly shaped to understand the deep patterns of the world around us?

For Polkinghorne, we need to understand why the ‘reason within’ and the ‘reason without’ fit together at a deep level. Christian belief provides us, he argues, with a rational and entirely satisfying explanation of that fact. It affirms that the ‘reason within’ and the ‘reason without’ have a common origin in this deeper rationality which is the reason of God the Creator, whose will is the ground of both our mental and our physical experience of the world.

Polkinghorne argues that there seems to be some kind of ‘resonance’ or ‘harmonization’ between the ordering of the world and the capacity of the human mind to discern and represent it:

‘If the deep-seated congruence of the rationality present in our minds with the rationality present in the world is to find a true explanation, it must surely lie in some more profound reason which is the ground of both. Such a reason would be provided by the Rationality of the Creator.’

From chapter 6 of Creation, published by SPCK 2004

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