In his third chapter of One World, “The Nature of Theology,” he applies the same idea of critical realism that I talked about in my last post. He writes that theology (any type, not just Christian) has three sources: scripture, tradition, and reason. In his discussion of reason, he had a new twist on another apologetic argument that I’ve heard before in summaries of the arguments of Cal Thomas and Tim Keller. The argument was basically that one might expect that a truly transcendent God would not be completely explainable with human reason. I don’t think that this can win a debate all by itself, of course.
Polkinghorne adds a scientific twist to that argument. As he explains in his first chapter, Newton’s conception of physics works pretty well in everyday life, but at speeds approaching light speed and at the subatomic level, Newton just doesn’t cut it. This is where ideas like relativity and quantum theory come in. As he states in the second chapter,
In consequence there is a special quantum logic which differs from that known to Aristotle or the man in the street. If there is a need to accomodate reason to the idiosyncratic nature of subatomic particles, may there not be need for even greater subtlety in exercising it on the nature of God? (40)
Again, I don’t offer this as an invincible argument. But I like the way that it deepens the philosophical argument that God is not accountable to our perceptions, expectations, and demands of Him.
Also, I noticed in this chapter that he agrees with C.S. Lewis’ argument that the universality of religious impulses in human cultures lends credence to the existence of God as the purpose of those desires. The idea that religion is just a way of talking about our own internal desires “is as implausible as supposing that quarks and electrons are merely useful figments of the physicists’ imaginations” (48).