Sunday, 7 October 2012

The value of stories with regard to theology

Dr Polkinghorne,

In the introduction of The Faith of a Physicist on page 8 , the first full paragraph you state :
"Just as I cannot regard science as merely an instrumentally successful manner of speaking which serves to get things done, so I cannot regard theology as merely concerned with a collection of stories which motivate an attitude to life . It must have its anchorage in the way things actually are, and the way they happen ."
It seemed to our book group provacateur ( a retired pharmaceutial research scientist and medical doctor ) tthat you were disparaging the value of stories with regard to theology and that you reinforced that opinion with your next statement on the stories of the Indian tradition.

We had lengthy discussion on the various points of view and I , as the host of the group , volunteered to contact you for clarification on your meaning.

Response: I'm at Harvard right now and don't have the book to hand, but I think John would expand the point roughly as follows. Of course stories are really important in theology as in all other ways in which humans get to understand the world better. Romeo and Juliet or The Tempest (for example) give profound and deep insights into human nature. But there is a profound difference between a wonderfully moving and deep story that is essentially fictional and one that is fundamentally true.
If Jesus had not lived, died and risen again the Gospels would still be "inspiring" literature, but no-one in their right mind would base their lives on them.

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