A Selection of Books by John C. Polkinghorne, summarized by John C. Polkinghorne.
I enjoy writing and, in consequence, I am quite a prolific author. I always try to write with intellectual integrity, but I do so at a variety of levels, sometimes concentrating on a specialist audience but at other times being concerned to be in contact with the general educated reader. My books are usually quite short, as I like to take a definite topic and when I have written all I can about it, I just stop. The instincts formed by my scientific career do not encourage unnecessary elaboration of statement.
Four of my books deal mainly with scientific matters:
The Particle Play (W.H. Freeman, 1979) — particle physics for the common reader;
The Quantum World (Longman, 1984; Princeton University Press, 1985; Pelican Books, 1986; Penguin Books, 1990) — the ideas of quantum theory presented to the non-scientist. This is the most successful of all my books in terms of sales;
Rochester Roundabout (Longman, W.H. Freeman, 1989) — a personal memoir of my life and times in particle physics, probably most suitable for a scientific reader; and
Beyond Science (Cambridge University Press, 1996) — physics in a wider cultural setting, including some reminiscences of famous physicists I have known.
The first book I wrote on science and religion was a little book with a rather grandiose title, The Way the World Is (Triangle, 1983; Eerdmans, 1984). It arose out of many conversations I had with friends in the international intellectual village of theoretical particle physics, when it was known that I was leaving but I was still in the course of winding up my academic affairs. It was an attempt to say more about what motivated my Christian belief than was possible in half an hour over a cup of coffee in a laboratory canteen.
This was followed by a trilogy of short books:
One World (SPCK, 1986; Princeton University Press, 1987) — science and theology interacting in the context of the unity of knowledge;
Science and Creation (SPCK, 1988; New Science Library, 1989) — hints of a Creator from the deep intelligibility and finely-tuned fruitfulness of the universe; and
Science and Providence (SPCK/New Science Library, 1989) — does God act in the world and can a scientist pray?
Reason and Reality (SPCK/Trinity Press International, 1991) sought to develop further some of the topics treated in the trilogy and, in particular, to defend theology as a rational activity in the search for motivated belief.
My Gifford Lectures, Science and Christian Belief (SPCK, 1994) [in the United States, The Faith of A Physicist (Princeton University Press, 1994)] constitute my most substantial, and I think my most important, book. It takes the phrases of the Nicene Creed and mounts a defence of the rationality of believing them to be true. A central topic is the resurrection of Christ. The book is subtitled, “Theological Reflections of a Bottom-Up Thinker.” I use this description of myself because I believe that the best way of motivating belief is to move from experience to understanding, a technique that we use in science and which is also applicable to theology. The world is surprising and scientists do not think that they know beforehand what form reason must take. They do ask, however, the right question, which is “What is the evidence that persuades you that this is true?”
Scientists as Theologians (SPCK, 1996) surveys the writings of three scientist-theologians: Ian Barbour and Arthur Peacocke (both Templeton Prize winners), and myself. We have many things in common, but there are also significant differences. I see myself as allowing theology to set more of the agenda for the conversation with science than is the case with my two colleagues.
Quarks, Chaos and Christianity (Triangle, 1994; Crossroad, 1996) is a chatty book that seeks to survey the science and religion scene in a way easily accessible to the average reader, but without intellectual oversimplification. It is secretly one of my favourite writings.
Science and Theology (SPCK/Fortress, 1998) also offers a survey of the field but treated in a more academic fashion. It is based on an introductory course I gave at a seminary in New York.
Belief in God in an Age of Science (Yale University Press, 1998) is based on my Terry Lectures at Yale. It explores a number of analogies between scientific and theological ways of reasoning and it defends critical realism as the proper philosophical attitude to adopt in both disciplines. Our knowledge really does conform to the patterns of reality and we are not lost in a postmodernist slough of relativistic despond.
Faith, Science and Understanding (SPCK/Yale University Press, 2000) is a rather more specialised book. It includes two chapters devoted to the question of God’s action in the world and its relation to the scientific account of its process.
I have written a number of other books, including two highly specialised monographs from my physics days and also a joint dialogue book (Faith in the Living God [SPCK/Fortress, 2001]) with my friend, the German systematic theologian Michael Welker. I also wrote a book of short daily meditations for Lent, Searching for Truth (Bible Reading Fellowship, 1996; Crossroad, 1997).
Two further books will soon be published:
The God of Hope and the End of the World (Yale University Press, March 2002 [US]; SPCK, May 2002 [UK]) — about the credibility of a human destiny beyond death; and
Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, May 2002) — quantum ideas without any equations.
Various books of mine have been translated into 14 different languages.