Christian Hope in Dialogue with Natural Science: John Polkinghorne’s Incorporation of Bottom-up Thinking into Eschatology
This chapter aims to explore eminent scientist-theologian John Polkinghorne’s original contribution to current dialogue between Christian eschatology and physical cosmology. I will first discuss how he brings scientific and meta-scientific insights into a fruitful dialogue with Christian hope for the redemptive transformation of our universe. Then, in order to highlight the significance of his contribution, I will put his eschatological discussion side by side with the cosmic eschatology of Jürgen Moltmann. Despite the fact that they represent different modes of thinking, I will show that they agree upon the cornerstones of Christian eschatologydivine faithfulness as the ultimate ground of hope, Christ’s resurrection as the anticipation of cosmic destiny, continuities and discontinuities both required by creatio ex vetere, and theosis as the goal of God’s creation. I will argue that these fundamental convictions should lay the foundation of subsequent eschatologycosmology dialogues. The next discussion of Polkinghorne’s threefold criticism of recent eschatological discussions will lead us into an interesting dialogue between the two theologians. In particular, I will discuss their different modes of thinking, different definitions of temporality of the eternal life, and different timescales. In the process, I hope, it will be revealed that the two theologians’ eschatological ideas have greater affinities than they first appear to. Be that as it may, I will argue that Polkinghorne’s emphasis on bottom-up thinking is to be taken as a legitimate challenge to Moltmann’s top-down eschatology. In the final analysis, I will suggest that the attempt to overcome the current dissonance between biblical eschatology and physical cosmology needs to be continued.