Arthur Peacocke’s Gifford Lectures, (published here as part three of the book as a whole) represent a hugely successful attempt to reframe the debate between science and theology away from old-fashioned antagonisms and towards a more open conversation. The expanded edition, which in three parts could easily have been a trio of monographs or books rather than one book, deepens the content of the lectures to make this a remarkable and impressive volume that highlights Peacocke’s importance as a scientist and theologian. Beginning with a discussion of the state of the interaction between the two fields (much improved since the 1990s) Peacocke makes his argument for understanding all scientific truth and discovery as essentially revealing something of the character of God. One thing which is a recurring theme throughout the three sections is the emphasis on process and becoming over static understandings of the material world, humans and God. Peacocke argues for process as immanence, wherein God is directly involved with the world – creating it in an ongoing process and sustaining it through his work. Biological evolution is thus a reminder of God’s immanence with the world, rather than his remoteness. (Discussed in great detail of section two, chapter eight). After examining the natural world (again with an emphasis on becoming) in section one, and offering his theological understanding of God and how God responds to the world in section two, the third section concerns itself with a more specific interaction, namely, the meeting between humanity and God.
Here Peacocke differentiates between general and special revelation but Peacocke warns against bracketing off religious experience from other human experiences, suggesting that the old distinction between natural theology and revealed theology (integral to the Gifford bequest) might well prove difficult to maintain. Principally however, the main focus of the Gifford Lecture section is now how God communicates with the world, but what the content of that communication is – the way God reaches out to humanity. It is in the reaching out of God to humanity that Peacocke places his discussion of Jesus Christ, which thanks to the previous sections and the careful interdisciplinary approach to both science and theology, is rich and highly compelling. The life and death of Christ are not simply historical manifestations of Divine communication, but ways in which human consciousness might be reoriented towards its highest good, the Divine itself. Theologically speaking the content is surprisingly orthodox, perfectly in keeping with the best of Anglican theology of the twentieth century. As a result, with its strong arguments for the fundamental compatibility of theology and science as well as a dynamic process orientated view of both, the lectures prove the need for fruitful dialogue between the two, which follows in the ground-breaking work done by Peacocke here.