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The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis [Paperback]

By John C. Polkinghorne (Editor)
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Item description for The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis by John C. Polkinghorne...

The development of kenotic ideas was one of the most important advances in theological thinking in the late twentieth century. In The Work of Love eleven foremost theologians and scientists discuss the kenotic view of creation, exploring the implications of this controverial perspective for Christian doctrine and the scientific enterprise generally. The authors' backgrounds are diverse-ranging from systematic theology to neuropsychology-yet each agrees in seeing creation as God's loving act of divine self-restriction. The key concept, kenosis ("self-emptying"), refers to God's voluntary limitation of his divine infinity in order to allow room for finite creatures who are truly free to be themselves. This engaging formulation of God's creative work challenges the common conception of God as a divine dictator and provides a more satisfying response to the perplexing problem of evil and suffering in the world. The fruit of discussions sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, these stimulating chapters bring a needed interdisciplinary approach to this weighty new trajectory in Christian thought. Contributors: Ian G. Barbour Sarah Coakley George F. R. Ellis Paul S. Fiddes Malcolm Jeeves J]rgen Moltmann Arthur Peacocke John Polkinghorne Holmes Rolston III Keith Ward Michael Welker

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Pages   210
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.08" Width: 6.1" Height: 0.57"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2001
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802848850  
ISBN13  9780802848857  

Availability  119 units.
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More About John C. Polkinghorne

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John C. Polkinghorne is an Anglican priest, a fellow of the Royal Academy past president of Queens College, Cambridge University, and former professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge. Polkinghorne resigned his chair in physics to study for the Anglican priesthood. After completing his theological studies and serving at parishes, he returned to Cambridge. In 1997, Dr. Polkinghorne was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for distinguished service to science, religion, learning, and medical ethics. He was the recipient of the 2002 Templeton Prize. He lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom.


John C. Polkinghorne was born in 1930.

John C. Polkinghorne has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Theology & the Sciences
  2. Theology and the Sciences
  3. Very Short Introductions
  4. Yale Nota Bene

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Christology
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Philosophy

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Love, Theologically and Scientifically Examined  Jan 16, 2009
It's difficult not to be excessively enthusiastic about The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis. This collection of essays represents an eminent step forward in the science-and-religion dialogue, especially as the dialogue relates to Christianity. The book's basic premise is that, if love is God's chief attribute, creation itself and God's activity related to it ought to be regarded as the work of love.

The word, kenosis, derives from a New Testament letter to a group of Christians (Philippians 2:7). Biblical scholars typically translate kenosis as "self-emptying," although scholarly consensus does not exist about how exactly to conceive of divine kenosis. For the most part, these essayists choose to regard kenosis as voluntary, self-giving love.

The Work of Love begins with an overview essay by Ian Barbour. Barbour notes five themes that advocates of kenotic theology believe their perspective addresses more adequately than other theological alternatives. These themes include the integrity of nature, the problem of evil and suffering, the reality of human freedom, the Christian understanding of the cross, and feminist criticisms of the patriarchal God. The themes arise often again throughout the book.

The idea of divine gifts of love through God's own self-limitation is evident throughout the book. Arthur Peacocke contends in his essay that the evolutionary character of the actual process of creation justifies the notions that God creates by self-offering. The cost to God when risking creation is "in a continuing self-limitation, which is the negative aspect of God's creative action," contends Peackocke, "and also in a self-inflicted vulnerability to the created processes in order to achieve an overriding purpose: the emergence of free persons" (p. 40). Malcom Jeeves, when focusing on recent evidence and theory in contemporary psychobiology, contends that the capacity for creaturely self-giving love may have polygenetic bases, and a kenotic community may be necessary for nurturing the development and expression of kenotic behavior.

The book's editor, John Polkinghorne, believes that divine self-limitation provides an answer to the problem of evil, because "no longer can God be held to be totally and directly responsible for all that happens" (p. 95). Those familiar with Polkinghorne's writing should note that while he has previously argued that God's special providence was limited to pure information input so that God was not considered one cause among others, he now "come to believe that the Creator's kenotic love includes allowing divine special providence to act as a cause among causes" (p. 104). George F. R. Ellis adopts the self-limitation theme in his essay by arguing that divine kenosis is a voluntary choice whereby God exercises "total restraint in the use of God's power," suggests Ellis, "for otherwise a free response to God's actions is not possible" (p. 114).

Many of the essayists look to contributor Jurgen Moltmann for their formal theological inspiration. Moltmann's proposal straightforwardly embraces voluntary divine limitation. God freely chooses to be the Creator of a world, which means that God allows creation space and time and its own movement. God "distances himself" from the world, and the "limitation of his infinity and omnipresence is itself an act of omnipotence" (p. 145).

Paul Fiddes adopts an approach keeping with the Moltmannian idea of divine self-limitation, in that Fiddes begins reflecting about God's relation with others by placing kenosis in the divine will instead of the divine nature. This entails that "God freely determines the kind of God that God will be" (p. 181). The difficulties of this position are partly logical, however, for it seems illogical that one begin choosing prior to having a nature. Another difficulty with this position is that we no longer trust in God's love; instead, we must trust the divine will.

Other than Barbour, only essayists Keith Ward and Sarah Coakley are uncomfortable with what divine self-limitation might entail. In response, Ward attempts to place self-emptying in the divine nature, rather than the divine will. "If one thinks that `God is love' (John 4:16), that love is an essential property of the divine nature, and that love can only be properly exercised in relation to others who are free to reciprocate love or note," explains Ward, "then the creation of some universe containing free finite agents seems to be an implication of the divine nature" (p. 159). Among other things, Coakley notes that the self-sacrifice of kenosis has been a contentious theme in feminist theology, because it can be identified with the abasement that feminists seek to avoid.

As I have already mentioned, there is SO MUCH to admire about this book. The kenotic idea championed by these essayists would be strengthened, however, were it to take a slightly different shape. If essayists were to place kenosis in the divine nature rather than the will, a more satisfactory solution to the problem of evil may be secured. This would mean that divine kenosis is not wholly voluntary; instead, God necessarily self-empties in love. I call this "essential kenosis." This conception of kenosis allows one to evade the question: Why wouldn't this voluntarily self-limited God occasionally become un-self-limited to prevent genuine evil? A God whose essential nature is kenosis love and that interacts with creatures who are essentially free would not be culpable for failing to prevent genuine evils. If this alternative conception of kenosis were to be adopted, the conceptual framework would be in place for essayists to view consistently God's actions as the work of love.

Great book! I recommend it!

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