In this relatively small book, John Polkinghorne suggests that science and theology have a lot in common. Polkinghorne begins by discussing Ian Barbour's four approaches to the dialogue between science and theology: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration. He then proposes a different kind of classification is needed: deistic, theistic, revisionary, and developmental. This chapter was a bit of a struggle for this layman, but the reader can begin with Chapter 2 and still benefit from the rest of the book.
Chapter 2 on the role of scripture was essentially how to think about scripture in 27 insightful pages. For instance, Polkinghorne points out that "Those who attempt to read Genesis 1 and 2 as if these chapters were divinely dictated scientific texts, kindly provided by God to save us the trouble of attempting to read the book of nature for ourselves, are committing just such an act of literary violence [confusing one genre with another]. They also put themselves in peril of missing the true theological point of the text, with its eightfold reiteration of the message that nothing exists except through the creative will and effectual utterance of God (`And God said "Let there be . . ."')." (p 44)
Polkinghorne suggests that " . . . just as individual scientists are the indispensable originators of ideas, yet have to submit their proposals to the judgement of the competent community of their peers, so what is often thought of as a Protestant emphasis on the individual believer's right to read and interpret scripture has to be qualified by what is often thought of as a Catholic emphasis on the sifting and receiving role played by the whole Christian community." (p. 52)
In Chapter 3, Polkinghorne suggests that Trinitarian theology is a true `Theory of Everything', " . . . not that we can infer the Trinity from nature, but that there are aspects of our scientific understanding of the universe that become more deeply intelligible to us if they are viewed in a Trinitarian perspective." (p. 61) He suggests that "The more we understand scientifically the process of the world, the more it seems closely integrated--a package deal from which it is not possible in a consistent way to retain the `good' and remove the `bad'. I do not for a moment believe that this insight eliminates all the anguish and perplexity that we feel at the evil and suffering in the world, but it does suggest that its presence is not gratuitous." (p. 72)
In Chapter 4, Polkinghorne mentions numerous analogies between science and theology, e.g., "Perhaps a scaled-down analogy to the ambition of theological discourse about the divine infinity can be provided from within the experience of the fundamental physicist by considering the confident way in which quantum cosmologists talk about the extremely early universe and about the proliferating cosmic sequences of a hypothesized quantum multiverse. Their talk is both fascinating and precarious. The pretty arabesques that the quantum cosmologists perform are executed on the thinnest of intellectual ice and to the sound of cracking. (pp. 91-92)
In Chapter 6, Polkinghorne identifies and discusses four eschatological criteria whose fulfillment seemed to be essential for a credible theology: (1) if the universe is a creation, it must make sense everlastingly and so ultimately it must be redeemed from transience and decay, (2) if human beings are creatures loved by their Creator, they must have a destiny beyond their deaths, (3) in so far as present human imagination can articulate eschatological expectation, it has to do so within the tension between continuity and discontinuity, and (4) the only ground for eschatological hope lies in the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, which is testified to by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He then raises and suggests an answer for the question: "If the possibility of such a world [the world to come] is accepted, however, it does raise an acute theological question. If the new creation is to be such an attractive state, why did God bother with the old creation. (p. 164)
"Science and the Trinity" is good introduction to and/or summary of John Polkinghorne's books. My only disappointment is that I did not discover this 2004 book sooner.