Divine Action and Modern Science

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Divine Action and Modern Science (2002) is a book written by Nicholas Saunders who at the time of writing worked at the Ian Ramsey Centre in Oxford University. The book was published by Cambridge University Press. Book investigates leading ideas on how Divine Agency may act in a world defined by modern scientific knowledge (e.g., the five volumes of Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action). Saunders calls the interface between a scientifically defined world and Divine Agency a causal joint (Austin Farrer's term), which is the mechanism whereby God can act in the world. The book distinguishes between two levels of Divine Agency—SDA (Special Divine Action) and GDA (General Divine Action). Three of the leading candidates for such a causal joint are the quantum indeterminacy-based ideas of William G. Pollard, the chaos theory-based ideas of John Polkinghorne, and the whole part-based ideas of Arthur Peacocke.[1]


The book has a Preface, 9 Chapters, a Reference section, and an Index.[2]


  • Edward L. Schoen. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, February 2005, volume 57, issue 1, pages 67–70.
  • Michael Epperson. The Journal of Religion, October 2004 volume 84, issue 4 p648(2).
  • Larry Chapp (DeSales University), Modern Theology, October 2004, volume 20, issue 4, p. 613-615
  • David Atkinson, Words and works, Times Literary Supplement, January 9, 2004 issue 5258 p27(1).

"[Saunders] looks at the Near Eastern sources of biblical notions of divine action, and at various contemporary theological approaches. How does divine action occur, and what is the relationship between divine and finite causation? Are we talking about complementarity or something that is mutually exclusive? How often does special divine action occur[?] What effects does it achieve, and what is its purpose? Are we talking about God's being involved in quantum manipulation, or does he overrule the laws of nature? Saunders gives a cogent exposition and critique of a significant number of writers, ranging from those who subsume any special divine action into a concept of general divine activity, to those who see God's action in 'the fall of a sparrow.' ...After such a tightly argued book, with its most welcome ground-clearing exercise, Nicholas Saunders's conclusions are modest indeed. Can we continue to assert that God is active in the physical world? Yes, but much of the traditional account of God's activity, he believes, does not hold up against our modern understanding of science. In other words, he thinks that there is a great deal more work for the scientifically aware theologian to do."

  • Arthur Peacocke, The Journal of Theological Studies, October 2003 volume 54, issue 2, pages 869-873.
  • Religious Studies Review, Oct 2003 volume 29, page 353.
  • V.V.Raman (Rochester Institute of Technology) CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, Sept 2003, volume 41, issue 1 p169(1).

"Given the background of the author, there are more technical (even mathematical) discussions here than the reader might expect from a book with this title. Some technical physicists may cringe at the incorporation of quantum mechanical wave functions and Von Neumann's projection operator into theology and vice versa. But this approach may be necessary to keep certain discussions from going overboard in science-religion debates. Saunders' arguments are persuasive, and few will quarrel with his conclusion that 'we are still far from a satisfactory account of how God might act in a manner that is consonant with modern science.' Summing up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."

  • Russell Stannard, Theology, July–August 2003, volume 106, Issue 832, pages 294-295.


  1. Larry Chapp (DeSales University), Modern Theology, October 2004, volume 20, issue 4, p.613-615
  2. Divine Action and Modern Science, Nicholas Saunders, 2002, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-5215-2416-4

See also

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action