In philosophy, theophysics is an approach to cosmology that attempts to reconcile physical cosmology and religious cosmology. It is related to physicotheology, the difference between them being that the aim of physicotheology is to derive theology from physics, whereas that of theophysics is to unify physics and theology.


Paul Richard Blum (2002) uses the term in a critique of physicotheology, i.e. the view that arguments for the existence of God can be derived from the existence of the physical world (e.g. the "argument from design"). Theophysics would be the opposite approach, i.e. an approach to the material world informed by the knowledge that it is created by God.[1]

Richard H. Popkin (1990) applies the term to the "spiritual physics" of Cambridge Platonist Henry More and his pupil and collaborator Lady Anne Conway,[2] who enthusiastically accepted the new science, but rejected the various forms of materialist mechanism proposed by Descartes, Hobbes and Spinoza to buttress it,[3] as these, More and Conway argued, were incapable of explaining productive causality.[4] Instead, More and Conway offered what Popkin calls "a genuine important alternative to modern mechanistic thought",[3] "a thoroughly scientific view with a metaphysics of spirits to make everything operate". Materialist mechanism triumphed, however, and today their spiritual cosmology, as Popkin notes, "looks very odd indeed".[4]

The term has been applied by some philosophers to the system of Emanuel Swedenborg. William Denovan (1889) wrote in Mind: "The highest stage of his revelation might be denominated Theophysics, or the science of Divine purpose in creation."[5] R. M. Wenley (1910) referred to Swedenborg as "the Swedish theophysicist".[6]

Pierre Laberge (1972) observes that Kant's famous critique of physicotheology in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781; second edition 1787) has tended to obscure the fact that in his early work, General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens (1755), Kant defended a physicotheology that at the time was startlingly original, but that succeeded only to the extent that it concealed what Laberge terms a theophysics ("ce que nous appellerons une théophysique").[7]

Theophysics is a fundamental concept in the thought of Raimon Panikkar, who wrote in Ontonomía de la ciencia (1961) that he was looking for "a theological vision of Science that is not a Metaphysics, but a Theophysics.... It is not a matter of a Physics 'of God', but rather of the 'God of the Physical'; of God the creator of the world... not the world as autonomous being, independent and disconnected from God, but rather ontonomicly linked to Him". As a vision of "Science as theology", it became central to Panikkar's "cosmotheandric" view of reality.[8]

Frank J. Tipler's Omega Point theory (1994), which identifies concepts from physical cosmology with theistic concepts, is sometimes referred to by the term,[9] although not by Tipler himself. Tipler was an atheist when he wrote The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986, co-authored with John D. Barrow, whose many popular books seldom mention theology) and The Physics of Immortality (1994),[10] but a Christian when he wrote The Physics of Christianity (2007). In 1989, Wolfhart Pannenberg, a liberal theologian in the continental Protestant tradition, welcomed Tipler's work on cosmology as raising "the prospect of a rapprochement between physics and theology in the area of eschatology".[11] In subsequent essays, while not concurring with all the details of Tipler's discussion, Pannenberg has defended the theology of the Omega Point.[9]

The term is also occasionally used as a nonce word in parodies or humorous contexts, as by Aldous Huxley in Antic Hay (1923).[12]

See also


  1. ^ Paul Richard Blum, "Divine project: from physical-theology to theophysics", Philosophisches Jahrbuch ISSN 0031-8183, 2002, Vol. 109, No. 2, pp. 271-282.
  2. ^ Richard H. Popkin, "The Spiritualistic Cosmologies of Henry More and Anne Conway", in Sarah Hutton (ed.), Henry More (1614–1687): Tercentenary Studies. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1990, p. 105. ISBN 0-7923-0095-5
  3. ^ a b Popkin, "Cosmologies", p. 98.
  4. ^ a b Popkin, "Cosmologies", p. 111.
  5. ^ William Denovan, "A Swedenborgian View of the Problem of Philosophy", Mind, Vol. 14, No. 54 (April 1889), pp. 216–229.
  6. ^ R. M. Wenley, Kant and His Philosophical Revolution. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1910, p. 161.
  7. ^ Pierre Laberge, "La physicothéologie de l'Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels (1755)", Revue Philosophique de Louvain, 1972, Vol. 70, No. 8, pp. 541–572.
  8. ^ "Theophysics",
  9. ^ a b Theophysics: God Is the Ultimate Physicist
  10. ^ Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality, Chapter XII.
  11. ^ Wolfhart Pannenberg, "Theological Appropriation of Scientific Understandings: Response to Hefner, Wicker, Eaves, and Tipler", Zygon, Vol. 24, Issue 2 (June 1989), p. 255.
  12. ^ Aldous Huxley, Antic Hay, Chapter I, third paragraph.

Further reading

External links

  • Theophysics. A website mainly about Tipler's Omega Point Theory, with links to short nontechnical articles mostly by Tipler, but also some by Deutsch and Pannenberg.
  • entertheophysics, A website containing the 12 principles of Theophysics as explained by the author, training consultant and conference speaker Lawrence Poole. Poole also relates several applications of Theophysics including a "unified field formula".
Arthur Peacocke

Arthur Robert Peacocke (29 November 1924 – 21 October 2006) was a British Anglican theologian and biochemist.

Natural theology

Natural theology, once also termed physico-theology, is a type of theology that provides arguments for the existence of God based on reason and ordinary experience of nature.

This distinguishes it from revealed theology, which is based on scripture and/or religious experiences, and from transcendental theology, which is based on a priori reasoning. It is thus a type of philosophy, with the aim of explaining the nature of the gods, or of one supreme God. For monotheistic religions, this principally involves arguments about the attributes or non-attributes of God, and especially the existence of God, using arguments that do not involve recourse to supernatural revelation.

Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC – 27 BC) established a distinction between political theology (the social functions of religion), natural theology and mythical theology. His terminology became part of the Stoic tradition and then Christianity through Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.

Philosophy of physics

In philosophy, philosophy of physics deals with conceptual and interpretational issues in modern physics, and often overlaps with research done by certain kinds of theoretical physicists. Philosophy of physics can be very broadly lumped into three main areas:

The interpretations of quantum mechanics: Concerning issues, mainly, with how to formulate an adequate response to the measurement problem, and understand what the theory tells us about reality.

The nature of space and time: Are space and time substances, or purely relational? Is simultaneity conventional or just relative? Is temporal asymmetry purely reducible to thermodynamic asymmetry?

Inter-theoretic relations: the relationship between various physical theories, such as thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. This overlaps with the issue of scientific reduction.

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action is a five volume set that represents more than a decade of scientific-theological conferences sponsored by the Vatican Observatory and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.

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