Divine and Contingent Order


Thomas F. Torrance, “Divine and Contingent Order,” in The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century, ed. Arthur R. Peacocke (Notre Dame:  University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 81-97; #1981-407.


Torrance, Thomas F. "Divine and Contingent Order." In The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century, 81-97. Edited by Arthur R. Peacocke. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981; #1981-407.

Publication life cycle / General notes

Papers from the Oxford International Symposium, held at Christ Church College in Sept. 1979. A significantly revised version of this essay appeared as Chapter 3 of Divine and Contingent Order, #1981-385: "Theological and Scientific World Views." See TFT’s comments in Mary Hesse, “Retrospect,” #1981-407b; pp. 302-303.

Revision status

The publication date is 1981; not 1982 as sometimes reported.


Book table of contents:

  • Preface, P. W. Kent, vii.
  • Part I: Theology and the Sciences Today, 1
    • Chapter 1: Theological questions to scientists, W. Pannenberg, 3
    • Chapter 2: How should cosmology relate to theology? Ernan McMullin, 17
    • Chapter 3: Is/Ought: A risky relationship between theology and science, Philip Hefner, 58
  • Part II: Nature, Man and God, 79
    • Chapter 4: Divine and contingent order, T. F. Torrance, 81
    • Chapter 5: Did God create this universe? John Bowker, 98
    • Chapter 6: Profane and sacramental views of nature, S. M. Daecke, 127
    • Chapter 7: The return of man in quantum physics, Richard Schlegel, 141
  • Part III: Epistemological Issues, 161
    • Chapter 8: What does it mean to say the truth? Rubem A. Alves, 163
    • Chapter 9: The evidential value of religious experience, Richard Swinburne, 182
    • Chapter 10: The varieties of scientific experience, J. R. Ravetz, 197
  • Part IV: Sociological Critique
    • Chapter 11: Theory, theology and ideology, Nicholas Lash, 209
    • Chapter 12: Comparing different maps of the same ground, David Martin, 229
    • Chapter 13: Senses of the natural world and senses of God: another look at the historical relation of science and religion, Martin Rudwick, 241
    • Chapter 14: Science as theology -- the theological functioning of Western science, Eileen Barker, 262
  • Retrospect, Mary Hesse, 281
    • Comments (Pannenberg, McMullin, Torrance, Swinburne, Lash), 297
  • Index
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“The universe is contingent for it does not exist of necessity: it might not have been at all and might very well have been different from what it is. Yet in coming to be, the universe is characterised by an open-structured order which partakes of contingence.” (p. 85)

“…the contingent nature of the universe challenges science to reckon with it no longer as a negligible factor in rigorous scientific understanding and interpretation of the natural order… the orderly connections which it seeks to trace within the universe cannot be followed through scientifically to any final end, for they break off at the limits of space and time, but that nevertheless… they refer our thought meta-scientifically… to an ultimate intelligible ground on which all orderly connections within the universe must depend…
   The problem of natural science… [is that it] runs the risk of lapsing into an empiricist rationalism in which contingence is abjured and genuine empirical science is pushed aside.” (pp. 85-86, 87)