Ian Barbour (90) has died.


A winner of the Templeton Prize in 1999,

Barbour, as a scientist, did much

to bring awareness of Christianity

to his colleagues.


For more use the DOOR.




We’re a little late on seeing and mentioning this, but thanks to one of our associates at ADS for bring this to our attention.


Though of admittedly liberal, or “mainline” as it’s sometimes called, Christian persuasion, Ian Barbour was a significant figure in the “coming together” in thinking about science and Christianity in the past half century.


(If you’re an ADS follower, we’ll put in color parts that we find particularly useful in our ongoing discussions. We’ll inject some comment into Yardley’s fine summary.)



Ian Barbour, Who Found a Balance Between Faith and Science, Dies at 90



Ian Barbour, right, who had physics and divinity degrees, with Sir John Templeton after winning the Templeton Prize in 1999. Credit Marty Lederhandler/Associated Press

Ian Barbour first studied science, then religion, but instead of concluding that the two are in eternal conflict, he helped create an academic realm where they share common ground.

Dr. Barbour, who was 90 when he died on Dec. 24 in Minneapolis, earned a doctorate in physics at the University of Chicago and then a divinity degree from Yale, and he never abandoned his passion for scientific exploration or his place in the pew. He embraced the complexities of evolution and the Big Bang theory, of genetics and neuroscience. He also embraced Christianity. He was a devoted parishioner at First United Church of Christ in Northfield, Minn.

In 1999, when he won the Templeton Prize, a prestigious award given annually to “a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” he said it was missing the point to focus on the supremacy of one over the other, to read either religious texts or scientific findings as comprehensive in their capacity to explain existence.

“If we take the Bible seriously but not literally,” he said in his acceptance address, “we can accept the central biblical message without accepting the prescientific cosmology in which it was expressed, such as the three-layer universe with heaven above and hell below, or the seven days of the creation story.” ²

He was well known for describing four prevailing views of the relationship between science and religion: that they fundamentally conflict, that they are separate domains, that the complexity of science affirms divine guidance and finally — the approach he preferred — that science and religion should be viewed as being engaged in a constructive dialogue with each other.

“This requires humility on both sides,” he wrote. “Scientists have to acknowledge that science does not have all the answers, and theologians have to recognize the changing historical contexts of theological reflection.”

Dr. Barbour seemed at ease in tension. He was a conscientious objector during World War II and later a teaching assistant to Enrico Fermi, a developer of the atomic bomb…


¹ NYTimes, Jan. 13, 2014. Taken from the web. This is only the first part of Yardley’s article.

² Although many have no difficulty with the wording and implication of this statement, we do. Generalizing in a complex area, along with the selection of detail and the careful defining of words, which both scientists and Christians (and we) often fail to do well, is essential for useful discussion here. But discussing this now is not our purpose. We are glad for Barbour’s contribution, particularly in alerting many around him to the Christian world. One of his books is on my shelf.