Describing the Hand of God: Divine Agency and Augustinian Obstacles to the Dialogue between Theology and Science

By Robert Brennan

An argument that traditional understandings of God’s agency have hindered theology’s rapprochement with science, and the merits of a post-Augustinian approach.

ISBN: 9780227175743


The question of divine agency in the world remains an important unresolved obstacle in the dialogue between theology and science. Modern notions of divine agency are shown to have developed out of the interaction of three factors in early modernity. Two are well known: late medieval “perfect-being” theology and the early modern application of the notion of the two books of God’s revelation to the understanding of the natural order. The third is the early modern appropriation of the Augustinian doctrine of inspiration. This assumes the soul’s existence and a particular description of divine agency in humans, which became more generally applied to divine agency in nature.

Whereas Isaac Newton explicitly draws the parallel between divine agency in humans and that in nature, Charles Darwin rejects its supposed perfection and Thomas Huxley raises serious questions regarding the traditional understanding of the soul. Describing the Hand of God offers an alternative incarnational description of divine agency, freeing consideration of divine agency from being dependent on resolving the complex issues of perfect-being theology and the existence of the soul.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 302

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Robert Brennan is an ordained minister and theologian with a background in industrial physics and postgraduate qualifications in physics and theology.



1. Divine Agency: A Source of Unresolved Issues between Theology and Science
2. Divine Agency, Inspiration, Perfection, and Generic Theology
3. Newton and God/Providence Inspiring the Universe
4. Divine Agency Implying Perfection and the Soul
5. Describing Divine Agency in Humans Pneumatologically and Christologically Beginning with Christ
6. Dialogue with One Obstacle Removed



Endorsements and Reviews

Robert Brennan has made a significant contribution to the theology-science debate with his proposal for a more incarnationally shaped understanding of divine agency in human beings. This comprehensive work, canvassing the ideas of a broad range of Christian thinkers throughout history – church fathers such as Tertullian and Augustine, Newton, Darwin, Huxley, and Barth among them – demonstrates both insight and scholarly integrity.
David Rankin, Minister, Holland Park Uniting Churches, Australia

Brennan’s thesis is very wide-ranging; it draws on a vast range of primary and secondary literature across all eras of Christian theology and traverses the disciplines of philosophy, theology, and history. Familiar texts are given original interpretations. Unexpected historical connections are illuminated. It is unusual to read a work that engages on so many fronts while sustaining an original argument. Both theologians and historians of science will profit from it.
Geoff Thompson, Co-ordinator of Studies in Systematic Theology, Pilgrim Theological College, Australia