Skip to content

Alister McGrath - The Great Mystery: Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning

Hodder and Stoughton £20 247 pages ISBN 978 1 473 63431 2

This book arises out of a lecture that the author delivered at a conference at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University. The questions and interaction afterwards prompted him to amplify what he had said, so that it could be accessible to a wider audience.

Alistair McGrath, being trained both as a scientist and a theologian, is qualified to speak with a clear voice on both sides of the Science/God debate. The book explores key questions concerning what it means to be a human being.

From personal experience, he can speak as an atheistic-leaning scientist who discovered that Christianity provided a more adequate narrative for making sense of life. McGrath argues that this search for meaning is one of the things that sets human beings apart from all other creatures.

The author uses John Alexander Mackay’s image of the balcony and the road to explore the difference in perspective between God, who views life from the balcony of the universe, and us, who see things from the road.

For those on the road to see from the perspective of the balcony is hopeless, unless there is some meeting point between the two. This, suggests McGrath, is where the Christian narrative of the one who steps off the balcony to occupy our road helps us to have a grasp on reality.

The book does require careful reading, but the reader who perseveres will be rewarded with a rich mix of thought-provoking material to strengthen faith and shape a clearer Christian mind.

John Woods

Get more inspiring reading

To find back issues of the INSPIRE mini-mag - seasonal and themed issues - go to