Jump to content

Alister McGrath

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Alister E. McGrath)

Alister McGrath
Alister Edgar McGrath

(1953-01-23) 23 January 1953 (age 71)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
SpouseJoanna Collicutt
Ecclesiastical career
ReligionChristianity (Anglican)
ChurchChurch of England
  • 1980 (deacon)
  • 1981 (priest)
Academic background
Alma mater
Doctoral advisorGeorge Radda
Academic work
School or traditionTheological critical realism
Doctoral students
Main interests
InfluencedNicky Gumbel[8]
Websitealistermcgrath.weebly.com Edit this at Wikidata

Alister Edgar McGrath FRSA (/məˈɡræθ/; born 1953) is a Northern Irish theologian, Anglican priest,[9][10] intellectual historian, scientist,[11] Christian apologist, and public intellectual. He currently holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion, and is a fellow of Harris Manchester College at the University of Oxford,[12][13] and is Professor of Divinity at Gresham College.[14] He was previously Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at King's College London and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture,[15] Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford, and was principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, until 2005.

Aside from being a faculty member at Oxford, McGrath has also taught at Cambridge University and is a Teaching Fellow at Regent College. McGrath holds three doctorates from the University of Oxford: a doctoral degree in molecular biophysics, a Doctor of Divinity degree in theology, and a Doctor of Letters degree in intellectual history.

McGrath is noted for his work in historical theology, systematic theology, and the relationship between science and religion, as well as his writings on apologetics.[16] He is also known for his opposition to New Atheism and antireligion and his advocacy of theological critical realism.[17][18][19][20][21] Among his best-known books are The Twilight of Atheism, The Dawkins Delusion?, Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, and A Scientific Theology.[22] He is also the author of a number of popular textbooks on theology.[23]


McGrath was born on 23 January 1953 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Downpatrick, County Down, where he attended Down High School. In September 1966 he became a pupil at the Methodist College Belfast, where his studies focused on mathematics, physics and chemistry. He went up to Wadham College, Oxford, in 1971 and gained first-class honours in chemistry in 1975. He began research in molecular biophysics in the Oxford University Department of Biochemistry under the supervision of George Radda[24] and was elected to an E.P.A. Cephalosporin Research Studentship at Linacre College, Oxford, for the academic year 1975–1976, and to a Domus Senior Scholarship at Merton College, Oxford, for the period 1976–1978. During these three years, he carried out scientific research while studying for the Oxford University Final Honour School of Theology. He was awarded an Oxford Doctor of Philosophy degree for his research in molecular biophysics (December 1977), and gained first-class honours in theology in June 1978.[25]

Reflecting on his time as an undergraduate at Wadham, McGrath has written, "I was discovering that Christianity was far more intellectually robust than I had ever imagined. I had some major rethinking to do, and by the end of November [1971], my decision was made: I turned my back on one faith and embraced another."[26]

McGrath then left Oxford to work at the University of Cambridge, where he also studied for ordination in the Church of England. In September 1980, he was ordained deacon and began ministry as a curate at St Leonard's Parish Church, Wollaton, Nottingham, in the English East Midlands. He was ordained priest at Southwell Minster in September 1981. In 1983, he was appointed lecturer in Christian doctrine and ethics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and a member of the Oxford University Faculty of Theology. He was awarded a BD by Oxford in 1983, for research in historical theology.[27] He spent the fall semester of 1990 as the Ezra Squire Tipple Visiting Professor of Historical Theology at the Divinity School of Drew University, Madison, New Jersey.[25]

McGrath was elected University Research Lecturer in Theology at Oxford University in 1993 and also served as research professor of theology at Regent College, Vancouver, from 1993 to 1999. In 1995, he was elected Principal of Wycliffe Hall and in 1999, was awarded a personal chair in theology by the University of Oxford with the title "Professor of Historical Theology". He was awarded the Oxford degree of DD in 2001 for his research in historical and systematic theology,[25] and was a founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion.[28] On 1 September 2008 McGrath took up the Chair of Theology, Ministry and Education in the Department of Education and Professional Studies at King's College London. In 2009, he delivered the Gifford Lectures on A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology at the University of Aberdeen.[29] In 2010 McGrath was included in "The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors" list.[30] In 2013 he was awarded his third doctorate from Oxford University, a DLitt, Division of Humanities, for research into science and religion, and natural theology. He is married to Joanna Collicutt McGrath and they have two adult children.[31]

In 2014, McGrath was appointed the 32nd Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, a position dating back to 1597.[14] In this position he delivered a series of free public lectures on Science, Faith, and God: The Big Questions,[32] in which he aimed to present "a coherent exploration of how Christian theology can engage with concerns and debates within modern culture, focusing on one of its leading elements – the natural sciences."[33]


A former atheist,[34][35] McGrath accepts and promotes evolution.[36][37] In 2004 McGrath suggested in The Twilight of Atheism that atheism was in decline. He has been highly critical of Richard Dawkins, calling him "embarrassingly ignorant of Christian theology". His book, The Dawkins Delusion? – a response to Dawkins's The God Delusion – was published by SPCK in February 2007, and the two had public debate on the topic, "Does religious belief damage the health of a society, or is it necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society?"[38]

McGrath has also debated with Daniel Dennett, at the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in New Orleans in February 2007, as well as Christopher Hitchens at Georgetown University.[39][40] In March 2007, McGrath debated with Peter Atkins at the University of Edinburgh on the topic 'Darwin and Humanity: Should We Rid the Mind of God?' In November that year, he debated with Susan Blackmore on the existence of God. McGrath has debated with David Helfand at the Veritas Forum on whether belief in God is a delusion.[41] In 2011, he debated with Stephen Law on the topic 'Why Won't God Go Away?'[42] He was interviewed by Richard Dawkins about his book Dawkins' God and faith in general for the television documentary The Root of All Evil? McGrath's interview was not included in the final cut, but the unedited footage is available online.[43]


The author of more than 50 books,[44] among McGrath's more notable works are:

  • Understanding the Trinity, Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1988, ISBN 0-310-29680-3
  • Understanding Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, ISBN 0-310-47951-7
  • Bridge-Building, Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992, ISBN 0-85110-969-1
  • Intellectuals Don't Need God & Other Modern Myths, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993, ISBN 0-310-59091-4
  • The Renewal of Anglicanism, Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1993, ISBN 0-8192-1603-8
  • A Life of John Calvin (1993) ISBN 0-631-18947-5
  • A Passion for Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism (1996) ISBN 0-8308-1866-9
  • Iustitia Dei, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-521-62426-6
  • Science and Religion: An Introduction (1998) ISBN 0-631-20842-9
  • Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought (1998) ISBN 0-631-20844-5
  • I Believe: Exploring the Apostles' Creed (1998) ISBN 0-8308-1946-0
  • T. F. Torrance: An Intellectual Biography (1999) ISBN 0-567-08683-6
  • The Journey: A Pilgrim in the Lands of the Spirit (2000) ISBN 978-0-385-49588-2
  • Christian Theology: An Introduction (2001) ISBN 0-631-22528-5 (often used as a seminary textbook)
  • The Christian Theology Reader (2001) ISBN 0-631-20637-X (containing primary sources referred to in his Christian Theology)
  • In the Beginning : The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture (2001) ISBN 0-385-72216-8
  • Glimpsing the Face of God: The Search for Meaning in the Universe (2001) ISBN 0-8028-3980-0
  • The Reenchantment of Nature: The Denial of Religion and the Ecological Crisis (2002) ISBN 978-0-385-50059-3
  • Knowing Christ (2002) ISBN 0-385-50316-4
  • A Scientific Theology v. 3 (2003) ISBN 0-567-08349-7
  • A Brief History of Heaven (2003) ISBN 0-631-23354-7
  • The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation (2003) ISBN 0-631-22939-6
  • The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (2004) ISBN 0-385-50061-0
  • Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution from the Sixteenth to the Twenty-First Century (2007) ISBN 978-0-06-082213-2
  • The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the denial of the divine (2007) ISBN 0-281-05927-6 (A critical response to Dawkins' book The God Delusion)
  • The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology (2008) ISBN 978-1-4051-2691-5
  • A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology (2009) ISBN 0-664-23310-4
  • Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth (2009) ISBN 978-0-06-082214-9
  • Mere Theology: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (2010) ISBN 0-281-06209-9
  • Chosen Ones (Series: The Aedyn Chronicles Volume: 1) (2010) ISBN 0-310-71812-0
  • Surprised by Meaning: Science, Faith, and How We Make Sense of Things (2011) ISBN 0-664-236-928
  • Why God Won't Go Away: Engaging with the New Atheism (2011) ISBN 0-281-06387-7
  • Flight of the Outcasts (Series: The Aedyn Chronicles Volume: 2) (2011) ISBN 0-310-71813-9
  • Darkness Shall Fall (Series: The Aedyn Chronicles Volume: 3) (2011) ISBN 978-0-310-71814-7
  • Reformation Thought: An Introduction (2012) ISBN 0-470-67281-1
  • Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology (Oxford: Blackwell-Wiley, 2011). The 2009 Hulsean Lectures at the University of Cambridge
  • Mere apologetics: how to help seekers and skeptics find faith (Baker Books, 2012) ISBN 978-0-8010-1416-1
  • The Intellectual World of C. S. Lewis (2013) ISBN 978-0-470-67279-2
  • C. S. Lewis- A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (2013)
  • Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life ([2004] 2015), 2nd ed., Wiley. ISBN 1-4051-2538-1 ISBN 0-281-05927-6 ISBN 978-1-4051-2538-3, pbk. (A critique of scientist Richard Dawkins' attitude towards religion)
  • The Big Question: Why We Can't Stop Talking About Science, Faith, and God (2015), St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-1-250-07792-9
  • Enriching Our Vision of Reality: Theology and Natural Sciences in Dialogue (2016), Templeton Press, ISBN 978-1-599-47534-9
  • The Landscape of Faith: An Explorer's Guide to Christian Creeds (2018), SPCK, ISBN 978-0-281-07625-3
  • Mere Discipleship: Growing in Wisdom and Hope (2018), Baker Books, ISBN 978-0-801-09422-4
  • Narrative Apologetics: Sharing the Relevance, Joy, and Wonder of the Christian Faith (2019), Baker Books, ISBN 978-0-801-07577-3
  • Richard Dawkins, C.S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life (2019), SPCK, ISBN 978-0-281-08019-9
  • A Theory of Everything (That Matters): A Brief Guide to Einstein, Relativity, and His Surprising Thoughts on God (2019), Tyndale, ISBN 978-1-4964-3807-2
  • J.I. Packer: His Life and Thought (2020), InterVarsity Press, ISBN 978-0-8308-4177-6
  • A Cloud of Witnesses: 10 Great Christian Thinkers (2005), Wipf and Stock Publishers, ISBN 978-1-5975-2304-2


  1. ^ a b c "Review Article: Alister E. McGrath's A Scientific Theology" (PDF). Andrews University Seminary Studies. 44 (2): 345. 2006. ISSN 0003-2980. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  2. ^ "Review Article: Alister E. McGrath's A Scientific Theology" (PDF). Andrews University Seminary Studies. 44 (2): 343, 345. 2006. ISSN 0003-2980. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  3. ^ Dew, James K. Jr. (2011). Science and Theology: An Assessment of Alister McGrath's Critical Realist Perspective. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock. pp. 109, 111. ISBN 978-1-60899-855-5.
  4. ^ McMath, Terence Handley (7 July 2017). "Alister McGrath, Theologian". Church Times. London. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  5. ^ McDonald, Jeffrey S. (2017). John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications. pp. 183–184. ISBN 978-1-4982-9631-1.
  6. ^ "Frank A. James III, DPhil, PhD". Hatfield, Pennsylvania: Missio Seminary. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Science and the Christian Faith". Ethos Institute. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  8. ^ Aitken, Jonathan (2006). Heroes and Contemporaries. London: Continuum. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-8264-7833-7.
  9. ^ "Banner of Truth Trust". 24 September 2003. Archived from the original on 24 September 2003. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  10. ^ What is an Evangelical Anglican? Archived 19 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Professor Alister McGrath". www.theology.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 28 September 2023. McGrath initially studied natural science at Oxford, taking a doctorate in molecular biophysics under the supervision of Prof Sir George Radda.
  12. ^ "New Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion". Archived from the original on 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  13. ^ "Revd. Professor Alister McGrath". Hmc.ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 27 October 2021. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  14. ^ a b 'Gresham College Press Release, 08/04/15' Archived 22 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine (accessed 8 April 2015)
  15. ^ Alister McGrath, University of Oxford
  16. ^ "Archived copy". www.auss.info. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Revd. Professor Alister McGrath". Hmc.ox.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 20 July 2021. Retrieved 20 July 2021.
  18. ^ "Sound and fury of the New Atheists – Alister McGrath – The Times (London) – RichardDawkins.net". Archived from the original on 4 November 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  19. ^ McGrath, Alister (31 January 2011). "Thank God for the New Atheism". ABC Religion & Ethics. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  20. ^ "Theology and reality: Critical realism in the thought of Alister E. McGrath – Udini". Archived from the original on 25 July 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  21. ^ "Wipf and Stock Publishers". Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  22. ^ "Alister McGrath | Participants | Profile | Closer to Truth". Archived from the original on 18 April 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  23. ^ "Alister E. McGrath". Alister E. McGrath. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  24. ^ McGrath, Alister (2010). Mere Theology. London: SPCK. p. 80. ISBN 978-0281062096.
  25. ^ a b c "Biography". Alister E. McGrath. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  26. ^ McGrath, Alister (2010). Mere Theology. London: SPCK. p. 81. ISBN 978-0281062096.
  27. ^ "Curriculum Vitae". Alister E. McGrath. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  28. ^ ISSR List of founding members Archived 7 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "The Gifford Lectures". abdn.ac.uk. University of Aberdeen.
  30. ^ Brill, Alan (18 April 2010). "The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors". Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  31. ^ "World-leading Theologian joins King's". Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  32. ^ "Science, Faith and God: The Big Questions". Gresham.ac.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  33. ^ "Professor Alister McGrath". Gresham.ac.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  34. ^ Nigel Bovey. "Alister McGrath talks of God, science and Richard Dawkins". Christian Evidence Society. Archived from the original on 9 December 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 'As a child I never had any interest in Christianity,' he says. 'I went through the motions of going to church with my parents but neither my heart nor my head was in it. It was while I was at the Methodist College, probably aged around 15 or 16, that I became an atheist – somebody who deliberately and intentionally does not believe in God and thinks that anyone who does believe in God is mentally deficient or seriously screwed up.'
  35. ^ Interview on CBC: The Hour 18 May 2007
  36. ^ Nigel Bovey. "Alister McGrath talks of God, science and Richard Dawkins". Christian Evidence Society. Archived from the original on 9 December 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2010. All I can say is that, with complete integrity, there are many Christians who see evolution as illuminating the way in which we understand Genesis and as giving us an enhanced vision of how God brought the world and humankind into being. People can make evolution atheistic but it doesn't have to be.
  37. ^ Roger Morris. Is 'Theistic Evolution' a Cop-Out?. Faith Interface. Modern proponents of theistic evolution include: Dr Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (2007). Prof Alister McGrath, former Oxford molecular biophysicist and current Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education, and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture at King's College, London. He is the author of numerous books and textbooks on Natural Theology and Scientific Theology. Rev. Dr John Polkinghorne, Physicist and Theologian from Cambridge University.
  38. ^ "Audio Visual Resources". Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Archived from the original on 29 March 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2007., includes sound recording of the Dawkins-McGrath debate
  39. ^ "NOBTS – Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett debate the future of atheism at Greer-Heard". Archived from the original on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  40. ^ "Christopher Hitchens Debates Alister McGrath – FORA.tv". Archived from the original on 30 December 2007. Retrieved 24 December 2007.
  41. ^ Alister McGrath & David Helfand - The God Delusion?, archived from the original on 12 December 2021, retrieved 3 August 2021
  42. ^ "Unbelievable? 5 Feb 2011 - Alister McGrath & Stephen Law - Why Won't God Go Away?". Premierchristianradio.com. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  43. ^ "The Root of All Evil? The Uncut Interviews - Alister McGrath vs. Richard Dawkins - YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on 23 May 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  44. ^ Alister McGrath, A Theory of Everything That Matters: A Brief Guide to Einstein, Relativity, and His Surprising Thoughts on God, Tyndale House Publishers (2019), p. 217

Further reading[edit]

  • Chung, S. W. (ed.). Alister E. McGrath and Evangelical Theology: A Dynamic Engagement. Carlisle: Paternoster, 2003. ISBN 978-0-8010-2639-3
  • Keating, James F. "The Natural Sciences as an Ancilla Theologiae Nova: Alister E. McGrath's A Scientific Theology." The Thomist 69 (2005): 127–52.
  • Myers, Benjamin. "Alister McGrath's Scientific Theology." Reformed Theological Review 64 (2005): 15–34.
  • Shipway, Brad. "The Theological Application of Bhaskar's Stratified Reality: The Scientific Theology of A. E. McGrath." Journal of Critical Realism 3 (2004): 191–203.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Bampton Lecturer
Succeeded by
Preceded by Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
Succeeded by
Preceded by Andreas Idreos Professor
of Science and Religion

Preceded by Gresham Professor of Divinity