Alister Edgar McGrath
23 January 1953
Belfast, Northern Ireland
|Church||Church of England|
|Doctoral advisor||George Radda|
Alister Edgar McGrath FRSA (born 1953) is a Northern Irish theologian, priest, intellectual historian, scientist, Christian apologist, and public intellectual. He currently holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, and is Professor of Divinity at Gresham College. He was previously Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at King's College London and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford, and was principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, until 2005. He is an Anglican priest.
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 Doctor of Philosophy 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. He is also known for his opposition to New Atheism and antireligionism and his advocacy of theological critical realism. 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. He is also the author of a number of popular textbooks on theology.
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 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.
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 , my decision was made: I turned my back on one faith and embraced another."
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. 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.
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 Oxford University 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, and was a founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion. 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 2010 McGrath was included in "The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors" list. 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.
In 2014 McGrath was appointed the 32nd Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, a position dating back to 1597. In this position he is to deliver a series of free public lectures on Science, Faith, and God: The Big Questions, in which he hopes to present "a coherent exploration of how Christian Theology can engage with concerns and debates within modern culture, focussing on one of its leading elements – the natural sciences."
A former atheist, McGrath accepts evolution. 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?"
McGrath has also debated with Daniel Dennett, at the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum (February 2007) in New Orleans, as well as Christopher Hitchens at Georgetown University. In March 2007, McGrath debated Peter Atkins at the University of Edinburgh on the topic 'Darwin and Humanity: Should We Rid the Mind of God?' In November 2007 later that year, he debated Susan Blackmore on the existence of God. McGrath has debated David Helfand at the Veritas Forum on whether belief in God is a delusion. In 2011, he debated Stephen Law on the topic 'Why Won't God Go Away?' 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.
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
- 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 ( 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
- "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.
- "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.
- 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.
- McMath, Terence Handley (7 July 2017). "Alister McGrath, Theologian". Church Times. London. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- 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.
- "Frank A. James III, DPhil, PhD". Hatfield, Pennsylvania: Missio Seminary. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
- Aitken, Jonathan (2006). Heroes and Contemporaries. London: Continuum. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-8264-7833-7.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- 'Gresham College Press Release, 08/04/15' Archived 22 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine (accessed 8 April 2015)
- Alister McGrath, University of Oxford
- Banner of Truth Trust General Articles
- What is an Evangelical Anglican? Archived 19 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- http://www.auss.info/auss_publication_file.php?pub_id=333&journal=1&type=pdf[permanent dead link]
- Sound and fury of the New Atheists – Alister McGrath – The Times (London) – RichardDawkins.net Archived 4 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Why God Won't Go Away: Reflections on the "New Atheism"
- Thank God for the New Atheism – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- "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.
- Wipf and Stock Publishers
- Alister McGrath | Participants | Profile | Closer to Truth Archived 18 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Prof. Alister E. McGrath – Home
- McGrath, Alister (2010). Mere Theology. London: SPCK. p. 80. ISBN 978-0281062096.
- Biography on official website
- McGrath, Alister (2010). Mere Theology. London: SPCK. p. 81. ISBN 978-0281062096.
- Curriculum Vitae on official website
- ISSR List of founding members Archived 7 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors
- World-leading Theologian joins King's Archived 21 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- 'Science, Faith, and God: The Big Questions' on the Gresham College website (accessed 8 April 2015)
- 'Professor Alister McGrath' on the Gresham College website (accessed 8 April 2015)
- Nigel Bovey. "Alister McGrath talks of God, science and Richard Dawkins". Christian Evidence Society. 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.'
- Interview on CBC: The Hour 18 May 2007
- Nigel Bovey. "Alister McGrath talks of God, science and Richard Dawkins". Christian Evidence Society. 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.
- 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.
- "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
- NOBTS – Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett debate the future of atheism at Greer-Heard Archived 6 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- "Christopher Hitchens Debates Alister McGrath – FORA.tv". Archived from the original on 30 December 2007. Retrieved 24 December 2007.
- Unedited footage of McGrath's interview
- 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.
- Official website
- Alister McGrath homepage
- Open Forum with Alister McGrath – 'Is God a Delusion? Atheism and the Meaning of Life'
- Alister McGrath on The Hour (CBC television)
- Richard Dawkins Interviews Alister McGrath Video
- Alister McGrath talks to Nigel Bovey of The War Cry: Part 1; Part 2
- Christopher Hitchens debates (with) Alister McGrath
- Alister McGrath debates with Peter Atkins at Edinburgh University
- Alister McGrath debates Sue Blackmore at Bristol University on the motion that "belief in God is a dangerous delusion". 13 November 2007.
- Full texts of McGrath's 2009 Gifford Lectures on natural theology
| Bampton Lecturer
R. T. France
| Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
| Andreas Idreos Professor
of Science and Religion
The Lord Plant of Highfield
| Gresham Professor of Divinity|