Gifford Lectures

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The Gifford Lectures (/ˈɡɪfərd/) are an annual series of lectures which were established in 1887 by the will of Adam Gifford, Lord Gifford. Their purpose is to "promote and diffuse the study of natural theology in the widest sense of the term – in other words, the knowledge of God." A Gifford lectures appointment is one of the most prestigious honors in Scottish academia. The lectures are given at several Scottish universities: University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow, University of Aberdeen and University of Edinburgh. They are normally presented as a series over an academic year and given with the intent that the edited content be published in book form. A number of these works have become classics in the fields of theology or philosophy and the relationship between religion and science.

Due to the patriarchal tradition within Christian theology and the long history of the lecture series, which predates postmodern emancipation, out of 174 speakers to date,[when?] 156 presenters have been men and 18 presenters have been women. The first woman appointed was Hannah Arendt who presented in Aberdeen between 1972 and 1974.[1]

A comparable lecture series is the John Locke Lectures, which are delivered annually at the University of Oxford.

List of lectures[edit]


  • 1888-91 E.B. Tylor The Natural History of Religion
  • 1896–98 James Ward Naturalism and Agnosticism
  • 1898–00 Josiah Royce The World and the Individual
  • 1904–06 James Adam The Religious Teachers of Greece
  • 1907–08 Hans Driesch The Science and Philosophy of the Organism
  • 1911–13 Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison The Idea of God in the light of Recent Philosophy
  • 1914–15 William Ritchie Sorley Moral Values and the Idea of God
  • 1927–28 Alfred North Whitehead Process and Reality
  • 1930–32 Etienne Gilson The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy
  • 1936–38 Karl Barth The Knowledge of God and the Service of God according to the Teaching of the Reformation
  • 1939–40 Arthur Darby Nock Hellenistic Religion - The Two Phases
  • 1949–50 Gabriel Marcel The Mystery of Being ISBN 1-890318-85-X, Faith and Reality ISBN 1-890318-86-8
  • 1951–52 Michael Polanyi Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, ISBN 0-226-67288-3
  • 1953–54 Paul Tillich Systematic Theology (3 vols.): ISBN 0-226-80337-6, ISBN 0-226-80338-4, ISBN 0-226-80339-2
  • 1963, 1965 Alister Hardy The Living Stream, The Divine Flame
  • 1965–1967 Raymond Aron La Conscience historique dans la pensée et dans l'action
  • 1973 Hannah Arendt Life of the Mind
  • 1982–84 Richard Swinburne The Evolution of the Soul, ISBN 0-19-823698-0
  • 1984–85 Freeman Dyson Infinite In All Directions, ISBN 0-06-072889-2
  • 1989–91 Ian Barbour Religion in an Age of Science, ISBN 0-06-060383-6
  • 1992–93 Jaroslav Pelikan Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter With Hellenism, ISBN 0-300-06255-9
  • 1994–95 John W. Rogerson Faith and Criticism in the Work of William Robertson Smith, 1846-1894
  • 1994–95 M. A. Stewart New Light and Enlightenment
  • 1994–95 Peter Jones Science and Religion before and after Hume
  • 1994–95 James H. Burns The Order of Nature
  • 1994–95 Alexander Broadie The Shadow of Scotus
  • 1997–98 Russell Stannard The God Experiment
  • 2000–01 John S. Habgood The Concept of Nature
  • 2003–04 John Haldane Mind, Soul and Deity
  • 2003 Eleonore Stump Wandering in the Darkness
  • 2007 Stephen Pattison Seeing Things: Deepening Relations with Visual Artefacts, ISBN 978-0-334-04149-8
  • 2009 Alister McGrath A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology, ISBN 978-0-664-23310-5
  • 2012 Sarah Coakley Sacrifice Regained: Evolution, Cooperation and God
  • 2014 David N. Livingstone Dealing with Darwin: Place, Politics and Rhetoric in Religious Engagements with Evolution
  • 2018 N. T. Wright Discerning the Dawn: History, Eschatology and New Creation, published as History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology, 2019, ISBN 978-1-4813-0962-2



St Andrews[edit]

Support from the John Templeton Foundation[edit]

As of 2021, the primary public portal of the Gifford Lectures is maintained by the Templeton Press, an affiliated publisher of the John Templeton Foundation,[7] which has been accused of attempting to blur the line between religion and science by Richard Dawkins, among others.

As of February 2021, the 1985 Gifford Lecture by Freeman Dyson is titled on their website as "In Praise of Divinity",[8] although it was originally presented under the title "In Praise of Diversity"[9] and became the source of his later book, Infinite in All Directions (1988), which was described as follows in a review from the New Scientist:

What recommends [Dyson] is his ability to communicate, not merely the interest of science and its application to human activities of every kind, but the sheer delight he takes in the universe. He loves diversity. Frequently throughout the book a passage will reveal his pleasure at being alive and seeing and thinking. He has much of Richard Feynman's enthusiasm for the strangeness of people and things. [emph. added][10]

As hosted by Templeton, Dyson's 1985 lecture begins:[8]

I chose the title "In Praise of Divinity" partly because it expresses my attitude to the universe and partly because it describes my style of thinking and writing. The title gives me an excuse for talking about a variety of miscellaneous topics, some scientific, some political, some personal, without attempting to fit them together into a coherent doctrine. [emph. added]

His lecture continues, opening as follows in the third paragraph:[8]

Another theologian, with whom I have a more distant acquaintance, is Saint Paul. Saint Paul had some good things to say about diversity (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all." [emph. added]


  1. ^ Addison, Sam (n.d.). "Home :: Lecturers & Authors :: Hannah Arendt". The Gifford Lectures. Retrieved 25 February 2021. Arendt, the first female Gifford Lecturer, delivered her lectures in Aberdeen between 1972 and 1974.
  2. ^ "2012-13 Gifford Lecture". Professor Steven Pinker: "The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity". University of Edinburgh College of Humanities and Social Science website. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  3. ^ "Herbert Butterfield". The Gifford Lectures. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  4. ^ Gifford Lectures website entry; retrieved: 2013-08-04 Archived 2013-09-23 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Norm and Action". The Gifford Lectures. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Gifford Lecture Series - Books". 21 June 2008. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  7. ^ "About Us". Templeton Press. n.d. Retrieved 25 February 2021. Templeton Press was founded in January 1997 as a program of Templeton Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit foundation established by Sir John Templeton.
  8. ^ a b c "In Praise of Divinity". Templeton Press. n.d. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  9. ^ Dyson, Freeman (1988). Infinite in All Directions. Perennial Library. p. vii. The lectures were given under the title "In Praise of Diversity," which gave me license to talk about everything in the universe.
  10. ^ Herbert, Roy (26 August 1989). "Review of Infinite in All Scientists by Freeman Dyson". New Scientist.


  • Stanley Jaki, Lord Gifford and His Lectures: A Centenary Retrospect (1987). Scottish Academic Press, ISBN 0-7073-0465-2.
  • Larry Witham, The Measure of God: Our Century-Long Struggle to Reconcile Science & Religion (2005), HarperSanFrancisco hardcover: ISBN 0-06-059191-9; reprinted as The Measure of God: History's Greatest Minds Wrestle with Reconciling Science and Religion (2006), paperback: ISBN 0-06-085833-8.

External links[edit]