Peter Vardy (theologian)

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Peter Vardy (born 1945) is a British academic, philosopher, theologian and author who has been described as "one of the leading experts of religion and values education in Britain, Australia and New Zealand".[1][2]

Theology said that "Peter Vardy is a gifted communicator. He is the best popularizer of the philosophy of religion currently working in Britain."[3]

Vardy held the post of vice principal at Heythrop College, London, from 1999 to 2011[4][5]

Business career[edit]

After Charterhouse,[6] Vardy trained as a chartered accountant, becoming a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants[7] and the Institute of Marketing.[8] During the 1970s, in addition to being a partner in a firm of chartered accountants and management consultants he served as director or chairman of a number of listed and unlisted companies.[7] He also ran management training sessions for Nat West and Swiss Bank in South Africa and the UK.[9][10]

Academic career[edit]

Vardy left business to study Theology at the age of 30, taking a BA at the University of Southampton in 1979 and then a PGCE at the West Sussex Institute of Higher Education in 1980[7] before starting a MTh at King's College London which was awarded in 1982.

Vardy's PhD on the Concept of Eternity was supervised by Lord Stewart Sutherland[11] at King's College London[12] and was awarded in 1985.[7]

While lecturing at King's College London, Vardy lectured in philosophy of religion and also at the Institute of Education, on their master's degree in education programme.[13]

Vardy started lecturing at Heythrop College whilst it was still in Oxfordshire. The story of how this happened is told in Twelve Wheels from Turkey a travelogue by Vardy's first wife Anne Vardy. He lectured through Heythrop's time at Cavendish Square and then at Kensington Square, delivering courses on Kierkegaard, the Concept of God and the Philosophy of Religion and the MA module in the Philosophy of Religion. Vardy became the first Anglican Vice-Principal of Heythrop College in 1998, retaining the position until his retirement in 2011, overseeing major projects including the purchase of the Kensington Square site in 2009.[14][15][16]

Whilst at Heythrop College, Vardy served on the University of London's Board of Theology (1990–93)[7] as well as on the academic board of Leo Baeck College[13] (which trains rabbis in the Jewish Reformed Tradition in Britain) and worked with The Coexist Foundation from 2007 until 2012 on inter-faith issues and towards a greater understanding of Islam.[17][18] He is a member and previous President of the London Society for the Study of Religion (1996–98)[7][19] and wrote the foreword to Sensible Religion, a collection of essays put together partly in response to his own book Good and Bad Religion by fellow members Dan Cohn Sherbok and Christopher Lewis in 2014.[20] Vardy also gave a keynote addresses on this theme at the Religion and Secularism Conference which marked the 60th anniversary of Cumberland Lodge in 2008,[21] the Affirming Liberalism conference at Wellington College in 2010.[22]

Academic interests[edit]

Vardy's primary academic interest is in the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard, whose philosophy he lectured in at the University of London for 25 years.[23][24] He presented papers on Kierkegaard's work at conferences including the Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference in 1995.[25] In 2010 Vardy's "An Introduction to Kierkegaard" (SPCK 2008)[26] was described as "An astonishing feat ... Vardy forms a compelling reading of [Kierkegaard's] life and his thoughts for any student of philosophy or those simply seeking to reach an adequate understanding of the philosopher" by Suresh Vythylingam in the Southwestern Journal of Theology.[3] Vardy's early contribution to Kierkegaard studies is outlined by Aaron Edwards in Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception, Resources, Vol. 18, Tome III.[27] Vardy organised annual dinners on the anniversary of Kierkegaard's death from 1987 until his retirement in 2011.[28]

As his other publications suggest, Vardy is also interested in ethics and values education,[29] sexual ethics,[30][31] the concept and nature of God,[32] the relationship between science and religion,[33] truth claims in different religions[34] globalisation and what it means to live a fulfilled human life,[33] providing a spiritual perspective in a secular world,[35] Islam[36][37] and ethics in business.[38][39]

Work with schools[edit]

Vardy served as chair of governors of Shebbear College in Devon, Britain’s second oldest Methodist school.[40] This experience led him to campaign for the "less easily measured" aspects of education, work which included leading the "Be Spirited" conference and initiative for North Tyneside LEA in 2007-8.[2] He has also worked as a member of the Methodist Schools Committee, a body which co-ordinates the work of Methodist schools in the United Kingdom[41] and has run training for other educational bodies such as the Woodard Corporation Vardy has been a keynote lecturer at conferences in the field of education run by the International Baccalaureate Organisation,[42] HMC, AHISA, GSA, UNESCO and UNHRC.[43][44] In 2012 Vardy gave the keynote lecture on Anglican Schools' Identity at the 15th Biannual ASCENT conference for Anglican Schools across Australasia.[45] Vardy gave the St Wilfrid Lecture at Ripon Cathedral in November 2012.[46]

Whilst at Heythrop, Vardy served as an editorial adviser for Dialogue, a journal of Religion and Philosophy aimed at Sixth Form students, which developed out of lecturing he did in the 1990s with Dr Jeremy Hall and John Waters through Dialogue Education.[47] Vardy made a popular series of teaching videos[48] with accompanying PowerPoint slides in 2001 through Dialogue Education.[49]

Involved in recruitment for Heythrop, Vardy started to work more broadly to increase the popularity of studying Religious Studies and Philosophy in School and at University. He started to run day conferences for sixth form students in the mid 1990s and set up Wombat Education Ltd. to run these in 1998.[50] In 2002 Richard Huish College, a Further Education College in Taunton, started to provide the administrative support necessary to run the sixth form events, which were burgeoning with a 40% rise in numbers taking AS Level Religious Studies between 2001 and 2002.[51] Vardy hired a number of public figures, lecturers and school-teachers to speak at events run through Wombat Education Ltd. and other ventures, including Richard Dawkins, John Polkinghorne, Tony Benn, Stewart Sutherland and school-teachers Dr. Jeremy Hall, John Waters, Dr. John Frye, Hugh Campbell, Henry Kirk and Judith Grill.[52]

In the UK, Vardy currently runs popular day-conferences for 14- to 18-year-old students as well as teacher-training events through Candle Conferences Ltd [53][54][55][56] a business he set up with his wife Charlotte Vardy[7] in 2009. Charlotte is a secondary school teacher with whom he has written three of his books[53] as well as several articles.[57]

Since 2010 Vardy has been campaigning against curriculum changes in England which have recently led to a decline numbers studying Religion, especially after the age of 14.[58][59][60]

Dialogue Australasia Network[edit]

In the 1990s Vardy started travelling to Australia, working as a consultant for Geelong Grammar School[61] and Melbourne Grammar School[62] and running public events for students and teachers on themes related to Religious and Values Education. In 1997, he was one of the founders of Dialogue Australasia Network [63] and lectured at its conferences between 1999 and 2010,[64][65] while membership rose to around 400 schools.[66][67] He also served as an editorial adviser and occasional author for Dialogue Australasia Journal, which was designed to support schools in teaching about Religion and Values.[57] Vardy developed the Five Strands Approach to Religious and Values Education in 1997, which is currently used by more than 300 schools across Australia and further afield by schools such as Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland New Zealand.[67][68][69][67][70][71]

Vardy's events in Australasia and further afield in Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand continue to be run by Wendy Rowe, who trades as Wombat Education.[72][73][74]

Educational philosophy[edit]

Vardy sees himself as an heir to Socrates, corrupting the young by encouraging and enabling them to think critically.[75] In an interview with Julian Baggini and Jeremy Stangroom for What Philosophers Think (Continuum 2003), Vardy explained that he sees philosophy of religion as an exercise in exploring the limits of and the nature of human knowledge, putting life in context, establishing a noetic framework and encouraging humility.[76] In an interview with Jules Evans for the "Philosophy for Life and other Dangerous Situations" blog in 2014, Vardy spoke of the importance of teaching Ethics for encouraging engagement with the curriculum and creating rounded adults rather than robots for the production line.[77] This affirms Vardy's approach to education as a means of helping young people to become fully human, good in the Aristotelian sense[78] - which was the basis for the training he provided for North Tyneside LEA in 2007.[79] The background to Vardy's approach was set out in his books "What is Truth?" (2001) and "Being Human" (2003) and later in a paper for Dialogue Australasia in 2007.[80] It is also set out in simple terms in a paper published in New Horizons, Volume 112.[81]


Vardy has served as an editorial advisor for both BBC and Channel 4 documentaries[79] and has made appearances on BBC and ABC radio[1] and is the author of a number of feature-articles in, for examples, Times Higher Education,[82] the Times Educational Supplement and The Age.[83][84] Vardy's Introduction to Kierkegaard was recommended by the BBC Radio 4 Open Book Book Clinic feature in 2003.[85]



  • And if it's True? (1987)
  • God of Our Fathers? Do We Know What We Believe? (1987)
  • Business Morality, People and Profit (1989)
  • The Puzzle of God (1990)
  • The Puzzle of Evil (1992)
  • The Puzzle of Sex (1997)
  • Kierkegaard (Fount Christian Thinkers Series, 1996)
  • What is Truth? (2001) (First published in 1999 by the University of New South Wales Press as the text of the New College Lectures)
  • Being Human (2003)
  • The SPCK Introduction to Kierkegaard (2008)
  • The Puzzle of Sex (All new edition for SCM Press, 2009)
  • Good & Bad Religion (2010)
  • The Puzzle of Christianity (2016)


  • Das Gottesratsel (1997, German)
  • Das Rätsel von Übel und Leid (1998, German)
  • Etikkens puslespil (1999, Danish)
  • Etyka: Poglądy i problemy (1995 & 2010, Polish)
  • ΤΟ ΑΙΝΙΓΜΑ ΤΗΣ ΗΘΙΚΗΣ (2013, Greek)

With other authors[edit]

  • The Puzzle of Ethics (1994, with Paul Grosch)
  • The Puzzle of the Gospels (1995, with Mary Mills)
  • The Thinker's Guide to God (2003, with Julie Arliss and Robert Van de Weyer)
  • The Thinker's Guide to Evil (2003, with Julie Arliss)
  • Ethics Matters (2012, with Charlotte Vardy)
  • God Matters (2013, with Charlotte Vardy)
  • Bible Matters (2016, with Charlotte Vardy)

Articles and chapters[edit]

  • Vardy P. (2014) Theologians should face Peter Singer's challenge in Eureka Street Volume 24 Issue 14 (Jul 2014)
  • Vardy P. (2005) The Philosophy of Religion in John R. Hinnells (ed) The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion. Routledge, London
  • Vardy P. (2002) Is Religious Education and Ethical and Moral Education a Contradiction? in Issues in Religious Education edited by Lynne Broadbent, Alan Brown. Routledge Falmer, London
  • Vardy P. (1997) Theology and Sharing the Economic Cake. In: Askonas P., Frowen S.F. (eds) Welfare and Values. Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • Vardy P. (1995) A Christian Approach to Eternal Life. In: Cohn-Sherbok D., Lewis C. (eds) Beyond Death. Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • Vardy P. (1993) Technology in the Age of Automata. In: Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, Philosophy Department, New School for Social Research. Volume 16/1 (1993)
  • Vardy P. (1987) Review of Kierkegaard's Dialect of Inwardness by Stephen N. Dunning in Religious Studies 23 (3):427-428.

As editor[edit]

  • Fount Christian Thinkers (series editor, 1997)
  • Great Christian Thinkers: The Spiritual Heritage of Six Key Theologians (1999)


External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Feature Interview: Dr Peter Vardy :: Sunday Nights". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  2. ^ a b Communications, North Tyneside Council Marketing and. "North Tyneside Council". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  3. ^ a b "An Introduction to Kierkegaard | Baker Publishing Group". Retrieved 2017-10-30. 
  4. ^ "Peter Vardy". HarperCollins US. Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  5. ^ Heap, Stephen (2017). The Universities We Need: Theological Perspectives. New York: Routledge. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-472-47728-6. 
  6. ^ Who's Who 2011. London: A&C Black. 2011. p. 2357. ISBN 978-1-408-12856-5. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Who's Who 2011. London: A & C Black Publishers Ltd. 2011. p. 2357. ISBN 978-1408128565. 
  8. ^ "The financial crisis and capitalism – Green Christian". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "2012 News Archive". York St John University. Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  11. ^ " Peter Vardy: Books, Biography, Blogs, Audiobooks, Kindle". Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  12. ^ "Dr Peter Vardy: "The Only Way is Ethics"". Truro School. 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  13. ^ a b "Denouncing bad religion - Eureka Street". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  14. ^ "Heythrop's History". Heythrop College. 2014-07-03. Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  15. ^ Ltd, Waee Digital. "New vice principal for Heythrop College | ICN". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  16. ^ "Heythrop College offered to market | Jesuits in Britain". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  17. ^ "What is Christianity - Eureka Street". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  18. ^ "Eudaemonia Conferences". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  19. ^ Baggini & Stangroom (2003). What Philosophers Think. London: Continuum. pp. 114–122. ISBN 0-8264-8474-3. 
  20. ^ "Sensible Religion (Hardback) - Routledge". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  21. ^ "Religion and Secularism: A Dynamic Balance? | Cumberland Lodge". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  22. ^ "Dr Peter Vardy – Affirming Liberalism". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  23. ^ Jon, Stewart (2009). Kierkegaard's International Reception, Volume 1. Farnham: Ashgate. p. 263. ISBN 978-0-7546-6496-3. 
  24. ^ Vardy, Peter (2008). The SPCK Introduction to Kierkegaard. London: SPCK. pp. Preface. ISBN 978-0-281-05986-7. 
  25. ^ "Untitled Page". Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  26. ^ "Author titles - SPCK". SPCK. Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  27. ^ Edwards, Aaron (2016). 'Peter Vardy, Kierkegaard', in Jon Stewart (ed.), Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception, Resources, Vol. 18, Tome III. London: Routledge. pp. 267–78. ISBN 9781472477415. 
  28. ^ Ward, Rodney A (1995). "The Reception of Søren Kierkegaard into English". The Expository Times. 107/2: 43–7 – via Sage Journals. 
  29. ^ Vardy, Peter (1993). "Religious Education: The Present and the Future" (PDF). The Way. 33/4: 323–30 – via 
  30. ^ Vardy, Peter (2009). The Puzzle of Sex. London: SCM Press. 
  31. ^ McDowell, Lesley (27 December 2009). "The Puzzle of Sex by Peter Vardy". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  32. ^ Vardy, Peter (2009). "What is God? (A Faith Matters Lecture)". Retrieved 2/09/17.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  33. ^ a b Vardy, Peter (2003). Being Human. London: Darton, Longman and Todd. pp. Cover. ISBN 978-0232524550. 
  34. ^ Vardy, Peter (1987). "Philosophy of Religion: The Great Divide" (PDF). The Way. 27/4: 298–310 – via 
  35. ^ Vardy, Peter (2010). Good and Bad Religion. London: SCM Press. ISBN 978-0334043492. 
  36. ^ Vardy, Peter (2012). "Islam in Europe (ISRA Australia Lecture)". Retrieved 25/09/17.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  37. ^ Tarica, Elisabeth (2010-08-09). "Engage with Islam, scholar urges". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  38. ^ Vardy, Peter (1992). "The Way". The Way. 32/4: 301–11 – via 
  39. ^ Higginson, Richard (May 1990). "Business Morality". Third Way. 13:4: 31 – via Google Books. 
  40. ^ "Shebbear College Newsletter" (PDF). September 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help).  External link in |website= (help)
  41. ^
  42. ^ Vardy, Peter (2006). "Values Education: IBO INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE – HANOI 2006" (PDF). Retrieved 25/09/17.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  43. ^ "Is God? Who God? The Existence and Nature of God - Diocese of Westminster". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  44. ^ Vardy, Peter (2005). "GLOBALISATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS" (PDF). Retrieved 25/09/17.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  45. ^ "ASCENT". 2012. Retrieved 2017-10-17.  External link in |website= (help)
  46. ^
  47. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  48. ^ Andy Midwinter (2016-02-04), Moral argument, retrieved 2017-10-17 
  49. ^ Vardy, Peter (2001), [Arguments for the existence of God], Godalming, U.K. : Dialogue Educational Videos, retrieved 2017-09-25 
  50. ^ "WOMBAT EDUCATION LIMITED - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  51. ^ Day, Malcolm (2002-12-10). "Divine inspiration fills sixth-form pews". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  52. ^ Day, Malcolm (2002-12-10). "Divine inspiration fills sixth-form pews". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-10-15. 
  53. ^ a b "Books by charlotte-vardy". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  54. ^ "CANDLE CONFERENCES LIMITED - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
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  56. ^ "Leading philosopher leads regional religious conference". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  57. ^ a b "Dialogue Australasia Network". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  58. ^ "English Baccalaureate". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  59. ^ "English Baccalaureate plans could cause cultural misunderstanding in Croydon, says philosopher". Croydon Advertiser. 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  60. ^ "800,000 secondary pupils lose out on religious literacy". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  61. ^ "The Age from Melbourne, Victoria on May 28, 1999 · Page 15". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  62. ^ "The Age from Melbourne, Victoria on May 28, 1999 · Page 15". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  63. ^ "RAVE:about religious and values education". Radio National. 2002-05-02. Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  64. ^ "Feature Interview: Dr Peter Vardy :: Sunday Nights". Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  65. ^ "Second Hour: Religious education in schools with Peter Vardy and Andrew Wright :: Sunday Nights". Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  66. ^ "RAVE:about religious and values education". Radio National. 2002-05-02. Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  67. ^ a b c "Five Strands". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  68. ^ "Join DAN". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  69. ^ "Dio Today". April 2016.  External link in |website= (help)
  70. ^ Syms, Catherine (2011). "Enhancing the effectiveness of Religion and Values Education within ISNZ Schools: Rationale, Purpose and Practice" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-09-25.  External link in |website= (help)
  71. ^ Broadbent, Brown, Lynne, Alan (2002). Issues in Religious Education. London: Routledge. pp. 176–7. ISBN 0-415-26252-6. 
  72. ^ "Events for students & teachers of GCSE & A Level RS & Philosophy | Candle Conferences". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  73. ^ "ESF News (December) | English Schools Foundation". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  74. ^ "Wombat Education | Student & teacher events with Dr Peter Vardy; Across Australia 2017". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  75. ^ annelouisebrown. "Visiting academic happy to corrupt minds". Sunshine Coast Daily. Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  76. ^ Baggini and Stangroom (2003). What Philosophers Think. London: Continuum. p. 120. ISBN 0-8264-8474-3. 
  77. ^ "'A good atheist is closer to God than most'". Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  78. ^ "Dr Peter Vardy on religion and values in education". Radio National. 2004-08-18. Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  79. ^ a b Communications, North Tyneside Council Marketing and. "North Tyneside Council". Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  80. ^ "BECOMING FULLY HUMAN A new academic approach to Religious and Values Education in Australia and New Zealand" (PDF). 2007. Retrieved 17/10/17.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  81. ^ Vardy, Peter (2004). "Values education for intercultural and interfaith understanding" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17/10/17. Retrieved 17/10/17.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |archive-date= (help); External link in |website= (help)
  82. ^ "Dead reckoning". Times Higher Education (THE). 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  83. ^ "Theologians should face Peter Singer's challenge - Eureka Street". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  84. ^ "The Age from Melbourne, Victoria on May 28, 1999 · Page 15". Retrieved 2017-09-25. 
  85. ^ BBC. "BBC - Radio 4 Open Book - Alexander McCall Smith". Retrieved 2017-09-25.