John Templeton Foundation

Gate to the choir area of the chapel, All Souls College, Oxford University.

© Holly Hayes,

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Alister E. McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford University, is a Christian theologian with a background in molecular biophysics. For nine years, he served as principal of Wycliffe Hall, a center for evangelical Anglican study at Oxford. Last year, he took up a senior research fellowship at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, where he directs a new research project on natural theology funded by the John Templeton Foundation. A prolific writer, he is widely known for studies on Reformation history and theology, atheism, notably, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (2004) and Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life (2004), and on scientific theology. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Dr. McGrath was educated at Methodist College there and won a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford. After taking first class honors in chemistry, he subsequently studied at both Linacre College and Merton College, and began research in molecular biophysics. He earned a D.Phil. in biochemistry at Oxford in 1978 followed by a first class honors degree in theology. The recipient of a Naden Studentship in Divinity, he went on to study at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and at Westcott House, an Anglican theological college in Cambridge. Ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1981, he returned to Oxford two years later as a lecturer in Christian doctrine at Wycliffe Hall. Appointed University Research Lecturer in Theology in 1993, he was also named a research professor in theology at Regent College, Vancouver, a post he held for four years. He was elected principal of Wycliffe in 1995 and awarded his personal chair in theology at Oxford four years later. Dr. McGrath, who had earned a B.D. at Oxford in 1983 for research on late medieval theology, received a doctorate in divinity from Oxford in 2001 for research on historical and systematic theology. He became director of the newly-established Oxford Centre for Evangelism and Christian Apologetics in 2004 and was named president two years later, a post he relinquished on becoming senior research fellow at Harris Manchester. Formerly the Ezra Squire Tipple Visiting Professor of Historical Theology at the Drew University Theological School in Madison, New Jersey, he has given invited lectures throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, China, Australia, New Zealand, and North America and will deliver the Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen in 2009. Dr. McGrath is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a former member of the board of advisors of the Templeton Foundation. The author of more than fifty papers published in academic journals, he is the editor or co-editor of four books and the author of thirty others. In addition to eight widely-read academic textbooks, they range from an early study in historical theology, Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough (1985 and 1990), to his three-volume exploration of the interface between Christian theology and the natural sciences, A Scientific Theology (Nature 2001, Reality 2002, Theory 2003), to, most recently, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution from the Sixteenth to the Twenty-First Century, a highly original exploration of the origins, character, and future prospects of Protestantism, and (with Joanna Collicutt McGrath) a response to the well-know contemporary atheist Richard Dawkins in support of the relevance of faith, The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine, both published earlier this year by, respectively, HarperOne and SPCK. His newest book, The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology, which will be published by Blackwell in 2008, opens a dialogue with the cognitive sciences that argues for a broadened and enhanced vision for natural theology, which reconnects it with the classic quest for truth, beauty, and goodness.