Natural Theology in the 21st Century, 2021 IRC Conference


Thursday 15th July 7:30PM (BST) - Saturday 17th July 6:00PM (BST)

Event Description

Oxford, 15-17 July 2021

NOTICE, 19 March 2021: This event, which was originally scheduled for 16-18 July 2020, will now be run as an online event only given the ongoing pandemic. The IRC will be in contact with speakers shortly and post further information about participation as this becomes available.

The next scheduled physical IRC conference is the 2022 Conference, planned for Thursday evening 14 July to Saturday evening 16 July 2022. The theme will be the work of Alister McGrath, who will be retiring as the Andreas Idreos Chair of Science and Religion in summer 2022.

With generous support from the Issachar Fund


The Ian Ramsey Centre is pleased to announce that our 2021 summer conference will be held online from Thursday evening 15 July to Saturday afternoon 17 July 2021. Our keynote speakers will include: Helen De Cruz (St Louis University); and Alister McGrath, Iain McGilchrist and Olivera Petrovich (Oxford).

Extraordinary call for papers:

The Ian Ramsey Centre published a CFP in 2020 and selected a full list of short paper speakers prior to the postponement of the conference due to COVID-19. We will shortly be checking with these speakers if they are still willing and able to speak at the online event in 2021. We may have a few spare places to offer for short papers on topics relevant to the conference themes, to be delivered in parallel sessions of 30 minutes duration (20-minute paper, 10 minutes discussion).

Those wishing to contribute a paper should submit a title, a < 500-word abstract that situates the paper against its scholarly backdrop, and institutional affiliation by email to:


Closing date for abstract submissions: Friday 30 April 2021

Notification of acceptance: Friday 7 May 2021

Please be aware, however, that we cannot yet be sure whether and how many places will be available. 

Further information on the conference themes:

Natural theology investigates what we can know or not know about the existence and essence of God and divine revelation on the basis of what we can know about nature. Developments and discoveries in our explorations of nature (e.g., Aristotelianism, Copernican revolution, Newtonian physics, Kant’s Critique, Darwinian Evolution, quantum mechanics, and Big Bang cosmology) have enriched and challenged the investigations of natural theology throughout its history. Likewise, discoveries and revolutions in our understanding of nature in the 21stcentury (e.g., AI, Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, fundamental physics, etc.) will have the potential to undermine or enrich future investigations in natural theology. What questions will natural theology need to confront in the 21st century? How can these insights enrich the engagement of religious communities, such as Christian churches, with the wider culture?

Looking backward, what lessons do the future enquiries of natural theology need to learn from its past enquiries? What are the enduring achievements, catastrophic failures, and  tangential distractions from the history of natural theology? What place will cosmological, ontological, design, moral, and other arguments for God’s existence have in its future investigations? What were the major contributions of the past hundred years of honorary lectures confronting questions in natural theology (e.g., Gifford, Hulsean, Bampton lectures) Looking forward, what challenges from philosophy and the sciences must natural theology confront, from numerous forms of naturalism, to metaphysics of dispositions and grounding, second-person perspective, machine learning, CRISPR, …? Are “nature” and the “natural” still viable concepts for 21st century enquiries, including those of natural theology? 

What is or should be the scope of natural theology? Is it strictly concerned with evidence and arguments based in nature known apart from appeals to revelation or numinous experiences? Or, should it be construed broadly to include investigations concerning historical events, including those detailed in sacred and religious texts? What is the relationship between natural theology and the investigations of supernatural theology, philosophy of religion, analytic theology, theology of nature, and apologetics? Is natural theology “natural”? Is the very project of natural theology guilty of the charge of ontotheology? What place should metaphor and analogy have in natural theology? What role do narrative arguments, just-so stories, genealogies, and meta-narratives play in theists’, atheists’, and agnostics’ contributions to natural theology? Can anyone—theist, agnostic, or atheist—engage the enquiries of natural theology or atheology from a neutral point of view? How might these questions be engaged by religious communities seeking to engage a wider culture and cultivate the reasoned faith of their members?

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