Natural Theology in the 21st Century, 2020 IRC Conference

Mathematical Institute and Jurys Inn, Oxford

Thursday 16th July 7:30PM (BST) - Saturday 18th July 6:00PM (BST)

Event Description

Oxford, 16-18 July 2020

NOTICE: The call for papers is open until 3 April 2020

With generous support from the Issachar Fund


The Ian Ramsey Centre is pleased to announce that our 2020 summer conference will be held from Thursday evening 16 July to Saturday afternoon 18 July 2020 at the Mathematical Institute and Jurys Inn, Oxford. 

Our keynote speakers will include: Helen De Cruz (St Louis University); and Alister McGrath, Iain McGilchrist and Olivera Petrovich (Oxford).

Call for papers:

Short papers are invited 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 3 April 2020

Notification of acceptance: Thursday 9 April 2020


[Notice 8 Feb 2020] Information on registration will be posted shortly. 

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?


Comment by Andrew Pinsent in regard to the the impact of COVID-19

At the time of writing on 31 March 2020, many of the facilities of the University of Oxford have closed and gathering for conferences is no longer possible due to measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19. We are continuing to receive applications for the summer conference on 16-18 July and we are still committed to holding an event with this theme but the present crisis may necessitate a postponement. We hope to make an announcement shortly after Easter 2020.

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