The Measure of God | Larry Witham

In 1887 Adam Lord Gifford, native of Scotland, died. His will would make him famous. He willed almost half of his person fortune—80,000 pounds—to set up a perpetual lecture series at Scotland’s four historic universities: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St. Andrews. The purpose of the lecture series is to explore natural theology: the idea that God can be known outside of special revelation.

I was introduced to the Gifford Lectures when I read Stanley Hauerwas’ With the Grain of the Universe. In his lectures, he follows Karl Barth’s lead in undermining the very presuppositions of the lecture series. For Barth and Hauerwas, there is no revelation not centred on Jesus Christ. Whether you believe that or not, that has not stopped people from trying. In The Measure of God, Larry Witham highlights all the brightest lights of the lecture series from William James to Alfred North Whitehead, Reinhold Niebuhr to Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich to Carl Sagan.

Witham breaks the lecture series down in to “four acts”—four approaches to determining a natural theology:

  1. Psychology
  2. Material Science (anthropology, psychology, physics, sociology, and historical criticism)
  3. Subjectivism
  4. Pluralism

Witham’s book is very readable. I bought the book because I was interested in the topic and I knew that the knowledge would be good for me. I was surprised by the ease at which it went down. I was fascinated by the way in which discoveries in physics and quantum mechanics influenced natural theology. (Did you know that Niels Bohr, a colleague of Einstein, gave the Gifford Lectures?) I enjoyed reading about the relationships between different theologians and scholars who were previously all intellectual islands in my mind.

The Measure of God covers a lot of theological, scientific, philosophical, and historical ground in about 300 readable pages!

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2 Responses to The Measure of God | Larry Witham

  1. Alaine McGill April 1, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    This sounds really interesting Steve. If this goes into your ‘lending library’, I might like to borrow it in the fall.


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