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THE RICHARD JOHNSON LECTURE

An annual lecture that seeks to highlight Christianity’s relevance to society and positively contribute to public discourse on key aspects of civil life.

2018

WHERE DID I COME FROM? CHRISTIANITY, SECULARISM, AND THE INDIVIDUAL

It's obvious. Life should be respected. We should obey the rule of law. Humans have inalienable dignity. People are of equal worth. Freedom is good. Science is legitimate. And - as Life of Brian reminded us - "we are all individuals". I'm not!

Except that it is far from obvious. Nick Spencer is on a quest to rediscover our origin stories, and what makes the West the West.

Nick Spencer is Research Director of Theos Think Tank in London and author of several books including Atheists: The Origin of the Species (2014), The Evolution of the West: How Christianity Has Shaped Our Values (2016), The Mighty and the Almighty: How Political Leaders Do God (2017), and most recently The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable (2017). Nick has written for The Guardian and The Telegraph and has been described by The Economist as “like a prophet crying in the post-modern wilderness”.

2017

IS CHRISTIANITY BAD NEWS FOR WOMEN?

The 2nd-century Greek philosopher Celsus famously dismissed Christianity as a religion of women, children, and slaves – that is to say, not to be taken seriously. But Christianity is much more likely to be condemned today, not for being a religion of women, but a religion against women. If gender equality mattered to the early church, what happened to it? What does Christianity’s chequered treatment of women mean for its credibility today? And is the Christian faith a force for the oppression of women, or for their flourishing?

Amy Orr-Ewing is Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). Her doctoral studies at the University of Oxford focused on the British novelist, essayist, and “Christian humanist” Dorothy L. Sayers. The author of several books, Amy is also a widely sought-after international speaker addressing audiences at the White House and on Capitol Hill, as well as in the UK Parliament. She regularly appears on TV and radio, including on BBC Television and Radio 4, to comment on a variety of topics relating to the Christian faith.

2016

THE MYTH OF RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE

It’s a widely held assumption in Western societies that religion has a peculiar tendency to promote violence. Indeed, much of our domestic and foreign policy assumes this. Is it a fair assumption? Are religions more inclined to promote violence than things like nationalism and access to oil? What even counts as “religion”? And what role have “secular” ideologies as well as “religious” ones played in fomenting violence? American philosopher William Cavanaugh offers some provocative arguments.

William T. Cavanaugh is a Professor of Theology at DePaul University in Chicago. He holds degrees from Notre Dame, Cambridge, and Duke University, and has worked as a lay associate with the Holy Cross order in a poor area of Santiago, Chile, as well as for the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the Notre Dame Law School. His areas of specialisation include political theology and economic ethics. He is the author of several books, including The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (2009) and Field Hospital: The Church’s Engagement with a Wounded World (2016).

2015

THE END OF FAITH: HAS SCIENCE MADE RELIGION REDUNDANT?

The conflict between science and religion seems entrenched, even inevitable. But is it? Peter Harrison, one of the most important scholars working in the area of science and religion today, challenges our understanding of what has historically been meant by the concepts of "science" and "religion" - and reconstructs the true history of their turbulent relations.

Peter Harrison is an Australian Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland. Before taking up his post at UQ he was the Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford. He has published extensively in the area of intellectual history with a focus on the historical interactions between science and religion. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, he was the Gifford Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh in 2011. He is author or editor of six books, the most recent of which is The Territories of Science and Religion (Chicago, 2015).

2014

A PUBLIC FAITH: SERVING THE COMMON GOOD

The place of faith in the public square is a contested, and contentious, subject. At a time when some opponents of religion would rather faith remained a private affair - and some believers are tempted to agree - Miroslav Volf offers a different way that he believes can contribute to human flourishing for all people.

Miroslav Volf is Founding Director of the Yale Centre for Faith and Culture, and the Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School. He has written more than 150 editorials and 15 books, including Exclusion and Embrace (1996) and A Public Faith (2011). His upbringing in Croatia as the only Christian in a school of 3,500 was pivotal in the development of his faith. A victim of intense and sustained interrogation by the government of then communist Yugoslavia, much of Volf's work focuses on forgiveness and reconciliation. He maintains that the Christian vision of the world entails the possibility of overcoming the past for both the victim and the perpetrator of wrongs. He has been described as "one of the most celebrated theologians of our day" by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.