Though the Darkness Hide Thee: Seeking the Face of the Invisible God
Professor Michael Rea, Director of the Center for Philosophy of Religion, University of Notre Dame, USA.
March 27 to April 7 2017.
Lecture 1: Hidden God
Lecture 2: God and the Attributes
Lecture 3: The Love of God
Lecture 4: Divine Presence in a Material World
Lecture 5: A God to Contend With
Lecture 6: A Scandal of Particularity.
Professor Rea plans to take a theologically informed approach to the topic of “divine hiddenness,” the idea that God’s existence is far less evident—and vivid, unambiguous experience of God’s presence is much less frequent—than one might expect from a perfectly loving deity. Philosophers often treat divine hiddenness as evidence that God doesn’t exist, but according to Professor Rea that line of thinking is based on drawing parallels between divine love and human love. In his lectures, he will contend that it is not reasonable to believe that perfect, divine love would resemble human perceptions of ideal parental or romantic love.
“The church has, for most of its history, held that God is transcendent, and many divine attributes are very different from their human counterparts,” he said. “We have good reason to think that perfect love would be very different. Thinking about that gives you the resources to at least block the inference to the non-existence of God.” Additionally, Rea will chart how divine behavior can plausibly be viewed as inherently loving. He contends that divine presence is more widely accessible than many people think it is, and that the way God communicates with his followers in the Bible is not that far removed from the way modern Christians describe religious experiences or divine inspiration.
The prestigious Gifford Lectureships were established by Adam Lord Gifford (1820–1887), a senator of the College of Justice in Scotland. The purpose of Lord Gifford's bequest to the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews and Aberdeen was to sponsor lectures to “promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term—in other words, the knowledge of God”.
Since the first lecture in 1888, Gifford Lecturers have been recognized as pre-eminent thinkers in their respective fields. Among the many gifted lecturers are Hannah Arendt, Noam Chomsky, Stanley Hauerwas, William James, Jean-Luc Marion, Iris Murdoch, Roger Scruton, Eleonore Stump, Charles Taylor, Alfred North Whitehead, and Rowan Williams.
The online Gifford Lectures database presents a comprehensive collection of books derived from the Gifford Lectures. In addition to the books, the Web site contains a biography of each lecturer and a summary of the lecture or book. The Web site also contains a biography of Adam Lord Gifford, a copy of his will bequeathing money to the four major Scottish universities to hold the lectures, a brief description of natural theology, an introduction to each of the four universities and news about forthcoming Gifford-related events.