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Keith Ward

Keith Ward
Full name Keith Ward
Born 22nd August 1938
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Main interests philosophy of religion, theology

The Reverend Professor (John Stephen) Keith Ward (born 22 August 1938) is a British cleric, philosopher, theologian, and scholar. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and (since 1972) an ordained priest in the Church of England. He was a Canon of Christ Church, Oxford until 2003. Comparative theology and the interplay between science and faith and are two of his main topics of interest.


Academic work

Ward graduated in 1962 with a BA from the University of Wales, and from 1964-69 was a Lecturer in Logic at the University of Glasgow. He earned a BLitt from Linacre College, Oxford in 1968. From 1969-1971 he was Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. In 1972, he was ordained priest in the Church of England. From 1971-75 he was Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at the University of London. From 1975-83, he was Dean of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was appointed F. D. Maurice Professor of Moral and Social Theology at the University of London in 1982, Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion at King's College London in 1985, and Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford in 1991, a post from which he retired in 2004.[1]

In 1992, he was a visiting professor at the Claremont Graduate University in California. In 1993-94, he delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow. Ward was the Gresham Professor of Divinity between 2004 and 2008 at Gresham College, London[2].

He is on the council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and is a member of the editorial boards of Religions Studies, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Studies in Inter-Religious Dialogue, and World Faiths Encounter. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. He has also been a Visiting Professor at Drake University, Iowa, and at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. [3]

Ward has an MA and DD degrees from both Cambridge and Oxford[4], and an honorary DD from the University of Glasgow.

Focus and beliefs

One of his main focuses is the dialogue between religious traditions, an interest which led him to be Joint President of the World Congress of Faiths (WCF) between 1992 and 2001. His work also explores concepts of God and the idea of revelation. Ward has also written on the relationship between science and religion.[5] As an advocate of theistic evolution, he regards them as essentially compatible, a belief he has described in his book God, Chance and Necessity, and which is in contrast to his Oxford colleague Richard Dawkins, an ethologist and vocal and prominent atheist. Ward has said that Dawkins's conclusion that there is no God or any purpose in the universe is "naive" and not based on science but on a hatred of religion. Dawkins's strong anti-religious views originate, according to Ward, from earlier encounters with "certain forms of religion which are anti-intellectual and anti-scientific...and also emotionally pressuring."[6] He has also been highly critical of materialist philosophers of consciousness such as Daniel Dennett, as well as social scientists such as Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx, arguing that they each attempt to reduce the human person into aspects of their own discipline. Ward has described his own Christian faith as follows:

I am a born-again Christian. I can give a precise day when Christ came to me and began to transform my life with his power and love. He did not make me a saint. But he did make me a forgiven sinner, liberated and renewed, touched by divine power and given the immense gift of an intimate sense of the personal presence of God. I have no difficulty in saying that I wholeheartedly accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour.[7]

He has criticized modern day Christian fundamentalism, most notably in his 2004 book What the Bible Really Teaches: A Challenge for Fundamentalists. He believes that fundamentalists interpret the Bible in implausible ways and pick and choose which of its passages to emphasise in order to fit pre-existing beliefs. Ward argues that the Bible must be taken seriously, but not always literally and he does not agree with the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy,saying that it is not found in the Bible, elaborating that

There may be discrepancies and errors in the sacred writings, but those truths that God wished to see included in the Scripture, and which are important to our salvation, are placed there without error... the Bible is not inerrant in detail, but God has ensured that no substantial errors, which mislead us about the nature of salvation, are to be found in Scripture.[7]


Ward is the author of over 20 books including:

  • Ethics and Christianity (1970) ISBN 978-0-04-241001-2
  • Divine Image (1976) ISBN 978-0-281-02935-8
  • Christian Way (1976) ISBN 978-0-281-02893-1
  • The Concept of God (1977) ISBN 978-0-312-15925-2
  • Rational Theology and the Creativity of God (1982)
  • Holding Fast to God (1982) ISBN 978-0-687-85476-9 – a critique of Taking Leave of God by the radical theologian Don Cupitt
  • Living God (1984) ISBN 978-0-281-04126-8
  • Ballsman in the Basement: The Harrowing True Story of the Ballsman (1985) ISBN 978-0-234-03237-9
  • The Battle for the Soul (1985) ISBN 978-0-340-37278-4
  • Images of Eternity (1987) ISBN 978-0-232-51686-9
  • The Rule of Love (1989) ISBN 978-0-232-51824-5
  • A Vision to Pursue (1991) ISBN 978-0-334-02411-8
  • Is Christianity a Historical Religion? (1992) ISBN 978-0-85217-054-0
  • Religion and Revelation (1994) ISBN 978-0-19-826375-3 (1993-94 Gifford Lectures, [1])
  • Religion and Creation (1996) ISBN 978-0-19-826394-4
  • God, Chance and Necessity (1996) ISBN 978-1-85168-116-7
  • Concepts of God (1998) ISBN 978-1-85168-064-1
  • Religion and Human Nature (1998) ISBN 978-0-19-826965-6
  • God, Faith and the New Millennium (1998)
  • In Defence of the Soul (1998) ISBN 978-1-85168-040-5
  • Christianity: A Short Introduction (2000) ISBN 978-1-85168-229-4
  • Religion and Community (2000) ISBN 978-0-19-875259-2
  • God, A Guide for the Perplexed (2002) ISBN 978-1-85168-323-9
  • What the Bible Really Teaches: A Challenge for Fundamentalists (2004) ISBN 978-0-281-05680-4
  • Pascal's Fire - Scientific Faith and Religious Understanding (2006) ISBN 978-1-85168-446-5
  • Is Religion Dangerous? (2006) ISBN 978-0-7459-5262-8
  • Re-thinking Christianity (2007) ISBN 978-1-85168-506-6
  • Is Religion Dangerous? (2007)
  • The Big Questions in Science and Religion (2008)
  • Why There Almost Certainly Is a God (2008) ISBN 978-0-7459-5330-4 (UK) ISBN 978-0-8254-7843-7 (US)
  • Divine Action: Examining God's Role in an Open and Emergent Universe (2008)

Books about Keith Ward and his theology include:

  • Comparative Theology: Essays for Keith Ward ed T W Bartel (2003) ISBN 978-0-281-05474-9

See also

Boyle Lectures

External links


  1. ^ Who's Who entry
  2. ^ Online lecture archive at Gresham College
  3. ^ Professor Keith Ward, Gresham College profile, Accessed Jan. 26, 2007
  4. ^ Professor Keith Ward, Gresham College profile, Accessed Nov. 7, 2006
  5. ^ Keith Ward's Oxford University profile, Accessed Nov. 7, 2006
  6. ^ Video interview] by Robert Wright for at 28:00 and following
  7. ^ a b Keith Ward. What the Bible Really Teaches: A Challenge for Fundamentalists (2004)
Academic offices
Preceded by
Maurice Wiles
Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford
Succeeded by
Marilyn McCord Adams


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