New Institute will tackle the big questions facing humanity

Friday 20 November 2015


Some of the biggest issues facing humanity will form the basis of study at a new international institute to be based at the University of St Andrews.

The Logos Institute, which takes its name from the Greek meaning ‘word’ or ‘study’ but which is also used in John’s Gospel with reference to the incarnation, will be a centre for excellence in the study of analytic and exegetical theology.

The range of questions it will consider concern the existence and nature of God, God’s relationship to time, the nature of the person and the conceptual and social challenges confronting religious belief. The latter will include interdisciplinary analysis of the challenges of religious hostility, sectarianism and terrorism.

The institute is being launched by a £1.6 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust which supports research relating to the major questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.

Logos-Institute-TorranceThe work of the institute is founded in the collaboration of father and son academics Alan Torrance (pictured), professor of systematic theology at St Mary’s College of the University of St Andrews, and Dr Andrew Torrance of the University’s School of Divinity.

Alan applied to the Templeton Religion Trust for funding to launch an institute for analytic and exegetical theology to be based at St Andrews and, separately, Andrew applied for funding to expand his work on communication with schools and churches, for which he had earlier received a grant of more than £500,000.

The Trust decided to roll the two applications together to launch the Logos Institute.

The new institute, which will open in the summer of 2016, builds on existing resources at the University of St Andrews.

These resources will be complemented by the appointment to part-time positions of four leading international thinkers and a further full-time, senior appointment. In addition, there will be research fellowships, six PhD scholarships and a new Masters programme as well as a series of public lectures, a blog, a website, podcasts etc.

Professor Alan Torrance said: “The impetus for the new institute is the remarkable sea-change that has taken place in philosophy. Over the last three decades, a sizeable proportion of academic research in philosophy has been directed toward questions bearing on the existence of God. This renewed interest has resulted in major advances in the field and a wealth of published research. It is in the light of these significant developments that ‘analytic theology’ has emerged. The Institute will bring this new generation of theological research into conversation with the world-class expertise we have here in biblical studies, philosophy, psychology and international relations.

“Our primary concern will be to explore the immense explanatory power of Christian theism and its relevance for how we understand the ultimate significance of human life. We shall be doing this in dialogue with exciting, new developments in contemporary Biblical scholarship.

“One of the key research topics will be the nature of forgiveness and what this central Christian notion might mean for how we approach religious enmity, sectarianism and, indeed, terrorism.”

Dr Andrew Torrance said: “At its best, the task of theology gathers together and engages a diverse range of perspectives. Not only does it draw on the insights of biblical scholarship and philosophy, it also draws on the insights of the natural and social sciences. Further, it seeks to be attentive to the religious communities that have devoted themselves to pursuing a knowledge of God.

“Such a diverse conversation is not easy, however. For constructive conversation to take place, those at the table need to share the same language, and this requires conceptual clarity and discipline. Theology’s task in this regard stands to be resourced richly by analytic philosophy and the clarity it generates.”

Professor N.T. Wright, School of Divinity at St Andrews, added: “There are few places in the world where a project this daring and creative could even be imagined; fewer still where it could be brought to birth. St Andrews is just the place for this remarkable venture, and I look forward eagerly to sharing in it.”

Among those who will be lecturing at the institute as part-time faculty are the US-based British theologian Oliver Crisp, American, analytic philosophers Michael Rea and Peter Van Inwagen and American philosopher and theologian, C Stephen Evans.

Other aspects of the Institute’s work will involve programmes for schools and churches, lectures and a UK-wide competition resulting in a full scholarship.

Notes to Editors

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 467310 or [email protected].

Visit the website for more information about the John Templeton Foundation.

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