Alister McGrath currently holds a Professorship in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. He holds three doctorates, in Molecular Biophysics, a Doctor of Divinity in Theology and a Doctor of Letters in Intellectual History. He is most noted for his opposition to atheism. McGrath epitomizes the paradigm shift that scientific atheism has undergone in recent times.
Here is a bold confessional statement from McGrath: “When I was growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the 1960s, I came to the view that God was an infantile illusion, suitable for the elderly, the intellectually feeble, and the fraudulently religious. …. I arrived at Oxford from school a Marxist, believing that religion was the cause of all the world’s evils. As an intellectual Darwinian, it seemed perfectly clear to me that the idea of God was on its way out, and would be replaced by fitter and more adapted ideas – like Marxism. … But it didn’t work out like that. At Oxford – to my surprise – I discovered Christianity. It was the intellectually most exhilarating and spiritually stimulating thing I could ever hope to describe – better even than chemistry, a wonderful subject which I had thought to be the love of my life and my future career.”
His research in molecular biophysics at Oxford made him find this science as something immensely exciting and satisfying. But he adds, “But I knew I had found something better – like the pearl of great price that Jesus talks about in the gospel, which is so beautiful and precious that it overshadows everything. It (faith) was intellectually satisfying, imaginatively engaging, and aesthetically exciting.” He now considers atheism to be intellectually false. “Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.” McGrath also considers the scientific enterprise as a positive mode of divine manifestation. “My new-found Christian faith brought a new sense of fulfillment and appreciation to my studies and later my research in the natural sciences. I saw nature as charged with the grandeur and majesty of God. To engage with nature was to gain a deeper appreciation of the divine wisdom.”
McGrath believes that the relationship between science and religion is generally benign, and always intellectually stimulating. He states that his Christian faith brings him a deepened appreciation of the natural sciences.
Augustine Pamplany CST