Paul Allen

Paul Allen

'How to Renew Natural Theology'


Natural theology is best conceived as a discourse that deliberately precedes faith, rather than consisting of a set of stand-alone arguments about the existence of God. Historically, the focus on the order of the world has been viewed as yielding demonstrable evidence for divine providence over creation, yet  this tradition has faced a variety of stringent critiques since the early modern period. So, this paper will draw together an alternative tradition of natural theology that begins with human desire, in order to show that nature is most plausibly interpreted to mean that God is the creator of the world and that faith in God is reasonable, responsible, and loving. This lecture explores the following: a) scriptural references to ‘natural’ human desire, b) the telos of scientific investigation as coherent with faith, c) Bernard Lonergan’s contribution to the issue, and d) the evolutionary basis of sin/guilt that suggests an Augustinian, theological interpretation.

The lecture was held on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at the University of Notre Dame, as part of a conference, The Quest for Consonance: Theology and the Natural Sciences. The conference was made possible by support from the Templeton Religion Trust, John J. Reilly Center, Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, and the Departments of Theology, Physics, and Philosophy at Notre Dame.


Paul Allen is professor of systematic theology in the Department of Theological Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. He teaches introductory courses on Theology as well as specific topics such as the Trinity, Christology, religion, and politics and – at the graduate level – theological method, political theology, and theological anthropology. He has served on university committees and has been a fellow of the College for Diversity and Sustainability. In matters of public interest, Dr. Allen has contributed to debates such as the role of the state in Canadian schools. He has served on the Executive of Montreal's English Speaking Catholic Council which worked in concert with other groups to support the Jesuit Loyola High School in the lead up to the landmark 2015 Supreme Court of Canada's decision in its favor, overturning the Government of Quebec's mandate that the school teach religion exclusively from a non-Catholic perspective. He has also played an advocacy role in defending private Canadian religious colleges and universities and their institutional academic freedom. He is the author of Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed (2012), Ernan McMullin and Critical Realism in the Science-Theology Dialogue (2006), and co-author of the textbook Catholicism and Science (2008). He is the author of a number of book chapters and journal articles in venues such as Heythrop Journal of Theology, Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, and the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. He is presently writing a monograph entitled Creaturehood: Sin, Science and Theological Anthropology, as well as co-editing a volume on Saint Augustine and social issues.