Wesley Methodist Church

A church for all in the heart of the city

Science Meets Faith

Second Monday of the month from October to June, 7.15 pm for 7.45 pm


We present world class lectures on issues of Science and Faith, sponsored by Cambridge University Press. 

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Our next meeting:

Monday 9 May 2017, at 7.45 p.m.

Social Anthropology and Theology: On the Prospects for Dialogue

Professor Joel Robbins

 Sigrid Rausing Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

A sociocultural anthropologist, Joel Robbins received his doctorate in Anthropology at the University of Virginia in 1998.  In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Theology from Lund University.  He taught at Reed College and then for many years at the University of California, San Diego, before moving to Cambridge in 2013.  He has since early in his career been one of the leading figures in the developing anthropological move toward studying Christian populations.  More recently, he has been interested in exploring possible intersections between anthropology and theology. Robbins’ best known work is the book Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society, which examines the very rapid and thorough conversion to Charismatic Christianity of a remote, never directly missionized group in the far western Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  He has also recently edited an open access volume of the journal Current Anthropology entitled “The Anthropology of Christianity: Unity, Diversity, New Directions.”

 Although Social Anthropology has long taken as its brief the task of studying human beings in all of their diversity, in practice it was not until very recently that anthropologists focused sustained attention of the religious lives of Christian populations.  The situation has changed rapidly in the last several years, however, and we now have a large and continually growing body of first class anthropological research on a wide range of Christian groups from many different parts of the world.  In this lecture, Joel Robbins first introduces some of the findings reported in this literature concerning common themes in the way Christianity is lived in vastly different settings around the globe.  He then goes on to ask how anthropologists interested in Christianity might develop a conversation with theology in ways that enrich the intellectual resources of both disciplines.

Programme for 2016/17

Listen Again

Recordings of many of the lectures from last year's series are available to listen again.