Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams (born 14 June 1950) is an Anglican bishop, theologian and poet.
Williams was the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012. He is currently Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge. (from Wikipedia)
He is considered by contemporaries to be one of the most thoughtful Christians of this generation.

Wikipedia page

Archbishop of Canterbury page

Books at Amazon page


University of Glasgow Oct 2008  56:27
In conversation with Professor Mona Siddiqui

University of Surrey Jan 2011  56:17
Jim al-Khalili interviews Rowan Williams |

Anglican 08 Apr 2012  33:32
Discussion with A.C Grayling

Objective Bob Nov 2012  39:25
The Finality of Christ in a Pluralistic Society

Fresh Expressions  Nov 2012  33:49
Following the missionary Spirit: Rowan Williams

University of Oxford Dec 2012 1:26:56
Richard Dawkins & Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury
discuss human nature & ultimate origin

Cambridge ISoc  Mar 2013  1:16:26
Jesus in the eyes of four billion (Christianity and Islam) -with Paul Bilal Williams

Oxford University July 2013  1:47:47
Debate with Richard Dawkins – Does Religion Have A Place In 21st Century

Woolf Institute July 2013  1:17:07
With Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “Trust and trustworthiness”

The University of Edinburgh Nov 2013  1:25:50
The Gifford Lectures “Making Representations:
Religious Faith and the Habits of Language”. “Representing Reality”

2   1:26:11   (Summary notes found below)
Can We Say What We Like? Language, Freedom and Determinism

3  1:29:30
No Last Words: Language as Unfinished Business

4   1:24:36
Material Words: Language as Physicality

5  1:27:47
Extreme Language: Discovery Under Pressure

6  1:24:44
Can Truth be Spoken?

St Paul’s  Nov 2013  1:25:26
How to Change the World: Together – Rowan Williams and Michael Battle

War Studies Kings College London  Dec 2013  46:09
Lord Rowan Williams ‘War- A Changing Moral Map’

Institute for Strategic Dialogue Jan 2014  1:25:51
Rowan Williams: Faith and Human Flourishing

Institute for Strategic Dialogue Jan 2014  1:28:30
Rowan Williams In Conversation with Jon Snow

Legatum Institute Jan 2014  56:31
The Deadly Simplicities of Adolf von Harnack

Patchwork Foundation  Jan 2014  45:07
Evening with Rowan Williams – Lecture

Interfaith Studies, Oxford Feb 2014  1:28:30  last one
“Faith and Power” with Jon Snow

Inaugural Lecture, University of Chester  June 2014  1:13:59
The Messiah and the Novelist: Approaches to Jesus in Fiction

Sheffield Diocese Festival of Prayer October 2014.  55:35
Keynote Address

Darwin College Nov 2014  1:05:26
“Plagues & Metaphor”

Meditatio Centre, London  Dec 2014  1:29:45
“The Gift of Christmas”

University of Durham  Feb 2015  1:23:16
“The Tree of Knowledge: Bodies, Minds and Thoughts.”

EcoMedia Collective  Feb 2015  58:11
Global Awareness Rowan Williams

Curious Culture Feb 2015  1:27:17
Debate with Richard Dawkins “Nature and Origin of Humans”

Summary notes of Gifford Lectures

Lecture 1  Representing Reality

When we speak about the world we inhabit, we do so in terms that go well beyond simply listing the elements of what we perceive; that is, we construct schematic models, we extrapolate, we invent, and we use our imagination.

If we think harder about what is involved in representing things (rather than simply describing or replicating them), we may discern something more. We may discover that the way believers talk about God is closely linked to the ways in which what we call “ordinary” speech seeks a truthfulness that is more than simply replication. Moreover, we may understand how speech is regularly stimulated to do this in moments of linguistic crisis or disruption.

Lecture 2  Can We Say What We Like? Language, Freedom and Determinism.

If speech is a physical act, is it ultimately something we must think of as part of a pre-determined material system?

It is difficult to state this without contradiction. Indeed, once we recognise the unstable relationship between what we say and the environment we are seeking to put into words, we cannot treat speech as simply another physical process. Further, we cannot ignore the way in which speech is ‘bound’ to stimuli that it does not originate (if we did, we could have no conception of what a mistake or a lie was).

We use our language in order to enhance or refine our skill at living in a world that both demands understanding and invites us into the awareness of an unconditioned intelligent energy.

Lecture 3  No Last Words: Language as Unfinished Business

Intelligent life has something to do with knowing what to do next, and how to ‘go on’. The focus of knowledge is not necessarily the would-be final, or exhaustive, system. We can learn something about the nature of knowing if we think about the sorts of knowledge involved in physical crafts, where a good and credible performance makes ever new performances possible.

This also reminds us of the significance of our having learned our language from others and of our developing our thinking through exchange and not simply soliloquy. We speak in the hope of recognition. And our language carries in it a moment of radical trust in the meaningfulness of what we ‘exchange’ as well as an awareness of how we are all answerable to what is not only the aggregate of what we all know already.

Lecture 4  Material Words – Language as Physicality

When we analyse speech, we are not only discussing how words work. Speech also includes gesture and rhythm. As such, speech is a means not only of mapping our environment, but also of ‘handling’ our environment and its direct impact upon us (a point that can be illustrated with reference to studies of autistic behaviour).

When we speak we create a new material situation. Correspondingly, we cannot actually think and ‘represent’ the reality of material situations without assuming an intelligent or intelligible form of some sort: ‘mindless’ matter is a chimera.

In our physical involvement with the world, the natural order evolves a representation of itself. This observation casts some light on classical Christian reflections of the world’s transparency to divine meaning – which Christians perceived as a symbolic cosmos, which was no less symbolic for being material.

Lecture 5  Extreme Language – Discovery Under Pressure

One of the most complex aspects of our language is that we refine the patterns we create in it – by rhyme and metre and metaphor – in the confidence that through this process we will discover something about what our habitual language does not disclose.

The language of art – and in striking measure the language of innovative theoretical science too – assumes that what we perceive is more than it appears, and that it ‘gives more than it has’. The processes of rediscovering ourselves through the deliberate distortions and re-workings of familiar language (as we do in poetry, prose or scientific narrative) once again suggest a significant confidence in the bare practice of speech to transform understanding and the relation with what is real.

What is encountered is essentially oriented towards something like communion or integration.

Lecture 6  Can Truth be Spoken?

In what sense can we legitimately think about silence as a mode of knowing? We need to be cautious about using such a notion as an excuse for giving up the challenges of truthful speech.

But it is true that, if what is ultimately most important is to be attuned to the reality that we invite to ‘inhabit’ us, silence may be the most appropriate means of representation.

The challenge is to frame silence in order to render it meaningful; that is, as more than an absence of sound or concept. And to identify such deliberate and ‘strategic’ silence – in meditation, in music, but also in aspects of our habitual discourse – is to raise the question of how silence ‘refers’ and so puts all we say in a new, and questioning, light.


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