This two volume collection of John Caird’s Gifford Lectures, originally delivered at the University of Glasgow between 1892-3, and 1895-6 is a rare and valuable insight into the thought and work of a notable Scottish theologian and preacher. The opening half of the first volume deals with a biographical sketch of John Caird provided by his brother Edward Caird, former Master of Balliol College. The two concerns this biography mentions are ‘Christianity and Idealism’ which form ‘the two poles’ of Caird’s thought and go some way to explaining Caird’s insistence on the unities of faith with reason (pg. cxli.) Well known as an orator and preacher Caird’s lectures seek to synthesise Biblical exegesis with philosophical theology. Beginning with the distinction between natural and revealed religion, Caird goes on to lay out the basics of Christian doctrine. Philosophy and natural theology are neatly united in the person of Christ: “a philosophy, therefore, which pretended to deal with man in his spiritual nature and relations without taking cognizance of the person and life of Christ, would be leaving out of sight the one all-important element in its investigations.’ (p.15)
From there Caird expands upon his views on faith and reason, the idea of God and the relation of God to the material world as well as the origin and nature of evil. The second volume continues with the lecture on theories as to the origin and nature of evil. Caird finds that it is only in the Christian doctrine that evil can be explained in a manner which is adequate — broadly in line with Augustinian notions of privation. From there, the volume goes on to soteriology, the incarnation of Christ and theories around the idea of atonement. The final section of the two volumes covers Caird’s exegesis around the theme of ‘the future life.’ The question which drives the lecture is whether ‘the grandeur of the future, which Christianity represents as God’s design for man, find any conformation in what observation discloses of the inherent capabilities of our nature?’ In considering the nature of man Caird argues that it is in intellectual and consciousness that man’ raises above the sphere of time’ (pg. 258) and can thus attain the hope that is eternal life. Managing to mix the philosophical and theological argumentation that saw him appointed as Principal of the University of Glasgow alongside the rhetoric and preaching for which he was known, Caird presents a challenging and robust defence of the reason and philosophical rigour of natural theology. Whilst perhaps a little antiquated in terms of style, the contents of these lectures is of enduring value.