THIS BOOK is a lightly edited version of a set of six Gifford lectures delivered at the University of Aberdeen in Spring 1994 as part of the University's quincentenary celebration. A Gifford lecturer undertakes a formidable task, that of ‘promoting, advancing, and diffusing the study of natural theology’—a phrase employed by Lord Gifford in the Will establishing the lectures that bear his name. Since Lord Gifford goes on to state that true knowledge of God, knowledge such as is afforded by natural theology, is ‘the means of man's highest well being, and the security of his upward progress’, it is plain that he had in mind a subject of the greatest conceivable importance to humankind.
He lists in his Will the topics he regards as coming under the heading of ‘natural theology’. Among them is that of the relations which people bear to God. But a person can stand in many relations to God, some of these of greater significance for natural theology and some of less. One of particular significance is the relation in which a person of faith is bound to God considered as the object of that faith. It is upon the concept of faith that the following six lectures are focused. Since the philosophers and theologians whose ideas on faith are discussed here are from Pre-Reformation Scotland, and since, especially, the final two lectures are devoted to a study of the ideas of John Mair and his associates, who lived in Scotland in the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries, my discussion will indicate some of the philosophical and theological ideas current in the Scottish universities at the time of the founding of King's College, Aberdeen. And in this context it is helpful to remember that Hector Boece, friend and colleague of John Mair, was the first principal of the College.
My colleague, Dr C. F. J. Martin, helped me, in the course of numerous conversations, to understand Duns Scotus's arguments better. Miss P. S. Martin made many suggestions, to the benefit of the text, on matters of style. I am glad of this opportunity to thank both for their help. Each of the lectures at Aberdeen was followed by lengthy and lively discussion. I benefited greatly from the exchanges, particularly the many that I had with Professor J. R. Cameron, to whom I owe a special debt of gratitude.
Unless otherwise stated the translations from Latin are my own.