The Rev. Marilyn McCord Adams was born 12 October 1943 in Oak Park, Illinois to William Clark McCord and Wilmah Brown McCord. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois. In 1966, she married Robert Merrihew Adams, a philosopher and Gifford Lecturer in 1999–2000 at the University of St Andrews. Adams and her husband are the only married couple to each have given Gifford Lectures.
The following year she finished her PhD at Cornell University. In 1984 she completed a Master of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church in the diocese of Los Angeles in 1987. She taught medieval philosophy and philosophy of religion at UCLA from 1972–93, before taking up a post at Yale in historical and philosophical theology. She gave the 1998–1999 Gifford Lectures at the University of St. Andrews. She left Yale to become Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford (2004–2009) and canon of Christ Church Cathedral. While abroad, she received a Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford in 2008. She was the first woman to earn a DD at Oxford.
She returned home to the United States in 2009 and became a distinguished research professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 2013 to 2015 she was a distinguished research professor at Rutgers University. Adams was one of the cofounders of the Society of Christian Philosophers. She passed away in March of 2017 in Princeton, New Jersey.
Her works include “Is the Existence of God a ‘Hard’ Fact?” The Philosophical Review, Vol. LXXVI, No. 4 (1967); translations of Paul of Venice’s On the Truth and Falsity of Propositions and On the Significatum of a Proposition (1977); a translation with Norman Kretzman of William Ockham's Predestination, God's Foreknowledge, and Future Contingents (1983); William of Ockham (2 vols.) (1987); The Problem of Evil, coedited with Robert Merrihew Adams (1990); Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (1999); “What Sort of Human Nature? Medieval Philosophy and the Systematics of Christology” (Aquinas Lecture, 1999); Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology (2006, based on the Gifford Lectures for 1998–1999); Some Later Medieval Theories of the Eucharist: Thomas Aquinas, Giles of Rome, Duns Scotus, and William Ockham (2010). She has also published a book of sermons, Wrestling for Blessing (2005), and a book of prayers, Opening to God: Childlike Prayers for Adults (2008).