Robert M. Adams was born on 8 September 1937. He held a teaching post at the University of Michigan from 1968 to 1972. In 1972 he moved to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was eventually promoted to professor of philosophy, before taking a post at Yale University in 1993. He retired from Yale in 2003 and was a fellow at Mansfield College, Oxford until 2009. That year he accepted a post as a distinguished research professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2013 he and his wife became visiting research professors at Rutgers University.
He gave the 1998–99 Gifford Lectures at the University of St Andrews. In 2006 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. He is married to Marilyn McCord Adams, a priest, philosopher, and Gifford Lecturer in 1998–2000 at the University of St Andrews. Adams and his wife are the only married couple to each have given Gifford Lectures.
His publications include The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays in Philosophical Theology (1987), Integrity and Conscience (1998), and Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics (2002).