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Professor Oliver Davies

Emeritus Professor of Christian Doctrine


Professor Oliver Davies grew up in South Wales, before pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford, where he specialised in contemporary German religious literature (Paul Celan).

He spent two years teaching at the University of Cologne before returning to lecture in theology in the University of Wales, serving as Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia in 2002 and 2003, and at the Pontifical Gregorian University at Rome in 2006-7. He was President of the Society for the Study of Theology from 2007-8.

A regular visitor to China, Oliver Davies accepted a three-year ‘Senior International Research Chair’ in China in the area of Global Ethics, Philosophy and Contemporary Science from 2017-8, while continuing in his role as Emeritus Professor at King’s.


  • Transformation theology
  • Religion and literature
  • Mysticism
  • Theology and continental philosophy
  • Science and human sociality

History and Text

My early studies were in the area of religious texts, especially in the German tradition. I worked on the German medieval theologian Meister Eckhart (Meister Eckhart: Selected Writings, Penguin Classics, 1994), before publishing A Theology of Compassion (Eerdmans, 2001), which marked an attempt to rethink Christian tradition in the light of contemporary perspectives concerning phenomenology, language, ethics and the self. In 2002 I published Oliver Davies and Denys Turner (Princeton University), Silence and the Word: Negative Theology and Incarnation (CUP, repr. in pb. 2008). In The Creativity of God. World, Eucharist, Reason (CUP 2004) I explored these same themes in dialogue with Rabbinic sources with respect to creation and world. Theology of Transformation. Faith, Freedom and the Christian Act, was published with OUP in 2013. In 2013-6 I was co-investigator with Markus Vinzent in a three-year AHRC award on Meister Eckhart and the Parisian University in the Fourteenth Century and, from 2015-6, held a John Templeton Foundation fellowship in Evolutionary Anthropology and Theology through the University of Notre Dame. Since 2015 I have been co-editor for the book series ‘Contemporary Theological Explorations in Mysticism’, published by Routledge. In 2019 I was elected as Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Science and Religion.

Science and the Human Person

From 2012, I began to enter the role of ‘interdisciplinary scholar’ working closely with a leading European research group based at the University of Cologne. The focus of their work lies in developing understanding of the social cognition system which is common to human beings, across cultural divides. I organized a colloquium in Somerset House, KCL, and at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, in 2016 (14-15 Oct) and again at Somerset House in 2019 (9-10 July). In 2016, I published the article 'Niche construction, social cognition and language: hypothesizing the human as the production of place', Culture and Brain, Springer, 4.2 (2016): 87-112, which now has over 2000 reads. In 2017 I organized with Prof. Dennis Schilling a colloquium in ‘Cognitive Science, Evolution and Philosophy’, at the School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China, with the support of the national Interdisciplinary Centre for Philosophy and Cognitive Science at Renmin and the Spalding Trust, UK. This was arguably the first such event to combine social philosophy, neuroscience and evolutionary anthropology in the People’s Republic of China (including as speakers Prof. Kai Vogeley, University of Cologne and Prof. Agustín Fuentes, University of Notre Dame, now Princeton University). In 2020 I was appointed to the Advisory Board of ‘Virtual Times’, a large scale EU Horizon 2020 project on XR, where I contribute to the development of appropriate ethical standards and the measurement of such standards in advanced XR.

Selected publications

2021 (in press): “The Practice of Love: Towards an Understanding of the Human”, in Paul Fiddes, ed., Love as Common Ground, Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., Chapter 14, 2021.

2021a: ‘Science, Philosophy and the Authority of the early Franciscan Summa Halensis: Learning from the Past for the sake of the Future’, in Lydia Schumacher, ed., The Legacy of Early Franciscan Thought, De Gruyter, 2021, 373-97

2021b: ‘Cosmic Christianity’, in Mary Ann Hinsdale and Stephen Okey, eds., T&T Clark Handbook of Theological Anthropology, T&T Clark, Chapter 32.

2020a: ‘Grace in Evolution’, in Celia Deane-Drummond and Agustín Fuentes, eds., Theology and Evolutionary Anthropology: Dialogues in Wisdom, Humility and Grace, Routledge: London and New York, 2020, 228-42

2018a: ‘Confucianism in the Perspective of Global Science – Review Article of Reconceptualizing Confucianism in the Twenty First Century’, Front. Philos. China. 2018, 13 (1): 150-163.

2017a: ‘Freedom, Community and Personhood. Understanding the Holy Spirit Today’, in Doug Geivett and Paul Moser, eds., The Testimony of the Spirit: New Essays, New York: Oxford University Press, 151-71.

2017b: 'Cognition, Emotion and the Ethics of Authenticity', in Angel, Oviedo, Paloutzian, Seitz, Runehov, eds., Processes of Believing: The Acquisition, Maintenance, and Change in Creditions, Springer, 277-87.

2017c: ‘Learning Presence: The Mystical Text as Intimate Hyper-Communication across Time’, in David Lewin, Simon Podmore and Duane Williams, eds., Mystical Theology and Continental Philosophy, London and New York: Routledge, 13-31.

2016a: ‘Evolution, Language and the Biblical Text: Towards a Theological Synthesis’, in A. Paddison, Theologians on Scripture, London: Bloomsbury, T&T Clark, 37-52.

2016b: 'Niche construction, social cognition and language: hypothesizing the human as the production of place', Culture and Brain, Springer, 4.2 (2016): 87-112. 

Further details

See Oliver's research profile