The Weston Lecture

The annual Weston Lecture has presented our students and members of the public with a brilliant example of how faith and reason may be united in a mutually strengthening way, a tradition inaugurated through the generous support of George Weston Limited. The Lecture is given by an invited speaker whose field of endeavour is pertinent to the Augustine College academic program.

Past Weston Lectures

R.R. Reno  | Against Critical Thinking

2014 – 15 Weston Lecture | March 6

Augustine College was pleased to have Dr. R.R. Reno deliver our 17th annual Weston Lecture.

Since 2011, Dr. Reno has served as the editor of First Things, 'America's most influential journal of religion in public life'. He received his PhD in theology from Yale University and taught theology and ethics at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska for twenty years. He has published in many academic journals, and his opinion essays have appeared in Commentary, the Washington Post, and other popular outlets.

In his talk, Against Critical Thinking, Dr. Reno discusses the way in which today's academic culture places great emphasis on critical questioning and doubt, but fails to train in how to pursue and assent to truth. Reno argues that the life of the mind is based on our capacity to know and affirm truth, and for that we need a pedagogy of piety - an approach to instruction ordered towards the affirmation of that truth.

View lecture on YouTube

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Andrew Bennett  | The Incarnation, Human Dignity, and Freedom: The Christian in the Public Sphere

2013 – 14 Weston Lecture | April 4

Our 16th annual Weston Lecture was delivered by our Dean and Canada's Ambassador of Religious Freedom
Dr. Andrew Bennett.

An understanding of the Incarnation is central for Christians' understanding of human dignity. Such an understanding must inform how we engage the world and more particularly how Christians participate in the political and economic worlds.

Drawing from the richness of the Christian tradition, including the Church Fathers and texts such as Dignitatis Humanae, Dr. Bennett spoke to the imperative of Christians being active in the world so as to make the mystery of the Incarnation ever present.

View on YouTube

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Dr. John Patrick  | Talking About Wisdom in an Age of Information

2012 – 13 Weston Lecture | March 15

For our 15th annual Weston Lecture Dr. John Patrick reflected on the differences between societies based on information and those rooted in the ancient traditions of wisdom.

"foundations of moral consensus in society have been eroded almost imperceptibly since the fifteenth century. The stunning success of inductive reasoning and experimental science, combined with philosophical ideas about the nature of what we might know, has led to the privatization of faith and the unfortunate disregard for agreed wisdom amidst the accumulating information we are bombarded with. We have come to believe that science is all we need, and that all "real" knowledge is scientific. The idea that we ought to believe some things to be true has been replaced by our choices of what we want to believe."

For more excerpts from past writings and information about Dr. Patrick

see this.

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Dr. John Behr  | The Shocking Truth about Christian Orthodoxy

2011 – 12 Weston Lecture | March 23

The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr spoke on The Shocking Truth about Christian Orthodoxy.

Heresies today are what heresies have always been: ways of avoiding the startling reality at the heart of the Christian faith, which is, in essence, that God has in fact revealed Himself to humankind in Christ, through the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

That revelation - both what has been revealed and its implications - is so shocking to the mind that its refusal (out roll the heresies) is almost natural and inevitable. Instead of facing and dwelling upon what he has been shown, in Christ, a person says, 'He wasn't really God,' 'He wasn't really human,' 'He was just a great man,' etc.

But what if, instead of vesting all our trust in the recoil of the human mind from a shocking truth, we gave some attention to the truth we find, indeed, shocking? Is the inability of the frail instrument to fathom what has been disclosed the only focus of our attention? The proper focus? Can this instrument that is plainly unable to measure be, in fact, the measure of the disclosure? How can such a shocking truth be accepted?

The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr is the Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y., where he is also Professor of Patristics, teaching courses in patristics, dogmatics, and Scriptural exegesis. He also teaches at Fordham University, where he is the Distinguished Lecturer in Patristics.

Fr. Behr is the author of, among other titles, The Glory of God: A Living Human Being (2011), The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death (2006), The Nicene Faith (2004), and The Way to Nicaea (2001). His new translation of St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation was published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press in November of 2011.

Download sample reading

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Dr. Frank Johnson  | The Inspiration of Michael Faraday

2010 – 11 Weston Lecture | March 18, 2011

Dr. Frank Johnson spoke on The Inspiration of Michael Faraday, the scientist whose work in the mid 19th century inspired a generation of practical and theoretical development and set the stage for a sustained exploration of electromagnetism – the technical
foundation for much of our way of life today.

What, in turn, inspired Faraday? In his lecture Dr. Johnson considered the way Faraday, the son of a blacksmith, regarded the natural world: in the words of biographer Geoffrey Cantor, as “an economy in the sense that all events are tightly organized by divine providence.” Given that a similar paradigm could be used to describe Newton, how was Faraday able to step aside from the determinism of Newtonian mechanics into the very non-Newtonian discoveries of electrochemistry and electromagnetism?

Faraday was an archetypical empiricist and in his lecture Dr. Johnson emulated his example by attempting to replicate some of Faraday’s key experiments.

Dr. Johnson was first trained as an electronics engineer and then worked in medical engineering. He initiated the History of Mathematics course at Augustine College and taught it for several years. He currently helps to run several companies that make instruments to measure the state of the oceans and freshwater.

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Dr. Ralph C. Wood  | Clothing Our Moral Nakedness: Education for Christian Virtue

2009 – 10 Weston Lecture | March 26, 2010

Dr. Ralph C. Wood is University Professor of Theology and Literature in the Department of Religion at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His lecture revisited Richard John Neuhaus’s famous thesis that the moral arena in our time has been vacated of serious social content by a refusal to deal with the most basic ethical questions: human nature, the human good, moral evil, the virtuous life. The result is not moral perversion so much as moral nakedness, the unclothing of our species as we revert to animality.

Dr. Wood’s familiarity with both literature and theology will move us through Walker Percy’s hilarious and N.T.Wright’s more sombre account of our resulting predicament: “a bizarre privatism in which the left and the right become unacknowledged twins.” Further attention to Flannery O’Connor and G.K. Chesterton – two advocates of education as training in the virtues – promise to make for an engaging evening. The instruction of virtue in the context of education “may well be a long twilight struggle,” says Dr. Wood, “but it is the only one worth waging” in the hearts of the young.

Dr. Wood received his doctorate from the University of Chicago and has taught on the faculty of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His books include Contending for the Faith: The Church’s Engagement with Culture (2003), The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth (2004), Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South (2004), Literature and Theology (2008), and Preaching and Professing: Sermons by a Teacher Seeking to Proclaim the Gospel (2009).

The Public Lecture  

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Michael Heller  |  Did It Start with a Bang? Science, Religion, and the Creation of the Universe

2008 – 09 Weston Lecture | November 7, 2008

Once upon a time there was a bang, a very BIG bang ... – that is the way many people tell the story, but was this the true beginning of the universe? What does the latest scientific research tell us about longstanding philosophical and theological views on the origin of things?

This year's Weston Lecture was delivered by Michael Heller, winner of the 2008 Templeton Prize for his strikingly original research into the origin of the universe. Dr. Heller, Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow, is a cosmologist and Catholic priest who for more than forty years has developed the provocative ideas he presented.

Upon receipt of the prize, Dr. Heller reiterated his belief that the oft-described "two worlds" of religion and science are in no way at odds: without the meaning afforded by religion, "science would be meaningless."

Fully titled the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, the prize has been awarded since 1973 to what its founder, Sir John Templeton, called "entrepreneurs of the spirit" - living persons who have made an exceptional contribution to the affirmation of those aspects of human experience that, even in an age of rapid scientific advance, remain beyond the reach of scientific explanation.

After an informal morning session with students, Dr. Heller spoke to an over-capacity crowd about discoveries into the origins of the Universe and the human search for God.

The College Session   
The Public Lecture  
The Public Lecture  

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Craig M. Gay  |  Dialogue: The Heart that Beats at the Centre of Life

2007 – 08 Weston Lecture

Craig M. Gay, author and Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Regent College in Vancouver,  explains that human language is not a mere tool of communication. Instrumentality is secondary to the world that language brings forth, and at the centre of that world is dialogue, the social reality of the 'you' implied in all speech. Dialogue, "the medium of spirituality," is implicit in the very existence of language, unique to man alone. The implications of this fact are of course profound.

Prof. Gay is the author of Cash Values: Money and the Erosion of Meaning in Today's Society (Eerdmans 2004), in which he asked whether the apparent global triumph of capitalism threatens a “market totalitarianism.” Prof. Gay responds by urging readers to assert other than “cash values” so as to free us from control by the market system and bring that system in hand.

In The Way of the (Modern) World, or, Why It's Tempting to Live as if God Doesn't Exist (Eerdmans 1998), Prof. Gay takes a critical look at the world-view of contemporary secular society and the ideas that undergird modern culture. He explains how, seduced by this ethos, Christians and even some Christian churches have embraced a “practical atheism” – living as if God does not matter – a choice whose far-reaching consequences Prof. Gay unfolds. He argues for the eviction of certain modern ideas from our churches and sketches, by contrast, a biblically sound way to live in the modern world.

In With Liberty and Justice for Whom? The Recent Evangelical Debate over Capitalism (Eerdmans 1991) Prof. Gay examined claims that capitalism is "indifferent" and "morally neutral" and the ideas advanced by evangelical intellectuals on the "moralization" of capitalism. He suggests that evangelicals have "bargained" with their secular counterparts, adopted their assumptions and prescriptions, and sinned by considering socio-economic issues as ultimate rather than penultimate.

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Peter Kreeft  |  The Purpose of Life in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

2006 – 07 Weston Lecture

In 2007 Augustine College presented a series of lectures by renowned author and educator Dr. Peter Kreeft, who teaches philosophy at Boston College and is the author of some fifty books of philosophy and apologetics. In his Weston Lecture Dr. Kreeft spoke of the unity of purpose in the way three Western religions understand human life.

Dr. Kreeft's books include The Philosophy of Jesus (2007), The Sea Within: Waves and the Meaning of All Things (2006), How to Win the Culture War (2002), A Refutation of Moral Relativism (1999), Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenism and the Culture War (1996), Christianity for Modern Pagans (1993), Yes or No? Straight Answers to Tough Questions about Christianity (1991), Fundamentals of the Faith (1988), Making Sense Out of Suffering (1988), Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion (1986), The Unaborted Socrates: Socrates Debates Abortion (1983), and Between Heaven and Hell (1983).

Dr. Kreeft's additional talks in Ottawa included:

  • The Idea of Christian Education
  • Faith Seeking Understanding
  • Surviving University Education
  • The Passion, Death, and Resurrection of … the Church
  • What Difference Does Jesus Make?

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David Lyle Jeffrey  |  Between Opinions and a Reasoned Faith: The Bible and Academic Freedom

2005 – 06 Weston Lecture

David Lyle Jeffrey is a Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities at Baylor University. In 2003 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Conference on Christianity and Literature/Modern Language Association. Dr. Jeffrey was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1996, named Inaugural Professor of the Year at the University of Ottawa in 1995, and has also been Guest Professor at Peking University (Beijing) since 1996. He served as Department Chair of English both at the University of Victoria and the University of Ottawa, and has taught also at the Universities of Rochester, Hull (UK) and Regent College.

Dr. Jeffrey is General Editor and co-author of A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (1992). Among his other books are The Early English Lyric and Franciscan Spirituality (1975), By Things Seen: Reference and Recognition in Medieval Thought (1979), Chaucer and Scriptural Tradition (1984), English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley (1987), English Spirituality in the Age of Wyclif (1988), People of the Book: Christian Identity and Literary Culture (1996; Chinese translation in 2002), and Houses of the Interpreter (2003). With Brian J. Levy he has edited The Anglo-Norman Lyric (1990) and with Dominic Manganiello he co-authored Rethinking the Future of the University (1999). 

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Calvin DeWitt  |  Ecological Stewardship: New Perspectives

2004 – 05 Weston Lecture

Ecologist and author Calvin DeWitt discussed ecological restoration, the Biblical tradition of stewardship of the earth, and the established retelling of the history of ecology that omits the Judeo-Christian roots of care for God's creation.

Dr. DeWitt is Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and President of Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, an institution he helped to found to develop sustainable community-building, environmental education, and ecological restoration in North America, East Africa, and Southern India. He is co-founder of the International Evangelical Environmental Network; founding member and chair, American Society of the Green Cross; chair, Advisory Council, Evangelical Campaign to Combat Global Warming and Climate Change; member, editorial board, Science and Christian Belief; advisor, National Religious Partnership for the Environment. Member, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, American Scientific Affiliation, Christians in Science (United Kingdom), Phi Sigma Biological Honorary Society, Society of Wetland Scientists.

Dr. DeWitt's additional talks in Ottawa included:

  • God’s Creation
  • Christian Ecology Defined
  • The Urban-Rural Crisis: Whose Responsibility?
  • Con-Servancy: The Bible and Our Care of Creation

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Jeremy Begbie  |  The Sound of Hope

2003 – 04 Weston Lecture

This year we combined our Visiting Artist and Weston Lecture programme, as between March 19th and March 22nd Dr. Jeremy S. Begbie presented  colloquia, recital-lectures, and a workshop on Music in Church Worship at St. Andrew’s Church, Ottawa, also spending time with students and faculty at Augustine College. He preached at St. Andrew’s Church and gave a concert at the Museum of Civilization. 

Prof.  Begbie is Associate Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, Professor of Theology at St. Andrew’s University, Scotland, and Director of the international research project, Theology through the Arts. Jeremy Begbie is an acclaimed musician, an Anglican minister and a renowned theologian. He is also an inspiring lecturer and brilliant performer and brings a pastor’s heart to his remarkable ministry. Founder and Director of Theology through the Arts, Professor Begbie studied music and philosophy at St. Andrew’s University and theology at the universities of Aberdeen and Cambridge. 

He is a professional musician and has performed extensively as a pianist, oboist and conductor. He has taught and lectured widely in the UK, South Africa, and in Canada at Regents College. His research has focused on the interplay of theology and the arts. 

He is the author of many books and papers, including Music in God’s Purposes Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts, and Theology, Music, and Time.

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