Gregory DawesGregory Dawes

BTheol, PGDipTheol, PhD (Otago [Biblical Studies])
SSL (Rome Pont Bib Inst)
PhD (Otago [Philosophy])

Room: Burns 2N11
Tel. 03 479 5232
Mob. 021 027 31359

Greg holds a part-time position as Professor in Religious Studies, while also teaching within the Philosophy Department. He teaches a paper on Religion, Science, and Magic, and contributes to another course on the Philosophy of Religion. His most recent book is Theism and Explanation (New York: Routledge, 2009), which discusses the relation between scientific and religious modes of explanation. Previous books include The Historical Jesus Question (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001).

Greg gained his first graduate degree at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome before returning to New Zealand to complete a PhD in Biblical Studies at the University of Otago. More recently he has completed a second PhD, in the philosophy of religion, while continuing to teach in both Religious Studies and Philosophy. Having two young daughters, he is continually reminded of the truth of Quine's remark that the major questions of philosophy are asked by age five.


Papers taught in 2022

Second semester
Religion, Science and Magic
Reason, Belief and the Sacred


I have a particular interest in the methodological naturalism of the modern sciences. In both history and the natural and social sciences, no proposed explanation that appealed to a divine action would be taken seriously. The creationist and intelligent design movements of today question this stance, arguing that it arises from nothing more than atheist prejudice.

My recent book Theism and Explanation examines and rejects this claim. It argues that although there could (in principle) exist an acceptable explanation that appeals to a divine agent, there are good reasons to prefer natural (as opposed to supernatural) explanations.

My earlier work focused on the assumptions that underlie the historical Jesus debate. The interesting philosophical question here is: What happens when religious and theological explanatory claims come into conflict? More precisely, what happens to religious belief when the phenomenon of religion itself can be explained without reference to God?

Preferred areas of graduate supervision:

  • Religious, scientific and historical forms of explanation.
  • 18th to 21st century theories of religion.
  • Theories of textual interpretation in Christianity and Islam.


Authored books

Theism and Explanation. Routledge Philosophy of Religion Series. New York: Routledge, 2009

Introduction to the Bible. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2007.

The Historical Jesus Question: The Challenge of History to Religious Authority. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001.

The Body in Question: Metaphor and Meaning in the Interpretation of Ephesians 5:21–33. Biblical Interpretation Series. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2001.

Edited Books

The Historical Jesus Quest: Landmarks in the Search for the Jesus of History, Leiden: Deo Publishing / Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1999.

(with S. Strachan), The Farthest Jerusalem: Four Lectures on the Origins of Christianity in Otago. Dunedin: Hocken Library, 1993.

Book Chapters

'Religion without God?' In A Religious Atheist? Critical Essays on the Work of Lloyd Geering edited by Raymond Pelly and Peter Stuart. Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 2006: 111-123.

'Religious Studies and the Presumption of Naturalism' In What Is Religion For? Proceedings of the NZASR Biennial Conference, Wellington 2002, edited by Joseph Bulbulia and Paul Morris. Wellington: Victoria University, 2004: 193-210

'The Sense of the Past in the New Testament and the Qur'an.' In Islamic and Christian Cultures: Conflict or Dialogue? Bulgarian Philosophical Studies III edited by Plamen Makariev. Washington, DC: Council for Research in Values & Philosophy, 2001: 9-31

Refereed Articles

'Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?' Religion Compass 2 (2007). [ ]

'Paradigmatic Explanations: David Friedrich Strauss's Dangerous Idea.' Louvain Studies 32/1-2 (2007): 67-80. [ ]

'What is Wrong with Intelligent Design?' International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 61 (2007): 69-81.

'Why Historicity Still Matters: Raymond Brown and the Infancy Narratives.' Pacifica 19 (2006): 156-76.

'Religious Studies, Faith, and the Presumption of Naturalism.' Journal of Religion and Society [ ] 5 (2003).

'Could There Be Another Galileo Case? Galileo, Augustine and Vatican II.' Journal of Religion and Society [ ] 4 (2002).

'God Beyond Theism? Bishop Spong, Paul Tillich, and the Unicorn.' Pacifica 15/1 (2002): 65-71.

'Derrida among the Teachers of the Law: Deconstruction and Biblical Studies.' Pacifica 9 (1996): 301-309.

'Religious Studies and Theology in the University: "Some Ambiguities" Revisited.' Religion: a Journal of Religion and Religions 26 (1996): 49-68.

'The Danger of Idolatry: 1 Cor 8:7-13.' Catholic Biblical Quarterly 56 (1996): 82-98.

'Analogies, Metaphors and Women as Priests.' Pacifica 7 (1994): 47-58.

"'But if you can gain your freedom' (1 Cor 7:17-24)." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 52/4 (1990): 681-697.

Encyclopedia Entry

'Ernst Troeltsch' in Jesus in History, Culture and Thought – An Encyclopedia edited by Leslie Houlden. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003: 2:855-57.

Refereed Conference Proceedings

'Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam' Bulletin ET – Conference Issue: Religion and the European Project (2007): 119–30.

Professor Dawes can be contacted at

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme