Lecture Podcasts at Cairns

Christianity Today: Time to Recast the Mould? (Follow up)

John Chalmers

John Chalmers addresses the issues raised by Andrew Frater's earlier lecture and add his own views on the future of church life followed by a discussion with the audience.

23 Feb 2023  


1 hr 55min

Feast of the Epiphany and the Visit of the Magi in Western European Art

Ailsa Turner

Ailsa explores some of the many rich and diverse representations of the visit of the Magi raising intriguing questions of interpretation, iconography and identity. This is a visual recording.

24 Nov 2022  


1 hr 38min

Christianity Today: Time to Recast the Mould?

Andrew Frater

Andrew Frater considers the reasons for the institutional decline of the church and whether or not it can be stopped. Fabric and finance seem to be the driving forces but maybe the actual message of our faith is what is really important.

15 Sept 2022  


1 hr 20min

CaroleHillenbrand2.jpg (4780 bytes) Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Seen Through Muslim Eyes

Carole Hillenbrand

Carole Hillenbrand is Professor of Islamic History at the University of St Andrews. In this lecture, she reveals the extent of the story of Mary in the Qur'an, medieval Muslim literature, the eastern Islamic World and the status of Mary in the Modern Middle East. Many in the audience from a mainly Christian background were fascinated to hear, probably for the first time, of all these references.

27 Feb  2020  



RichardFrazer2.jpg (6360 bytes) Walking with a Stick: A Pilgrim's Journey to Santiago  de Compostela

Richard Frazer

Richard Frazer talks about the importance of walking for the human. He describes his walking history and what brought him to walking the Camino. His journey started from Le Puy in France and he shares stories of the places and people he meets and how they all taught him so much about himself and what 21st Christianity should really be about, free of dogma and propositions you have to believe. He describes it as an outer journey and an inner journey. Followed by a Q&A session.

30 Jan  2020  


1 hr 6min

GlenPettigrove2.jpg (8169 bytes) Righteous Anger?... Think Again

Glen Pettigrove

Glen Pettigrove is Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University. In today's world we are surrounded by newspapers and reports designed to trigger anger in us. The question posed in this lecture was "Is there ever a case for righteous anger?" The lecture considers the case for anger in scripture, what motivates anger, the origins of anger, psychological experiments involving anger and the consequences of anger. Followed by a Q&A session.

28 Sept  2019  


1 hr 21min

jolyonmitchell2.jpg (34436 bytes) Redrawing Boundaries: Religion, Violence and Peacebuilding in Jerusalem and Beyond

Jolyon Mitchell

Jolyon Mitchell is Professor of Communication, Arts and Religion at Edinburgh University. In this lecture, he takes us on a walk around the Old City in Jerusalem and introduces us to the various religious leaders all working in this very small area. All want to help find peace and Jolyon is hopeful that interreligious dialogue can help to bring about structural change. Due to the very visual nature of this lecture, an audio recording does not do it justice. However, Jolyon gave a similar lecture at Edinburgh University that was filmed and so the link on this page is to the YouTube clip of that lecture.

21 Mar  2019 YouTube

1hr 7min

JohnChalmers2.jpg (7884 bytes) There Is A Crack In Everything: That's How The Light Gets In

John Chalmers

The Very Rev Dr John Chalmers has been a parish minister and is a former Principal Clerk to and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He also has a lifetime experience of working with the differently-abled. His lecture poses the question "What is normal?" and addresses the attitudes of society, the religious and theological thinking and the 'inclusion' agenda in relation to those with developmental disabilities. His talk engendered much discussion afterwards but, unfortunately, due to the personal nature of some of the testimonies included we are, for data protection reasons, unable to publish the Q&A session for this lecture.

7 Feb  2019 Podcast


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Cut Off From The Mainland

Mary Henderson




Father Willy Boyd




Scott McKenna



Roddy Hamilton



Andrew Frater

Ministering to the parish can at times be a somewhat lonely experience: swimming against the establishment tide in terms of theology and biblical interpretation can only heighten this problem to the point where one can feel “cut off from the mainland”.  Where better, then, for such a small like-minded group to meet than on an island - Cumbrae.  Sitting around a log fire in a well-worn leather chair in the Cathedral of the Isles retreat is an ideal setting for communal support, friendship and open discussion.

Building on Thinking Allowed's successful Scholars' Spotlight last year, five of our like-minded Islanders, all still working at their parish coal faces, took questions from the audience on their own spiritual journeys, and how they deal with being cut off from the mainland.  

Examples of some of the questions include -

Who or what is the mainland?

What will attract someone without any religious or church background to a liberal type of Christian faith today?

What role should the Holy Spirit play in the life and teaching of a 21st century church?

What specific help is most needed to enable people to engage with the Bible in ways they will find worthwhile and valuable? What keeps you reading these ancient texts?

Does reading the Bible allegorically rather than literally which involves a lot of deconstruction and abandoning Christian orthodoxy mean one is on the slippery slope that ultimately leads to believing almost nothing?


10 Jan  2019  


1hr 47min

HarrietHarris2.jpg (3340 bytes) The Concept of Deity in 21st Century Christianity

Harriet Harris


Harriet Harris is a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church and is Chaplain to Edinburgh University and Head of Chaplaincy Services. She was awarded an MBE for services to Multi-Faith Education and Community Cohesion. In this lecture, Harriet considers the various trends in modern theology about perceptions of God, Christian Atheism, Spirituality versus Religion and the benefits of religious type rituals.

15 Mar  2018  


1hr 6min

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Scholar's Spotlight


David Fergusson



Helen Bond



Scott McKenna



Seith Ireland

Scholar's Spotlight was a 'Question Time' type of evening where questions of a religious nature were sought in advance from the regular Thinking Allowed audience and put to a distinguished panel of three notable  theologians by chairman, Sheriff Seith Ireland.

Examples of some of the questions include -

Why don’t ministers tell us about the discoveries about the Bible and faith that they make in their Divinity studies? 

What does the word "God" mean to you?

I should like to hear what the panellists think about the idea of God as a projection of the human mind?  

Is the Kirk being prudent in continuing to acknowledge the, "Authority of Scripture"?

One of the challenges facing churches today is “the missing generation(s).  To what extent does the panel feel that the lack of under 50s in our churches is the result of a) the content or b) the format of church services, and what do they think can be done about it?

With my concept of  'god' having moved over the last 3 or 4 years to and, as yet, a not well formed understanding, this has left my prayer life also affected. What comment, advice or scholarly knowledge and interpretation can the panel identify on progressive prayer concepts and activity that might help re-establish purpose and connection?

  1 Feb  2018  


1hr 49min

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Adrian Alker

Thinking Allowed/PCN Conference at Cairns

Adrian Alker is Chair of PCN Britian and has been a Church of England priest since 1980. He was responsible for the founding of St Mark's Centre for Radical Christainity in Sheffield. Adrian led this conference by offering a lecture on Friday, three group discussion sessions on Saturday and a Sunday address.

Friday Lecture :
Partners and Protagonists
Adrian explores the history of Humanism versus Christianity and seeks to find points of commonality.

Saturday discussion:
Humanism and Theism 
(Session 1) asks the question of what image do we have of God?

Christianity and a World of Other Faiths and Ideologies (Session 2) asks how we deal with the barriers between faiths particularly Islam?

Church and Society (Session 3) asks how we see the role of the church in a secular society?

Sunday Address:
The Church We Never Knew
Adrian describes his progressive christianity journey and re-imagining church for today.

17 - 19 Nov 2017 Lecture Podcast
1hr 26min

Session 1 Podcast
1hr 5min

Sessions 2&3 Podcast
1hr 23min

Address Podcast

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Val Webb

How should we or can we speak of God in the 21st Century

Val Webb is an Australian theologian who previously had a career spanning microbiology, business, PR, art and religious studies. This lecture was her second visit to Cairns and was part of a PCN sponsored tour of the UK. This was her only lecture in Scotland. In this lecture she examines the question of God - the origins of the ideas of God, the different historical interpretations of God, what is God, the existence or otherwise of God, the evolution of the whole concept of God in the light of continual scientific discoveries and thoughts about God for the future. Includes a Q&A session.

4 May 2017  


1hr 27min

JulieNicholson2.jpg (3253 bytes) Julie Nicholson

Crossing Places

Julie Nicholson's daughter, Jenny, was killed in the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London in 2005. Julie subsequently wrote a book, later the subject of a BBC play, entitled 'A Song for Jenny'. As a Church of England priest, she describes in the book the trauma she went through in the afermath of the event. In this lecture, which by unhappy coincidence took place the day after the latest terrorist attack on Westminster, Julie talks movingly about the whole experience, about faith or lack of it and the devastating effect such events have on people and families and how she has begun to move from the darkness of death back into an appreciation of the beauty of life. Includes a Q&A session.

23 Mar 2017  


1hr 46min

ScottMcKenna2.jpg (3274 bytes) Scott McKenna

The Most Important Journey in Life is the Inner Journey

Scott McKenna, Minister at Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church in Edinburgh, describes his own spiritual journey and how important the practice of  silence is in finding a touching place with the Mystery, the Divine. He expresses the view that the church in general has lost the very essence of 'the spiritual' to it's detriment and needs to rediscover it. During his lecture, he asks the audience to look at an icon by Andrei Rublev called 'Trinity'. You can view this icon here. Includes a Q&A session.

17 Nov 2016  


1hr 23min

KennethMcColl2.jpg (3017 bytes) Kenneth McColl

How Medical Science Makes Progress - and what about the Church...

Kenneth McColl, Professor of Gastroenterology at Glasgow University, describes the remarkable advances which have occurred in the understanding and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders with particular reference to duodenal ulcers in which he was involved. He highlights the variety of ways in which insights are gained that allow medicine to progress. He closes with how such progress compares with changes within religion. Includes a Q&A session.

27 Oct 2016  


1hr 25min

StuartMonro2.jpg (3047 bytes) Stuart Monro

A Geologist Reflects...

Stuart Monro, former Scientific Director of Our Dynamic Earth, explains as a geologist and a Christian the difficulty he has of squaring what we now know about the history of the planet and the universe and the biblical literalist theology still preached from the pulpit. He calls for a new reformation to debate the interaction of science and theology. Includes a Q&A session.

10 Mar 2016 Podcast

1hr 20min

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Faith, Fiction and History: How Can We deal with our Roots?

Iain Whyte, Honorary Post Doctoral Fellow, Diaspora Studies, University of Edinburgh talks about ways in which History has been written and used or abused in the past and the necessity for us to learn about and come to terms with our own history - warts and all. Includes a Q&A session.

11 Feb 2016 Podcast

1hr 6min

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Do Christians Need to Believe in the Literal Truth of the Virgin Birth?

Helen Bond, Professor of Christian Origins at Edinburgh University, examines the contradictory evidence for the birth of Jesus in the Bible and what the virgin birth symbolised. Includes a Q&A session.

12 Nov 2015 Podcast

1hr 17min

BishopJackSpong3.jpg (3896 bytes) Jack Spong

Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy

Based on current biblical scholarship, Bishop Jack Spong explains how gentile biblical literalists ignored the Jewish background to the Bible and what that means for us today. Includes a Q&A session.

11 June 2015 Podcast

1hr 44min

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Beyond Incarnation to Mystical Oneness: John's Story of Jesus

In this lecture, Bishop Jack Spong explains that John's Gospel was written for a Jewish audience and discusses how that impacts our view of the Resurrection. Includes a Q&A session.

24 Oct 2013 Podcast

1hr 42min

BishopJackSpong3.jpg (3896 bytes) Jack Spong

The New Testament – where does fact stop and myth begin?

This was Bishop Jack Spong's first lecture in Cairns.Here he explains the chronological sequence in which the books of the New Testament were written and what that means for understanding the Bible

2nd June 2011  


1hr 3min

holloway3.JPG (3973 bytes) Richard Holloway

The Shaking of the Foundations

Richard Holloway gave the very first 'Thinking Allowed' lecture shortly after retiring as Bishop of Edinburgh in 2000. Here he reflects on the whole question of religion.

8th Nov 2000  


56 min

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