William Paterson Paterson

Professor of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

The Nature of Religion

In his series of lectures, Paterson offers evidence for the validity of religion, the idea of God, and the claim of Christianity as the true and final religion. He asserts that ‘from the empirical point of view—as a synthesis of human faith, feeling, and endeavour, religion may well be thought to be the most extraordinary phenomenon that is encountered in the world of men’. Ultimately, viewing the chaos of history through the lens of religion creates a unifying perspective. 


William Paterson Paterson was born on 25 October 1860 in Skirling, Scotland. A Church of Scotland minister, he was a leading church figure known for his preaching and involvement in ecclesiastical affairs. Ordained in 1887, he became a minister of St Michael’s Church, Crieff, leaving in 1894 to become Chair of Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen. In 1904, he was elected Professor of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, succeeding Robert Flint. He served as the Dean of Faculty during this time and retired in 1934. 

Bestowed honorary degrees from Edinburgh, Pennsylvania, Trinity College Dublin, Glasgow, and St Andrews, he was instrumental in the 1929 union of the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland. Paterson also influenced the effort toward Presbyterian reunion. His work was marked by lucidity of exposition, wide-ranging scholarship in several languages, and his philosophical defence of a broadly orthodox doctrinal stance. Notable works include The Apostles Teaching (1903), The Rule of Faith (1912), In the Day of the Muster (1914), In the Day of the Ordeal (1917), and Conversion (1939). 

Published/Archival Resources
Published as The Nature of Religion.