Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Watching the World Burn: The Dark Knight and Wall·E, Ten Years On

Arguably the two best films of 2008 were Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Andrew Stanton’s Wall·E. I remember being utterly captivated by both on the large screen and enjoyed watching them a second time and a third time (and so on) on DVD when they were released on that format. Ten years on, I have taken the opportunity to watch them both again (this time, with Wall·E on Blu-ray). Each has lost something in the intervening decade. The Dark Knight is bloated and far too self-serious (‘Why so serious?’), something only the passage of time would reveal; Wall·E suffers from a quasi-dispensationalist juxtaposition of dystopianism and optimism, that is, things get happy real quick (forgivable, since Wall·E is, after all, primarily a children’s film). But on the whole, they still hold up pretty well.
There’s one thing I thought at the time that is still true for me: Wall·E is the darker of the two films. The Dark Knight spends a lot of time focussing on Joker the chaos-bringer (played compellingly by the late Heath Ledger), suggesting that ‘some men just want to watch the world burn’. Undoubtedly this is true. But The Dark Knight’s fundamental assumption is that while humanity has its sociopaths, and while people must contemplate the ethical dilemmas they face on a daily basis, eventually humanity en masse will make the right calls. This is seen especially in the scene towards the end of the film where the Joker has placed two boatloads of people in a situation where they must destroy the other remotely in order to ensure their own survival. One vessel is full of convicts, the other of civilians. And needless to say, after some forced Ethics 101-style debate, neither craft is destroyed—much to the Joker’s bemusement. If these two groups of people, one ostensibly degenerate and the other nothing extraordinary, can together make a mockery of the Joker’s assumptions about humanity, then this seems to presume humanity’s propensity for making good and right decisions.

Contrast this with Wall·E, where humanity has messed up, literally. The presence of Wall·E himself trundling around a limitless rubbish dump and the existence of infantilised humans floating around in their enormous celestial playpen far, far away testifies to what is surely a statement about an inherently flawed humanity driven by corrupted and poorly formed desires. In The Dark Knight, people—or only certain people, perhaps—merely have the potential to make and act upon immoral decisions; but in Wall·E, humanity has already succumbed to its basest cravings and has thoroughly screwed up in the process.

Both films labour these points more than they need to. As excellent as Ledger’s performance as the Joker is in The Dark Knight, the film’s plot surely makes too much of his character’s frenzied ways to the extent that I cannot help but think that Jerome Valeska (a Joker-styled figure, played by Cameron Monaghan) in Gotham embodies chaos far more effortlessly. In Wall·E, consumerism is the natural target, as is the dulling effects of constant entertainment and ready access to certain sorts of technology. Each film taps into certain fears: The Dark Knight into terrorism and the dangerous unknown or the other more generally, Wall·E into the depths of our daily habits and the effect these have on our lives. And yet Wall·E continues to carry more weight because whereas terrorism and disarray is a continual and very real threat from ‘outside’, consumerism and its handmaids are insidiously, sinisterly pervasive, spreading within each and every one of us whenever we swipe right or upgrade our phones. This is not the fault of technology in and of itself, but technology, if marketed in certain ways, exploits and then reshapes our desires—and this is what leads to humanity’s downfall in Wall·E. Thus Wall·E, I submit, is darker than The Dark Knight.

You can read another article, written in 2009 by Carrisa Smith, on Wall·E and The Dark Knight here.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Abridged Too Far? The Cross and the Switchblade: A Play in Two Acts for Three Parts

David Wilkerson, a skinny preacher from Pennsylvania
Nicky Cruz, a vicious member of the Mau Mau gang
Unnamed Leader, a vicious member of the Bishops gang

Act i

Scene: a typical street in New York City in the 1950s (or the 1970s)

(David has just finished playing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ on the kazoo and is about to preach to the passing masses.)

Hie! Listen to me, all and sundry, and I shall deliver unto you God’s Word!

(Nicky struts towards David.)

I am a vicious gang member who wishes not to hear the Word of God, lest it prevent me from committing dastardly acts of violence and injecting my veins with heroin.

The Bible says, ‘Jesus loves you.’

I mean it, emaciated street preacher. Gleefully I shall quarter you if again you spout such nonsense!

Even if you were to dismember me, each throbbing, bloody piece would proclaim, ‘Jesus loves you.’

Pah! Despite my promise, I shall not cut your frame, for instead your words have cut my soul. I shall take my leave.

I invite you to attend a non-cringey evangelistic event at a local arena. Other vicious gang members will attend, too.

What’s this? Then I, too, shall attend. I shall bring my best stabbing knife and a foul attitude. I foresee it shall be an occasion to steal some offering money, too. Until then, scrawny one!

(Exit Nicky.)

Act ii

Scene: an arena

(The arena is filled with vicious gang members, of which only Nicky and Unnamed Leader are actually present in this scene. Everyone is wearing flares and bandanas apart from David.)

Ho! You vicious gang members—why can’t you just get along with each other?

I do not get along with anyone who isn’t in my vicious gang, thin man of God.

Unnamed Leader
Likewise. My vicious gang wants not the likes of him and his cronies in my vicious gang.

Why, you . . . ? Prepare to meet your maker!

But your maker is already here! Vicious gang members, put away your blades and ruminate on this: Jesus loves you!

What’s that? Even me?

Unnamed Leader
And me?

(Nicky and Unnamed Leader drop their knives.)

Yes, Jesus loves you both. So come here, kneel, and believe! And then I shall put you on the coffee rota at the nearest church.

(Nicky and Unnamed Leader kneel. David puts his hands on their shoulders.)

Nicky and Unnamed Leader
We feel so clean! Praise God for the words he has spoken through you, our gaunt friend.

The End

Thursday, 23 August 2018

‘Not for the fainthearted’: William J. Abraham on Divine Action

I’m currently going through the first of William Abraham’s volumes on Divine Agency and Divine Action for review. It’s most definitely a tasty read, full of nutritious nuggets. I digested this one yesterday:

My aim is to highlight that the debate about divine action cannot avoid making tacit epistemological commitments. If theologians are deprived of the critical resources without which they cannot do their work, then, there is no hope of recovery. In my judgment, the last thing the theologian should do is resist crossing over into the new world opened up in the church by divine revelation. It is precisely within that world that we are introduced to a wide-ranging canon of divine action that is central to identifying, describing, and explaining who God is, what God has done, and why God has acted and acts as he does. It is one of the tasks of the theologian to step into that world with its own magnificent inheritance of commentary and reflection and get on with the business of articulating who God is and what he has done. We have had enough formal analysis and detours.
To be sure, stepping into that world calls forth our best endeavors to make sense of the epistemology involved. In doing this we break with the epistemic shibboleths to be found in most contemporary departments of philosophy, whether analytic or non-analytic. The likelihood of getting past cries of arbitrary fideism, slavery to authority, bondage to ecclesiastical authority, and irrational emotionalism is thin; as thin as the calls to think for ourselves, to grow up intellectually, and to come into the modern world of science and history, are shrill. So be it. A radical break from the shibboleths of our time on the part of the theologian is both necessary and feasible. Just as important is the urgent imperative to develop the ontology of agency and action that will undergird the extraordinary range of divine action, general and special, in which we are immersed. Theologians are entitled to develop their own modest metaphysical resources on agency and action in order to come to terms with who God is and what he has done.
This enterprise is not for the fainthearted.

William J. Abraham, Divine Agency and Divine Action, Volume I: Exploring and Evaluating the Debate (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 163–64

The context is a chapter on science and divine action, in which Abraham critiques the tendency to assume that scientific perspectives can supply answers to theological questions about divine action. Also, I should point out that the volume from which this quotation is taken is the first of a tetralogy. Volumes 1 and 2 are already out, with volume 3 coming out later this year—no idea about volume 4!

Monday, 20 August 2018

A Taxing Situation: A Sermon on Exodus 20:15 and Luke 19:1-10

My local church is going through the Ten Commandments at the moment and I was given Exodus 20:15: ‘You shall not steal.’ Rather than going into all the various ways in which we might illegitimately appropriate from others, I thought the Gospel reading assigned (the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19) leant itself towards a narrative sermon. I’d never preached a narrative sermon before, so this was a new experiment for me. It seemed to work well enough on the day, though I admit I’ve probably taken a few liberties in trying to create a relatable context—and I’m almost certain I’ve done Zacchaeus himself an injustice, choosing to present him as a boo-’n’-hiss EastEnders-style villain for the sake of contrast; the text of Luke doesn’t make him quite so objectionable, though I suppose in the context of the sermon, this is just one person’s view of him. Anyway, here it is.

Exodus 20:15; Luke 19:1-10

It’s been an unusually hot day here in Jericho today, the sort of day where if you stand still long enough you can see the air shimmer in the distance. I must admit I’ve been quite lazy today—I’ve had to be, really, otherwise I’d have collapsed a sweaty mess. But now things are cooling down, and I feel more energetic, more willing to emerge from the shade of the trees. I yawn, I stretch, inhaling dry air, and I step out purposefully into the still-strong sunlight—only to hear people shouting:

‘Look! It’s him! The miracle worker!’

‘Hey, everyone, it’s that man who heals people!’

‘Can you believe this? It’s Jesus! Jesus is here in Jericho!’

Jesus? I’ve heard of this bloke. He’s been travelling around the place with his followers, apparently curing people of diseases, performing stories about farmers and Samaritans, getting into arguments with Pharisees, telling us all to be excellent to each other, and so on and so forth. I must admit to being a little cynical about all this—once you’ve heard about one itinerant preacher, you’ve heard about them all—but I may as well go and see this Jesus seeing as he’s coming into town. It’s not every day a minor celebrity comes to Jericho, after all.

It’s funny: Jesus isn’t really anything special to look at. If it wasn’t for everyone else pushing towards him, despite the best efforts of his followers to cushion him, I don’t think I’d give him a second glance. But look! Old ladies, zealous young men, people with ritually unclean relatives—so many people want to see him or talk to him. It’s quite incredible, really. To be honest, I think Jesus looks a little embarrassed by all the attention and just wants to get out of there as quickly as possible. He probably wants to get to Jerusalem before dark—well, good luck with that!

Hang on—Jesus has stopped, quite abruptly, and is motioning for us all to be quiet. He’s cocking his head, as though listening for some faint or distant sound. He’s moving towards a sycamore-fig tree. It looks like someone’s sitting in the branches . . . who is it? And then I hear Jesus saying,

‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’

Zacchaeus? Zacchaeus the tax collector? Seriously? You must be joking—why on earth would Jesus want even to talk with Zacchaeus, let alone stay with him? I hate this slimy weasel. He’s in charge of the local tax office and makes sure that he takes full advantage of all the privileges his position allows him. He has no qualms in sending his boys round if he says you haven’t given him enough or if you can’t pay him on time. He’s done that a couple of times with my brother, saying that he avoided paying export duties or something, when actually he had paid in full. And he’s quite happy to lick Roman bootstraps and drop the rest of us in it if he thinks it will benefit him somehow. I know some people think he’s okay and that he’s just doing his job, but I can’t stand Zacchaeus. He’s nothing more than a dirty, thieving, traitorous scumbag, and I’d as soon as spit on him as talk to him.

But it’s true—it really does seem as though Jesus wants to stay at Zacchaeus’s home. Nobody seems to like this idea; everyone around me is making it quite clear what they think about all this. I can’t imagine why Jesus wants to stay with Zacchaeus. I can only assume he wants in on the action. You know what these super-religious types are like—they’re all, ‘Give me some cash and I’ll pray for you’, aren’t they? I’d heard that Jesus was different, but really—really, he’s just like all the others: a money-obsessed hypocrite who’s quite happy to play to his privilege when it suits him. I’m sure Zacchaeus will give him a nice, clean bed for the night and the finest food, all paid for by me and all the other nobodies in Jericho.

Look at him, climbing down from that tree. Zacchaeus makes me sick, a little man with a big ego. Anyone who knows the law of Moses knows that what he’s been doing over the years is wrong. ‘You shall not steal’, that’s what Moses says. ‘You shall not steal’—not ‘you shall not steal unless’, or ‘you shall not steal, but’. There’s to be no stealing, period. I know that some people feel they have to—they can’t eat unless they snaffle some grain from an unattended sack or swipe a small jar of olive oil to sell on. But people like Zacchaeus and his fellow tax collectors—well, they know what Moses says, but they completely disregard it and collude with the Romans to make their lives more comfortable, forcing people to steal and cheat and sin just to survive. This is not God’s way for us Jews, and it makes me so angry!

But what’s this? What did Zacchaeus just say? Did I hear right—that he’ll give half of his possessions to the poor? Half? My goodness, that’s a redistribution of the wealth if ever there was one! And what else—that he’ll repay anyone he’s exploited and cheated four times as much? That’s more than the law of Moses actually requires. Is he for real? Looking around, I can see quite a few people doing mental calculations of how much they’re going to get back—it looks like some of them will get a lot, judging by the smiles on their faces! Someone has even gone up to Zacchaeus and shaken his hands!

It seems trite to say this, but I can’t quite believe what’s happening here. I’ve heard stories about this Jesus. I’ve heard he can heal the sick and calm storms. I’ve heard he has even raised the dead. But what’s happening now is beyond miraculous—he has somehow changed the corrupt desires and practices of a man whose life has been all about exploiting financial loopholes and leaning hard on people to fill his own pockets. If ever anyone has walked the thin line between the strictly legal and the downright fraudulent, it’s Zacchaeus. And yet this man Jesus has persuaded him to change the direction of his entire life simply by meeting him. This is surely the salvation and power of God at work, the coming of God’s kingdom! I need to ask Jesus some questions about all this.

But look—Zacchaeus is now leading Jesus and his followers away from us and towards his home. It doesn’t look like I’m going to get a chance to speak to Jesus after all. But I wonder: Would I really want to meet Jesus? If Zacchaeus is true to his word, if he does make things right by everyone he’s stolen from or cheated, then everything’s going to change for him. He’s certainly going to be a lot poorer for a start! But if I were to meet Jesus face to face, like Zacchaeus has, what will he get me to change in my life? Will even his slightest glance in my direction cause me to remember all those times when I have stolen from or cheated or exploited others for my own benefit, echoes of the sorts of practices I have found easy to condemn Zacchaeus for? Is meeting Jesus really a risk I want to take for myself?

Monday, 30 July 2018

My Review of The Dictionary of the Bible and Ancient Media

My review of the The Dictionary of the Bible and Ancient Media should be available for free here. I don’t think my review is particularly ‘academic’, as I’m certainly not an expert on ancient communications culture and so can’t make sharp and insightful judgements as to the accuracy or quality of the research. But there’s a lot in this dictionary that made me want to review it and I can only hope a less expensive or even an abridged version of it is made available soon enough. I suspect such a book could prove quite popular.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Book Review: Graham Tomlin, The Widening Circle

Graham Tomlin, The Widening Circle: Priesthood as God’s Way of Blessing the World (London: SPCK, 2014)

I am grateful to SPCK for a review copy.

The central conviction of Graham Tomlin’s The Widening Circle is effectively expressed by its subtitle: ‘Priesthood [is] God’s way of blessing the world.’ In view of the various scandals and admissions of clergy abuse (sexual or otherwise) that have emerged over the years, one might question the appeal of placing ‘priesthood’ and ‘blessing’ in positive relation to each other within the same sentence. But while not denying or avoiding the fact that many priests have the capacity and even the opportunity and will to exploit their trusted position, Tomlin aims to persuade his readers that the concept of priesthood, when shaped and informed by an appreciation of the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, is one that maps meaning and significance onto human behaviour in general. Thus the implications of Tomlin’s thought are potent.

Tomlin opens his account by attending to the high priesthood of Christ as developed within the letter to the Hebrews. He notes that Christ’s priesthood is eternal and reasons that it is somehow ‘built into the very fabric of being’ (p. 15), conditioning the way God relates to the world. God’s action towards and in the world is mediated by the incarnate Jesus in whom divinity and humanity are united. Helpfully, Tomlin distinguishes between Christ as mediator and Christ as intermediator, that is, as a tertium quid that simply bridges the gap between God and the world: the incarnation makes it possible for a genuine union between God and humanity to exist, one that allows for creaturely participation in God through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. The atonement is, of course, but one aspect of Christ’s high priestly ministry; the remainder is discerned in his risen and exalted state at the right hand of God the Father, where Christ not only intercedes for humanity, but does so still as a human being (albeit a risen and exalted one!), disclosing the destiny that awaits all those who are in him. Those in Christ are lifted up to God, even as in him they are being made perfect—or mature—by the Holy Spirit. For Tomlin, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension are all vital aspects of Christ’s story through which his high priesthood is demonstrated, and which should inform and shape our notions of priesthood more generally.

Tomlin devotes a considerable amount of space to discussing the high priesthood of Christ because it forms the foundation of what he then goes on to argue, which is that ‘this notion of priesthood is a vital category for understanding God’s way in the world, that Christ’s priestly work is played out through other “priestly” activity.’ (p. 54). Thus Tomlin is not especially concerned to call Christian ministers ‘priests’ other than to note that it emphasises the ‘priestly character to this role of leadership in the Church’. (p. 169 n. 1). Rather, ‘priesthood’ is a pattern of relating that derives from and ultimately participates in Christ’s high priesthood, which itself testifies to God’s free election that Christ should be the one in and through whom God relates to the world. In the same way, this logic of election, whereby God chooses a part from the whole to bless the remainder, fundamentally shapes the character of priesthood:

[This is how] priesthood is played out within the world: first in humanity itself, called to play a priestly role between God and Creation; then in the Church, which also acts as a priestly mediator between God and the rest of humanity; and then finally in the person of the minister him- or herself, who also acts in a priestly manner towards the rest of the Church. In each case, the part is called to be the means by which the whole becomes all that it was intended to be, in an ever-widening circle of divine blessing. (pp. 11-12).

I find this a compelling argument, if not an entirely novel one, and it has some important ramifications. Tomlin is certain, for example, that humanity as a whole is responsible for handling ecological issues; this is part of humanity’s priestly role as mediator between God and the world. The Church need not lead the way on tackling these issues because its priestly role is to mediate God’s love ‘to the rest of the human race and [enable] it to play precisely the priestly role assigned to it.’ (p. 96). But the Church cannot avoid involvement in these issues because the Church remains part of humanity. What Tomlin draws attention to, therefore, is the specific priestly role allocated to each circle of blessing. This has an especially profound implication for the priesthood of ministers:

Priests in the Church are called to enable the Church to play its priestly role of declaring the praises of Jesus Christ, the true High Priest, so that in turn the rest of humanity might be restored to its proper priestly dignity, and the whole earth resound to the joy of God. (p. 114).

Essentially, ordained Christian ministers, however we label them, are called to serve the Church through word and sacrament: ‘the priest is the one through whom Christ’s oversight and care for the Church is expressed.’ (p. 118). This means that the priest is required to facilitate the growth of the congregation and each member within it so that it and they can mature in Christ and serve the community by calling it to own its priestly role of mediating between God and the world. The crucial point here is that clergy burnout can be avoided simply by the priest learning to delegate and the congregation being willing to accept its God-given responsibilities as the redeemed people of God. But perhaps Tomlin is too idealistic here, given the impractical expectations often placed on ministers—not least by themselves.

Tomlin’s argument is, as already noted, persuasive, and there is much to reflect on and appreciate. His prose is clear and points towards many other avenues for thought. But there are areas where I should like to have seen further elaboration. For example, Tomlin explains that ordained ministry is a vital role because the priest is responsible for ensuring that the Word of God is preached and the sacraments are celebrated. However, while lay preaching is part of the Church of England’s organisation (Tomlin is currently Bishop of Kensington and so presumably writes from a Church of England perspective), taken at face value, his argument here appears to open a space for the possibility of lay presidency at the Eucharist. Coupled with Tomlin’s belief that priests are ‘a distinct kind of lay person’ (p. 115), this could obviate the need for ordination unless by this we mean little more than a sort of consecration to ministry within a local church context. So, for me at least, there is scope in Tomlin’s overall position for amplification.

Despite the fact that The Widening Circle is more about priestly patterns of relating than ordination as such, I suspect that most of its readers will be the ordained or those attracted to ordained ministry. But as Tomlin demonstrates clearly why priesthood as a concept still has much to offer, even when applied broadly to God’s relationship with the world, it would be a pity for his thoughts here to be confined to one relatively small and particular circle when everything ultimately is affected by the all-encompassing circle that is the high priesthood of Christ.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

On Alzheimer’s: Susan Elkin’s Blog

My wife’s great uncle (only he probably isn’t my wife’s great uncle; my brain doesn’t compute the complexities of family relations, and so really he’s likely a cousin at some degree of removedness—or not) has developed Alzheimer’s over the past couple of years. His wife, Susan Elkin, a journalist, has been keeping a blog charting his mental state as the disease further embeds itself in his brain and so their lives. Susan is a wonderfully entertaining writer and, as she and her husband are some sort of unspecified relation to me, I thought it high time to publicise her blog. Check it out here.

Monday, 23 July 2018

The Fantasy Life of a Pious Christian

By ‘fantasy life’, I don’t mean that sort of ‘fantasy life’—though I could tell you a few things.

Sometimes I fantasise about what a genuinely pious life or an ideal life as a Christian looks like. This is what I’ve come up with. First, a timetable:

0500      arise to say Morning Prayer
0530      reading/study
0700      breakfast and showering (probably not at the same time)
0800      administration (emails and the like)
0900      reading/study
1100      evangelism (probably online)
1200      midday prayer
1230      lunch
1330      reading/study

Okay, I’ll stop now. I’m getting bored even just typing this timetable. And I can see how unfeasible all this is. The ideal is that I would arise early to pray, to do some study, to deal with all my admin in an hour, and to punctuate the day with regular prayer times. Is my ideal of the Christian life actually this monastic? Probably!—but all this assumes that I don’t share a life with my wife or my son, that I don’t actually have work to do on occasion, that I don’t check Facebook far too often, that I don’t play three or four games of Fifa after lunch if opportunity allows. So this vision of my ideal life as a Christian is far from realistic. But that is my fantasy.

But let me excavate another layer. When it comes to saying my prayers . . . well, I am impressed by those whose context allows them to attend Morning Prayer (or similar). I have found, in the ten years or so since I’ve been ‘seriously’ Anglican, that saying Morning Prayer by myself is far more stultifying than I care to admit. These days, when my son’s at school, I aim to say ‘Prayer During the Day’ . . . but I do feel guilty when I miss it. The daily office is really something that should be done communally because without the presence of others, it’s all too easy to abandon it or to feel that it’s a pointless exercise. But that is my fantasy.

I need to go further. I would love to have a prie-dieu to say prayers at and a leather-bound copy of Daily Prayer. In this day and age of digital media and the like, when the icons in our churches are more likely to be PowerPointed photos of leaping silhouettes on a beach, I find the need to have something material to make me feel ‘connected’ to the Word who became flesh—hence the desire for a prie-dieu in a small corner of my home and a leather-bound copy of Daily Prayer (because such is far more holy than the slightly battered hardback copy I already own). But my home is a relatively small two-bedroomed flat with no corners available. The walls are decorated with paperbacks and DVDs and LEGO and board games and my ever-replenishing stack of Pepsi Max Cherry multipacks. There is no corner for a prie-dieu and, to be honest, I doubt owning a leather-bound copy of Daily Prayer would result in my praying more regularly. But that is my fantasy.

I also fantasise about maintaining—no, being—a stable, pious presence on social media. Aside from blogging, the only social media I do, as previously divulged, is Facebook. Sometimes I get caught up in pointless discussions, and sometimes I have been called out and/or shamed for not having a view that someone else has. And so I attempt to maintain a peaceful, Christlike online presence where people will know me by my serenity and occasional nuggets of wisdom. But I’m more likely to be sharing a photo of a cat doing something highly amusing (cats are funny!) or some kind of one-liner about gun control in the US or another political issue that I don’t really know anything about beyond the fact that I found that particular one-liner funny and a little pointed. Needless to say, once I’ve done so and have been reproached, I regret the entire series of my life choices and wish once more that I could be that stable, pious presence on social media of my fantasy. For indeed, that is my fantasy.

So where do all these fantasies lead me? What can I say? All I can say is that I remain as determined as ever to walk by the Spirit and live under the lordship of Christ, ever-grateful that God is gracious. And this is not so much my fantasy as it is my reality.

A funny picture of a cat

Friday, 13 July 2018

Forthcoming: The T&T Clark Companion to Colin Gunton

The T&T Clark Companion to Colin Gunton is due to published (I think) towards the end of 2019 and one of the editors (Andrew Picard) has given me permission to reproduce the outline on my blog. You will see that I’m one of the contributors!

Andrew Walker: Foreword
Murray Rae, Myk Habets, and Andrew Picard (eds.): Introduction
Paul Brazier: Colin Gunton: A Life in Theology

Part 1: Theological Themes

Paul Metzger: Gunton on Revelation
Paul Cumin: Gunton on Mediation
Sue Patterson: Gunton on Theological Language
Paul Molnar: Gunton on the Trinity
Christoph Schwöbel: Gunton on Creation
Oliver Crisp: Gunton on Christology
Murray Rae: Gunton on Atonement
Marc Cortez: Gunton on Theological Anthropology
Myk Habets: Gunton on Pneumatology
Terry J. Wright: Gunton on Eschatology
Uche Anizor: Gunton on Ecclesiology
John McDowell: Gunton on Modernity
Andrew Picard: Gunton on Culture
Lucy Peppiatt: Gunton on Community
Andy Goodliff and Paul Goodliff: Gunton on Theology, Ministry, and the Christian Life

Part 2: Theologians

Douglas Farrow: Gunton and Irenaeus
Demetrios Bathrellos: Gunton and the Cappadocians
Joshua McNall: Gunton and Augustine
Randal Rauser: Gunton and Western Philosophy
Mark Thompson: Gunton and Calvin
Stephen Holmes: Gunton and Coleridge
Graham McFarlane: Gunton and Irving
Kelly Kapic: Gunton and Owen
Peter S. Oh: Gunton and Barth
Jeremy Ive: Gunton and Jenson
Eve Tibbs: Gunton and Zizioulas/Eastern Orthodoxy
Eric Flett: Gunton and T. F. Torrance
Ivor Davidson: Gunton and Jüngel

Comprehensive Bibliography of Gunton’s Works

There are some big names here and I am privileged to see my much, much smaller name squeezed in among them. I’m also a little nervous, as the essay on eschatology will be the first piece of sustained academic writing I’ve done for quite a few years and I feel sorely out of practice. The aim is to focus on Gunton’s constructive contribution to theology, so this Companion should prove to be a stimulating read on the whole.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

How the Beautiful Game helps us to understand the significance of the resurrection

So how exactly does football help us to understand the significance of Jesus’s resurrection?

It is a little like a football team that wins the Champions League and thus goes down in history as a great team, the best of the year. Until that point, it would be impossible to tell whether it was a truly great team – a team that loses the final is still the same team as it was all season, but it is the winning of the trophy that establishes that team as great and memorable. In the light of that victory the story of the season is retold as a story of triumph, of progress towards glory, rather than that of a team that strove for glory but failed to reach it. After its confirmation as the Champions, it is always looked back on as a great team, even in the retelling of the story of the season. In the same way, Jesus’ true glory, greatness and identity is revealed and established at the resurrection.

Graham Tomlin, The Widening Circle: Priesthood as God’s Way of Blessing the World (London: SPCK, 2014), pp. 164–165, n. 14

Change ‘the Champions League’ to ‘the World Cup’, ‘year’ and ‘season’ to ‘tournament’, and ‘Champions’ to ‘winners’, and you have a bloggable quotation that has profound contemporary relevance.