Alfred Hitchcock and the Introduction to a Book

Dr. Carey Newman

This post is the second in a series from Dr. Carey Newman, the director of Baylor University Press. In each post, Dr. Newman offers helpful advice on the publication process for researchers who are starting their academic careers. Baylor University Press has experienced a remarkable transformation under Dr. Newman’s leadership; his efforts have received the attention of such outlets as Publisher’s Weekly. Dr. Newman is the recipient of a Ph.D. from Baylor University and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Aberdeen. He is the author of Paul’s Glory-Christology: Tradition and Rhetoric (Brill) and the editor of Jesus and the Restoration of Israel (IVP).


I am often asked about how to revise a thesis into a book.  I look blankly at my questioner and state baldly: it is not revision, it is exorcism.  You don’t revise a thesis; you turn it inside out, wash it, grind it, and reshape it.  Very, very few theses make it as books without such totalizing.  The amount of transformation needed can be best measured in voice – a thesis typically speaks in but one voice, while a book speaks in four distinct voices – that of the introduction, the prose, the notes and the conclusion.

I want to be clear and not misunderstood.  Nothing I say below should ever take precedence over what your thesis director (and any committee members) say to you about your thesis.  Job 1 is to please them, to write something that they endorse and approve.  THEN comes the consideration of a book – and only then.  The best thesis is a signed thesis.  Period.

The introduction, though, is a very good example of the difference between a thesis and a book. The introduction to a thesis, for better or worse, has been influenced by the way that research takes place on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine) side of the ledger.  The introduction becomes a kind of kitchen drawer into which is placed the review of literature, hypothesis, method, limitations, definitions, scope, implications, and even the preview the whole of the work chapter by chapter.  By contrast, a book’s introduction has but one purpose – to get a reader to read.

Introductions to books are as movie trailers are to movies.  The whole purpose of a movie trailer, beyond that of giving late movie goers time to purchase the overpriced and sized snacks, is to get the public to come back, to spend money, on the next movie.  So, too, an introduction to a book.  The introduction to a book not only performs a logical function (what is the book about? what does it argue?; it also performs a psychological (what is really at stake? why does it matter?).  Analogous to the opening to any Hitchcock thriller, the reader must want to read on because of the first few pages.

On the wall of the far wing of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel – the glorious pink colossal that anchors Wai Kiki Beach – hangs travel posters from the 20s.  Minimalistic water colors of oversized ships creeping into the harbor.  Patrons leisurely sprawled on the clean sun swept beach.  Oh my.  Standing there, looking at the posters, it is so easy to see yourself (or what you wish might have been you): a world traveler before traveling was emptied of its romance.  Luxury, tranquility, sophistication, adventure.  You are tempted to dive into that poster and willingly be transported back to another, simpler world.

THAT is the function of an introduction to a book.  It leads the potential reader to want to read on.  The introduction puts in play what is really at stake regarding the subject and helps the potential reader to see why reading on is important.  Yes, true, something must be said about scope.  True, providing guard rails for misreading is important.  But, the purpose of the introduction to a book is to get a reader to read.  The voice entices, cryptically foreshadowing what journey is to come.  There will be time and space enough to drone on about this and that, to defend, deny and assert.  But, getting the reader to read on is task enough for an introduction.

 

The Value of a Writing Pipeline

 

Dr. Thomas S. Kidd, Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, reflects in this post on how the use of a writing pipeline can increase one’s productivity. Dr. Kidd is a prolific author, having composed such works as American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths and George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father with Yale University Press and American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism with Princeton University Press. He frequently contributes to national media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal.

 


The writing and publishing process has lots of starts and stops. Say your first draft of your revised dissertation/book is done. Or maybe just your latest chapter. You submit the draft, and then you wait for feedback from readers, editors, or an advisor. Often you wait for weeks, or even months. What do you do during that time?

One of the keys to long-term productivity in writing is “pipelining” projects. That is, when you’re waiting for the next step on a completed manuscript, you should have an early-stage project you’re working on. This can be difficult when you’re suddenly required to drop everything and go back to the other project, giving you a bit of intellectual whiplash. But having at least two projects at different stages means that you’ll know intuitively how to fill the down time when you’re waiting on a response from a professor, editor, or commissioned reviewer. (I am definitely aware that here I am envisioning a work schedule, like mine at Baylor, that allows for – and even requires – ongoing writing.)

Maybe for you this is as simple as plowing ahead with your next dissertation chapter. Or maybe working on an article you’ve had on the back burner. One of my latest experiences in the writing pipeline involved the later stages of writing my religious biography of Benjamin Franklin. This book will be out with Yale University Press in May 2017. But in early 2016, I also signed with B&H Academic to write an American history textbook.

I delivered the Franklin manuscript to Yale in April 2016. Then I needed to wait to get a reader’s report back from them. It arrived at the beginning of July 2016. I had about two and a half months in between where I basically had nothing to do on the Franklin book, but to wait.

If I had nothing definite to work on book-wise, I could easily have found things to occupy time – blogging, prep for a new legal history course I was teaching at Baylor in the fall, etc. And I certainly did spend some time on those matters.

But I always want to be making progress on long-term projects, too. That requires consistent writing. I don’t have exact totals, but I am confident that I averaged at least 1000 words a day on the days I was working on the textbook. Let’s assume that was eight weeks, five days a week. That comes out to 40,000 words. That seems about right, since I finished five chapters on the textbook, at about 8000 words each.

Writing a textbook is pretty easy, as writing goes. Still, as a writer, grad student, or professor we often find ANYTHING else to work on besides actually writing, especially in those gap times when you’re waiting for someone else to do something. It is really helpful to me when I don’t have to wonder what else I should work on!

When the reader’s report came back in, I needed to shift gears and go back to the Franklin book for final revisions. It took a day or two to get back into the flow. And it took me another day or two to get back into the flow of the B&H textbook, once I was done with that latest phase of the Franklin book. But that is ok. It is far better than having just one project going at a time.

 

Turn to the Social

The Theology Research Seminar recently heard from Dr Justin Stratis of Trinity College Bristol. Dr Stratis presented ‘Modern English Trinitarianism and the Turn to the Social – Exploring the Welch Thesis’. This is part of the development of Dr Stratis upcoming volume on trinitarian theology.

Stratis contextualised his presentation by identifying the broad movement of social trinitarian thought as a catch-all term for theologies which feel that classical discussion of trinitarian processions do not say enough. However, the diversity within such a grouping means that justice must be done to many serious thinkers. Stratis briefly considered Moltmann, Boff, Zizioulas, Volf, and, within analytic theology, Plantinga and Swinburne. Social trinitarian thought is far from monolithic but commonalities may be identified such as a priority for the economy, scriptural presentations of God, persons, and perichoresis. Stratis wishes to learn from earlier developments in English trinitarian thought in order to better engage with present discussions.

Stratis draws especially from the 1952 work of Claude WelchIn This Name: The Doctrine of the Trinity in Contemporary Theology‘. Welch addresses his own context but identifies several earlier thinkers and the Hegelian soil of idealism which gives birth the the social analogy and a conception of divine society of “I”s within the trinity. Personality is the key idea trinitarianly applied by Richmond, Moberly, and Illingworth at the turn of the twentieth century.

In 1900 Richmond published on personality and the philosophy of experience. Personality is the experience of experiences so that personality enables fellowship. The conscious self-reflecting brings the self and others to reality. The self is relational. All persons are emerging personality and need affirmation of others. God is posited as the ideal and eternal prototype of social existence. Divine fellowship of loving persons guarantees and enables a transcendental ideal account of the human self.

Moberly is influenced by Richmond’s work and applies personality to atonement. Moberly begins with divine unity but rejects “hypostasis” as insufficiently personal to describe divine relations. He prefers the term “person” for its fullness and totality of meaning. Moberly draws an analogy from human experience but divine personality is complete and absolute. Experience grounds Moberly’s transcendental move and “insertion” of personality and subject-object mutuality into an older model of the trinity.

A few years later, 1907, Illingworth develops the trinity with apologetic concerns and exalts the Christian view of personality. A man of his times, Illingworth embraced Christianity as more “highly evolved” due to its developed idea of personality. Illingworth suggested that humanity knows God as it knows itself. Illingworth also suggested the family as an imperfect social analogy of the trinity with father, mother, and child. The incomplete human ideal by reason arrives at the personal triune God which is actualised in itself as a fully internal social reality. Like his predecessors Illingworth looked first to human experience and found Christianity affirmed by human experience which was “personal”. In this thinking, the church attained trinitarian ideas through moral and philosophical development.

Stratis concluded by reflecting together on early social trinitarian thinkers and contemporary approaches. This was not a claim for theological geneaology but a task of comparison. Stratis identified two points of contact.

Stratis identified that thinkers now are not driven by transcendental or apologetic moves, but rather more scriptural concerns the significance of trinitarian thought for the political and ecclesial spheres. Despite these differences Stratis argued for a formal similarity in the priority of experience and the place of history and narrative within the two forms of social trinitarianism. Both exhibit an antipathy to speculation in this regards. In contrast to these approaches Stratis suggested that the early church understood trinitarian thought as elevation rather than speculation. The trinity is a reality to be contemplated and a form to which to ascend. In Stratis’ view trinitarian theology is a move beyond what is naturally available and exceeds economic explanation.

The second formal similarity Stratis more briefly identified was the way these thinkers lean on the possibility of human analogy. In the older thought it was personality and in the new thought it is love and relationality. Stratis felt the weight of engaging individually with thinkers on these issues but also suggested that these formal similarities illustrate how trinitarian thought expresses the philosophy of its context. Therefore, assessing the presuppositions and methodologies of social trinitarian thought is a useful way forward.

The discussion ranged broadly across the prior 1900 years of church history and we eagerly anticipate the further development of Stratis’ constructive work from this analysis.

Rebekah Earnshaw

(Views expressed in this post are my own and not those of St Mary’s College.)

Formation and Interpretation

It’s three weeks until our upcoming Formation and Interpretation: Ways of Knowing and Knowledge of God conference.

Register here (£5 to cover refreshments, free for students of St Mary’s College)

We pause to meet one of our presenters Dr Tim Baylor. Tim, can you please tell us about your research?

“Much of my research focuses on Christian theologies of divine justice. I’m interested in the way that God’s justice informs our ideas about the nature of the moral life. This topic has real importance for a whole host of doctrinal questions about the character of God, the end and goal of God’s government, and the nature of God’s redeeming work. But it also has more immediately practical implications. For example, take Christian discourse in the public square. Christians routinely appeal to divine justice in support of their particular social or political visions, but they often disagree in fundamental ways about the nature of those visions. And these disagreements often stem from more basic differences in thinking about the nature of God’s justice.”

What’s your interest in “Formation and Interpretation”?

“Though my research focuses on the nature of God’s justice, one of the questions that interests me is how our moral formation actually shapes both our view God and the world. Scripture emphasises that there are some truths that we can understand only by faith and love. But if this is true, then it raises some important questions about how a sinner, a person whose love is disordered by sin, can learn to discern what is right, true, and good. This is particularly important when it comes to forming our beliefs about of God. To what degree can sinners (even redeemed sinners) have true knowledge of God, rather than simply an idol of their own making? One of the ways that the church has sought to cultivate the moral dispositions necessary for knowing God is by the imitation of Christ, and by the related discipline of meditation on the vanity of the world, sometimes referred to as the ‘contemptus mundi’ tradition. My paper will examine the reception of this spiritual tradition within a strand of Protestant practical theology. I think this will illustrate the complex relationship between Christian spiritual practice and moral reasoning. And hopefully, it will shed some light on a familiar problem, namely, the proper nature of and conditions for right moral reasoning.”

St Andrews is a beautiful place to visit anyway but why should people come and listen to you on this topic?

“Spiritual and moral formation is one of those topics where the common interest between the academy and the church is most obvious. Pastors and church leaders labour in the ministry of the Word and Sacrament in order to form the church so that it might better inhabit the gospel and offer a clearer witness to the love and faithfulness of God. And spiritual practice often grows cold and ineffective where it is not critically examined. On the other hand, in order to remain true to its subject matter, academic theology needs to be reflective about its own practices. In particular, it needs to consider whether its methods are capable of cultivating the kind of faith and love that are necessary to know God. In that respect, I think a conference on the relationship between personal formation and theological practice addresses not only a topic of considerable academic interest, but a deeply ecclesial interest as well.”

See here for details of other speakers.

Register online and direct inquiries to Rebekah Earnshaw ree3@st-andrews.ac.uk

I am a Noun

Dr. Carey Newman

We are pleased to feature a new series of blog posts from Dr. Carey Newman, the director of Baylor University Press. In each post, Dr. Newman will offer helpful advice on the publication process for researchers who are starting their academic careers. Baylor University Press has experienced a remarkable transformation under Dr. Newman’s leadership; his efforts have received the attention of such outlets as Publisher’s Weekly. Dr. Newman is the recipient of a Ph.D. from Baylor University and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Aberdeen. He is the author of Paul’s Glory-Christology: Tradition and Rhetoric (Brill) and the editor of Jesus and the Restoration of Israel (IVP).


There are three—and only three—kinds of books in the world: nouns, verbs, and peanuts.  Nouns are academic books; they inform.  Verbs are professional books; they transform the practice of a profession.  Peanuts are trade books; they entertain.

I can’t count the number of proposals I receive that say this: “my book is intended for scholars, teachers, students, clergy, professionals, and general readers” (and I add in my mind, “small children and dogs”).  What I can safely say in response to projects that seek such a wide readership is this: a book intended for everyone reaches no one.

Years are spent becoming a scholar.  Heavy investments by family, friends, and self.  This process is not only necessary credentialing for a life in academics, it is also formative—scholarship is not what you do; you become a scholar.  You don’t just write nouns; you are a noun.

There is a deep yearning inside of a scholar to reach the world with her research.  In fact, there is a fair amount of chatter about the necessity of getting beyond the ivy to the city.  While I am, generally, in favor of such efforts, I do have some words of caution.  Scholars fantasize about obtaining such a wide readership, but have no idea the cost of climbing a second mountain.

Rule #14 in academic publishing runs like this: the same number of years, and the same amount of effort, required to become a scholar will be required to become a public writer.  Becoming a writer for a large general readership is not simply a matter of adverbs and adjectives.  Becoming a skilled and credentialed public writer means leaving the safe confines of the academy and learning to pay your bills by your writing.

There are ways to verb a noun and remain a scholar.  Yes.  There is also the process of making nuts out of nouns and still be a scholar.  True.  But the noun comes first.  Unless you have something to say you have nothing to say.  But having something to say does not mean you have learned to say it—and learning to make verbs and to shell nuts takes a lot of time and effort.

I say, be happy with being a noun.  Write them.  Love them.  Do not feel like you have to make an apology for writing, loving and being a noun.  You are a noun.  Your friends are all nouns.  You dream noun dreams.  When you drink beer with your friends, all you talk about are nouns.  Nouns are good.

How did this get on my plate?

I had a feeling that a lecture entitled ‘Consuming Animal Creatures: The Ethics of Eating Animals’ was potentially going to challenge my omnivorous habits. As I mentioned in my previous post, theology should include the lived experience—recognizing that we are embodied creatures—and as embodied creatures, we will recognize that bodies are not unique to humans.

My current work is on the image of God and an argument I am finding quite compelling is that a primary consequence of being in God’s image includes Creator-honoring stewardship of the physical world. There is strong lexical support that Genesis 1:26 should even be translated, “And God said, ‘Let us make humanity in our image, according to our likeness, so that they may have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”[1] This notion of dominion is not a subjugation of non-human life to the whim of human beings. This sort of dominion is one which recognizes the shared creatureliness of all that is not-God. Such an understanding of the human’s teleological vocation does not demonize or prohibit meat consumption, but it does contextualize it in such a way so that we should ask “how is this getting to my table?”

Returning to the lecture, Professor Clough exposed the ways in which creatures are not being cared for in this way due to the mass commercialization of meat production. With deplorable conditions, genetic engineering which maximizes weight gain at accelerated speeds, and complete inattention to the animal’s experience of pain, these industries are denying this human vocation and purpose.

At the same time, when we dominate the created world in this exploitative way, we also end up hurting ourselves. Just as patriarchy also hurts men, exploitation of some creatures hurts all creatures. For instance, Clough explained that “we currently devote 78 per cent of all agricultural land to raising farmed animals, and feed more than one third of global cereal output to those animals.” On a global scale, the amount of land that is used for meat production could be used, instead, for crop production—providing healthier food to greater populations of people.

However, it’s hard to think on a “global scale” without feeling completely useless to affect any kind of change. Here I also appreciated Clough’s point that the “perfect is often the enemy of the better.” The fact of the matter is that if I tried to be a perfectly ethical consumer overnight, I would be both hungry and naked by morning. The systems of exploitation which we have enabled, even unwittingly, will take time to change and our own personal habits will take time to change as well. That’s why, upon leaving the lecture hall, I began to inquire about ethically farmed animals—farms which are concerned about animal flourishing. We have a local larder doing just this kind of thing (Balgove Larder).

So, while this lecture did challenge me, it didn’t require that I stop eating meat altogether (my inner-carnivore was relieved at this)—instead, it challenged me to a greater extent—to ask the questions “How did this get to my plate?” “How can I be a better steward of the created world?” “How should being in the image of God compel a certain ethic?” These questions are not about being politically correct, but being teleologically correct, as they include the vocation of care for all creatures, human and non-human alike.

Christa McKirland

(Views expressed in this post are my own and do not represent those of St Mary’s College.)

[1] Genesis 1:26 with interpretation by W Sibley Towner, “Clones of God: Genesis 1:26-28 and the Image of God in the Hebrew Bible,” Interpretation 59, no. 4 (October 2005): 341–56.

High steaks? On Animals Volume 2

On 22nd February, Professor David Clough visited the University of St Andrews Theology Research Seminar. Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester and involved with many projects, including CreatureKind which engages churches as they think about animals and Christian faith. In practical and scholarly modes, Clough has sustained his interest in the Christian theology and ethics of animals over many years. This includes a two volume project “On Animals.” Volume 1 (2012) developed Clough’s theological treatment of animals within the systematic frame of creation, redemption, and new creation. Volume 2, promised for the end of 2017, will examine the ethical implications of Clough’s position.

With his usual clarity and piercing manner, Clough presented “Consuming Animal Creatures: The Ethics of Eating Animals.” In this paper Clough defends a moderate proposal, that ethical Christian consumption of animal creatures must respect them as fellow creatures of God. He argued there are strong faith based reasons for not consuming fellow animal creatures who have not been given a chance to flourish. This paper may be found online.

Since the application, if not the proposition itself, might be considered radical Clough opened by affirming scepticism of radical positions and countered three potential defeaters of his proposal. First, he argued that mass Christian inattention to consumption of animals in the twenty-first century has resulted from rapid changes in farming processes. Intensively farmed animals are new on the table. Second, biblical declarations that all foods are clean do not make eating practices a matter of ethical indifference. Rather, our eating practices are significant for our fellowship with humans and other creatures. Third, binary distinctions between human and non-human animals are unsustainable. Neither “reason”, nor dominion are sufficient grounds to dismiss a careful, considerate, friendly, and understanding concern for animals.

Clough then presented a brief summary of his theological grounding, primarily material from On Animals: Volume 1. Creation is God’s gift of being for the sake of flourishing of all creatures and participation in divine fellowship. All of creation is good. Animals, human and non-human who share the breath of life, particularly depend on others and mutual fellowship for their flourishing. The unique mode of life of each creature is worthy of attention. In redemption the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, reconciling all things to himself through his blood shed on the cross. Redemption concerns all creation, including animal creatures. Christians await the fulfilment of peace among all creatures in new creation. All creation is made for God’s praise and as no sparrow falls to the ground without God’s care all creation will find its place in the divine life.

Clough then transitioned from this theological basis to his particular ethical question. Sin means creation is broken and conflicted but Christians are to seek the peace and flourishing of all creatures now. However, he also argued that his position is not a flat equivalence of all creation; Clough wishes to maintain distinctions (with fuzzy boundaries) between humans, animals, plants, and non-living creatures. A anthropocentric, dualistic, utilitarian consumerism is not an adequate Christian ethic for animal consumption. He brought attention to the Franciscan tradition of animal care. Promoting the flourishing of animals acknowledges the hopeful and frustrated status of the present. Humans are not powerless and needless cruelty is unchristian. Christians should attend to the significance of animal lives before God and delight in their flourishing.

Clough then moved to current practices of intensive farming. His observations were matter of fact, yet all the more confronting for that, from the production of eggs, poultry, pork, dairy products, lamb, and beef. Harm done through intensive farming practices is not compatible with the flourishing of the animal creatures. Clough painted an alternative possibility of what flourishing might look like taken from studies of pigs. The scale of cruelty may feel overwhelming but the profit driven bottom line means that even small changes in consumer behaviour have a direct effect on practices and the scale of their implementation.

Clough again defended this proposition, that there are faith based reasons for rejecting consumption of fellow animal creatures who have now been given opportunity to flourish, against a false choice between human and non-human animal welfare. Wide-spread and cheap access for humans to meat does not out-weigh the harm inflicted. Clough observed that current consumption patterns are harmful for humans on the larger scale of creation care. Nor are other ethical issues determined by the factor of cheaper access. For example, the need for safe toys and fair wages for workers counters the demand for cheap access to these products. Clough also considered the objections that Jesus was not vegetarian, predatory behaviour is “natural”, and that hospitality and human fellowship is an ethically complex field in which eating and consumption of non-human animals plays a key cultural role.

Clough concluded by suggesting that the perfect is the enemy of the better and small and moderate steps are the way forward. Clough graciously engaged with a wide range of questions: hunting and fishing practices, the nature of flourishing, a new disconnect from OT heritage on animals, further details on an alternative to a capacities distinction between human and non-human animals, and whether we might aniticipate a future volume “On Plants.”

Dr Clough was, as always, clear and piercing in his theological articulation and challenge in this area. He quipped at the start of his presentation that the “stakes” (steaks?) were high but I don’t know what was ordered when the Head of School took Dr Clough to lunch.

Rebekah Earnshaw

(Views expressed in this post are my own and not those of St Mary’s College.)

In Appreciation for the Works of Prof. Mark Elliott

The St. Mary’s College community celebrated recently when Mark Elliott received the title Professor of Divinity. To express appreciation for him and his work, many St. Mary’s students and staff attended Prof. Elliott’s inaugural lecture. In the coming weeks, to honor Prof. Elliott for his achievement, we will offer posts that describe his contributions to the life of St. Mary’s College. We begin with this piece that introduces some of Prof. Elliott’s published works. It is written by Dr. Eric Covington, a student whom Prof. Elliott supervised.


On February 1, 2017, Mark W. Elliott, Professor of Divinity at the University of St Andrews, delivered his inaugural lecture as a professor entitled “Giving Providence a Chance.” The topic of the lecture—the notion of divine providence—is something that has been of particular interest in Prof Elliott’s recent research. While his publications range from the Patristic era to the Middle Ages and to the Reformation and all across the biblical canon, they all reflect a particular interest in biblical theology and the history of scriptural interpretation. Most recently, Prof Elliott has pursued both of these concentrations through the lens of the doctrine of providence.

Prof. Mark Elliott

His most recent monograph, Providence Perceived: Divine Action from a Human Point of View, Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 124 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015), is an overview of significant historical works and interpretations concerning the doctrine of providence ranging from the Patristic era to works published since 2010. As such, it provides an account of the ebbs and flows of the doctrine in theological works spanning 2,000 years.

His previous volume, The Heart of Biblical Theology: Providence Experienced (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012) surveys both modern and ancient approaches to the task of biblical theology and offers the suggestion that the doctrine of providence might be a profitable way forward in the task of constructing a biblical theology. Also released in 2012 was Prof Elliott’s book, Engaging Leviticus: Reading Leviticus Theologically with its Past Interpreters (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2012). In this work, Prof Elliott surveys theological perspectives on the book of Leviticus from the first century to the twentieth.

In The Reality of Biblical Theology, Religions and Discourse 39 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008) Prof Elliott examines different scholarly approaches to the question of the relationship between exegesis and dogmatics. This book pays particular attention to German scholarship and helpfully brings these discussions to light for an English speaking audience.

Prof Elliott’s first book, The Song of Songs and Christology in the Early Church, 381–451, Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum 7 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000; Reprinted: The Song of Songs and Christology in the Early Church, 381–451. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011) is a published version of his Ph.D. thesis undertaken at the University of Cambridge. This work analyzes early Christian Christological interpretation of the Song of Songs and already reflects Prof Elliott’s particular interests in biblical theology and the history of scriptural interpretation.

In addition to these monographs, Prof Elliott has co-edited four books in the last ten years. Most recently published, Biblical Theology: Past, Present, and Future, edited with Carey Walsh (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2016) brings together a group of scholars who have examined particular aspects of biblical theology in a series of conference sessions at the International Society of Biblical Literature meetings from 2012–2014. Prof Elliott also contributed to the publications of volumes associated with the St Andrews conference on Scripture and Christian theology in 2009 and 2012. Papers from these two conferences were published as Galatians and Christian Theology: Justification, the Gospel, and Ethics in Paul’s Letter, edited with Scott J. Hafemann, N.T. Wright, and John Frederick (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014) and Genesis and Christian Theology, edited with Nathan MacDonald and Grant Macaskill (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012). Prof Elliott has also edited Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Isaiah 40–66, Old Testament 11 (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), which provides excerpts of commentaries and interpretive passages from Patristic writers concerning Isaiah 40–66.

Prof Elliott’s wide-ranging interests and expertise in the Bible, theology, and church history and his humble friendship and mentorship are an important part of the School of Divinity at the University of St Andrews and, in particular, the work of the Institute for Bible, Theology, & Hermeneutics (IBTH). We would like to extend sincere congratulations to Prof Mark W. Elliott on his inauguration to the post of Professor of Divinity, and we look forward to the continued results of his interests and research in the areas of divine providence, biblical theology, and the history of scriptural interpretation. —Dr. Eric Covington

The Word, the Words and the Trinity

Dr Brandon Gallaher presented in our third week of the Theology Research Seminar for the spring semester. Dr Gallaher is a lecturer in Systematic and Comparative Theology at Exeter University. Dr Gallaher’s earlier work examined modern trinitarian theology under Paul Fiddes. He shared the early stages of a larger project which seeks an Eastern Orthodox response to plurality of religions. This arises from many years of ecumenical involvement and “looking for Jesus” in religious experiences and practices around the world. Dr Gallaher meets regularly as part of the Building Bridges Seminar.

Dr Gallaher presented under the title, “The Word, the Words and the Trinity: A Preliminary Exploration of the Relationship of Eastern Orthodoxy to World Religions.” He believes that Eastern Orthodox theology, as a minority and persecuted group for much of the twentieth century, is at least fifty years late to the ecumenical party. As such, there are limited works on inter-religious dialogue from an EO perspective. Dr Gallaher drew particular attention to Raimon Panikkar who’s most well known work in English is The Trinity and World Religions, 1973. The radical trinity which develops from theanthropocosmic-cosmotheandric experience in Panikkar’s thought is key. The Father is the source and absolute, even before being, he is found in passive surrender to annihilation and the all in all. There is a non-dual identity of I and absolute. The Son speaks and links the infinite with the finite. He is found in desire for immanent embrace and personalism. The Logos is the eternal thou, beginning and end, through all. The Spirit is immanence, union and bond, the within all. He is found in desire for incarnation and iconolatry. Veneration is the ascent to God. This radical trinity is the key for all reality so that all creaturely religious truth is an echo of this triune divine.

Dr Gallaher proposed that all religions experience Christ but in a distorted or partial manner. He argued that a providential account grounded in Christ and the Holy Spirit was necessary to undergird this claim theologically. Dr Gallaher drew on the resources of the EO tradition, particularly the Logos and the logoi to resource this. Justin Martyr and Maximus the Confessor were key to Dr Gallaher’s proposal at this point. The divine ideas/principles/intentions/wills which are unified in the Logos ground creaturely plurality in God. The tropoi can follow or distort the divine logoi, which explains why expressions of the divine amongst creaturely plurality may more or less conform to their divine pattern and end.

Dr Gallaher suggested ways in which aspects of the trinity might be seen in Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism. He claimed that religious experience specially revealed these trinitarian logoi more than materialism or secularism. He argued that because EO is less focused on salvation and exclusivism it is uniquely placed to resource inter-religious dialogue and provide a theological account of religious plurality.

Especially since Dr Gallaher’s project is in its early stages he engaged in a lively question time, including posing his own questions. D’Costa’s critique that all claims are really exclusive claims was an initial point of discussion. Another key line of discussion pursued the privileged place of religions amongst general revelation in Dr Gallaher’s proposal. Dr Gallaher argued that historically and in practice religions offer a unique expression of the divine logoi amongst creatures. It is therefore, appropriate to particularly seek trinitarian revelation through inter-religious dialogue.

Dr Gallaher offered a perspective which was new to many of the regular participants in the theology seminar who have little chance to interact with those from EO backgrounds or with those actively pursuing inter-religious dialogue. In this way Dr Gallaher provided refreshing input and sparked new thoughts. The resources of EO are indeed rich.

Rebekah Earnshaw

(The views expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect those of St Mary’s College.)

Sacramental and creaturely tradition

There is much here to which I gladly say Amen, but I am yet to rejoin the Catholic fold and so I still murmur.

Professor Lewis Ayres was clear in his stance that the best ecumenical discussions which he has pursued are engaged with strong articulations on all sides of distinctives at their most theological level. In this vein I deeply appreciate his articulation that this sacramental account depends on Christ as the sacrament and the Church as mystical body, and that tradition is a Spirit empowered human act with particular content within this ongoing sacramental and eschatological anticipatory reality. This is the basis for a magisterial tradition which contributes effectively to the salvation of souls. I can see how this follows for Ayres, but without adherence to the initial positions I’m yet to be convinced of the consequences.

This leads me to wonder if Ayres’s thought may be transposed in a Protestant key without sacramentality and without the consequent magisterium of tradition. Do Protestants have the resources for a theology of tradition, which for Ayres is a theology of theology? Professor John Webster believed that a theological account of theology was possible for him and his thought was progressing towards reflection on Christian thinking and the practice of exegetical, doctrinal, and moral reason. (In his presentation Professor Ayres twice referenced the essay he contributed to Webster’s feschrift.)

I affirm many of the theological claims which bear Ayres’s account of tradition forward. In his incarnation, thanks to the hypostatic union and empowering by the Spirit, Christ reveals the Father in a way that no other creature may. The salvation won by Christ brings his people, through the blessing of adoption in the Spirit, into a fellowship which mirrors the perfect triune fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church embodies an eschatological reality before the nations. The Church participates in a Spirit overseen history in which we wait. The Scriptures call for focused theological attention as the constant referrant by which the living Christ speaks to his Church. Christian thinking, even critical reflection on Scripture, is unfruitful when severed from the ministry of the Spirit and the embodied history of and practices of discernment within the Church in which the Spirit has overseen for generations past.

This leads me to ponder how much work “sacramental” is doing in Ayres’s proposal. My protestant ears heard this meaning an “embodied and lively social and temporal reality overseen by the Spirit” but I fear I have missed a far richer and deeper reality being alluded to. Nonetheless, I wonder if tradition may be characterised as an “embodied and lively social and temporal reality overseen by the Spirit” which is distinctively creaturely (without sacramental nuances) and this remain at all satisfying. (I highly respect Professor Ayres and humbly wonder out loud in what follows.)

Ayres guards his sacramental account from distortion by appealing to the qualifiers: mystery & act and unity & eschatology. For me, the Creator-creature relation is fundamental even here. Creatures acting in a properly creaturely mode retains robust double agency and the inexhaustible mystery of divine action as being itself remains gift. The spatial and temporal finitude of creatures means they find themselves in relation, first with their Creator, and then with each other, in a mode of embodied communal history and practice, which for rational creatures includes the practices of Christian intellect and will. Unity of the Church is thence spiritual union with their Head awaiting eschatological consummation, without this compromising or altering her being as creature. Further, I retain a hesitance to characterise creaturely reality, even new creation reality in the Church, as first and foremost sacramental. I’m very open to being challenged at this point, but at present my concern for “the Christian distinction” remains too strong.

Therefore, I wonder if some of the labour, for which Ayres reaches to sacrament, might be accomplished by creatureliness and indeed new creation creatureliness. Perhaps I might call for historical dogmatic rigour which is not philosophically or hermeneutically naïve based on the ongoing creaturely reality of the Church. A strong sense of the providentially Spirit guided Church might result in a firm but ministerially role for tradition. The properly creaturely Church might nurture spiritual discernment and practices of Christian thinking with rigour in the present while also aware of her past and her future. The creature’s awareness of her dependence on the Creator, the depths of sin, the fullness of salvation, the ongoing ministry of the Spirit, the embodied history of the Church, the hope of life to come, might lead to refreshed discipline in the practices of intellectual humility, generosity, and patience, as Christian thought attends to Dei Verbum.

Rebekah Earnshaw

(Views expressed in this post are my own and not those of St. Mary’s College.)