On doing theology

Our research seminar here in St Andrews has started well this semester: John Webster on creatio ex nihilo followed by Lewis Ayres on Augustine on the Trinity. I look forward to Tom Greggs on ‘pessimistic universalism’ this week also. John’s paper was characteristic, but struck a note I have not heard from him before, or at least not so forcefully: to speak of the mystery of creation, he argued, is to be in the realm where one’s speech and thought is inevitably tresspassing on the divine, and so there is a necessary spiritual preparation, an ascesis perhaps, without which one cannot hope to speak of these truths. Lewis offered a summary of some of his forthcoming book on Augustine. The sheer breadth of the scholarship he has at his...

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Losing my religions?

A variety of conversations in the past week or so have reminded me of a conclusion I came to some years ago: I do not believe in ‘religion’. I do not mean this in some faux-evangelical, sub-Barthian sense (‘religion is humanity’s search for God; Christianity is God’s search for humanity’) – although if one hears Barth properly, as critiquing every human approach to the divine, and supremely our own, the point holds. Rather, I became convinced, largely through reading the sociological literature, that the concept of ‘religion’ is a meaningless one. There is just no general category under which we may usefully subsume the particular realities that we call ‘Christianity’, ‘Islam’,...

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