Friday, 11 November 2016

On Remembrance

David Runcorn writes:
To remember is not to recall a memory (though that is part of it of course). To re-member is to re-connect with what has, for whatever reason, been dis-membered.

To re-member is not to look back into the past but to bring into the present all that has brought us to this point, and shaped who we are, for good or ill. We are to live in remembrance. Those who do not re-member are not present either. There can be no healing until we are present to the wounds, to the fractures of our story and history. Bids for new futures, attempts at renewal that do not flow from careful remembrance may look pious and visionary, but they are actually escape bids.

Never has the concept of remembrance been explained so clearly or so evocatively: ‘To re-member is to re-connect with what has . . . been dis-membered’!

No wonder Jesus tells us break bread and drink wine in remembrance of him­—how else can we connect with our risen and exalted Lord except through the elements transformed by his Spirit?

No wonder practices such as the Daily Office are important—how else shall we connect with the Source of our being unless we are purposeful in remembering our Source?

And how true Runcorn’s later words are, too:

There can be no healing until we are present to the wounds, to the fractures of our story and history. Bids for new futures, attempts at renewal that do not flow from careful remembrance may look pious and visionary, but they are actually escape bids.

Remembering our past, however painful or pleasant, is what allows us now to move forwards into the future.

Monday, 7 November 2016

On Worshipping at a Charismatic Church Service

Despite some appearances to the contrary, I am not against (whatever that would mean) charismatic worship. I worshipped mainly at charismatic churches (or churches with identifiable charismatic leanings) until fairly recently. My main objection is simply that I now find charismatic church services to be strongholds of liturgical incoherence—though my opinion here is shaped mainly by my experience of contemporary Christian worship, which I often find to be too sincere, too inane, too repetitive, and too repetitive.

This past weekend, I worshipped with my family and some friends at a charismatic church in a city south of London. The service was not held in a typically English church building—it was, in fact, held in a theatre. Cynically, I could aver that such a venue is more than appropriate for a church tradition that ostensibly prizes performance above all else, and that the mirror ball dangling above the stage was more than mere coincidence due to the service’s location; but the fact is I quite liked the tiered theatre seating, and at no point did I feel that the worship band (consisting of a vocalist, a vocalist/guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist, and a drummer) sought only to perform. Moreover, while the songs we sang were typical soft-rock worship choruses, the period of singing did not last too long, and there was definitely a discernible sense of progression in the songs’ ordering. So, strangely for me these days, I had no complaints.

Near the beginning of his sermon, the (guest) preacher began by asking us to open our Bibles or connect to the network—the times, they are a-changin’! And the preacher was engaging, self-deprecating, and often genuinely funny. The message, based on John 14:1-14, was nothing especially new—it was simply an encouragement for us to live as children of the Father so that God can do great things through us, illustrated with a handful or so of stories demonstrating the sorts of things God has done in the past and, by implication, could do in the future. As I say, the message was nothing especially new, but it was no less inspiring because of that.

However, my cynicism did emerge at times during the sermon. The preacher occasionally stressed the fact that doing great things for God was nothing less than an adventure. There was also an equally strong emphasis on God as our loving Father, which resulted in a quasi-altar call where people were invited down the stairs (theatre seating, remember) to the stage to be prayed for. And finally, the service closed with the ubiquitous Good Good Father (a song which is open to criticism and has been openly criticised) and a rather subdued dismissal (‘Okay, we’ve finished now . . .’). Now I suppose none of these things is a problem in and of itself, but my CynicometerTM was flashing lights at these points:

The preacher occasionally stressed the fact that doing great things for God was nothing less than an adventure . . . but does this mean that any form of the Christian life that is mundane, humdrum, everyday, etc., is less than an adventure? And why repeatedly use the word ‘adventure’—are we to seek novelty in our lives as Christians? Is the emphasis on adventure designed to cater for the large number of (presumably) twenty-somethings in the congregation? At times, I felt I was watching the sermonic equivalent of one of those holiday adverts where it seems that everyone wants to go rock climbing or clubbing or snorkelling when away from home.

There was also an equally strong emphasis on God as our loving Father . . . as our Daddy. This is, I believe, a helpful and perhaps necessary interpretation of the fatherhood of God for new Christians or those who have been abused in some way by their fathers or male authority figures. It shows that God is loving and can be approached without fear. But it also suggests that God can be approached without reference to Jesus, eternal and incarnate Son of the Father, who is pleased to call us his brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11-13) despite being our Lord. The fact is that while some people probably need to hear the message that God is our loving Daddy, the rest of us, the majority of us, need to hear that God is our Father because God has adopted us as God’s children in Christ. It’s a question of theological maturity: toddlers and small children use ‘Daddy’, but older children and adults (tend to) use ‘Father’, ‘Dad’, or some other similar term to reflect a less childish, more developed relationship. And so I wonder how far this aspect of the sermon essentially treated us all as toddlers needing constant assurance and cuddle-time with our Daddy rather than actually recognising that the majority of people, through the power of the Spirit, have the strength to live as adults in Christ and not as young children.

And finally, you may have noticed that I have not mentioned intercessions. That’s because there weren’t any. There was a prayer time following Good Good Father, but it was limited to those in the congregation who had been affected by the sermon. This isn’t to say that the church itself is unconcerned with the outside world; judging by its literature, I have to make it clear that it is; but in this service, prayer was restricted to those going down to receive ‘prayer ministry’. Surely for a church service this is inadequate!

Cynically, then, I could say that the shadow side of the sermon conveyed the message that our ‘ordinary’ lives need to be spiced up, that God our Daddy will always be there to pick up the pieces if and when we mess up, and that intercession plays second fiddle to our personal and individual relationships with God. But on the other hand, I could say that the sermon conveyed the message that God can use ‘ordinary’ people to do extraordinary things (cf. John 14:12), that we need not fear going out into the world precisely because God is our loving Father who will move us through (not necessarily around) failure, and that when we are faithful to God, our lives are sort of an embodied intercession because we serve others in the name of Christ. I suppose as with any church service, charismatic or non-charismatic, this one was a typical mixture of good elements and bad elements. (But about Good Good Father, I have nothing constructive to say.)

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Jack T. Chick (1924–2016): A Cautious Expression of Gratitude

I consider him to be a teacher into whose school every theologian must go once. Woe to him who has missed it! So long as he does not remain in or return to it!

Karl Barth, ‘A Thank You and a Bow: Kierkegaard’s Reveille’, Canadian Journal of Theology 11:1 (1965), pp. 3–7 (p. 7)

Thus spake Barth in 1963 about the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard; but I could easily say the same (sort of) about Jack T. Chick, the American cartoonist who preached a rather hard-line version of the gospel via his (in)famous Chick tracts, and who died last week on 23 October.

I’ll admit I’m a fan of Chick tracts. It’s true that many find them distasteful for a variety of reasons, including the fact that a significant number of them could be described fairly as ‘hate literature’. But personally, I enjoy reading them because they’re like the South Park of Christian print culture. They’re not to everyone’s taste; and many will find them nothing but offensive; but I have a genuine soft spot for them.

Why? Well, when I first started professing Christianity as a teenager, I was greatly encouraged by Mr Chick’s output. There’s a logic to his approach: unless you believe in Jesus Christ, you are going to hell—no exceptions! And so, if you don’t believe in Jesus, you need to hear the good news slamming against your eardrums or read the message of the King James Bible compacted into a dozen or so pages filled with demons, drug addicts, homosexuals, Roman Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and evolutionists, all facing the righteous wrath of the risen Jesus. As a Christian teenager and very much in a minority at school, the knowledge that I could be the one whom God would use to snatch someone from the fires of hell was nothing short of inspiring, even if it failed to cultivate tact in my evangelistic activities.

Whatever I think about Chick’s theology these days, the fact is that his tracts reinforced for me the idea that the Christian faith was true and could be defended as such. As a teenager, this gave me the confidence to know that my attempts to persuade my friends that their eternal fate was of great importance had a strong foundation in God’s inerrant Word (though I used the NIV rather than the KJV; Chick forgive me). And dare I say this confidence persists in me now, albeit shaped beyond the Chickensian? Even though my theology has deepened or developed or stretched over the years, I am certain that the mystery of faith—that Christ has died, that Christ is risen, that Christ will come again—is true, and defensibly so. Perhaps incomprehensibly, I can say that Jack Chick played a large part, along with those who nurtured my faith in the early days, in convincing me of the rationality of the Christian faith.

Jack T. Chick (1924–2016):

Monday, 10 October 2016

Discerning God’s Presence in World Events

How do we know what things in the world are the direct result of divine action? Or, to put it differently, (how) can we say that event x was God’s doing but event y was not? It’s not an easy sort of question to answer. In the days when I used to do some serious thinking and writing, I thought one way of addressing the matter was to talk about intensities of divine presence in events (see my Providence Made Flesh, pp. 229–232, and the final section of my hard-to-locate article, ‘Divine Presence as a Framework for God’s Providence’, Epworth Review 36:3 (2009), online edition). I still see no reason why something like this can’t prove helpful. Let me explain.

Even though he appears to criticise my stance on this issue in a review of Providence Made Flesh (see Evangelical Quarterly 82:3 (2010), pp. 286–288), Ian McFarland has since argued that God’s glorification of the creature entails God ‘returning’ to the creature through an intensification of the divine presence. He explains, ‘I am no nearer to a person sitting next to me before than after we are introduced, but the fact of acquaintance profoundly changes the quality of that nearness. Similarly, there is (because there can be) no augmentation of God’s proximity to creation in glory, but there is an increase in intimacy.’ (Ian A. McFarland, From Nothing: A Theology of Creation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), p. 178). In his review of my book, McFarland seems to believe that I was equating intensification of divine presence with an increase in divine presence, which I was not. Regardless, McFarland’s language of intensification suggests some mileage in the idea. But the task is to transfer the language of intensification from eschatological glorification to current events.

Some help comes from Vernon White’s Purpose and Providence, which, let me say, is the best book on providence I’ve read in quite a few years. White uses the idea of figural interpretation (‘the possibilities of seeing a patterned family resemblance between events, even though there is no visible causal relationship between them’, p. 7) to contend that divine meaning in events can be detected when it is interpreted in light of the Christ event. Naturally, such divine meaning cannot be stated absolutely; but, White argues, some events relate more clearly to the Christ event than others, and this gives us a basis for locating the place and significance of any given event within the purposes of God (see Purpose and Providence, p. 123).

It seems to me that there can be a happy marriage between my (and McFarland’s) talk of the intensification of divine presence and White’s use of figural interpretation if we can say that genuine meaning and purpose are found in those events that approximate not to the Christ event simpliciter, but to the eschatological rule of the crucified but exalted Christ; that is, to how far events are present instantiations of the age of come as brought about by the intensification of divine presence in those events. Is this plausible?

Saturday, 8 October 2016

My Review of Vernon White’s Purpose and Providence

My review of Vernon White’s Purpose and Providence: Taking Soundings in Western Thought, Literature and Theology has now been published in Regent’s Reviews 8:1 (2016). Here’s my concluding paragraph:

Purpose and Providence is an engaging read and White’s prose is elegant. He is not content simply to engage with theological ideas as such but dedicates a chapter to excavating layers of the transcendent from the writings of Thomas Hardy and Julian Barnes; a chapter to tracing the development of the doctrine of providence in Christian thought, from Augustine through to Barth, via Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and even Friedrich Schleiermacher and G.W.F. Hegel; and still another chapter to more recent accounts of divine action, including those of the science and religion dialogue and Kevin Vanhoozer’s model of divine communicative action (of which White appears highly appreciative). White is fair to his interlocutors and modest in what his own proposals might achieve or contribute to wider discussions. As with any monograph, there are points in the details that could be perceived as weaknesses. For example, the idea of figural interpretation is such an important element of Purpose and Providence that I cannot help but wonder if White should explain it in more detail than he does. His ideas are shown to resonate with Scripture, but arguably some actual exegesis of specific biblical passages might have been useful as well (though I accept such exegetical reflections would probably have interrupted White’s overall thesis). And some, including me, might find that White’s account of God’s radical otherness bears too much conceptual weight; if pushed too hard, surely such radical otherness essentially transmutes into an unconstrained omnipotence—a recurring vulnerability in discussions of divine providence. But against these things, I can only emphasise that Purpose and Providence is pregnant with possibilities and so essential reading for anyone with an academic interest in the doctrine of providence.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Greg Boyd’s Forthcoming Magnum Opus

Years ago, I grew slightly excited to hear that Greg Boyd—he of open theism fame—was writing The Myth of the Blueprint, ostensibly a lengthy volume showing how so-called classical theism is the product of a wrong reading of Scripture. And we’re still waiting for it. But Boyd is releasing two books (three books?) next year, one of which seems to be The Myth of the Blueprint in an expanded, retitled form. Here is a press release from Fortress Press:

Fortress Press is thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of two provocative titles by Rev. Dr. Gregory A. Boyd. The first, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, is a massive, two-volume, 1400-page text, to be released on April 1, 2017. Boyd’s much-anticipated tome will challenge contemporary scholarship and is sure to be debated in academia and the church for years to come. The second book, tentatively titled, Cross Vision: How the Crucifixion of Jesus Makes Sense of Old Testament Violence, will be published on August 1, 2017. A trade book, Cross Vision, will make Boyd’s provocative arguments available to a general readership.

Boyd, the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul and the author of best-selling books, Letters from a Skeptic and God at War, has been working on Crucifixion of the Warrior God for over a decade. “This is my life’s work,” Boyd said, “the culmination of my thoughts on the nature of God, Jesus, and the Bible. I can’t wait to engage with readers on these, the topics most essential to the Christian faith.”

Will Bergkamp, publisher at Fortress Press, expressed enthusiasm for the project: “Greg Boyd is a preeminent pastor-theologian, and he’s a great fit for us at Fortress Press. We’re especially excited that we can bring his ideas to both academic and popular audiences.” Bergkamp also noted that The Crucifixion of the Warrior God has the same comprehensive and robust argumentation as N. T. Wright’s bestselling Paul and the Faithfulness of God, a 2013 Fortress title.

As if I haven’t got enough to read already!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Karl Barth on ‘I-hymns’ [2]

In my previous post, we saw that Barth (in Church Dogmatics I/2) objected to so-called ‘I-hymns’ on the basis of a perceived separation of the Holy Spirit from Christ. The result of this is effectively a turn from the objectivity of Christian faith as revealed in Jesus Christ by the Spirit to the subjectivity of the Christian’s own faith or relationship with God in Christ. On Barth’s account here, the ‘spiritual songs’ of Ephesians 5:19 have ‘given way to religious poetry.’ (CD I/2, p. 254)

However, in Church Dogmatics IV/1 (1953; ET 1956), Barth issues a retraction of sorts—or perhaps an intensification of his critique. First of all, Barth not only affirms that Jesus Christ stands in relation to the Christian community and to the world more generally, but in relation to the individual Christian, too: ‘from all eternity God has thought of me, elected me, acted for me in Him [Jesus], called me to Himself in Him as His Word.’ (CD IV/1, p. 753) Barth is not saying that the ‘I’ is the only person that matters, but that God in Christ truly relates to the ‘I’ in all his or her particularity: Jesus is my Mediator, my Saviour, my Lord. Thus Jesus is pro me—‘for me’. But this is no abstract pro me but the pro me that has to be seen in relation to the pro nobis (‘for us’) and the propter nos homines (‘for us humans’). As far as I understand Barth here, Jesus is pro me as the particular person, Terry, who is constituted by his relations within the Christian community (pro nobis) and humanity more generally (propter nos homines). So Christ not only died for humanity but—in a very real sense—just for Terry. (And for you in all your glorious particularity, I hasten to add.)

So how does this apparently quite extreme Christian(ised) individualism affect the Church’s hymnody? Barth notes that his earlier critique of ‘I-hymns’ (in CD I/2) can only be a relative criticism; there are too many ‘I-Psalms’ in Scripture to suggest otherwise. Moreover, the pro me needs to be genuine lest Christian belief degenerate into an abstract theory rather than a powerful witness to God’s action in Christ. But Barth goes further than this; he goes to great lengths to emphasise that Christ stands in relation to each individual Christian as though he or she were the sole representative of Christian faith in the world. In fact, my ‘as though’ might be misleading:

Each individual as such . . . stands in the place of many, of all, uniting and representing in himself as this man the whole race, and in himself as this Christian the community. In his existence as an individual he is not a particle or a sample or a specimen. He is the one who is and has and does and signifies the whole and everything. He is the one who is responsible for all and everything. . . . In all the work of God, in what God does and says as Creator, Reconciler and Redeemer, he is not merely envisaged in general, or together with others. . . . What God does is all of it done just for him, just for thee and me. What God wills is all expected just of him, just of thee and me. (CD IV/1, p. 756)

This is not the easiest passage to understand, at least not for me. The thrust of the passage seems to be that, for Barth, Christ’s relation to each individual Christian demonstrates that God is not only pro me, but that God, by virtue of being pro me, is also pro nobis and propter nos homines as well. And this seems to be Barth’s unpacking of the word Credo, ‘I believe’, which is in the first person singular to express the genuine unity of those who confess it as members of the Church. All this seems to point to a radical understanding of humanity that moves beyond mere individualism and simple communitarianism towards something more (shall we say) mystical. And this is what I think is the genius of Barth’s critique here in CD IV/1: the Church’s so-called ‘I-hymns’ don’t go far enough! In Barth’s own words, ‘Is there any I-hymn which can express this strongly enough? Is not the confession of faith itself necessarily the strongest I-hymn of all?’ (CD IV/1, p. 756) If my reading of Barth here is correct, then I suggest that few current ‘I-hymns’ can express this radical conception of humanity because the Western Church is either mired in a thoroughgoing individualism that posits the Church merely as individuals with a common interest, or is earnestly seeking some kind of socialist utopia that may or may not have Christian elements. But neither angle takes humanity seriously enough.

Given all this, Barth maintains that while I-hymns have a place in the Church’s hymnody, they can only have that place inasmuch as they testify to Christ. The pro me cannot be abstracted and systematised; nor can the relationship between God and the individual be ‘the basis and measure of all things.’ (CD IV/1, p. 757) Here, Barth seems to be saying that in the process of singing genuinely Christ-oriented ‘I-hymns’, Christ himself moves intentionally from being the object of the pro me to being the subject of the pro me. Barth concludes:

It will be acknowledged that Christian faith is an “existential” happening, that it is from first to last I-faith, which can and should be sung in I-hymns. But there will take place the necessary “de-mythologisation” of the “I” which Paul carried through in Gal. 220: “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (CD IV/1, p. 757)

* * * * *

The danger I see in many of the songs we sing in our local churches is that either they focus on our relationship with God (rather than on God and what God has done), or they are an opportunity to emote—or, to put it more pejoratively, an opportunity to burble like a baby. But do we not see both of these things in the psalms? I confess I’d like Barth to have explained his comment about ‘I-Psalms’ a little more.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Karl Barth on ‘I-hymns’ [1]

In light of my recent post critiquing worship as self-expression, I thought I’d dedicate a couple of posts to Karl Barth’s analysis of so-called ‘I-hymns’. In Church Dogmatics I/2 (1938; ET 1956), Barth speaks of how Jesus Christ is humanity’s possibility of receiving revelation; that the receipt of revelation is itself revelation; that the content of this revelation is Christ himself; and that it is the Holy Spirit who makes known this revelation to humanity. The important thing here is that the Spirit can do this because the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The two cannot be separated, even though they can and must be distinguished. This is what the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed seeks to preserve.

But what happens when Christ and the Spirit are separated? For Barth, the danger is that the Spirit is not seen specifically as the Spirit of Christ and so any knowledge claimed to have been revealed by the Spirit is not necessarily shaped or filled by Christ. Barth sees this as the foundational flaw in much of the hymnody of post-Reformation traditions. At the start of the Reformation period, Martin Luther essentially took his hymns directly from Scripture and from the medieval Church. Barth writes,

Luther’s hymns are completely lacking in all lyrical quality, i.e., in all emphasis upon the emotion of the subject. The one who speaks in them is neither giving to himself all kinds of accusatory, heartening, instructive and hortatory advice, nor is he constraining others with the challenge or invitation or demand to lay this or that upon their hearts. What these hymns contain is adoration and solid communication, confession of faith, confession of sins, proclamation. (CD I/2, p. 253)

But by the end of the sixteenth century, there had been a subtle change in the lyrical content of church hymns:

In place of the drama of creation, reconciliation and redemption, which is the work of the triune God, another drama is staged. We hear a monologue of the soul, or a duologue between the soul and God, or even at this early date of one soul with another. (CD I/2, pp. 253–54)

Barth appreciates that the hymn-writers of this period had good intentions; but ‘in what or in whom are we really believing?’ (CD I/2, p. 254) This, I believe, is the crucial point, and I hope I am not mishandling Barth when I rephrase his question as ‘What or who is this song about?’ (I have to say that I ask this question about a lot of the songs we sing in our local churches at the moment . . .) By the eighteenth century, ‘confession and proclamation have now really given way to religious poetry’ (CD I/2, p. 254), with the effect that true confession of Christ could be removed from any of the hymns from this period without serious repercussions.

So how does this happen? Barth provides a useful breakdown of the process:

  • a ‘spiritual song’ (ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς; Eph. 5:19) is a song in which the Word of God is preached and heard;
  • a sub-theme in the song becomes interesting;
  • this sub-theme then becomes independent from the main theme;
  • the now-independent sub-theme proves to be more interesting than the main theme;
  • the sub-theme becomes the main theme; and
  • the new main theme shapes our understanding of the old main theme (CD I/2, p. 256).

And all this because Christ and the Spirit have been separated!

I have to admit that I’m still trying to wrap my head around what Barth’s saying here; I’m not a Barth scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I dare say that my lack of familiarity with the output of the hymn-writers Barth mentions (e.g., Gerhard Tersteegan and Christian Fürchtegott Gellert—though chances are I might have sung their hymns unknowingly) hinders me from truly appreciating his criticism. That said, if Barth’s point is that the songs we sing in church are all the poorer because we are focussing on us and our (or my) relationship with God, then that is a point I can affirm—though to what extent do modern worship songs and choruses really separate the Spirit from Christ?

Barth also discusses ‘I-hymns’ in Church Dogmatics IV/1, but I’ll leave that for my next post.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Richard A. Muller’s Forthcoming Book on Providence

How exciting! I’ve just discovered that Richard Muller has a book on providence coming out at the beginning of 2017. (I could have done with this in 2007, but anyway . . .)

Rather than cut ’n’ pasting blurb from the publisher’s website as I normally do for these sorts of things, I thought I’d show you how technologically adept I am by using Microsoft’s Snipping Tool instead. Hopefully it will work out fine. If it doesn’t, I’ll revert to my old ways.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A New Biography of Søren Kierkegaard

Imagine my surprise this morning when I received through the post, quite unexpectedly, a new biography of Søren Kierkegaard and a jute bag adorned with the Danish philosopher’s face!

I can only assume that I have been sent the biography (though perhaps not the jute bag) to review, and so review it I shall in due course. In the meantime, here are some of the details about the biography (not the jute bag) from the accompanying press release:

Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016

Søren Kierkegaard lived an extraordinary life. His story is filled with romance and betrayal, family curses against God and acts of grace toward others, humor, drama, quiet observations, and riot-inducing polemics. He died in the midst of his fierce “attack upon Christendom”: alone, misunderstood, and infamous.

[. . .]

The Danish philosopher, theologian, social critic, and writer is now widely recognized as one of the world’s most profound writers and thinkers. His influence on philosophy, literature, and on secular and religious life and thought is incalculable. He is known, amongst other things, as “the father of existentialism” and as the man who introduced the ideas of anxiety and the leap of faith to the modern imagination.

[. . .]

His attack on Christianized nationalism helped inspire the pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer to resist the Nazis. He has inspired novelists such as Mann and Kafka and poets like Eliot and Auden.

Yet one is hard pressed to find a biography that explains simply what Kierkegaard’s life was like or gives a straightforward overview of his books . . . until now.

Kierkegaard: A Single Life highlights the interesting and controversial aspects of Kierkegaard’s life, telling a story that few today know, and provides brief, straightforward overviews of his key works.

The biography is endorsed by a number of significant names, including Rowan and Jane Williams, Stanley Hauerwas, and William T. Cavanaugh.