John Webster Prayer

Freedom and Prayer

I’m just parking this Webster quotation here; no further comment is necessary.

Evangelical freedom, emerging from our being put to death and made alive in Christ and the Spirit, is thus freedom from the care of self which so harasses and afflicts the lost creatures of God. My freedom is in part my freedom from final responsibility for maintaining myself, a freedom which is the fruit of my having been liberated from the anxious toil of having to be my own creator and preserver…

A particular mode of this freedom is the freedom to pray. Prayer is an act of evangelical freedom because in it is expressed our liberation from anxiety and self-responsibility, and our freedom to live on the basis of fellowship with God and trust in the divine promise. Prayer thus expresses the fact that, as we have been set free by God, so we have had taken from us the evil custody of ourselves which we thought ensured our safety but which in fact fastened us to sin and death. Prayer, indeed is at the centre of the fellowship with God which is determinative of whatever is authentically humane.

John Webster, ‘Evangelical Freedom’, in Confessing God, 225-26.

John Webster Pastoralia Prayer

Grace in a Time of Coronavirus

In our current trials, painful as they are, we are being given a gift—a gift as Christians, a gift as pastors, a gift as churches and a gift as nations, if only we will take it. This time of losses, restrictions, anxieties and griefs, it also a matchless opportunity for grace.

In The Culture of Theology, John Webster invites us to take our own existence, and the situation in which we are placed, with full seriousness. He asks, ‘In what sense can theological existence be cultivated?’, and answers, ‘The first thing to say is that it can’t.’1 Although he is writing about the ‘anatomy of a theologian’, what Webster says here applies equally to our understanding of all human existence in the light of the gospel. This seems more obvious now than at any time in my lifetime. If we believed it, how refreshing it would be! It would calm our bubbling anxieties, cool our frenzied conversations, soothe our restless fears.

John Webster Theology

Theology in the Order of Love (2)

For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so it is better to give to others the fruit of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II.188.6

Last time, with the help of John Webster’s essay “Theology in the Order of Love”,[1] we considered the shape of the God-given order within which we do our theological work in relation to God, and in relation to the communion of saints. And we thought about the necessity of gratitude to God for making us his friends, and giving us a share in his knowledge.

This time we will explore what Webster says about the need for gratitude in the communion of saints, and generosity in sharing what God has given us to know.

John Webster Theology

Theology in the Order of Love (1)

In that same hour, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Luke 10:21

John Webster (1955-2016) was a theologian’s theologian,[1]writing theology of the highest order, always in a desire to serve the communion of saints. Few if any contemporary theologians can match the breadth and depth of his thought. And few have thought as deeply or as theologically about what theology is, its relationship to other disciplines, and the virtues required of true theologians.

One of the hidden gems in Webster’s output is the last theological essay he wrote before his untimely death, “Theology in the Order of Love”.[2]It is an exquisite exploration of what is required of us if we are to be faithful (pastor-)theologians within the economy of the Triune God’s creating and saving works.

John Webster Theology

John Webster: A Chronological Bibliography


Rudolph Bultmann: An Introductory Interpretation. Leicester: RTSF.


‘Distinguishing between God and Man: Aspects of the Theology of Eberhard Jüngel’. Cambridge: University of Cambridge.

‘Recent Work on Barth: A Survey of Literature since 1975’. Themelios 7 (3): 31–35.