Having assigned John Webster’s essay, ‘Biblical Reasoning’ for the first week of an introductory course in systematic theology, I re-read it and discovered that it’s denser and more difficult than I remembered. So I produced this short guide which summarises the different sections of the essay, offers definitions of difficult terminology and translations of bits of Latin, and suggests some questions to aid reading. I post it here on the off-chance it might be useful to someone else.
The recent and growing number of stories—sadly all too believable—of repeated and grotesque abuses of power by evangelical leaders are wearying and burdensome to read. But it is important not to shut our ears and close our eyes to them, nor to close ranks and shut down those who cry for justice. Equally, it is important to consider these things theologically.
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”, 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.
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, 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”.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.
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.