Born in 1948 in the Borders of Scotland (Galashiels) and brought up in the Western Isles (Islay), apart from an initial degree in Classics at Edinburgh, my entire academic career was spent in England (Oxford, Cambridge, Oxford, Durham) until 2007 when I returned to Scotland and St Andrews as Professor of Theology, Aesthetics and Culture and Wardlaw Professor (Bishop Wardlaw founded the University in 1413).
While my earlier career focused on the relations between theology and philosophy, in more recent years this interest have broadened to theology and culture more generally. For a more detailed account, see the link: Intellectual Profile.
Education and Academic Career
1970 First Class Honours in Classics from the University of Edinburgh
1972 First Class Honours in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford
1976 Doctorate in Ethics from Cambridge
1976-90 Tutor in Theology and Philosophy at Oriel College, Oxford & University Lecturer in Ethics and Philosophical Theology
1990-2007 Van Mildert Professor of Divinity at Durham University
2002 Elected a Fellow of the British Academy
2007 Appointed to St Andrews in the autumn
Publications and Personal Research
A series of five volumes on the relation between the wider culture and revelation and other experience of God has just been completed. All are available from Oxford University Press, the most recent being God and Grace of Body: Sacrament in Ordinary (2007) and God and Mystery in Words: Experience through Drama and Metaphor (2008). For more details, see the link: Major Works.
My earlier career led to two important books on philosophical theology (The Divine Trinity and Continental Philosophy and Modern Theology), and these are described in the link: Other Key Texts.
Not that these two periods of my writing are totally unconnected. Artists can sometimes be just as subtle as philosophers. Take, for instance, the accompanying image from medieval Paderborn, where the Trinity is compared to a hare! For further reflections on trinitarian images, see the article under Essays in Edited Volumes.
I am currently working on a book on kenotic Christology: half of it will be historical and half analysis and defence. Originally commissioned by Desclée in Paris as La tradition kénotique dans la théologie britannique, it will be published simultaneously in French and English towards the end of 2009. I am also general editor of a large volume entitled Durham Cathedral 993-2000: Community, Fabric and Culture. It is intended to be the definitive volume on the cathedral of which I was a Residentiary Canon for seventeen years.
Postgraduate Teaching and Research
For the range of topics I have supervised for doctorates, and my general philosophy behind supervising candidates, please follow the link: Research Opportunities. One major advantage St Andrews has over many other departments of theology is its large number of weekly seminars, among them two particularly pertinent, one specifically on the arts and the other on systematic theology. The Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA), of which I am a Professorial Fellow, has also organised a number of international conferences.
I also teach two of the modules in the new one year MLitt in Theology and the Arts. Good art is seldom as straightforward as it may initially appear. Take, for instance, the accompanying image of the Last Supper from modern Bolivia. Judas is represented by the chair to one side. But where is Christ? Count the chairs, and find out!
One module entitled Christian Doctrine and the Arts explores how artists - primarily (but not exclusively) painter and poets - have chosen to express some of the central doctrines concerned with Christ, such as divinity, atonement, resurrection and trinity. Attention will be paid to changes in presentation over history, while types of affective engagement will be explored through the representation of key figures in the gospel narrative and in how the sacraments are conveyed.
The other module Religious Experience and Aesthetic Theory is more concerned with theory. Although not all areas will necessarily be covered in any one year, the religious rationale behind some of the principal approaches in architecture, in painting, in action (through ritual, drama and dance) and in music will be explored. As well as some obvious religious applications such as in Gothic architecture or in landscape painting, more unexpected areas will also be tackled such as pop music and ballet.