posted March 5, 2010

Danforth Lecture to Examine Theology and the Humanities

Dr. John Webster of the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy of King's College of the University of Aberdeen will present "The Queen of the Arts? Theology and the Humanities" as the 2010 Danforth Lecture at Hope College on Monday, March 8, at 4 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

The lecture will sketch a theology of the liberal arts, arguing that theology talks about created intelligence by talking of God who is wise and gives the gift of wisdom.  Webster will reflect on St. Bonaventure's Reduction of the Arts to Theology (1270), in which all human arts are traced to their origin in the triune God who illuminates all things.

After studying English and theology, Webster undertook doctoral work on the German Lutheran systematic and philosophical theologian Eberhard Juengel.  He taught in Durham and then in Canada as a professor at Wycliffe College, the University of Toronto, and before coming to Aberdeen spent seven years as Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford.  He has a range of interests in the fields of systematic, historical and moral theology.

He is a founding editor of the "International Journal of Systematic Theology," and on the editorial board of the "International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church" and of the "Scottish Journal of Theology Monographs."  He is also a series editor of "The Great Theologians" and "Barth Studies" for Ashgate.  He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2005.

In the area of constructive Christian dogmatics, Webster's research concerns questions of the nature of dogmatic theology and of its material content as the rational articulation of the Christian gospel.  His particular interests are in the doctrine of the divine attributes, Christology and soteriology, and in human response to the divine work (especially ecclesiology and ethics).  His major long-term writing project is a multi-volume systematic theology.  With Professors Ian Torrance and Kathryn Tanner, he recently published the "Oxford Handbook to Systematic Theology."

Much of his work for the last two decades has been concerned with modern historical theology, and in particular the history of the migration of Christian theology to the margins of the dominant intellectual and cultural institutions of the West.  The focus has involved particular attention to the career of modern Protestantism in the last two centuries.

He has a special research interest in the theology of Karl Barth, where he has developed a rather different account from that found in most interpreters.  Webster emphasizes the central significance of biblical interpretation and the Reformed tradition in Barth's work, and views his ethical interests as an integral part of his theology throughout his career.  He is currently researching Barth's theology in the 1920s.

In recent years he has developed an interest in giving a doctrinal account of the nature and interpretation of Scripture, one which is not dominated by hermeneutical theory but which gives an account of Scripture and its readers through such doctrinal themes as revelation, salvation, sanctification and church.  In this connection, he is currently preparing a theological commentary on Ephesians.

The Danforth Lecture is sponsored by the Hope College department of religion with support from an endowment established by the Danforth Foundation of St. Louis, Mo. The program was established by the foundation "to deepen and enlarge the religious dimension of the campus family through speakers who can reflect on the broad, interdenominational and yet positive sense of the Judaeo-Christian perspectives of life and existence."

Some of the many distinguished scholars who have visited the campus through the program in the past include theologian Dr. Martin E. Marty of the University of Chicago Divinity School; Dr. Phyllis Trible of Union Theological Seminary; Dr. Jon D. Levenson of Harvard University; Dr. Daniel Maguire of Marquette University; and Dr. Allen Verhey of the Divinity School at Duke University.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.