Monthly Archives: July 2008

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On ‘The Body’s Grace’ (5): Black, white and grey

So, where have we got to so far? Well, one way of summarising what I have said so far is to say that, for Williams – it’s all about love. Sex matters because it is deeply bound up with love. Sex is good when it builds up love. Sex is bad when it works against love. It’s that simple.

Simple? Well, yes – as long as we are willing to pay attention to two big difficulties.

  1. We are very good at misunderstanding ‘love’. The real nature of love is something we are taught (painfully and slowly) by the gospel: by God’s love winning us gradually away from the distortions we have taken for love, and winning us into Christlike love. That’s why I’ve delayed focusing on the language of love until now, and instead spent my time talking about the gospel, and about sanctificiation – in the (no doubt vain) hope that readers will recognise that by ‘love’ I mean something you learn on the way of the cross, not something you learn by watching romantic comedies. And this creates a real pastoral problem: how on earth do you say, ‘It is all about love!’ without people hearing, ‘It’s all about how you feel!’?
  2. Perhaps the strongest message of ‘The Body’s Grace’ is that the connection between sex and love is deeply fraught. It is messy, complicated, and risky – and it is hugely tempting for us to fall into deeply misleading platitudes of one kind or another (and, as we will see, Williams wants us to avoid liberal platitudes just as much as conservative platitudes). And that has important implications for the kind of moral clarity one might expect in this area. It is possible to be extremely clear about what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean in this context, and about why the good is good and the bad is bad. But that doesn’t mean that the job of discovering where on the ground the good and the bad are actually to be found is going to be at all easy. (Think of a analogous example: suppose I were advocating an ethical position that said: what really matters is whether you do x out of selfish or out of selfless motivations. That is, on the face of it, a very clear distinction; there’s real moral clarity there. But that doesn’t for a moment mean that the job of examining one’s motivations, and of discerning whether one is being selfish or selfless, is easy.)

    Put it this way. Conceptually, what I have been discussing so far is Williams’ description of what is black and what is white in sexual relationships. Building up love? Good. Undermining love? Bad. How much more black and white a description do you want? But, when Williams talks about the actual existence of sexual relationships in the world, things are not so neat. Of course, there are some kinds of sexual activity that he is, using these paint pots, happy to colour exclusively black: rape, paedophilia, and so on. And the analysis he has given of the connection between sex and the gospel enables him to give an account of why rape, say, is always and only wrong. But far from finding that outside these blackspots everything is white, he finds elsewhere only differing shades of grey. There’s no place on the map of real sexual relationships where we can simply breathe a sigh of relief and know for certain that we are safe. Sex is always more complicated, and more risky than that.

On ‘The Body’s Grace’ (4): Thomas Nagel, handmaid

Thomas NagelOne of the accusations that is sometimes levelled at ‘The Body’s Grace’ is that Williams, abandoning the sources of properly Christian ethics, turns instead to a secular philosopher, Thomas Nagel, for his inspiration. The lecture, read that way, is a gift to anyone looking for confirmation of a standard caricature of liberal theology: drop God’s revealed command because you don’t like what it says, and cast around for some man-made substitute that you find palatable. Thankfully, that’s not really what’s going on here. In fact, if you want confirmation of a standard caricature from this lecture, the one it gets closest to providing is of philosophy as the ‘handmaid of theology’.

Williams begins with his already-established theological understanding of the Christian gospel; that’s a point I’ve laboured enough in the earlier parts of this discussion. And he begins with an interest in seeing how sexual relationships might connect to that gospel. He also begins with a sense (to which we will be returning) that the Bible does not actually tell us a great deal about the character of sex itself: what it is, and how sexual relationships work.

What he finds in Thomas Nagel is an attempt to describe as clearly as possible the nature of sexual desire and of sexual activity – am attempt that happens to work in a way that enables Williams to make the connection between sex and the gospel very directly.

Nagel’s paper (‘Sexual perversion’, Journal of Philosophy 66.1 (January 1969), republished in Mortal Questions (Cambridge: CUP, 1979), 39-52) argues against any account of sexual activity that starts by saying ‘Sexual desire is simply one of the appetites, like hunger and thirst’, and that the different ways of satisfying this appetite should no more trouble us than do the different ways of satisfying hunger and thirst (40). Nagel tries to show that all such accounts are failures, because they simply don’t do justice to the specific nature of sexual desire – to its psychological complexity.

He develops his argument by describing a fictional scene between two characters he calls Romeo and Juliet, designed to capture this inherent complexity (45-46). It starts simply enough, but as Nagel adds layer upon layer of description it quickly spirals into intense complexity – but that’s the point. He begins with Romeo regarding Juliet with sexual desire, and being aware that he does so; Romeo is aware, to some extent, of this as something taking place in his body, and also (very) aware of her body). Juliet, it so happens, also regards Romeo with similar sexual desire, and Romeo notices this. Noticing this both sharpens Romeo’s desire for Juliet (sharpening his sense of her bodily presence still further), but also makes him aware of himself as a bodily object for her desire, and of her as a bodily subject of her own desire, not just as an object of his desire. Juliet now notices Romeo’s desire for her, and she too finds her desire for him sharpened, and in the same way becomes more aware of him as a subject and herself as object. And, says Nagel, things can get still more complex: Romeo might see that Juliet not only desires him, but that she has seen (and been aroused by) his desire for her – and this itself might further feed his own desire; and similarly Juliet might be aroused not just by Romeo’s desire for her, but by the very fact of his arousal at her desire for him. At this point Nagel’s conceptual description begins to boil over; as he says, beyond this ‘It becomes difficult to state, let alone imagine, further iterations, though they may be logically distinct’ – and one might be tempted to think that even this last iteration is pretty difficult to isolate in the actual experience of sexual desire. He continues, however,

Ordinarily, of course, things happen in a less orderly fashion – sometimes in a great rush – but I believe that some version of this overlapping system of distinct sexual perceptions and interactions is the basic framework of any full-fledged sexual relation and that relations involving only part of the complex are significantly incomplete. (46).

What does Williams do with all this? Well, as a first approximation we could say that he takes it at face value – accepting it as Nagel presents it: an attempt at a neutral description of sexual desire, rather than a normative account of what sexual desire should be like. Its usefulness rests upon some kind of recognition: yes, that’s the sort of thing that happens. Yet Williams finds in Nagel’s descriptive account resonates very deeply with his own understanding of sanctification:

All this means, crucially, that in sexual relation I am no longer in charge of what I am. Any genuine experience of desire leaves me in something like this position: I cannot of myself satisfy my wants without distorting or trivialising them. But here we have a particularly intense case of the helplessness of the ego alone. For my body to be the cause of joy, the end of homecoming, for me, it must be there for someone else, be perceived, accepted, nurtured; and that means being given over to the creation of joy in that other, because only as directed to the enjoyment, the happiness, of the other does it become unreservedly lovable. To desire my joy is to desire the joy of the one I desire: my search for enjoyment through the bodily presence of another is a longing to be enjoyed in my body. As Blake put it, sexual partners “admire” in each other “the lineaments of gratified desire”. We are pleased because we are pleasing.

If Nagel’s description is a plausible one, it shows us how sexual relationships can be part of the process by which we are called out of egocentrism and called into community: called into a recognition that our action is not simply the gratification of our own appetites, but is a language that we speak to others – and that it therefore catches us up into webs of responsiveness and responsibility: we have to ask whether we are hearing the other person, and whether we are speaking so as to be heard. What calls us out into this responsiveness and responsibility is the other’s desire for and delight in us – as object and as subject; our being called out involves our desire for and delight in our partner – as object and as subject. Sex, if Nagel’s description of how it works is a good one, is inherently and unavoidably tangled up with the most basic themes of sanctification.

This is fine as a first approximation – but a second, more precise approximation is possible. Ultimately, it seems to me, Williams does not actually accept that Nagel’s account is as neutral as he claims. Nagel claims that this is the ‘natural’ form that sexual relation takes, and (implicitly) that it can be identified as such by any reasonable human being. Yet Williams says that all this ultimately

only makes human sense if we have a language of grace in the first place; and that depends on having a language of creation and redemption. To be formed in our humanity by the loving delight of another is an experience whose contours we can identify most clearly and hopefully if we have also learned or are learning about being the object of the causeless loving delight of God, being the object of God’s love for God through incorporation into the community of God’s Spirit and the taking-on of the identify of God’s child.

In other words, Williams does not accept that there is a neutral, non-theological, purely philosophical route to the declaration that this form of sexual relationship (rather than something more asymmetrical) is the natural paradigm against which all sexual relationships can be judged. He privileges this description of sexual relations on theological grounds.

That in turn means that he can broaden the focus of his account much more easily than can Nagel from individual sexual encounters to ongoing patterns of relationship, and to the questions of faithfulness and commitment that they raise. It may be difficult to see how to get directly to those questions simply from a phenomenological account of how sexual desire happens to work: could we really claim in some neutral sense that a long-term, faithfully committed relationship is the ‘natural’ outworking of the patterns of mutual desire that Nagel describes? Yet as soon as Nagel’s account has been given its fuller theological grounding within an account of sanctification, the connections follow easily.

This theological recontextualisation of Nagel’s ideas also means that Williams can include a much greater sense of the fragility and difficulty of this kind of sexual relationship: a sense, perhaps, that far from this being the ‘basic framework of any full-fledged sexual relation’, as Nagel puts it, it is seldom realised in actual sexual relations in anything like the symmetrical and complete form that Nagel describes.

In other words, Nagel’s account provides a stepping stone – and not the first or the last – in the development of Williams’ account. It helps him to articulate his sense of how sex is (or can be) caught up in sanctification, and so of how it can be (and often is) caught up in its opposite. Nagel does not act as an authority for Williams: the structure of Williams’ argument cannot at all be reduced to the claim that certain kinds of sexual relation are okay because Nagel says so, or wrong because Nagel says so. No; Nagel acts as handmaid, and only as a handmaid, providing conceptual tools that Williams borrows, and bends to his own use.

Reading the Five Ways 16

In my earlier explorations of Aquinas’ Five Ways (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15), I made the following suggestion for what the argument would look like if addressed to an atheist (having earlier argued that atheists were not the primary addressees).

If, then, we are to translate Aquinas’ argument into a form suitable for an atheist audience, we might delete his claim that ‘everybody’ will happily use ‘God’ to name the end-point to which the Five Ways point. We might, instead, simply say: ‘Let X be whatever it is that answers these questions without begging further questions. X is the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause, the self-existent cause of existence and so on. Now, what manner of reality must this X be?’ … All this means, to repeat the point once more, that the Five Ways are radically incomplete on their own. Only if you carry on into the much longer and much more detailed arguments in Questions 3 to 11 of the Summa – the doctrine of divine Simplicity, and what follows from it – do you find Aquinas discussing the kind of reality that his proofs have demonstrated. And so only if you carry on into that material can you judge whether Aquinas is right to call it ‘God’.

I’m not quite so convinced of that point now – or rather, I think I put it a little too strongly. It seems to downplay at least the fourth and fifth ways, which lead Aquinas to more positive characterisations of this ‘X’, because they lead him in some sense to attribute, respectively goodness (or, better, perfection) and intelligence to this X that undergirds the world. Nevertheless, that weasel phrase ‘in some sense’ remains a necessary part of that sentence – and I think it means that I can still more-or-less keep hold of my point: Aquinas has yet to discuss what on earth we might mean by attributing such things to the uncaused cause, the unmoved mover, of the other ways, and is yet to connect that to the fuller language of Christian theology, with its descriptions of God in personal terms. Nevertheless, the ‘X’ is not as bare as my earlier comments might have suggested, and the leap to calling it ‘God’ not quite as foolhardy.

Note that this is simply a claim about what Aquinas was up to with the Five Ways, not a claim about whether they work. I’m still of the opinion that they can only really be retrieved as a proposal for a metaphysical articulation of Christian claims about creation: a way of naming the world’s contingency and of reading that contingency as God’s gift, and of reading the mystery of God’s life as deeper than such contingency. But precisely because I am interested in that kind of retrieval, I think the Fourth and Fifth ways – particularly the Fourth – much more interesting and suggestive than their evident weakness as arguments addressed to contemporary atheists might suggest.

On ‘The Body’s Grace’ (3): Sex and sanctification

In the first post in this series, I claimed that Rowan Williams’ purpose in ‘The Body’s grace’ was to ask what the connection was between sex and the gospel. In the second post, I pointed to the brief sketch he gives in the lecture of the content of that gospel. That gospel, in Williams’ view, has to do with the good news that God freely loves us, and that God’s love calls us to (and frees us for) love of God. It also has to do with the ‘fellowship of Christ’s body’, in which we learn of God’s love for us, and in which we communicate God’s love for others.

Asking how sex relates to this gospel therefore means two things.

  1. Williams’ concern is above all with the connection of sex to sanctification – to the processes by which people are, by the grace of God, drawn into holiness. Holiness is a matter of being called out of, and freed from, all that stands against the love of God. It is a matter of being called to, and freed for, that love. It is a matter of being crucified, and of being raised to new life in Christ. ‘Holiness’ is, in Williams’ theology, a fundamentally dynamic category: to ask about holiness is to ask about whether a particular path leads deeper into the love of God, or leads away. Luther defined sin as a matter of being ‘curved in on oneself’ (incurvatus in se): a matter of being so focused on one’s own gain that the gifts of God (and even God Godself) are turned into objects subordinated to that purpose. Holiness is a matter of being untwisted from this sinfulness, and opened up to worship: to an outward-facing delight on God’s gifts and on God’s self. Williams does not use the language of ‘sin’ or ‘holiness’ in the lecture – quite deliberately, I suspect, in view of the fact that it is so easy to assume that we know what these terms mean in the realm of sexuality – but the concepts he uses here to describe sexual relationships are the ones that he elsewhere uses to describe the whole Christian life as a life of growth towards God. ‘The Body’s Grace’ would not, for instance, be out of place as an appendix to Williams’ The Wound of Knowledege.
  2. Williams concern is also fundamentally ecclesial. One could say that the question of Christian ethics is, ‘Does this build up the body?’ or ‘What makes this body more the body of Christ?’ To ask about the connection between sex and the gospel is to ask about the role of sexual relationships in the formation of the body of Christ – that body in which we learn of God’s love for us, and communicate God’s love for others. One (possibly surprising) way to get a grips with this aspect of Williams’ lecture is to notice his talk about communication (as when he says, for instance, that ‘the moral question … ought to be one of how much we want our sexual activity to communicate’), and mentally to translate it into Barthian terms. Barth opens his Church Dogmatics by saying:

    The Church confesses God as it talks about God. It does so first by its existence in the action of each individual believer… But as it confesses God the Church also confesses both the humanity and the responsibility of its action. It realises that it is exposed to fierce temptation as it speaks of God, and it realises that it must give an account to God for the way in which it speaks. (CD I/1, p.3, emphasis mine.)

    Williams’ lecture draws sexuality firmly into this realm: it too is part of that ‘action of each individual believer’ that ‘talks about God’. Williams’ question is not simply whether our sexual activity somehow conforms to or obeys the gospel, but whether in our sexual relationships we proclaim that gospel.

One of the claims of the lecture is that sex is not a topic we can ignore or treat casually, nor is it an aspect of our lives that we can easily tidy away, or ‘get right’ and then ignore. And that is not because Williams has bought some post-Freudian picture where everything is really about sex, but because he sees that sex is caught up in powerful and complicated ways in these matters of sanctification and proclamation – and those are the most serious games in town.

On ‘The Body’s Grace’ (2): The Gospel

In ‘The Body’s Grace’, I have said, Rowan Williams asks what sex has to do with the Christian gospel. What does sex have to do, that is, with the God of Jesus Christ, and with how this God relates to God’s world?

After the long discussion of incidents from Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet (to which we will be returning, never fear), there are two paragraphs in which Williams begins to show us how his answer to this question is going to work:

The whole story of creation, incarnation and our incorporation into the fellowship of Christ’s body tells us that God desires us, as if we were God, as if we were that unconditional response to God’s giving that God’s self makes in the life of the trinity. We are created so that we may be caught up in this; so that we may grow into the wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God.

The life of the Christian community has as its rationale – if not invariably its practical reality – the task of teaching us this: so ordering our relations that human beings may see themselves as desired, as the occasion of joy.

Later on he speaks about

learning about being the object of the causeless loving delight of God, being the object of God’s love for God through incorporation into the community of God’s Spirit and the taking-on of the identify of God’s child

I will have more to say about the content of this in due course, but for now I simply want to draw your attention to two aspects of it.

  1. This is, for Williams, a fairly straightforward retelling of the Christian gospel – the Christian good news. Anyone who knows his work even moderately well will recognise the familiar outlines of his account of the difficult gospel, costly grace, the free gift that demands everything. You could think of this as a rehearsal of the ‘rule of faith’: a sketch of the basic plot or framework that, as Williams sees it, holds the whole Christian story together. Trinity, creation, incarnation, incorporation into the body of Christ, the work of the Spirit, God’s unearned love, our growth into love – this, according to Williams, is the basic palette of colours from which the Christian picture is painted. Now, rhetorically, Williams assumes that this account of the Gospel is one that his audience will reocgnise – a bedrock on which he and his audience stand, and on which he can safely build his argument, rather than a platform to which he must hoist them by argument.
  2. This brief sketch of the gospel is not, however, simply an identical repetition of Williams’ standard presentation of the Gospel. It is a variation on a theme, or a riff played on a familiar melody. Williams chooses his words, his metaphors, so as to highlight the connections he is about to make to sexuality. Nevertheless, he does not present himself as importing those connections, but as drawing them out: the first quote I’ve given above, for instance, continues, ‘It is not surprising that sexual imagery is freely used, in and out of the Bible, for this newness of perception’. The connection to sexuality is already there in the scriptural and traditional material on which this sketch is based.

These two aspects suggest two further reflections:

  1. I suspect that, whatever might have been true of the lecture’s original audience, for many readers of this essay the sketch that Williams gives of the Christian message here will not be very familiar. Used to other frameworks for the telling of the Christian story – other plot summaries, in different idioms – those readers will perhaps suspect that this way of expressing the gospel is driven by the material on sexual relationships elsewhere in the article. That is, some readers might not recognise that William is anchoring his argument in an account of the gospel that precedes any of his reflections on sexual ethics – and that his description of sexual ethics is driven by his theology, rather than the other way around.
  2. It’s important to clear that first point up before moving on to the second, which qualifies it. I’m going to be coming back to this rather more at a later point (if all goes according to plan), but it seems to me that whilst Williams’ retelling of the gospel in this context follows the familiar lines of his theology without demur, the precise colour and tone given to that retelling by his wider discussion of sexual ethics does show us (and perhaps Williams) that familiar gospel in a new light. In other words, whilst the major movement of the article is to examine sexual relations in the light of the already known gospel, there is a minor reverse movement as well: an exploration of the gospel in the light of this investigation of sexual ethics. That’s going to prove to be important later on.

One last caveat before I close this post. I don’t mean to say that Williams is right. I’m not yet asking that question, and when I do I will have some questions to put to him. But – particularly in the current situation – it seems to me that the prior task is to strive for a charitable understanding of what Williams is saying, how his argument goes together, what the assumptions are, and so on. So you can expect quite a few more posts simply of exposition before we get to the questioning – but please don’t assume that this is intended as hagiography.

On ‘The Body’s Grace’ (1): God’s command

This is the first part of a planned series on homosexuality and the church. I’m planning to start with a sequence of posts on Rowan Williams’ famous essay, ‘The Body’s Grace’, and then walk slowly towards more ecclesiological matters.

Over on Faith and Theology, when Ben Myers suggested that Rowan Williams’ ‘The Body’s Grace’, was an example of a life-changing essay, one of the blog’s regular visitors, Shane, commented, ‘What was so great about “The Body’s Grace”? … I was disappointed by this essay – there is one central question in the debate about homosexuality (whatever one’s anwer to it): What does God command me to do? Williams spends the entire essay attempting not to raise that question.’ In a comment to another post, he put the same point again, ‘As far as I’m concerned it’s a straightforward example of why the Anglican church is in the crisis it is in today – Williams is just dodging the central question over and over again. The central question is this: Is homosexuality good, bad or indifferent from God’s perspective?’

Those comments are not the main reason for starting this series of posts, but they do provide a useful starting point – by being exactly wrong.

Williams opens ‘The Body’s Grace’ with the questions, Why does sex matter? and, What does it have to do with God? As he goes on, it becomes clear that he is asking, What on earth do sexual relationships have to do with the Christian gospel?

Albeit in a different theological idiom, Williams is precisely asking, What does God command? He is asking, What difference does it make to see sexual relationships in the light of God’s word to the world in Christ? How does seeing sexuality in that light allow us to understand both what can be right about sex, and what can be wrong? How does the gospel enable us to get a truly Christian clarity about sexual ethics?

This strategy is, it seems to me, based on several related assumptions.

  1. The gospel – the good news spoken by God to the world in Jesus Christ – is God’s command. To put it the other way around, the command of God is not extraneous to the gospel – as if God, while saving us in Christ by the Spirit, said, ‘Oh, and there’s another, unrelated thing I wanted to talk to you about…’
  2. The connection between gospel and command is intelligible. That is, it is possible for us by attending to the Gospel to understand how and why we are commanded – and such understanding is the fundamental task of Christian ethics.
  3. The gospel so understood provides the criterion by which we discover what truly is a binding command upon us. Faced, for instance, with a range of biblical commands about slavery, women, usury, polygamy, and sexual relationships, the fundamental theological question is not, ‘Which of these is culturally conditioned?’ but ‘How, if at all, do these matters relate to the gospel?’ Theological ethics is a matter, we might say, of taking every thought captive to Christ.
  4. Because this attention to the gospel is the fundamental task of Christian ethics, any approach that simply stops with the apparent demands we find in Scripture, without asking whether and how they connect to the gospel, fails to take the command of God seriously.
  5. If there is some intelligible connection between the gospel and sexual relationships, there would be a binding Christian sexual ethic (a command of God regarding sexual behaviour) even if there were no passages in Scripture that explicitly treated sexual matters.

I realise that I have as yet left the term ‘gospel’ vague. But we’re only just getting started…

Bibliographical blunder

I had completely forgotten when I posted my bibliography of Rowan Williams’ works that some material that Matheson Russell had shared with me was being prepared for publication in a book of essays on Williams that he is editing.

Matheson has been extremely nice about the whole thing, and hasn’t called me any of the nasty names I deserve – but, in any case, all is not lost: he continued working on his bibliography after the early version he sent me, and he has managed to find several things I had overlooked. So if you want a more comprehensive (and clearer and better organised) bibliography of Rowan Williams’ work than mine, and one that does not stop in 2005, you should get your pre-orders in for Matheson Russell (ed.), On Rowan Williams: Critical Essays (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, forthcoming). It should be out in a month or two, and you should regard my bibliography as no more than an appetite-whetter for his.

Rowan Williams and consensus

The Guardian on Tuesday had a profile of Rowan Williams, full of comment on his suitability to lead the Anglican Communion in its current crisis.

The tone is set by a quote from an unnamed ‘archbishop from outside the church [of England]’ saying, amongst other things, ‘He looks for consensus where there is none…’ And this is an incredibly resilient motif in comment on the current situation: Rowan Williams is, apparently, beset by a naïve belief that everyone could get along if they sat down quietly and talked about it all, and he keeps on acting as if that were a possibility, refusing to take the bull by one or other of its pointy horns.

Yeah, right.

The whole strategy of Williams and of those who have been working closely with him has been to find a way forward that (however sadly) takes it for granted that there is at present no consensus, and that there is no consensus waiting ready in the wings. Instead, he and others have asked how the Anglican Communion can develop a structure that will allow it to admit that there are presently irreconcilable differences, that no reconciliation of those differences is yet visible on the horizon, that they are indeed serious enough differences to prevent any kind of full communion between the differing parties (rather than being matters on which we can simply agree to differ) – but that they are not differences so fundamental as to mean that there must be a complete separation into two or more distinct Communions.

Of course, GAFCON and others think this is a disastrous strategy, a product of Williams’ insipid weakness. Instead, they think that there are irreconcilable differences between them and their opponents within the Communion, that there is no resolution to these differences visible on the horizon, that these differences are so serious as to prevent any kind of full communion between them and their opponents – but that they have not reached a point where their only way forward is to break away and form a separate Commmunion.

Oh, wait a minute…

Rowan Williams Bibliography: Acknowledgments

Some acknowledgments: I’ve shamelessly cribbed bibliographic bits and pieces from Matheson Russell and Jeffrey McCurry, who were each kind enough to exchange working bibliographies with me at an earlier stage.

[Edit: I had completely forgotten when I posted this that the bibliographical material Matheson Russell shared with me was being prepared for publication in a book of essays on Williams that he’s editing. Matheson has been extremely nice about the whole thing, and hasn’t called me any of the nasty names I deserve – but, in any case, all is not lost: he continued working on his bibliography after the early version he sent me, and he has managed to find several things I had overlooked. So if you want a more comprehensive (and clearer and better organised) bibliography of Rowan Williams’ work than mine, and one that does not stop in 2005, you should get your pre-orders in for Matheson Russell (ed.), On Rowan Williams: Critical Essays (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, forthcoming). It should be out in a month or two, and you should regard my bibliography as no more than an appetite-whetter for his.]

Rowan Williams Bibliography: 2004-2005

[For some acknowledgments, and an important note, please see this post. See also 1972–1979 (with an explanation), 1980–1985, 1986-1990, 1991-1995, 1996-2000, and 2001-2003. NB: This is as far as I’m going for now.]



2004a     Anglican Identities, London: DLT; including ‘Introduction’, pp.1-8; 1998h, 2000d, 1993f, 1993g, 2001h, 1995d, 2002i, 2003d

2004b     Dialogues with the Archbishop of Canterbury and global experts on governance, economy, environment and health, St Paul’s Cathedral, London, September 8, 15, 21, 30; transcripts of the four dialogues available online at; published as Edmund Newell and Claire Foster (eds), The Worlds We Live in: Dialogues with Rowan Williams on Global Economics and Politics, London DLT

Lectures and Articles

2004c     ‘Analyzing Atheism: Unbelief and the World of Faiths’, a Pacem in Terris lecture at Georgetown University, 29 March; and; reproduced in Michael Ipgrave (ed.) Bearing the Word: Prophecy in Biblical and Qur’anic Perspective, London: Church House Publishing, 2005, pp.1–12

2004d     ‘Augustine and the Psalms’, Interpretation 58.1 (January), 17-27

2004e     ‘Belief, Unbelief, and Religious Education’, Downing Street, 8 March; available online at and

2004f     ‘Balthasar on the Trinity’ in Edward T. Oakes and David Moss, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar (New York: Cambridge, 2004), pp.37-50 (Am)

2004g     ‘Theology in the Twentieth Century’ in Ernest Nicholson, A Century of Theological and Religious Studies in Britain, British Academy Centenary Monographs, Oxford: OUP, pp.237-252

2004h     CEFACS (Centre for Anglican Communion Studies) Lecture, Birmingham, Wednesday 3 November; available online at

2004i     ‘Changing the Myths We Live By’, Environment Lecture, 5 July; available online at; also printed in Sourozh 97 (August), pp.16-26

2004j     ‘Children at War’, a lecture given at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, London, Wednesday 29 September; available online at

2004k     ‘The Christian Priest Today’, lecture on the occasion of the 150 th Anniversary of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, 28 May 2004;; printed in Glory Descending, pp.163-175

2004l     Address at al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo, Saturday 11 September; available online at; printed as ‘Christians and Muslims before the one God’, in Irfan Omar (ed.), Islam and Other Religions: Pathways to Dialogue, London / New York: Routledge, 2006, pp.175-180

2004m     ‘Community Well-Being’ Rose Street Methodist Centre, Wokingham, 30 July;

2004n     ‘Convictions, Loyalties, and the Secular State’, Chatham Lecture, Trinity College, Oxford, Friday 29 October; available online at

2004o     ‘The Courage not to Abstain from Speaking: Monasticism, Culture and the Modern World in the Public Interventoins of a Disturbing Monk’, paper presented at Italian Merton Conference, Bose, Italy; published in The Merton Journal 12.1 (Eastertide 2005), 8-18

2004p     ‘The Creed and the Eucharist in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries’, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität, Bonn, 11 March;

2004q     ‘Holy Land and Holy People’, lecture to the 5 th International Sabeel Conference, Jerusalem (in absentia),

2004r     ‘Internationalism and Beyond’, Speech on the occasion of a fund raising dinner for the Anglican Observer to the United Nations, Connecticut, USA, 18 June 2004; available online at

2004s     The Nicholas Hinton Lecture, given at the AGM of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, 17 November; available online at

2004t     ‘The Lutheran Catholic’, Ramsey Lecture, Durham Cathedral, 23 November;; printed in Glory Descending, pp.211-222

2004u     ‘Religious Lives’, Romanes Lecture, Oxford, 18 November;

2004v     ‘Theology in the Face of Christ’, address given to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Archbishop Michael Ramsey, 4 October;; reprinted in Glory Descending, pp.176-187

2004w     ‘Thoughts on the Resurrection’, Sermon delivered at Great St Mary’s, Cambridge; Great St Mary’s Papers 12

2004x     House of Lords Speech on Criminal Justice – the Social Purpose of Sentencing, 26 March;; full debate:

2004y     Keynote Address at ‘Mission-Shaped Church’ conference, 23 June 2004; available online at,%20Mission-Shaped%20Church%20conference.doc

2004z     Keynote Address at the Methodist Conference, 28 June 2004;

2004aa     A lecture given at a conference on ‘The place of Covenant in Judaism, Christianity and Jewish-Christian relations’ Centre for the Study of Jewish Christian Relations, Cambridge, 6 December;

Sermons and Speeches

2004ab     Sermon at the Anglican Church of the Redeemer, Amman, Jordan, 26 January;

2004ac     Sermon at Ecumenical Service at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, Jerusalem, 27 January;

2004ad     General Synod: interventions in the debates on (i) the Agenda, 9 Feb (, (ii) ‘Mission-Shaped Church’, 10 Feb (, the (iii) Future use of the Church Commissioners’ Funds, 11 Feb (, (iv) Telling the Story: Being Positive About HIV/AIDS, 12 Feb (, (v) The Gift of Authority, 13 Feb (, (vi) Asylum, 13 Feb (; also (vii) Welcome to the Secretary of State for International Development, 12 Feb (

2004ae     Sermon at Southwark Cathedral, 12 February;

2004af     Sermon at Service to Celebrate the Bicentenary of the British and Foreign Bible Society, St Paul’s Cathedral, 8 March;

2004ag     Remarks at opening of St Cecilia’s Church of England School, Wandsworth, 23 March; available online at

2004ah     Meditations for Easter Morning, Canterbury Cathedral, 11 April;

2004ai     Easter Sermon, Canterbury Cathedral, 11 April;

2004aj     Sermon for John Mere’s Commemoration, St Benet’s Church, Cambridge, 20 April;

2004ak     Sermon at Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate 350 Years of Peace and Friendship Between the UK and Sweden, The Swedish Church, London, 28 April;

2004al     Remarks at Official Opening of the Waltham Forest Credit Union, 5 May; available online at

2004am     Address at Church of Ireland General Synod, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, 11 May 2004;

2004an     Sermon to Mark the 10th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women, 16 May;

2004ao     Sermon at the 350th Festival Service of the Son of the Clergy Corporation, 18 May;

2004ap     Sermon at Eucharist Marking the 1400th Anniversary of the Re-Organisation of the Diocese of London, 22 May;

2004aq     Sermon on the Occasion of the National Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, 31 May;

2004ar     Sermon at the Temple Church, 17 June;

2004as     Oxford University Commemoration Day Sermon, University Church of St Mary the Virgin, 20 June;

2004at     Sermon at Church Army Commissioning Service, Sheffield, 8 July;

2004au     General Synod: interventions in the debates on (i) Clergy Discipline (Doctrine), 10 July (, (ii) Rethinking Sentencing, 11 July (, and (iii) Trade Justice, 12 July (

2004av     Address at the Scottish Episcopal Church Provincial Conference, 3 September,

2004aw     Service to mark the 175th anniversary of King’s College, London, Westminster Abbey, 19 October,

2004ax     Evensong address given to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Archbishop Michael Ramsey, Magdalene College, Cambridge, 31 October,; reprinted in Glory Descending, pp.241-244

2004ay     Address at Service to Mark the 300th Anniversary of Queen Anne’s Bounty, 4 November, Westminster Abbey,

2004az     Sermon at Rochester Cathedral on the occasion of the 1400 anniversary celebrations, 10 November,

2004ba     Sermon given in Truro Cathedral at the launch of the New Testament in Cornish, 28 November,

2004bb     Christmas Message, Friday 17 December;

2004bc     Christmas Sermon, Canterbury Cathedral, 25 December;

2004bd     New Year Message, Friday 31 December, Tate Modern, London;

Introductions and Forewords

2004be     ‘Foreword’ in The Archbishops’ Council, Mission-Shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context, London: Church House Publishing, p.vii; available online at

2004bf     ‘Foreword’ in Stephen Batalden, Kathleen Cann and John Dean, Sowing the Word: The Cultural Impact of the British and Foreign Bible Society 1804-2004, Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2004, p.x

2004bg     ‘Foreword’ in Robert Beaken, Beginning to Preach: A Practical Guide to Preaching Well, London: Tufton Books (Church Union)

2004bh     ‘Foreword’ in Anne Cluysenaar and Norman Schwenk, The Hare That Hides Within: Poems about St. Melangell, Aberteifi, Parthian

2004bi     ‘Introduction’ in Tom Devonshire-Jones (ed.), Presence: Images of Christ for the Third Millennium, Guidebook to accompany BibleLands Exhibition, High Wycombe: BibleLands; extracts reprinted as ‘Imitations of Christ’ in The Guardian, Jan 31,,11710,1135472,00.html

2004bj     ‘Afterword’ in Stanley Hauerwas and Sam Wells (eds), Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics. Malden, MA / Oxford / Carlton, Australia: Blackwell, pp.495-498

2004bk     ‘Foreword’ in John Henstridge, Transforming the Ordinary: Bible Meditations for Every Day, Oxford: Bible Reading Fellowship; available online at

2004bl     ‘Foreword’ in Clifford S Hill, The Wilberforce Connection, Oxford: Monarch, pp.11-12

2004bm     ‘Afterword’ in Jeremy Martineau (ed.) Changing Rural Life: A Christian Response to Life and Work in the Countryside, Norwich: Canterbury

2004bn     ‘Foreword’ in Charles Richardson (ed.), This is Our Calling, London SPCK

2004bo     ‘Foreword’ in Geoffrey Rowell and Christine Hall (eds), The Gestures of God: Explorations in Sacramentality, London: Continuum, 2004, pp.xiii-xiv

Book Reviews

2004bp     ‘A near miraculous triumph’, review of Nicholas Wright’s National Theatre production of Philip Pullman’s His dark materials, The Guardian, Wednesday March 10;,6000,1166271,00.html

Dictionary and Encyclopedia Entries

2004bq     ‘Athanasius and the Arian Crisis’ and ‘Origen’ in GR Evans, ed., The First Christian Theologians, Oxford; Blackwell, pp.157-167

Newspaper and Magazine Articles

2004br     Statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Windsor Report, Monday 18 October; available online at


2004bs     ‘Am I happy? No…Life isn’t like that’, interview with Mary Ann Sieghart, The Times, 26 May; available online at

2004bt     ‘Just Williams’, the Archbishop of Canterbury talks to Roy Hattersley about Tony Blair, war and God, The Observer 11 July;

2004bu     Transcript of an interview with John Humphrys for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, following the Beslan school tragedy, 4 September;


2004bv     Letter Sent to Archbishop Robin Eames on Publication of the Windsor Report, Friday 15 October; available online at

2004bw     Archbishop’s Advent Pastoral Letter to Primates and Moderators of the United Churches, Saturday 27 November; available online at



2005a     ‘Grace, Necessity and Imagination: Catholic Philosophy and the Twentieth Century Artist’, Clark Lectures, Trinity College, Cambridge, Jan/Feb/Mar; available online at,,, and; published (with a new introduction) as Grace and Necessity:Reflections on Art and Love, London: Continuum, 2005; sometimes with subtitle Towards a New Theology for the 21st Century

Books (edited and translated)

2005b     (with Douglas Dales, Geoffrey Rowell, John Habgood) Glory Descending: Michael Ramsey and his Writings, Canterbury Studies in Spiritual Theology, Norwich: Canterbury / Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans; includes ‘The Christian Priest Today’ (2004j), pp.163-175, ‘Theology in the Face of Christ’ (2004s), pp.176-187, ‘The Lutheran Catholic’ (2004q), pp.211-222, and ‘True Glory’ (2004av), pp.241-244

Articles and Lectures

2005c     ‘Becoming Trustworthy: Respect and Self-Respect’, Temple Address, Church House, 10 November;

2005d     ‘The Care of Souls’, editorial in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 11.1 (January), pp.4-5

2005e     ‘Christianity, Islam, and the Challenge of Poverty’, lecture given at the Bosniak Institute, Sarajevo, 18 May;

2005f     ‘Creation, Creativity and Creatureliness: the Wisdom of Finite Existenc’, the St Theosevia Centre for Christian Spirituality, Oxford, 5 April;

2005g     ‘Ecology and Economy’, University of Kent, Canterbury, 8 March;

2005h     ‘Is Europe at its End?’, Forum Debate, Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Prayer for Peace – Palais de Congress, Lyons, 12 September;

2005i     ‘Formation: Who’s Bringing up our Children?’, Citizen Organising Foundation lecture, Queen Mary College, University of London, Mile End, 11 April;; published in Sewanee Theological Review 48.4 (Michaelmas), pp.379-386

2005j     ‘The Gifts Reserved for Age: Perceptions of the Elderly’, lecture to mark the Centenary of Friends of the Elderly, Church House, Westminster, 6 September;

2005k     ‘God’ in David F. Ford, Ben Quash and Janet Martin Soskice, Fields of Faith: Theology and Religious Studies for the Twenty-first Century, Cambridge: CUP, pp.75-89

2005l      ‘The Influence of History in Public Life’, a British Academy/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography seminar with Peter Hennessy, Quentin Skinner and Baroness O’Neill, 19 October; audio available at

2005m     ‘Law, Power and Peace: Christian Perspectives on Sovereignty’, David Nicholls Memorial Lecture, The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, 25 September,

2005n     ‘The Media: Public Interest and Common Good’, lecture delivered at Lambeth Palace, 15 June;

2005o     ‘The Mission for L’Arche Today’, address at L’Arche International Federation Meeting, Assisi, 29 May;

2005p     ‘One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’, address to the 3rd Global South to South Encounter Ain al Sukhna, Egypt, 28 October;; subsequent question and answer session transcribed at

2005q     ‘Religion, Culture, Diversity and Tolerance – Shaping the New Europe’, address at the European Policy Centre, Brussels, 7 November,

2005r     ‘Richard Hooker (c1554-1600): The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Revisited’, The Richard Hooker Lecture, Temple Church, London, 26 October;

2005s     ‘Sustainable Communities’, lecture at Chatham, 16 March;

2005t     ‘What is Christianity?’, lecture given at the international Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, 23 November;

Sermons and Speeches

2005u     Address at the installation of Kenneth Kearon as Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Anglican Communion Office, London, 18 January;

2005v     Contibution to House of Lords Debate on Africa, Millennium Development Goals, and Causes of Conflict, 2 February;

2005w     Sermon at Eucharist Service, General Synod, London, 16 February;

2005x     General Synod, 16-17 February: Speech moving motion on Women in the Episcopate, Parts 1 and 2, 16 Febraury ( and; contributions to Take Note debate on the theology of Women in the Episcopate, 16 February (, on the Windsor Report, 17 February (, and on the Environment, 17 February (

2005y     Sermon at Evensong in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, 22 February;

2005z      Contribution to press conference at Primate’s Meeting, Dromantine Conference Centre near Newry, Northern Ireland, February 25; audio available at (RW’s remarks at 12:14)

2005aa     Easter Message to Anglican Communion, 22 March;

2005ab     Thought for the Day, Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 25 March,

2005ac     Easter Sermon, Canterbury Cathedral, 27 March;

2005ad     Sermon at 60 th anniversary of Christian Aid, St Paul’s Cathedral, 26 April;

2005ae     Sermon at ‘Tsunami 2004: A Service of Remembrance’, St Paul’s Cathedral, 11 May;

2005af     Speech given at a reception at the conclusion of the 4th Building Bridges Christian-Muslim Dialogue, 18 May;

2005ag     Presidential Address, Anglican Consultative Council, Nottingham, 20 June;; audio available at

2005ah     Sermon at the Diocesan Celebration for the 13th Meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, 26 June;; video available at

2005ai     Sermon at Southwark Diocese Centenary Eucharist, Lambeth Palace, 2 July;

2005aj     Thought for the Day, Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 8 July;

2005ak     Sermon at service of prayer and thanksgiving to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, Westminster Abbey, 10 July;

2005al     Presidential Address, General Synod, York, 11 July;

2005am     Sermon at enthronement of Bernard Ntahoturi as Archbishop of Burundi, 15 July;

2005an     Address at opening ceremony Sant’Egidio International Meeting of Prayer for Peace – Palais de Congress, Lyons, 11 September;

2005ao     Speech at Confirmation of Election of John Sentamu, St Mary-le-Bow, London, 5 October;

2005ap     Sermon at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, 9 October;

2005aq     Tribute at Memorial Service for Brother Roger of Taizé, Westminster Cathedral, 14 October;

2005ar     ‘Pause for Thought’, Terry Wogan, Radio 2, 18 October, – transcript missing, but also available at, p.67

2005as     Sermon at Service of Remembrance for the victims of the London bombings, St Paul’s Cathedral, 1 November;

2005at     General Synod, 15-16 November: (i) remarks at opening session, 15 November (; (ii) speech moving the loyal address, 16 November (; (iii) farewell tribute to the Bishop of Oxford, 16 November (; and contributions to debates on (iv) terrorism, 15 November (, (v) Episcopacy in the Church of England, 16 November (, and (vi) the Review of Clergy Terms of Service, 16 November (

2005au     Presidential Address, General Synod, London, 16 November,

2005av     ‘Christmas tells us why people matter’, Remarks delivered at the switching on of the Lambeth Council Christmas lights, 1 December;

2005aw     Sermon at Centenary Service for Diocese of Birmingham, 4 December;

2005ax     ‘Fresh expressions’, BBC Local Radio, 8 December; transcript:

2005ay     ‘Pause for Thought’, Terry Wogan, Radio 2, 19 December;

2005az     Christmas Day sermon, Canterbury Cathedral;

2005ba     New Year Message, 31 December;

2005bb     ‘Being Biblical Persons’ in Anthony Dancer (ed.), William Stringfellow in Anglo-American Perspective, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005, pp.184–187

Newspaper and Magazine Articles

2005bc     ‘Of course this makes us doubt God’s existence’, The Sunday Telegraph, 2 July;; also available as ‘The Asian Tsunami’,

2005bd     ‘Does a right to assisted death entail a responsibility on others to kill?’, The Times, 20 January;; also available at

2005be     ‘Why abortion challenges us all’, The Sunday Times, 20 March;

2005bf     ‘Easter – the awkward time of year’, The Daily Telegraph, 26 March;

2005bg     ‘A planet on the brink’, The Independent on Sunday, 17 April;; also available at

2005bh     ‘Forget the tea and cakes. How the Mothers’ Union is riding to the rescue of Africa’, The Independent on Sunday, 7 August;; also available at

2005bi     Contributions to Radio 3’s Bach Experience, December;

Introductions and Forewords

2005bj     ‘Foreword’ in Church of England Mission and Public Affairs Council, Sharing God’s planet: A Christian Vision for a Sustainable Future, London: Church House Publishing, pp.vii–viii; full text of report available online at; foreword only at

2005bk     ‘Foreword’ in Creston Davis, John Milbank and Slavoj Žižek (ed.), Theology and the Political: the New Debate, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp.1-6

2005bl     ‘Foreword’ in Duncan J. Dormor, et al., eds., Anglicanism: the Answer to Modernity (London: Continuum, 2005)

2005bm     ‘Foreword’ in Fynn, Mister God this is Anna, 30th anniversary edition, London: HarperCollins; available online at, pp.1-4

2005bn     ‘Foreword’ in Michael Hampson, Head versus Heart – and our Gut Reactions: The 21st Century Enneagram; Mapping the Different Ways we Engage with the World, Wincester: O Books, p.5

2005bo     ‘Foreword’ in Chris Keating, Work and Prayer, New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2005 / London: Continuum, 2006

Book Reviews

2005bp     Review of Matthew Grimley, Citizenship, Community and the Church of England: Liberal Anglican Theories of the State Between the Wars, Oxford: Clarendon, 2004, The English Historical Review 120 (June), pp.801-3

2005bq     ‘Books of the year’, TLS: The Times Literary Supplement, Dec 2;,,25771-1928241,00.html


2005br     ‘Belief and Theology: Some Core Questions: Rowan Williams’ in Rupert Shortt, God’s Advocates: Christian Thinkers in Conversation, London: DLT / Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005, pp.1-23

2005bs     Interview with Episcopal News Service at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, June; video available at

2005bt     Pakistan Sunday Programme, 27 November

2005bu     Interview with Simon Mayo, BBC Radio 5, December 6;


2005bv     Text of the Advent Letter sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Moderators of the United Churches, 5 December;

2005bw     Reflections in memory of Sergei Hackel;