Samuel Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London
What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?
Theology and mission has been captivated by the notion of ‘for.’ Jesus dies for us. We build a well in Tanzania for the locals. This in turn is dominated by the axis of problem-solution, where we see ourselves as characterised by our multiple assets, while we perceive ‘the needy’ or ‘unbelievers’ as characterised by the one thing they lack.
By contrast I advocate the notion of ‘with’ as the heart of mission, discipleship – and God. God’s fundamental desire is to be with us in Christ. ‘With’ describes the character of God and the purpose of mission. It transforms our understanding of the cross and of eternal life.
Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?
Augustine distinguishes between what we use and what we enjoy. What we use lasts a limited time and is a means to an end, what we enjoy lasts forever and is an end in itself. It’s the single most helpful distinction in all theology.
What books were formative for you when you were a student? Why were they so important and shaping?
Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom
This was the first book I read that understood the profound challenges to the Christian faith yet responded to them with what today we’d call generous orthodoxy.
George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine
Lindbeck offered three helpful categories for understanding what theology is and is trying to achieve.
Vincent Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered
This work transformed my understanding of mission from a deficit model to an asset model
Read Wells’ Work
A Nazareth Manifesto: Being with God
Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics
A Cross in the Heart of God: Reflections on the Death of Jesus
Reading novels, following soccer, cricket, rugby and tennis, walking in the French Alps and elsewhere, writing, making friendships
What is a research/writing project you are working on right now that you are excited about?
An apologetics book called Why Did No One Tell Me This Before?