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Talking Theology

Author: Philip Plyming

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The podcast of Cranmer Hall, the theological college within St John's College, Durham University. We explore life’s big questions, and look to join the dots between theology, church, and the world. Philip Plyming, Warden of Cranmer Hall, is joined by a wide range of guests with a wealth of knowledge and experience.
79 Episodes
Why has place always mattered and why does it matter today? What's the difference between the parish system and the parish vocation? How are we called to love the different places where we have been placed by God? And why has the debate about the role of the parish become so polarised, and what's a better way forward?In today’s show we will be talking to Revd Dr Will Foulger. Will is the Director of Mission and Evangelism here at Cranmer Hall, and also the Director of the Centre for Church Planting, Theology, and Research. His new book entitled: Present in Every Place? The Church of England and the Parish Vocation will be published in Spring 2023.
How does prayer help us integrate our experiences of God with our efforts to understand God? How can we think and talk about prayer in a way that captures its rich diversity? How does contemplating God help us resist the constrictions the world puts on us? And how can thinking prayer help us bring others before God?In today’s show we will be talking to Professor Andrew Prevot. Andrew is Associate Professor in the Theology Department at Boston College. He has written extensively on the relationship between prayer and theology, and his new book on mysticism and the ordinary life is appearing in Spring 2023.
What did it mean for the Apostle Paul’s existence in Christ to be patterned on the Cross? Why is the Christ-hymn from Philippians 2 Paul’s master story and how does it speak to us, not only as individuals, but to communities of faith? If Good Friday supplies the pattern of Christian lives, how does Easter supply the power? And, what does it mean for the Church to not simply believe the Gospel, but also become the Gospel?  In this episode I am talking to Professor Michael Gorman. Michael is the Raymond E. Brown Professor in Biblical Studies and Theology at St Mary’s University and Seminary, Baltimore. Michael has written extensively on the theology and spirituality of St Paul.
What's the problem with singing joyful songs in the face of suffering? What do the psalms teach us about staying with suffering, rather than moving too quickly to praise? How is the practice of lament witnessed to across the pages of the Bible, right up to the very end? And how is naming the reality of pain and trials actually an expression of hope?In today’s show I will be talking to Rev Dr Federico Villanueva, who is currently a Commissioning Editor for Langham Publishing and Scholar Care Coordinator for Asian Langham Scholars. Federico is an Old Testament scholar, author, minister, preacher and seminary teacher known in particular for his works on the Psalms and Lamentations. 
How can music help us to access theological realities to which words bear witness? How can the patterns of Western music provide us with a disarming but compelling way into the heart of the Gospel? How can the uncontainability of music point us to a transcendent God of love and grace? How can music expand our perceptions of what it is to be human and open up conversations of faith?In today’s show we are talking to Professor Jeremy Begbie. Jeremy is a Professor at Duke Divinity School, as well as being ordained in the Church of England, and a professionally trained musician. He writes extensively on the relationship between theology and the arts, with a particular focus on music. 
How did the murder of George Floyd confront us with the reality of racism and its impact? How does theology tell stories that recognise the intrinsic value of each human story? What is the concept of Afrofuturism and how might it help us think theologically about God's future? And how can we walk within a hope which is characterised by Black flourishing and not struggle?In today’s show we are talking to Right Reverend Lusa Nsenga-Ngoy, who is Bishop of Willesden. Bishop Lusa was previously Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Mission and Ministry Enabler in the Diocese of Leicester and was a member of the Church of England’s Anti-Racism Taskforce. 
How do we talk about contemporary worship in a way that describes what is actually going on in the Church today? How do we keep our worship faithful to our beliefs? How do we ensure worship includes both intimacy and awe? And why is worship about God coming to us rather than us working towards God? In today’s show we are talking to Revd Professor Maggi Dawn, who is a professor in the Department of Theology and Religion here in Durham. Maggi is a theologian, author, musician and priest, and has written extensively on liturgy, art and culture. 
What's it like to live in the constant anticipation of the end of time? How do communities which see time as short live out their faith and interpret the world around them? How does the study of communities such as the Plymouth Brethren or Jehovah's Witnesses help us think about mainstream Christian theology? And how might personally entering another religious culture inform and challenge our own faith?In today's show we are talking to Dr Joseph Webster. Joseph is an Assistant Professor in the Study of Religion at the University of Cambridge. His research combines theology and anthropology, and engages with big themes such as time, history and violence. 
Why should Christians be involved in politics? How can theology ask real world questions? What can we learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer about how theology and politics need to go together? What are the challenges of engaging in faith and politics in a social media context?   And how do prayer and worship help us to see the world around us differently? In today’s show we are talking with the Rt Revd Nick Baines. Nick is Bishop of Leeds, and an expert in public engagement at the intersection of faith and politics, drawing on his background in politics, government and leadership experience in the Church of England. 
What do the stories and laws of the Old Testament teach us about a God of justice? How does the incarnation of Jesus shape the way we see issues of justice and mercy today? How does the cross hold mercy and justice together? How can facing up to our own broken humanity help us imagine a world beyond judgement? And what do we do when we are confronted by injustice in the world around us? In today's show we are talking to the Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley. Isabelle is currently the Secretary for Ecumenism and Theology on the Church of England’s Council of Christian Unity and Theological Adviser for the House of Bishops. Her recently-published book Embracing Justice was selected as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book for 2022. 
What is loneliness and how does the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, talk about it?How does the Old Testament's description connect with what we've learned about loneliness in the last 20 years?Why does God care about lonely humans and what does God do about it?How can Christians learn to live well with loneliness, and how can we be good friends in a world where people are lonely?In today’s show  we are talking to Elizabeth Hare.  Lizzie is a pastoral tutor lecturer in the Old Testament here at Cranmer Hall.  She is passionate about the Hebrew Bible and her doctoral research investigated the subject of loneliness in the Hebrew Bible.  Lizzie’s current research interests include biblical lament and trauma-informed biblical hermeneutics.  
What are the different voices in Scripture across the Old and New Testaments on war and conflict?How can a war ever be just?  And why does the Just War tradition still matter today?How does the story of Anglicans living in a time of war provide a cautionary tale for the Church in todays world?How has the relative peace in Europe since World War II led to a functional pacifism in many churches?  And how does the current conflict in Ukraine challenge that view? In today’s show we are talking to Canon Professor Michael Snape. Michael is the inaugural Michael Ramsey Professor of Anglican Studies at Durham University, and an ecumenical lay canon at Durham Cathedral. He has written extensively on church history, religion and war. His forthcoming book A Church Militant: Anglicans and the Armed Forces from Queen Victoria to the Vietnam War will be published with Oxford University Press this July, based on the 2020 Hensley Henson Lectures. 
What does it mean to be a theologian, and how does it relate to the everyday faith of the Church? What is a wise theological response to the problem of evil? How can we approach suffering without denying it on the one hand, or sacralising it on the other? How might Julian of Norwich help us hold together our unanswered questions with hope for God's unimaginable future? What's wrong with thinking of the doctrine of the Trinity as a tool for solving practical problems, and what then is the doctrine of the Trinity for? How can an apophatic approach help theology know its limits? In today’s show we are talking to Karen Kilby. Karen is the Bede Professor of Catholic Theology at Durham University and is one of the world’s leading systematic theologians. She has written numerous books and articles on a wide range of topics including the Trinity, suffering, apophatic theology, and the major Catholic theologians Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar, as well as the medieval theologian Julian of Norwich. Her 2020 book God, Evil and the Limits of Theology was published with Bloomsbury and collects a number of seminal essays published over the last two decades. 
What does it mean to approach theology ‘feet-first’? Why should churches in the UK and the West more generally engage with global theologies, and what might they learn in the process?What are some ways in which the history of Christian mission is being complexified and re-storied? For instance, how have Dalit Christians been missionaries to the missionaries? And finally, how can learning about different contexts in the global church help reinvigorate the ways we work together for justice and peace? In today’s show we are talking to the Rev’d Dr Peniel Rajkumar.  Peniel is an Anglican priest and a theologian.  Last summer he was appointed as the Global Theologian at USPG and as an associate tutor at Ripon College, Cuddeston.  Prior to this he was Programme Coordinator for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation at the World Council of Churches. He has also held teaching positions at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey and the United Theological College in Bangalore, and has written extensively on Dalit theology, missiology and interfaith dialogue.  
How should we think about the place of experience in Christian discipleship, and in what ways can the doctrine of the Holy Spirit help us to approach it wisely? How might paying attention to the emotional and embodied dimension of Christian doctrine help us to retrieve the riches of theologians such as St Augustine and Martin Luther? What can academic theology and the wider church learn from Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity, and what's it got to do with play? How does scientific research on social cognition help us to get beyond the binary of individual vs collective salvation? And what does all of this mean for the plausibility and persuasiveness of Christian mission? In today’s show we are talking to Simeon Zahl. Simeon is the University Associate Professor in Christian Theology in the Divinity Faculty at the University of Cambridge. In recent years, Simeon’s research has focused on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the role of emotion and embodiment in Christian experience. His most recent book on The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience was published in 2020 with Oxford University Press. 
How do culture and belief affect the way different people see faith and science? How can faith and science work together for healing? How does the concept of a creative tension help us see faith and medicine as complementary? And how is scientific exploration discovering the footsteps of God? In today's show we are talking to the Right Reverend Dr Karowei Dorgu. Karowei is the Bishop of Woolwich in the Diocese of Southwark. Born and brought up in Nigeria, he trained as a medical doctor before training for ordination in the Church of England. This season of podcasts exploring science and faith is supported by @eclasproject Science in Seminaries.  For more information see
How might the study of astronomy shape the way we see the world and the way we see ourselves?  How might scientific endeavours be part of pursuing knowledge about God?  What role do questions pay in the work of science and faith?  What are the challenges and opportunities that scientists in churches encounter?  How does the perspective of space remind us of the beauty and fragility of our planet?In today’s show we are talking to Dr Althea Wilkinson. Althea was formerly project manager of the University of Manchester’s Square Kilometre Array Group, building the world’s largest radio telescope. She now works with the same project part time. She was formerly project manager on the UK low frequency instrumentation for Planck, the European Space Agency cosmology mission. She has previously been involved in science-faith communication with Scientists in Congregations and the God and the Big Bang project.This season of podcasts exploring science and faith is supported by @eclasproject Science in Seminaries.  For more information see
Is Artificial Intelligence just about robots in the future or technology in the present? What are the tensions between human flourishing and human fallibility in the development of AI? How do different world views and value systems affect the way AI is being developed and implemented? How can Christian perspectives on being human shape our approach to new technology? How can the Beatitudes speak to humans amidst the growth of AI technology?The Right Revd Dr Steven Croft is the Bishop of Oxford and a founding member of the UK Centre for Ethics and Innovation. He has served on the House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. His blog can be found here. This season of podcasts exploring science and faith is supported by @eclasproject Science in Seminaries.  For more information see
How might medieval history help us rethink contemporary assumptions about science?  How does being made in the image of God affirm our vocation to creativity?  How do poetry and science belong together?  How do contemplation and imagination contribute to scientific endeavour?  How can churches recognise science as God's good gift and not just an obstacle to be overcome?Our guest for this episode is Professor Tom McLeish.  Tom is a physicist, academic interdisciplinary leader, and writer. He is inaugural Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Department of Physics at the University of York, and is also affiliated to the University’s Centre for Medieval Studies and Humanities Research Centre.  As well as researching the properties of soft matter, Tom is interested in the theory of creativity in art and science, and has writing several books on the subject including The Poetry and Music of Science.  Tom is a Council Member for the Royal Society and has been awarded the Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his contribution to science and the dialogue of science and faith. 
Why is genomics one of the most exciting areas of scientific discovery today?  Where is God to be encountered in the study of the human genome?  What role do faith and doubt play in scientific exploration?  How do genomic discoveries invite us to worship a God who gives us room to change and grow?Our guest today is Praveen Sethupathy. Praveen is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Director of the Center for Vertebrate Genomics at Cornell University, where he directs a research lab focused on genomic approaches to understand human health and disease. He received his BA degree from Cornell University and his PhD in Genomics from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Human Genome Research Institute, he moved in 2011 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics. In 2017, he returned to Cornell University as an Associate Professor. Praveen has authored over 95 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals and has served as a reviewer for over 35 different journals. Alongside his career in genomic science, Praveen is a prominent speaker and advisor on the relationship between science, ethics and religion.This season of podcasts exploring science and faith is supported by @eclasproject Science in Seminaries.  For more information see
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