Saturday, April 25, 2009

King's College London Studies

King's College London has offered me a place in the MPhil/PhD programme of its Department of Education & Professional Studies in the School of Social Sciences & Public Policy. My supervisor would be Alister McGrath.

McGrath is everywhere right now. He's a scientist who converted from atheism to Christianity a ways back and who is now probably most famous for his debates with Richard Dawkins, but before that I knew him more from his books on the Reformation and introductory theology.

Of more interest to my studies at King's, however, would be his recent work in regard to natural theology (basically: the study of God from nature). In the last year he was the featured speaker at this year's Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology and published The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology. I haven't had a chance to read the transcripts of the lectures, but the book, I thought, was very good. In fact, even though McGrath didn't refer to Chesterton at all in his book, I saw good ol' GKC on almost every page.

Which would bode well for the research I'd be doing under McGrath's supervision. Here's a snippet from my research proposal: "G.K. Chesterton’s conversion to faith and subsequent apologia suggest that reason and imagination carried him a long way toward Christianity and played a large part in his defense of church and creed. The primary question I wish to research is: To what extent and how did G.K. Chesterton employ natural theology in Christian apologetics?"

Quite frankly, this is an incredible opportunity for me, academically speaking. Besides the fact that I'd be doing a PhD on Chesterton, it scratches some of the other key intellectual places I itch. I think a lot about the intersection of theology and philosophy and it would be something to have these different parts of me converge in one university setting, and it would be interesting to see where it led from there.

But at the end of the day there is more to this decision than just academics. We have to do what we can afford, and we want to do what's best for us as a family. Besides, if I go to one of the Scottish schools and study Karl Barth its not like I'll be out of my element. If anything could drag me away from Chesterton it would be Barth and the doctrine of reconciliation for the church. It just may well be time for me to diversify anyway. I'll probably still try to write on Chesterton in the future regardless of whether I get to do a PhD on him.

So there you have it. Those are the options and opportunities that lay before us and await our decision. I'm overwhelmed and grateful to have such a wonderful problem. Much has happened over the past few years to bring us around to this potential eventuality. Who knows, we may not make it. But a year ago we realized we had to try or we'd regret it. I am thankful to those who've affirmed and helped shape this vision in our lives. I am deeply thankful to my wife for her adventuresome and supportive spirit. If it happens, it happens! We hope and pray for God's guidance and provision.


joel said...

Impressive Jon. Although I didn’t enjoy his book response to Dawkins, McGrath is intelligent. I think you should side with him.

Money sucks, and you will do well wherever, but I hope its McGrath.

I will come and visit you there and we can debate over beer in merry old England.

ErinOrtlund said...

Oh, McGrath! I've read several things he's written--wow you have a lot of great options here!

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

All 3 places seem like they've got something going for them.

Alister McGrath, eh!? I've never read him. Poor guy, all I remember of him was seeing a video on youtube of him debating Dawkins -where I thought McGrath performed quite badly.

jon said...

Thanks to everyone for the input and support.

I've particularly appreciated Erin and Amy showing up here to give some advice.

I feel incredibly grateful to have such a decision to make.

McGrath did "badly"? I've seen a few clips of their debates, and some were better than others, but badly? I don't know. Oh well, that's another can of worms.

jon said...

joel: yeah: come visit!

Pete Rooke said...

I don't think McGrath did poorly in the debates. He does seem to be unfailingly polite (phrases like "what I think I would like to say...") and isn't quite as abrasive as some of his debating partners.

As to the university, London is a very expensive place to live (and the UK in general) but King's College London probably has the best reputation of all the universities you listed for what it matters. Plus Alister McGrath is a very well known.