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The Culture of Theology

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This outstanding work offers a short account of the nature of Christian theology. In a series of six lectures, John Webster explores the privilege of thinking and speaking of God in light of "the staggering good news of Jesus Christ." How might faith approach that task? Webster proposes that we do theology well when we recognize the gospel as the most important reality. He considers the significance of church, Bible, and tradition as foundational to the unique "cultural world" the gospel brings into being, and he explores the challenges as well as the joys of inhabiting that sphere. Theology has particular responsibilities: in its academic conversations, in its self-criticism, and in its spiritual and moral life; at the heart of its calling lies prayer. Webster's exposition, here available in book form for the first time, is accompanied by an introduction by his close colleague, Ivor J. Davidson, who was involved in the original lecture series and discussed the material extensively with him.

Introduction     Ivor J. Davidson
1. Culture: The Shape of Theological Practice
2. Texts: Scripture, Reading, and the Rhetoric of Theology
3. Traditions: Theology and the Public Covenant
4. Conversations: Engaging Difference
5. Criticism: Revelation and Disturbance
6. Habits: Cultivating the Theologian's Soul


"This volume provides the reader with a wonderful and welcome chance to reflect with John Webster on the task of theology--its methods, sources, contexts, purpose, and character. The lectures presented here are redolent with the freshness, insight, and wisdom that characterize the finest theological inquiry. They leave one inspired and encouraged, yet also gloriously unsettled by the vocation of theology and its demands. Complete with an illuminating introduction by Ivor Davidson, this work comes highly recommended."

Paul Nimmo, King's Chair of Systematic Theology, University of Aberdeen

"Why did a theologian as God-centered as John Webster constantly ruminate on theology's culture, theology's tasks, Christian tradition, university faculties, and so forth? He did so in order to meet his hearers in the midst of their (our) theologically scandalous loss of interest in God and Christ and to call out: God is summoning you, the eschaton (Christ himself) has broken in among you, Scripture is speaking Christ's Word to you in the Spirit! When Christ is recognized for who he is, theology can rediscover itself for what it is: a joyful response to the risen Lord. Let theologians be Christians and thereby really have something to say to one another, to the university, and to the wider world."

Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"This book is vintage John Webster--a stringent but also generous summons to let theology be about nothing less than God. It is the best account of what it means to be a theologian existentially since Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology. I hope it will find a wide readership in both the church and the academy."

Joseph Mangina, Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology

"How wonderful to have Webster's Culture of Theology edited and made available to a new generation of readers in this fine book. I count myself fortunate to have had the challenge in these chapters--to strive to think of theology, its methods, aims, and practices, theologically--put to me during my student days and to have been compelled to wrestle continuously with the possibilities and perils of doing theology in the eschatological space created by 'the staggering good news of Jesus Christ.' This book stands as a winsome invitation to others to do the same."

Philip G. Ziegler, University of Aberdeen

"The Culture of Theology encapsulates John Webster's thinking about the task of theology at a crucial stage in his own theological development, orienting the study of theology around the living address of the gospel's God and toward the communities, conversations, and character requisite to theology's flourishing. In addition, this book exhibits many of the virtues it commends: reverent wonder before theology's divine subject matter, humble attention to the divine Word, deference to the wisdom of the communion of saints, and critical dialogue with the various conversation partners and settings of theology. For this reason The Culture of Theology is a welcome guide in the cultivation of theological understanding."

Scott R. Swain, president and James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

The Authors

  1. John Webster

    John Webster

    John Webster (1955-2016; PhD, University of Cambridge), one of the world's most significant systematic theologians, was latterly Professor of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2005. He...

    Continue reading about John Webster

  2. Ivor J. Davidson

    Ivor J. Davidson

    Ivor J. Davidson (PhD, University of Glasgow) is Honorary Research Professor in Divinity at King's College, University of Aberdeen. He previously held chairs in systematic and historical theology at the University of Otago and the University of...

    Continue reading about Ivor J. Davidson

  3. Alden C. McCray

    Alden C. McCray

    Alden C. McCray (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is Assistant Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Grove City College.

    Continue reading about Alden C. McCray


"One of the most enjoyable aspects of this work is that it provides readers with a holistic introduction to Webster on his own terms. This is wonderfully supplemented by Ivor Davidson's thorough introduction. . . . Webster was not only an academic theologian, but also, if I may put it thus, a churchly one. The Culture of Theology is so welcome an addition to Webster's oeuvre precisely because it shows so well Webster's concern that theology should not forget its role in the life of the Church and of the individual believer."

Erik Eklund,


"A courageously and richly descriptive and prescriptive reflective statement for the discipline of Christian theology. . . . Webster's proposal succeeds in terms of the Gospel's eschatological nature and task of Christian theology--namely, receiving its appointment and calling from the staggering good news of Jesus Christ."

David A. Escobar Arcay,

Reading Religion

"The Culture of Theology is an elegant and joyful--and at times feisty--summons to 'theological theology.' . . . For evangelicals, The Culture of Theology perhaps best reads as a gentle and timely provocation. . . . Do we really want a theological theology--a pursuit of God for his own sake through patient and attentive hearing of his Word-- or do we have time for it only insofar as it helps us stake out some territory? Webster's challenge here is timely, because he asks if we really have been overwhelmed by the gospel and the lordship of Christ enough to let that set our agenda. This is a challenge well worth hearing, and hearing again."

Tyler Wittman,

The Gospel Coalition

"Students familiar with Webster's work have come to expect a God entrenched vision for the theological task that both convicts and instructs. In this way, The Culture of Theology fits right in with the remainder of the Websterian corpus. . . . In these six lectures, John Webster offers a treasure trove of theological perspective. The Culture of Theology affords readers an eschatologically informed, ecclesially rooted, textually reasoned, piety cultivating, and uniquely Christian view of the person and work of a theologian. Although brief, there is much in these six lectures for the student of theology to sit under and receive."

Ronni Kurtz,

Credo magazine