Monday, January 19, 2015

Anthony Thiselton's New AutoBiography: A Brief Review and Commendation

Anthony Thiselton
Anthony Thiselton, Emeritus Canon Professor of Christian Theology in the University of Nottingham, has penned a brief, yet remarkable autobiography, A Lifetime in the Church and the University (Cascade Books).

Thiselton's life story is fascinating and is marked by what he deems "the providence of  God" (i.e. the miraculous; italics original, 1; et passim), The book is also peppered by wisdom and a wry sense of humor.  In short, Thiselton's autobiography, a brief 114 pages, is a captivating and quick read, well worth the time spent.

On such example of the providence of God at work in Thisleton's life was when he was studying for his university London BD degree. Thiselton, who had poor eyesight from childhood on, was brought before a Church Selection Board, which would advise bishops if he was fit for ordination. Thiselton was informed that he failed his medical exam. The bishop said to him, "The specialist says that you will never be able to read enough books to exercise a useful parish ministry" (4). After Thiselton objected, noting that he passed both his Hebrew and Greek exams, and noted some of the books he read, the bishop decided to tear up the report of his medical exam.

One item from Thiselton's well of wisdom is where Thiselton discusses his forthcoming work Discovering Romans (SPCK/Eerdmans) and the viability of producing yet another book on Romans, an overcrowded field to be sure. Thiselton remarks:
As was the case in writing on 1 Corinthians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Rosemary (Thiselton's wife) wondered how I could hope to say anything genuinely new about Romans when so many had already worked on it as commentators, even in previous generations. The answer is easy. First, each new commentary assimilates what is best in others, and seeks to build on this. Second, it is easy to find neglected areas (112).
Thiselton goes on to add five new interpretive approaches he will be bringing to Paul's most famous letter.

As I mentioned above, Thiselton's story also includes humorous tidbits throughout. One such story was during his curacy in South East London (1960-1963). Thiselton notes that he accepted an invitation to preach in another parish on behalf of the Church Pastoral Aid Society. It was during this occasion that Thiselton received his worst comment regarding one of his sermons:

I had meant to explain the word pastoral, by trying to illustrate this from the Parable of the Good Shepherd and the Lost Sheep. I must have been an enormously bad communicator. For one lady commented at the door, 'Thank you so much. I have been waiting for years to hear a sermon about the need to be kind to animals; at last you have given it!' (17; italics original).
Many other such examples could be given regarding Thisleton's striking little book. I could not help but be inspired by his example after reading this; I suggest you do the same.

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