Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John’s College Durham

And in the Big News today from a Faith Perspective, I’ve been reading a book. Young characters in the book talk about St Augustine, which is brilliant. It just makes you feel brilliant, doesn’t it.

5 thoughts on “Rev Dr Dr Prof David Wilkinson, Principal of St John’s College Durham

  1. I dont really understand either the use of titles like Reverend Professor Doctor or so much enthusiasm for a Catholic theologian and an Irish writer towards a new generation of students clearly detached or estranged from both. Augustine was notoriously confused about sex and virtually invented the idea of original sin. Hardly a cause for celebration Reverend Doctor Professor or to enamour you to modern young people.


  2. In an interview with the Irish Times, Rooney talked about a character from her first novel. She said, “I’m not a supernatural person. I don’t believe in supernatural things, but I think there’s something in Christianity and its philosophy of radical self-sacrifice and radical love for others that is missing somewhere in Frances’s life.” This is the dilemma for us all, including Wilkinson’s new batch of freshers; in a hyper-capitalist society how do we understand what living a good life is all about.
    Unfortunately Wilkinson is stuck with his supernatural obsession and thinks that bringing them to Jesus is the most important.
    Rooney says, “We got rid of the Catholic Church and replaced it with predatory capitalism. In some ways that was a good trade off, and in other ways, really bad.”
    It’s no good throwing off a cloak of ignorance for one of greed and it’s accompanying guilt. We don’t need the supernatural Jesus, but many of the humanist messages in the Gospels were simply about ways of living well together in a society and we need to hear those on TFTD, not Wilkinson’s supernatural blather.


  3. A strange one, this. Wilkinson starts with his recently having welcomed students to the university – and that is the last we hear of them, apart from a tangential reference at the very end. We learn nothing of the views, concerns, hopes or fears of real young people; instead he goes straight to the fiction of Rooney’s novel. We are then in different territory altogether, as Wilkinson’s ‘thought’ turns into literary criticism. It is Rooney’s characters who reflect on religion and St Augustine; Wilkinson has no idea how these creations measure up to the new Durham students. To confuse the mix still further, we get a quote from Schiller. So, what was Wilkinson’s ‘faith perspective’? This amounted to no more than a brief encomium of how much he trusts Jesus, how brilliant Jesus is, and how much good the IMF does. No mention of all the bad things the IMF does, the cruel, confusing, conflicted and destructive things the IMF does.

    Perhaps Wilkinson should have stuck with the real people he mentioned at the start. I suspect, however, that he understands them less than he might think, and that if they encounter him again during their undergraduate years it would be in a science lecture, and not in a ‘faith’ context; the majority of young people today having a healthy disregard for or wariness of religion, and of its representatives.


  4. Wilkinson talks of our “broken” world. His IMF surely wants it this way because there’s nothing stopping it from doing whatever it likes to change or correct it.
    The problem with “broken” is that fostering such an attitude about our unavoidable human nature is harmful – religions excel at telling us such nonsense. We’d be far wiser to consider ourselves as we are, not what an IMF haplessly intended.


  5. Prof Wilkinson quotes Schiller (rather disapprovingly) – or, rather, he quotes one of Rooney’s characters quoting Schiller, which is not necessarily the same thing.

    In this country, Schiller is best-known for his poem “An die Freude”, which Beethoven set to music in the fourth movement of his 9th symphony. It is a life-affirming call to action for humanity: the message is basically “we’re in this together, and we can do it”.

    If Schiller did take the deist view that the IMF, having wound up the clockwork of the universe, then just sat and watched humanity suffer, then the most stimulating response is contained in the sentiments of “An die Freude” rather than in Wilkinson’s Jesus, a character in someone else’s novel, who as well as repeating a selection of Jewish wisdom teachings was made to say some rather less attractive things, most of which Christian apologists prefer to brush under the carpet.


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