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Making sense of Rowan Williams
on April 24, 2012
Ben Myers renders clear the obscure. Rowan Williams is a complex and, for many, a confusing modern theologian. Add to that the fact that he has for the last decade or so been embroiled in controversy over contentious issues in the Anglican communion. Myers offers a deep and sympathetic, but also critical, reading of Williams' theology.
Myers lays bare the intellectual and spiritual roots of Williams' theology. Specifically, he shows the way in which William's thought has been shaped by sustained engagements with Wittgenstein, MacKinnon, Augustine, Russian Orthodox theology, Freud, Gillian Rose's Hegelianism, and various forms of ascetic practice. This provides an interpretive framework for understanding Williams' sometimes difficult writings, and illuminates the theological background to some of his more controversial decisions (e.g., his positions on Sharia law and homosexuality, respectively).
The book is not heavy-handed or polemical. Myers often lets Williams' positions speak for themselves. This charitable approach makes this an ideal book for readers sympathetic or critical to Williams. If one is already positively disposed towards Williams, this book will be eminently helpful in showing the way his thought has been formed over the decades. The reader with sharp disagreements will discover where the disagreement truly originates.
While Myers seems sympathetic towards much of Williams' thought, this does not turn the book into iconography. Myers demonstrates a patient and loving listening to the thought of Williams. While the book is not without celebrations and criticisms, for the most part the reader is left to make up her own mind with regard to the legitimacy and import of Williams' thought.
The charitable approach taken in the book is combined with a lovely writing style that is colourful and concise. The book makes a compelling case in the space of 132 pages, and does so as a real "page-turner". This is a rare feat, especially for a theological book. As such it is a wonderful example of theological writing.