A Theologian You Need to Meet

Stanley Hauerwas calls him the “premier pastoral theologian of our time.” I first encountered him three years ago when I picked up his book on engaging the problem of evil. Since then, I have been trying to get my hands on everything he has written and I have not been disappointed yet. His theology is practical, relevant, and understandable. He pushes gospel truth into areas where theology desperately needs to have a voice. His name is John Swinton. He holds a Bachelor of Divinity and a PhD from Aberdeen. He is also a Registered Mental Nurse (RMN) and a Registered  Nurse for People with Learning Disabilities (RNMD). He currently holds a chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen. Here is an excerpt he wrote about himself.

The foundation for much of my research and teaching has emerged from my background in nursing, ministry and healthcare chaplaincy. I worked as a nurse for sixteen years initially within the field of mental health and latterly within the area of learning disabilities. I also worked for a number of years as a hospital chaplain, latterly as a community mental health chaplain. It was whilst working in these fields that I began to gain a passion for developing modes of care that are genuinely person centred and which take seriously the significance of theology, spirituality and religion within the processes of healing, healing and community building.

I am an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland with a strong commitment to supporting the work of the church. I am member of Aberdeen Presbytery and currently secretary of Christ’s College, which is responsible for the welfare and education of candidates for the ministry of the Church of Scotland.

I have a particular interest in multidisciplinary education and research. At present I teach cross-college courses in the schools of nursing and medicine at the University of Aberdeen. For a number of years I have taught an interdisciplinary course on spirituality and health that involves nursing students, medical students and students from the Arts and Theology. To my knowledge there is no other course like this in the UK. I also teach on spirituality and healthcare to nurses and occupational therapists at Robert Gordon’s University in Aberdeen.

I also engage in cross-college interdisciplinary research. An example of this would be our ongoing collaborative research with Professor Steve Heys who heads up the Breast Cancer Unit at Forresterhill Hospital in Aberdeen. We are working on a number of projects exploring the relationship between spirituality and women’s experiences of breast cancer.

My research profile is similarly multidisciplinary in its emphasis, and I have published extensively within the area of practical theology, pastoral care, mental health studies, disability theology and nursing.

I am honorary professor of nursing in the Centre for Advanced Studies in Nursing at the University of Aberdeen where I teach the role of the humanities and healthcare, nursing ethics and qualitative research. I supervise PhD students in nursing studies within a variety of areas. I continue to research and publish in the areas of nursing and medicine.

As you can see, his background and interests are quite unique for a theologian. This is precisely what is drawing about him. He addresses issues that are rarely discussed in Christian circles. He pushes the boundaries of his theology into areas that seem untouched by the influence of the church. He works out his theology in such a way that it is meaningful for all facets of life—even very foreign and challenging areas. Good theology always collides with reality. Swinton seems to live by this principle. Here are a few of the books he has written.

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