Modern Believing


Modern Believing (2019), 60, (3), 269–310.


BOOK REVIEWS C. R. Baker and E. L. Graham, eds., Theology for Changing Times: John Atherton and the Future of Public Theology. London: SCM Press, 2018. Pp. xii, 192. Pb. £30. ISBN 978-0-334-05695-9. This is a timely tribute and discussion of John Atherton’s writings from a group of colleagues and admirers. It includes ten essays from leading voices in public and social theology, and an introduction and afterword from the volume’s editors Christopher Baker and Elaine Graham which provides helpful orientation. There is also a delightful preface from Atherton’s daughter Lesley that brings him back to life. My contact with Atherton was through the Northern Ordination Course which had its base in Manchester, the city in which he lived and worked for most of his life. I led a module on ‘Christian mission in global context’. Earlier sessions had focused on biblical and ecclesial foundations for mission; Atherton would arrive and immediately open the doors and windows of the lecture room, as it were, to the bracing economic, social and political currents and cross-currents apparent in Manchester and in wider Western society at the time. His delivery was quick-fire, jargon-rich, intense and full of his distinctive Lancastrian humour. The students, from a wide range of backgrounds, were quickly mesmerised: here was a voice grappling with the harsh uncertainties of post-Thatcher Britain in which globalisation was generating wealth and poverty in equal measure. Atherton showed how Christian thinking should and could engage with all this, and caught us all up in the involved debates about its practical implications. These essays pick up and continue this debate in a range of diverse and stimulating ways. They show how there was not one but two or possibly three distinct Athertonian perspectives: his first, in Christianity and the Market (SPCK, 1992), accepted the relative autonomy of economics and resisted the temptation to subordinate economic realities to Christian values. The second, in Transfiguring Capitalism Modern Believing 60.3 2019

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