December 2008

Speaking of great generals dying on the battlefield as opposed to Epicurus’ death, Cicero writes:

A great commander’s death is famous; but philosophers mostly die in their beds. De Finibus 2.97

The UK government’s most recent analysis of university departments has just been announced.  It’s called the RAE (Research Assessment Excercise), and as its title hints it focuses primarily on research over teaching.  See here for the Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies criteria of evaluation.  Each staff member is expected to have 4 outputs [paragraph 21], which are things like journal articles, books, etc. [paragraph 16].  The rating on the quality of the outputs counts 80% towards the total score, as well as research environment (15%) and research esteem (5%).  The research environment captures a) research students and studentships earned, b) research income, c) research structure, d) staffing policy, and e) research strategy.  Each aspect is ranked on a scale of 4 (world-leading) to unclassified (falls below standard of nationally recognised work). 

Durham topped the list of universities for Theology and Religion over perennials like Oxbridge, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen in two ways: 1) it has the highest average score and 2) it has the highest percentage of 4-ranked research activities.  I may be biased, but I’d say I’m not surprised that Durham is at (or near) the top.  However, you’ll notice quite a few universities bunched near the top, so Durham’s lead doesn’t put them in a class of their own.   Though, this is just one more reason to go with Durham.

This could help Durham’s reputation outside the UK.  I can say that I didn’t really know anything about the university until I started looking for UK programs.  But they’ve got quite a history of scholars that many don’t associate with the university.  Another, more tangible benefit is the government funding that is associated with RAE results.


With the expense of tuition for international students in the UK student debt is one of the most common ways of funding the UK PhD.  I got an email from a friend that might give a little extra comfort with regard to this for US students with US loans…

I wanted to share a new program being launched next year in July 2009, the Project of Student Debt. This program will allow forgiveness of student loans after 10 years of working in public service or education. Also classified under this umbrella would be anyone working for a 501(c)3 charity, ministry, or school. Check out this link to see if you could qualify or tell others about it. This program will be retro-active as well. Another benefit is that over a certain amount of debt, you would be charged a percentage of your monthly income (this is called “income sensitive”) instead of the regular scheduled amount.

So from what I read, if you teach at a university, among other jobs, you should qualify.  Check out more details here: Project on Student Debt and here

Just to clarify from my earlier post that the Overseas Research Scholarship scheme was scrapped…It still is, but not immediately as the article mentioned.  We got clarification from Loren Stuckenbruck that people applying to programs for Autumn 2009 can still get it for 3 years.  So this year’s the time to apply.

As usual, Phil has offered up a great summary of the past month’s patristic productions over at Hyperekperissou: Patristics Carnival XVIII.  I noticed Durham’s own Kevin Hill of Courting the Mystery made it on there.

I found Greg Boyd’s comments on the Chalcedonian Creed very interesting: Hellenistic Philosophy and the Problem of Chalcedon. While I’m not sure about the conclusions he draws, the primary point that we should begin our thinking about God from the incarnation rather than from hellenistic philosophy does make one think. That is, our starting point from the incarnation would show us that there is no conflict between humanity and divinity. However, what about the issue of created and uncreated. I don’t think that’s a ‘hellenistic philosophy’ only distinction. I don’t think the father’s were ‘creating’ a problem. They were responding to ones from several directions.  But I think Boyd’s fundamental point that Christ is the greatest and most determinative revelation of who God is is the right way to think about the discussion.

Wednesday 9th – Friday 11th September, 2009


We are inviting all those engaged in the research and study of early and late antique Christianity to this conference. Our aim is to acknowledge the wide variety of institutional contexts and inter- disciplinary research cultures, trajectories, questions and approaches, encompassing the history, literature, theology, practice, and material culture of the early Church, including questions of the relationship between Early Christianity and other religions, philosophies and social contexts both within the Roman Empire and across borders.

The conference programme will provide opportunities for research presentation and discussion and will encourage communication and potential collaboration between participants.

The four keynote speakers are Frances Young (Birmingham), Stephen Mitchell (Exeter), Thomas Graumann (Cambridge), and Carol Harrison (Durham).

Researchers are now invited to respond to a call for papers of about 20 minutes in length, followed by discussion time. Please provide the following information by 15th January 2009, to Allen Brent, or by hard-copy to Faculty of Divinity, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9BS.

1. Your name and affiliation (if any),
2. Paper Title,
3. Abstract of approximately 100-150 words,
4. Brief statement of your current recent research and writing if

We would expect to give notice of acceptances by the end of February, 2009. There will also be Workshops for Graduate students, grouped into areas of shared interests. Students are invited to indicate their area of interest and whether they would be prepared to make a brief, five- minute presentation of their work. The closing date for such offers is 1st May.

We look forward to hearing from you for what is looking like a very well subscribed conference with some very important contributions from researchers in our fields of study.

Allen Brent
Thomas Graumann
Judith Lieu

Faculty of Divinity
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9BS

I was recently made aware of, a website which, oddly enough, follows its name and focuses on things patristic from the 4th century.  It’s supervised by Glen Thompson at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. 

I poked around a bit, and it has quite a few good links to other sites and also has a nice list of relevant texts and translations from the 4th c., in addition to other items.  In particular, they list the details of texts based on the CPG/L (Clavis Patrum Graecorum/Latinorum), which makes it handy to track down futher information quickly.  Most of the fathers listed don’t have futher links, but I can tell that this site will be quite handy as it continues to detail information over time.

I just had to steal this from my wife’s blog:

Here in England there is no phone number rhythm…it drives me crazy. I mean, in the US it is always (972) xxx.xxxx. Here it could be (o191) xxx xxxx or 0191x xx xx xx or 0191x xxx xxx or (0191) xxxx xxx, etc. Honestly, could there be any more choices?

So, when I saw this…it made me laugh hysterically.