Sublime in Content: The Theologian as Writer

Thomas Frame

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


Very few of the great theologians in Christian history have not also been capable writers. Most contemporary readers know of the ideas and insights of previous generations of theologians principally through their writings which have been preserved in some printed form. It is through writing that these theologians have extended their influence beyond their immediate audience and the times in which they lived. It is also true that those who think well usually write well while the process of writing usually assists to clarify thought. In this essay, I look at the ways in which the theologian's vocation is discharged through the discipline of writing and suggest that an important component of the modern theologian's 'skill set' is to write clearly and concisely. I would not go as far as saying that someone without a facility for writing cannot be a theologian but I contend that the value of creative theological thinking is dissipated rapidly by its communication in poorly devised prose. In the first part of the essay, I comment briefly on what I observe of the literary qualities of contemporary theological writing and the influence of substandard writing on the reading public. I also draw attention to what I believe is a looming crisis in Australian religious publishing: the extreme difficulty that theologians in this country are facing in striving to have their work published locally. This situation will have, I argue, a major bearing on this nation's small theological community and could deplete the quality and quantity of theological conversation in Australia. The final section of this essay comments on the published and unpublished work of Graeme Garrett, a theologian whose writing has been an extension of his vocation to teach the Christian faith and of incalculable benefit to students of theology and to those called to the ordained ministry of the Church.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmbracing Grace
Subtitle of host publicationThe Theologian's Task
EditorsHeather Thomson
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherBarton Books
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781921577000
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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