- Thou Who Art
It gives me great pleasure to see this book in print, the doctoral dissertation of John Robinson, known throughout the world for his best selling work Honest to God (1963). To mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of that book, I undertook a survey of Robinson's major works – on New Testament, theology and ethics (The Roots of Christian Freedom). Robinson had described himself as a biblical scholar who strayed into theology, an amateur attempting to come to terms with contemporary developments. However, when I read his doctoral dissertation I discovered that this was far from being the case. It is the work of a first class theological mind well acquainted with nineteenth and twentieth century philosophical and theological developments. As one of a handful of people who had read the doctoral dissertation I saw what had previously been obscured, that it formed the foundations and premises of his entire corpus of writings. For this reason it gives me great pleasure to see it in print and widely available for the first time. [End Page 284]
But perhaps this alone would not be a sufficient reason for publishing the dissertation. I am also glad to see it in print because, although completed sixty years ago this year, it marks a timely intervention into the theological scene today. There is a current fashion amongst some western theologians to return to the work of Thomas Aquinas, as if departing from Thomism in the nineteenth century mark a false turning. Robinson's dissertation develops a Personalist philosophical position which owes much to the Swedish historian E.G. Geijer, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, the German philosopher Martin Buber and the Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviev. The subtitle of the dissertation is 'The Concept of the Personality of God' and he applies the categories of Personalist philosophy to explore this mystery. The title of the dissertation, 'Thou Who Art', is a calculated rejection of the Thomistic work of Eric Mascall He Who Is. The categories of Thomism 'are not such as can do justice to the 'living' God of the Biblical revelation'. He goes on to reinterpret the traditional categories of the divine attributes and the doctrines of Christology and the Trinity in an exciting and refreshing way. Like all truly historic documents it also speaks to our situation today.