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Grace, Disruption and Stability:
The Christian Life in the Theologies of
Rowan Williams and Oliver O’Donovan

COLEMAN, BENJAMIN,CHARLES (2022) Grace, Disruption and Stability:
The Christian Life in the Theologies of
Rowan Williams and Oliver O’Donovan.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores the character of the Christian life in the writings of the contemporary
Anglican theologians Rowan Williams and Oliver O’Donovan. I display a set of theological
contrasts that arise from their respective accounts of creation and Christology, which are
amplified in their understandings of the affective shape of the Christian life. I argue that the
most constructive response to these differences is not to be found at the level of theological
synthesis. Indeed, I argue for a certain kind of theological irresolution in response to these
themes. When taken together, these thinkers’ works display a set of dissonant, yet equally
necessary aspects of the Christian vision which are fruitful for wise Christian living.

The dominant motif of Williams’ writings is the disruptive character of God’s transforming
work in human lives, as each person grows into conformity with the crucified and risen
Christ. In his vision, the Christian life involves a journey of being drawn by the Spirit into the
endless abundance of God. It is a life marked by continual repentance and renewal, and
learning to see Christ in new ways at the centre of all things. O’Donovan’s account of the
Christian gospel focusses on the centrality of creation as a stable order, assured and restored
through Christ’s resurrection. The Christian life entails seeking and joyously finding oneself
within this good order of God’s making and redeeming. The gospel offers an assured place to
survey one’s life, and a stable foundation from which to live well. I argue that these thinker’s
works, when taken together, can nourish an account of Christian wisdom and discernment
which brings to the foreground, in different ways and at different times, the disruptive and
stabilising aspects of the Christian gospel, for the sake of faithful and flourishing Christian

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Rowan Williams, Oliver O'Donovan, grace, Christian life, creation, salvation, learning.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Jun 2022 11:25

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