The School of Theology. Sewanee: The University of the South

The Rev. Dr. Robert MacSwain

Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Ethics

B.A., Liberty University , M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary , M.Th., University of Edinburgh , Post-Graduate Diploma in Anglican Studies, Virginia Theological Seminary , Ph.D., University of St. Andrews

The Rev. Dr. Robert MacSwain

A philosophy graduate of Liberty University (B.A., 1992), Rob MacSwain studied theology at Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1995) and the University of Edinburgh (M.Th., 1996).  His M.Th. thesis, supervised by Fergus Kerr OP, was on Martin Luther and St. Thomas Aquinas as readers of the Apostle Paul. After teaching religion at Brooks School in North Andover, MA, he entered the ordination process in the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina and completed his Clinical Pastoral Education at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. This was followed by a year of Anglican studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, and an internship as Research Assistant to Archbishop George Carey at Lambeth Palace.

Ordained by Archbishop Carey in Canterbury Cathedral, he then spent three years in parish ministry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Kinston, NC (Diocese of East Carolina). In 2004 he was awarded an Episcopal Church Foundation Fellowship and began doctoral studies in philosophical theology with Canon Professor David Brown at the University of Durham. In 2007 his supervisor moved to the University of St. Andrews, and so he completed his doctorate there (Ph.D., 2010). His dissertation focused on the religious epistemology of the Anglican theologian Austin Farrer (1904-1968). While still in Durham, he was appointed as the Ramsey Fellow and Chaplain of St. Chad’s College, and held this position from 2005 to 2008.  While in St. Andrews he served as an honorary assistant priest at All Saints’ Scottish Episcopal Church (Diocese of St. Andrews, Dunkeld, and Dunblane).

His teaching and research combine philosophy, theology, ethics, literature, and spirituality with a particular focus on how these five disciplines interact within the Anglican tradition. The author of several articles, book reviews, and poems, he has recently published Solved by Sacrifice: Austin Farrer, Fideism, and the Evidence of Faith.  He has also edited or co-edited five books: Grammar and Grace: Reformulations of Aquinas and Wittgenstein (with Jeffrey Stout), The Truth-Seeking Heart: Austin Farrer and His Writings (with Ann Loades), The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis (with Michael Ward), Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture: Responses to the Work of David Brown (with Taylor Worley), and Scripture, Metaphysics, and Poetry: Austin Farrer’s The Glass of Vision with Critical Commentary.

Books

Scripture, Metaphysics, and Poetry: Austin Farrer's the Glass of Vision With Critical Commentary (Ashgate Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts)
This book offers a critical edition of arguably the greatest work of English theology in the 20th century: Austin Farrer's Bampton Lectures published as The Glass of Vision in 1948. The lectures defend Farrer's famous theory of divine revelation through images rather than propositions or events, a provocative account of the place of metaphysical reasoning in theology, and a literary approach to the Biblical text that was decades ahead of its time and is still controversial. In addition to Farrer's full text, this critical edition also contains an introduction to the significance and context of his thought, and a selection of 30-years' worth of commentary by leading British and European theologians and literary scholars: David Brown, Ingolf Dalferth, Hans Haugh, Douglas Hedley, David Jasper, and Gerard Loughlin.

Solved by Sacrifice: Austin Farrer, Fideism and the Evidence of Faith
Austin Farrer (1904-1968), Warden of Keble College, Oxford, was a remarkably creative and significant figure in twentieth-century theology. MacSwain charts the development of Farrer's thinking on the proper relation between faith and reason from 1924 to 1968 and offers a reading of Farrer that resonates with contemporary religious epistemology and the growing focus on spiritual praxis. The final chapter considers Farrer's provocative claim that the logical paradoxes of religious belief are “solved by sacrifice” in the lives of those whom we recognize as “saints.”

Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture: Responses to the Work of David Brown
This volume is the first attempt to assess the significance of Brown’s remarkable series, and its contributors include some of the most prominent philosophers, theologians, biblical and literary scholars writing today. Aside from its distinguished interdisciplinary line-up, a distinctive feature is sustained consideration of Brown's work on popular culture. It thus provides an exciting and substantial treatment of theology, aesthetics, and culture.

The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis
In this volume, co-editors MacSwain and Ward have assembled an array of top Lewis scholars and other noted intellectuals to assess Lewis's talents and contributions as a poet, classicist, literary theorist, novelist, children's author, memoirist, literary historian, and popular theologian.

The Truth Seeking Heart: Austin Farrer and His Writings
The editors, Loades and MacSwain, let Farrer's "voice" be heard; rather than short samples from Farrer's many works, lengthy selections from larger pieces are placed side-by-side with a number of complete, shorter works — 29 in all.

Grammar and Grace: Reformulations of Aquinas and Wittgenstein
This is a collection of essays on Aquinas and Wittgenstein. It is inspired by, and dedicated to the memory of Victor Preller, whose interpretations of these figures helped to prepare the ground for recent discussions of religious language, knowledge of God, the role of grace in human life, and the ethical significance of virtue.

Other Publications

The Imaginative Legacy of Austin Farrer

"Scripture in the Toolshed": A Report from North America in Clare Amos (ed.), The Bible in the Life of the Church

"The Gifts of God for the People of God": Some Thoughts on Baptism and Eucharist, Sewanee Theological Review 56:1, Christmas 2012

Videos

Creation, Evolution and God Conference: Purpose and Providence — Where Is It All Headed and Does God Care?


MacSwain CV

Email: rcmacswa@sewanee.edu