Limits of Understanding

Lord Williams – formerly Archbishop Rowan Williams, has been delivering the Gifford Lectures this week at New College in the University of Edinburgh. The subject is ‘Making Representqtions: religious faith and the habits of language’. I was there on Tuesday evening to hear ‘Extreme Language: discovery under pressure’

I sit there and wonder. This must be one of the greatest minds of our age. Extraordinarily widely-read in poetry, philosophy, theology, spirituality, the world of literature, he appears to have instant recall of everything. I understand that we are in the area of both the limits of language and the ability of language at and beyond its limits to be the bearer of more than itself. But I am lost! Others are not and are able to frame appropriate and complex question in response. So I recognise that this is a discourse so far beyond or other than what I normally deal with that I would have to learn it.

It was a remarkable and enriching evening – as was the very worthwhile making of connections between church and academy which took place afterwards We could do more of that.


  1. We are indeed fortunate to have people like Rowan Williams to stretch us. We are equally fortunate to have people like his wife Jane who, as well as being a theologian, has the gift of being able to share her thoughts in a way that makes sense to the average person in the pew. She lectures at St Paul’s theological centre (part of HTB) and they make her teaching widely available for use by church groups on DVD. A resource which may well be useful to the diocese as we think about Christian education.

  2. He was outstanding during his sadly all-too-brief appearance at the Edinburgh Diocesan Clergy Conference two weeks ago, too.

  3. Rowan came on to St Andrews on Friday for a splendid paper on Jesus in fiction, wonderfully clear though periodically sounding vast depths!

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