Most days involve study, teaching, and some
work on the smallholding. As a Christian, and a member of the Iona
community, I try to account for my use of time, my use of money,
and my use of carbon, in a responsible way.
My first wife died of cancer in 2004, and I
remarried after four years. Between us we have five children who
are all independent now - though a lot of their stuff is here.
We have 15 acres, and we keep Jacob sheep,
bees, and chickens, and we grow vegetables and fruit.
Since 1998, I've taught systematic theology and
medieval and Reformation theology: Anselm to Pascal; and then lots
of optional modules in applied stuff, mainly about the built
environment, planning, how we ought to build houses.
My interest in farming arose out of that other
work. I've met all kinds of interesting people. I take my
students to towns, cities, and villages, and we walk about, talk to
planners, find a church, café, or pub, and reflect on what we've
I also teach courses on art: Western secular
art, from 1500 to the present. These are ways of training students
to think about God outside the usual framework of scripture and the
In art, a still life is a profound commentary
on the world, recognised as such from the beginning: a doctrine of
creation. The same for portraits, landscapes, abstracts. An
enormous amount can be learnt from artists.
I retire at Christmas; but I've got lots more
writing to do. And I might teach a module on food, faith, and
farming. . . I probably won't stop teaching straight away.
My wife and I are actively seeking for people who might
be interested in farming together and worshipping together
- separate places to live, but who will work together, pray
together. It will have to have a library. We're members of the UK
branch of Via Campesina, and involved in Colin Tudge's campaign for
an enlightened agriculture (Interview, 19
July). We believe that the world will not be fed by more
mechanisation, or by GM, but by good husbandry.
I'm also involved in the Transition Town
movement. It's a social movement with more than 300 groups
across the UK, now spread throughout the rest of the world. It
seeks to get citizens together to find ways of responding to peak
oil, and climate-change. This involves working on different
patterns of democracy, economics, transport, house-building, food
growing - the lot.
The earth is my favourite place.
I taught in India for seven years. People in
this country have a Jewel in the Crown view of India, but
the reality is a lot of poverty and a great deal of oppression, one
way and another. How does one understand that?
The Tamil Nadu Seminary was very committed to liberation
theology, and I had several colleagues who were Marxists.
I was a committed Socialist, but they gave me the impetus to start
reading Marx intensively.
I've been very influenced by Alan Ecclestone and Karl
Barth. To the extent I have an academic speciality, it
would be Barth. Bas Wielenga was part of the group of theologians I
met in India who encouraged me to read Marx, and Ton Veerkamp is a
Dutch biblical scholar who lives in Berlin, part of a group of
left-wing Barthians. He runs a wonderful website, Texte und
Kontexte, which is illuminating in studies of scripture.
As Christians, we have to understand the world in which
we live, and we need tools of social, political, and
economic analysis not provided by scripture or traditions. Aquinas
turned to Aristotle to understand the world, and we turn to all
kinds of tools, which happen to include Marx.
The world system is capitalist; so attempts
like Marx's are important. But things have moved on. He was trying
to analyse industrial capital, and now we have financial capital.
Still, the effort he made was extraordinary, and it's marked all
world thinking to this day.
I've just finished a book by a German genius, Karl-Heinz
Brodbeck, Die Herrschaft des Geldes - alas,
untranslated as yet. I talk to clergy quite a lot, running CME days
and so on, and I'm often asked about economics and money. One uses
thinkers like Brodbeck to help understand what's going on.
The key problem today is climate-change, and
the indicators are extremely alarming. The Economics Foundation
said in 2008 that we had 100 months to take action to avoid runaway
climate-change. In five years we've done absolutely nothing.
George Osborne's latest Budget statement is committed to
growth: more roads, another runway, HS2 - all things that
drive climate change - and he's not an exception. It looks as if
there's no political will to do anything. It's very worrying.
Climate change is an issue primarily of
idolatry, in that it is driven by an economic system which
has no telos but more of the same, and no concept of
"enough". I'm one of the theological consultants of Operation Noah,
whose Ash Wednesday Declaration was signed by Rowan Williams and
the heads of all the British Churches last year. It's a call to
Christians to recognise the urgency, and act; but the Church is
always part of society, and ours is a hedonist society.
Eli Wiesel says the problem with human beings is
indifference. I think it is just that the outcome to most
people is inconceivable. I was talking to a group of social workers
the other day, who were desperately asking how we can get jobs for
people. I quite understand that their horizon is economic growth at
any price. Others are doing very nicely, thank you, with two
foreign holidays a year.
But if nothing happens, there will be colossal
famine, and appalling suffering and death, because the
food supply will dry up. It can't be addressed by GM and that kind
of nonsense - it depends on adequate rainfall and good
I don't expect to be remembered except by my
I read the Bible as a whole.
I listen to Bach most days. I suppose the piece
I most often listen to is the Double Violin Concerto, in the
recording by Andrew Manze and Rachel Podger.
What makes me angry? The last news
I'm happiest when I'm watching good
If I was locked in a church, I'd choose to be
with my Captain of Bells (I'm a bell-ringer). He'd find a way
Professor Gorringe was talking to Terence Handley