Talking Theology

Philip Plyming

The podcast of Cranmer Hall, the theological college within St John's College, Durham University. We explore life’s big questions, and look to join the dots between theology, church, and the world. Philip Plyming, Warden of Cranmer Hall, is joined by a wide range of guests with a wealth of knowledge and experience.

All Episodes

How might medieval history help us rethink contemporary assumptions about science?  How does being made in the image of God affirm our vocation to creativity?  How do poetry and science belong together?  How do contemplation and imagination contribute to scientific endeavour?  How can churches recognise science as God's good gift and not just an obstacle to be overcome?Our guest for this episode is Professor Tom McLeish.  Tom is a physicist, academic interdisciplinary leader, and writer. He is inaugural Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Department of Physics at the University of York, and is also affiliated to the University’s Centre for Medieval Studies and Humanities Research Centre.  As well as researching the properties of soft matter, Tom is interested in the theory of creativity in art and science, and has writing several books on the subject including The Poetry and Music of Science.  Tom is a Council Member for the Royal Society and has been awarded the Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his contribution to science and the dialogue of science and faith. 

Dec 6

32 min 20 sec

Why is genomics one of the most exciting areas of scientific discovery today?  Where is God to be encountered in the study of the human genome?  What role do faith and doubt play in scientific exploration?  How do genomic discoveries invite us to worship a God who gives us room to change and grow?Our guest today is Praveen Sethupathy. Praveen is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Director of the Center for Vertebrate Genomics at Cornell University, where he directs a research lab focused on genomic approaches to understand human health and disease. He received his BA degree from Cornell University and his PhD in Genomics from the University of Pennsylvania. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Human Genome Research Institute, he moved in 2011 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics. In 2017, he returned to Cornell University as an Associate Professor. Praveen has authored over 95 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals and has served as a reviewer for over 35 different journals. Alongside his career in genomic science, Praveen is a prominent speaker and advisor on the relationship between science, ethics and religion.This season of podcasts exploring science and faith is supported by @eclasproject Science in Seminaries.  For more information see

Nov 22

32 min 18 sec

How do science and theology come together to transform the way we look at the world? How has the philosophy of science affected the way we think about miracles, in the Bible and today? How might studying history be a bridge between science and faith? And why do we need both science and theology to explore life's biggest questions? Mark Harris is Professor of Natural Science and Theology at the University of Edinburgh, where he directs the Science and Religion Programme. Prior to his ordination as an Anglican priest, he worked as an experimental physicist. He leads the Theology of the Quantum World Project and the God and the Book of Nature Research Network.This season of podcasts exploring science and faith is supported by @eclasproject Science in Seminaries.  For more information see

Nov 8

31 min 54 sec

Does suffering belong to a good creation, or is it just a result of the fall?  How does evolution challenge traditional understandings of the presence of suffering in out world?  What does God's power and love look like in a world of pain?  In a world facing ecological catastrophe, where might hope be found?  How does the way we understand suffering affect the way we experience hard times, for ourselves and for others?Dr Bethany Sollereder is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Science and Religion at the Laudato Si’ Research Institute at Campion Hall and the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at the University of Oxford. She has written numerous articles in academic and popular forums, as well as the book God, Evolution and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall (Routledge 2018). Her new book Why is There Suffering? Pick Your Own Theological Expedition will be published with Zondervan in November 2021.This season of podcasts exploring science and faith is supported by @eclasproject Science in Seminaries.  For more information see

Oct 24

36 min

What does studying human behaviour have to offer the dialogue between science and faith? What might religious perspectives have to offer studies in human behaviour? How does the fear of death affect belief? And what can theology learn from the self-critical mode of psychological study?The Revd Dr Jonathan Jong is a Research Fellow at Coventry University where he is Deputy Director of the Brain, Belief and Behaviour group. He is Senior Researcher at the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford. Jonathan is also an Anglican priest and serves as part-time Rector of Cocking with West Lavington, Bepton and Heyshott. For more details about his work, see here. This season of the podcast explores science and faith and is supported by the Equipping Leadership in an Age of Science project. For more information see

Oct 10

28 min 39 sec

What do people mean when they talk about science and religion, and why do those assumptions matter? Where does the science and religion conflict myth come from and how is it perpetuated today? How does exploring our humanity help us navigate the significance of science and faith? And why do the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus matter for our approach to science and faith?Dr Nick Spencer is Senior Fellow at Theos Think Tank, where he leads their work on Science and Religion. He is the author of several books, including The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable and The Evolution of the West. He presented the BBC Radio 4 series ‘The Secret History of Science and Religion’ and hosts the podcast Reading Our Times. For more about Nick, see here.This season of the podcast explores science and faith and is supported by the Equipping Leadership in an Age of Science project. For more information see

Sep 26

32 min 11 sec

What happens when we read scripture as the story of God’s migrant peoples? How has the Church both flourished and failed in embracing migrant communities? How does Catholic Social Teaching help us engage theologically with the lived experiences of migration? How should the stories of migrants shape the life and thought of the Church today?Dr Anna Rowlands is St Hilda Associate Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice at Durham University. She teaches on political, moral, and practical theology, and also works closely with a number of leading Faith-Based charities. For more about her work, see here. 

Jul 18

34 min 32 sec

What do we mean by the 'pre-existence' of Jesus, and where do we find it in the Bible? Do the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke present Jesus as just a special prophet, or something more? How do the four Gospels present a coherent view of Christ? And how does recognising an eternal Jesus help us see the miracles of the gospel?Simon Gathercole is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Cambridge University. For more information about Simon, see here.

Jul 4

27 min 2 sec

How did Jesus and the early Church engage with people of other faiths? What does the Christian idea of salvation look like in a multi-faith context? Why is being a better neighbour part of living out our Christian calling? How might the Christian mandate for justice challenge the Church’s in-action on discrimination and prejudice?  Dr Gerard Charles spent 10 years working in China connected to a missionary society. He undertook doctoral research on the challenges of identity for Chinese Muslims. He now lecturers on  cross-cultural ministry including at Cranmer Hall. For more info about Gerard see here.


Jun 20

31 min 52 sec

What does psychology have to say about identity and belonging in the world and the church? How does Scripture challenge the idea that belonging to one another involves being homogenous? How do stories of people being excluded within the church undermine the gospel? Why does pursuing belonging require transformation rather than staying the same? How do we see the Holy Spirit in the Church taking us on a journey of authentic belonging?  Dr Sanjee Perera is a cognitive ecclesiologist and is the Archbishops’ Adviser on Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns for the Church of England.  

Jun 6

31 min 29 sec

What is bioethics and why does it dominate our ethical discussions today? What stories about our bodies does our culture tell us, and what might a theological account look like? How does a Christian view of life on earth challenge ideas of autonomy and freedom as the goal of human flourishing? And what difference does the resurrection of Jesus' body make to our imagination and hope for a bodily future?Robert Song is Professor of Theological Ethics at Durham University. For more information about Robert, see here. 

May 23

30 min 49 sec

What is it that's so special about the Gospel of John? How do the stories of people meeting Jesus get us to the heart of the Fourth Gospel? What does life as friends of Jesus really involve? And what hope does it offer us today?Ian Galloway is director of the Free Church Track at Cranmer Hall in St John's College, Durham University. He previously spent over 30 years planting and leading City Church in Newcastle, and authored a book, Called to be Friends: Unlocking the Heart of John's Gospel.For more information about Ian, see here.

May 9

31 min 7 sec

What is reconciliation really about, and why is it central to our understanding of the gospel? What's the link between prayer and reconciliation? What are the habits of a reconciling life? And how does embodying reconciliation witness to God's good news for the world today?The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby has been Archbishop of Canterbury since 2013, and before that he served as Bishop of Durham, and was also a canon at Coventry Cathedral where he worked extensively in reconciliation ministry.For more information about Justin see here.

Apr 25

28 min 56 sec

How do we connect scripture with living faithfully in the world? What are the habits that help the Church listen to the voice of God together? What happens when we read the Bible with those who are different to us? And what does it mean to grow in expectation that we will hear God today?Reverend Dr Helen Collins is currently Tutor in Practical Theology and Director of Formation at Trinity College in Bristol. She recently published Reordering Theological Reflection: Starting with Scripture.  For more information about Helen see here. 

Mar 28

30 min 8 sec

Is the Book of Acts just the story of what happened then or what could also happen today?  What does the book of Acts tell us about the gospel that really changed the world? What was so distinct in those early Christian communities? And why is it important for the book of Acts to challenge us today?Dr Mark Bonnington is the Senior Leader at King’s Church Durham and teaches on the book of Acts within the MA programme here at Cranmer Hall. For more information about Mark see here.

Mar 15

31 min 6 sec

What is climate grief, and what has God got to do with it? How does Jesus grieving over the particular help us understand how we might focus our climate grief? How does being attentive to what's in front of us help us to both grieve and hope? And how does all this help us follow Jesus day by day? Hannah Malcolm is currently training for ordained ministry and writing a PhD on theology, climate and ecological grief. She campaigns around the subject of climate justice and recently edited a book entitled Words for a Dying World: Stories of Grief and Courage from the Global Church. Our question today: why is a theology of climate grief necessary for the Church today?

Mar 1

32 min 8 sec

Do our bodies really belong to us? How did Jesus eat and how does it speak to how we eat today? How do the sacraments speak to our bodily identity? What does it mean to break bread together? Where’s the good news for those of us who struggle with how we see food?Note: This podcast includes discussion of disordered eatingReverend Dr Liz Kent is the Director of the Wesley Study Centre at St John’s College in Durham and a Methodist minister in Chester-Le-Street. Her doctoral research at Durham University explored the Church and Eating Disorders. Our question today: What Role Does Eating Play in a Good Theology of the Body?


Feb 8

27 min 23 sec

Is reading the Bible about more than simply looking for the right answer? What happens when you let children read a book of the Bible for themselves? What role should imagination play in enabling the scriptures to speak? And how can we all get to know the world of scripture? Dr Melody Briggs is Director of Studies at Lindisfarne College of Theology. She has taught theology in a range of churches, colleges and mission organisations for the last 30 years. She has has written several books on the ways children engage with scripture, including 'How Children Read Biblical Narrative: An Investigation of Children's Readings of the Gospel of Luke' (2017).

Jan 25

30 min 55 sec

What sort of evidence do we have about the historical Jesus? What sources do the earliest accounts of Jesus draw on? What's at stake when people are named or unnamed in the four Gospels? Does eyewitness testimony help us resolve the tension between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith? How can the Gospels feed our faith today?Richard Bauckham is Professor Emeritus at St Andrews University and Senior Scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. Richard predominantly focuses on New Testament Writings and is the author of many books, including Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.For more information about Richard Bauckham see here.

Jan 11

29 min 32 sec

Is there a God spot in our brain? What does 2+2 have in common with belief in god? How is our brain designed to help up experience god? Why might religious experience not be all it’s cracked up to be? How does the plasticity of our brain give us hope?Alasdair Coles is professor of neuroimmunology at the University of Cambridge, an honorary consultant neurologist to Addenbrooke’s and Hinchingbrooke Hospitals and also an ordained minister in the Church of England. While his main academic focus is into new treatments for multiple sclerosis, his academic research has also led him to investigate religiosity and spiritual experiences from the standpoint of neurology. 

Dec 2020

28 min 24 sec

What is health really all about? Why should we avoid obvious and quick answers to mental health challenges? Why do names matter more than diagnosis? Can the faithful taking of medication be a spiritual practice? How might a perceived absence of God be part of faithful living?Professor John Swinton is Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen, and founded the university’s Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability. For more than a decade John worked as a registered mental health nurse, and his academic career has seen him publish many books on the theology of disability, dementia, and mental health. His latest book, published this year is: Finding Jesus in the Storm: The Spiritual Lives of Christians with Mental Health Challenges.  For more information about John Swinton see here.

Nov 2020

32 min 49 sec

Is the Bible body positive? Were Paul and Plato singing from the same hymn sheet, or were their views of the body very different? How might seeing our bodies as precious change the way we take care of ourselves? What does real beauty look like? And what are our bodies telling us at the moment?Paula Gooder is a writer and lecturer in the New Testament and Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Her research areas focus on the writings of Paul with a particular focus on 2 Corinthians and on Paul’s understanding of the Body.For more information about Paula Gooder, see here.

Nov 2020

32 min 38 sec

How have multiculturalism and evangelism been entwined since the first days of the Church’s mission? How is multiculturalism part of the Christian faith’s DNA? Why is the Church of today more tribal than it was 2000 years ago? How should an awareness of each others gifts change how we do Church and leadership? How is the medium the message?Harvey Kwiyani lectures in African Christianity and Theology at Liverpool Hope University and has previously taught courses in Theology, African studies, and Mission at several colleges across Europe and Africa, as well as in the U.S. He is the founding editor of Missio Africanus: The Journal of African Missiology and his latest book, published this year, is Multicultural Kingdom: Ethnic Diversity, Mission and the Church.For more information about Harvey Kwiyani see here. 

Nov 2020

31 min 18 sec

What's going on when the Bible talks about reconciliation? How does reconciliation with others really start with us? What do forgiveness, lament, and apology have to do with authentic reconciliation? What might it look like to be reconciled to the earth? And how do stories of reconciliation help us see God at work today?Sarah Hills is Vicar of the parish of St Mary's, Holy Island, in the Diocese of Newcastle and was previously Coventry Cathedral's Canon for Reconciliation Ministry. She's also a fellow of St John's College, Durham.For more information about Sarah Hills, see here.

Oct 2020

30 min 37 sec

How does asking tough questions about what we believe support and service our faith? When might we need to be surprised by new discoveries and new voices about who God is? How should major events in our world impact how we think about God? And how does it all come down to love?Mike Higton is Professor of Theology and Ministry in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University. He is the author of The Life of Christian Doctrine and the shorter Grove book: Why Doctrine Matters.For more information about Mike Higton, see here

Oct 2020

31 min 16 sec

What does it feel like to exercise power as a Christian? What's the Bible got to say about government and power? What's the vocation of speaking truth to power? How does our identity as a child of God shape our engagement with politics? What difference does it make to pray for political opponents? The Reverend Baroness Maeve Sherlock OBE is a Labour Party life peer and shadow minister for Work and Pensions in the House of Lords. She is also an Assistant Curate at St Nicholas’ Church Durham, and a Fellow of St Chads College. 

Aug 2020

30 min 24 sec

Who was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and why is he still important? How can we think and make decisions ethically, and what was Bonhoeffer's unique contribution to this? Why does our character matter as much as our obedience? How can we do the right thing when we don't have a template? How does trust in God's mercy free us from the paralysing fear of making the wrong decision?Revd Dr Jennifer Moberly is a tutor at Cranmer Hall, and teaches ethics and Christian spirituality. More about Jenny can be found here.

Jul 2020

32 min 54 sec

What does it mean to hope for the kingdom of God? Is hope for the present, or for the future, or can it be both? What in the Bible helps us to have hope for the future without losing concern for the present? And in our challenging world, how does hope help us both lament and praise? Dr Samuel Tranter is is a visiting fellow at Cranmer Hall, John’s College and will be taking up the role of Director of Postgraduate Studies at Cranmer Hall from August. For more about Sam, click here. 

Jul 2020

27 min 40 sec

Is ambition something Christians can have? What was Jesus ambitious for? What's the relationship between ambition and humility? Does our excellence always mean being better than others? How does prayer shape our ambition?The Right Reverend Dr Emma Ineson is the Bishop of Penrith in the Diocese of Carlisle, and was previously principal of Trinity College, Bristol.You can follow Emma on Twitter here.This episode was recorded 03/03/2020. 

Jun 2020

28 min 2 sec

What questions does living through a pandemic invite us to ask as people of faith? What difference does it make that all are made in the image of God? How does faith expand the landscape in which we can live? Why is it more important to be forgiven than to succeed? What new things of faith are stirring in the Body of Christ at this time?The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Lord Williams of Oystermouth, or Rowan Williams as he is better known, is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and was previously Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002-2012. For more about Rowan, see here.

Jun 2020

29 min 38 sec

What’s going on in the depiction of science in the present corona virus pandemic, and how does theology play into this? How does our language, political, scientific and theological, shape how we understand the world? Are there examples of science and faith coming together to provide hope for our creation? What does listening to the science and walking by faith look like in this season? David Wilkinson holds PhDs in astrophysics and theology, and is principal of St John's College, Durham. For more about David, see here. 

May 2020

29 min 42 sec

How did death become so important in the Christian tradition? How did the death of Jesus speak to the early Christians, and how does it speak to us today? How do the ways we think about death help us engage with life? How does our care for creation challenge our approach to death? Professor Douglas Davies is an anthropologist and a theologian, a fellow of both the Academy of Social Sciences and the British Academy, and a Professor in Theology at Durham University. For more about Douglas, see here. This episode was recorded 19/02/2020. 

May 2020

28 min 28 sec

What does the Bible story say about racial diversity as a God-given gift? Does who we worship with say something about the Gospel we believe? How does a clear sense of identity in Christ help us encounter people different to ourselves? How can those with power use it faithfully?Dr. Guli Francis-Dehqani is the Bishop of Loughborough, in the Diocese of Leicester.You can follow Bishop Guli on Twitter here.Recorded 04/02/2020.

Apr 2020

28 min 8 sec

Why is liturgy good for us? How can we make sure that our worship practices point to Jesus, not to the person in the pulpit or at the table?How does pouring ourselves out give us a framework for the life of faith? What does it mean to start and end the day open to God? The Rev'd Dr Glenn Packiam is associate senior pastor at New Life church in Colorado Springs, USA. For more on Glenn, see here. 

Mar 2020

26 min 28 sec

What does the Bible have to say to those who work outside the church? What is a theological perspective on resilience in leadership? How is the church's commitment to education part of building the kingdom of God? Is Theology just about answers to be found, or also questions to be asked?Andy Wolfe is is the Deputy Chief Education Officer in the Church of England. For more about Andy, see here and follow him on Twitter here. Called, Connected, Committed can be found here.

Feb 2020

28 min 27 sec

Is there more to charismatic worship than lively singing and hands in the air? What do Rowan Williams, John Calvin, and Karl Barth have to do with contemporary worship? How does the idea of being united with Christ help us understand what worship is all about? What's the Spirit doing in the singing, in the preaching, and at the table? Nick Drake is associate pastor at Gas Street Church, Birmingham, and has long been involved in leading worship and writing songs. For more about Nick, see here. 

Feb 2020

26 min 44 sec

What are we to make of a God who calls? Is vocation something for Vicars, or all who follow Jesus? How can a vocation change over time? How can we be part of recognising vocation in ourselves and others? Can children be part of the journey too?Charlie Allen is Canon Chancellor  at Durham Cathedral, and was previously Salisbury's Diocesan Director of Ordinands.

Jan 2020

29 min 21 sec

How does storytelling help make sense of the stuff that happens? How does story and meaning connect with how we see ourselves? What is God's story, and how does it connect with our story?Why is being part of a church community good for our mental health? Jocelyn Bryan is the Academic Dean of Cranmer Hall, holds a doctorate in Psychology, and is also a Licensed Lay Minister in the Church of England. For more about Joss, please see here. 

Jan 2020

27 min 22 sec

How are people coming to faith today? What do Christians and viruses have in common? How do we speak about Jesus in a society where words are cheap? What is the Good News of Jesus in a culture that says 'It's all about me'?Rachel Jordan-Wolf is HOPE Together's assistant director, and was previously the Church of England's National Mission and Evangelism Advisor.You can follow Rachel on Twitter here.

Dec 2019

32 min 13 sec

What is the job of the church in relation to the world? Is there a theology of the parish church? Is church planting replacing the parish church, or do both have a part to play? Why does God work through communities rather than through individuals? Our guest is Will Foulger, who is the Director of Mission and Evangelism at 2019. Prior to this, Will served his curacy as part of the planting team of Trinity Church Nottingham. To find out more about Will, click here. 

Dec 2019

34 min 43 sec

How can be both receive and share faith through journeying? What does enough look like as we walk the path of life? Can we go on pilgrimage without leaving behind our everyday lives? What can pilgrimage teach us about Christ?Stephen Cottrell is Bishop of Chelmsford. For more about him, see here.

Nov 2019

31 min 30 sec

How do we become forgiving people? What's the relationship between God's forgiveness of us, and the way we should treat others? Can forgiveness happen when there's no repentance? What's the relationship between forgiveness and justice? Anthony Bash is a Professor in Theology at the University of Durham. To find out more about Anthony, click here. 

Nov 2019

31 min 2 sec

Is the Bible more than history? How does the life of the Church show that the Bible is of enduring value? What is the similarity between reading the Bible and watching a soap?  How does the Bible help us when we feel like we've been dealt a bad hand?Walter Moberly is a Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.For more about Walter Moberly, see here.

Oct 2019

36 min 39 sec

How is studying the New Testament like tracing a family tree? Why were Christians in the early church called anti-social? What was so radical about that first generation of Christians calling on Jesus as Lord? And how does the early church help us to be faithful in the modern world?Larry Hurtado is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology in the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University.For more about Larry Hurtado, see here.

Sep 2019

34 min 2 sec

What has feminism done to reveal forgotten corners of the New Testament? How can a few verses in Luke 8 change our understanding of Jesus and the disciples? Was Mary Magdalene a real leader in the early church? And what role does imagination have to play in reading the New Testament faithfully today?Helen Bond is Professor in Christian Origins with Specialisation in New Testament, and Head of the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University.For more about Helen Bond, see here.

Aug 2019

31 min 10 sec

What's the relationship between religion and conflict? How can we make peace with violence in the Bible? What do Christians have to contribute to peacebuilding? And how can we use the gift of forgiveness to resolve conflict?Jolyon Mitchell is Professor within the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University, specialising in religion, violence, and peacebuilding, and also the Director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues.For more about Jolyon Mitchell, see here.

Aug 2019

34 min 17 sec

What is Protestant Christianity, and how did it start? Is Protestantism about the head or the heart? What does Protestantism look like in the world today? And what extraordinary things have ordinary Protestants done?Alec Ryrie is Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University, and has written extensively on the history of Protestants in the world. He was recently elected as a Fellow of the British Academy.For more about Alec Ryrie, see here.

Jul 2019

37 min 17 sec

Who are the millennials? Why have some of them walked away from the faith, and why have some of them stayed? How do older Christian friends help to maintain youger people's faith? And why should the church talk about both faith and doubt?Ruth Perrin is a research fellow at St John College, Durham, one of the associate staff at King's Church, Durham, and an Associate Tutor within the Free Church Track at Cranmer Hall.For more about Ruth Perrin, see here.

Jul 2019

34 min 6 sec

Why do we say that God created out of nothing? Is God a being like any other being, only bigger? Does God relate to creation in the way that I relate to my car? Or is God intimately involved in every moment of our existence? And what difference does it make to see our own existence as a gift?Simon Oliver is the Van Mildert Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, and a residentiary canon of Durham Cathedral. He is the author of Creation: A Guide for the Perplexed.For more about Simon Oliver, see here.

Jun 2019

32 min 22 sec

What's prayer all about? How can ancient forms of prayer speak to us today? What's the value in stopping to listen to God? And does formal prayer have to be unemotional and detached, or is there more going on?Jessica Martin is a canon at Ely Cathedral, and was previously an English lecturer at Cambridge University and a parish priest in rural Cambridgeshire.For more about Jessica Martin, see here.

Jun 2019

29 min 24 sec