With others, it’s a pleasure to mark online Paul Fiddes’s 65th birthday today, and to celebrate Paul, and his contribution to the life of the Baptist denomination, and to the academic theological scene in Britain and internationally.
Paul is one of the most delightful people you could ever hope to meet, a true gentleman. He is also deeply committed to Baptist life in the UK and internationally, and has made several very substantial contributions to our life, some through his writing, more perhaps through his personal interaction in formal and informal contexts. As a theologian, he has contributed widely also, with Past Event and Present Salvation standing out as one of a handful of really important books on the atonement from the last few decades, Participating in God being the most accessible account of the difference recent Trinitarian theology might make to church life, and The Creative Suffering of God being, in my estimation, the best defence yet written of divine passibility. Paul’s contributions go much wider than this – theology and literature, for instance – but these are areas I know well enough to comment on the lasting significance of his work.
It happens I find myself on the other side of most of these debates to Paul, a fact that has not dented at all his willingness to offer friendship and help to this, very junior, colleague in the academy. The best testimony I can give to Paul’s theological ability and contribution is to mention publicly what I have long thought of in my own mind as the ‘Fiddes footnote’. I regularly write about the atonement, or passibility, or the Trinity, sketch the general arguments on one side, and give arguments that seem to me to be decisive against them. Then I insert a footnote which invariably begins ‘Fiddes evades this criticism, however…’ and goes on to explain how, on one or another these issues, Paul’s presentation is more careful and more defensible than, usually, any other I have read.
Knowing Paul personally is a delight; knowing his work sharpens my own. It is a pleasure to wish him a very happy birthday.