As the contributors to this special edition of the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning know, David Ford can throw a good party. He has a tremendous gift for gathering people — around texts, around questions, around concerns, or simply for each other’s company. David’s written contributions to theology are well known, but equally well known and significant are his contributions in the shape of institutions built or strengthened, working relationships formed, and people apprenticed to modes of theological thought. The collection of essays presented here is conceived as a modest surprise party — of a kind only academics can appreciate — in honour of his sixtieth birthday.
One of the areas in which David Ford has made a particularly significant and obvious contribution is the development of scriptural reasoning, so it seemed appropriate to hold this birthday gathering in the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning. David’s former graduate students are now teaching and researching in a wide range of contexts across the academy and around the world, and have responded with enthusiasm to the invitation to celebrate his work. The resulting collection reflects both the breadth of David’s interests and the persistence of his core concerns — above all, for the development of theological wisdom that is both deeply informed by scripture and tradition and ceaselessly attentive to the multiple cries of the world.
For David Ford, as Ben Quash and other contributors to this journal point out, scripture is to be inhabited; it is to be attended to over time in such a way as to form ones attitudes and convictions at a deep level. Scripture thus inhabited is found to be inexhaustibly rich — as with the abundance of names for Christ and lived ways of relating to Christ discussed in Tom Greggs’s paper. It is capacious, able to give rise to a genuine catholicity as portrayed in Chad Pecknold’s paper; and it is a space within which hospitality is possible, as for example towards the Chinese traditions of wisdom explored by Jason Lam. Most of all, scripture thus inhabited calls forth and gives rise to the love that in turn grounds wisdom — love of God for God’s sake, as Paul Janz discusses in his paper.
This does not, of course, mean that to inhabit scripture is to retreat from conflict or pain. David Fords work has led him into intense engagement with the suffering arising from, and linked to, anti-Jewish and otherwise violent readings of Christian scripture. In this collection, Mike Higton and Susannah Ticciati both engage with particular contentious scriptural texts, in search of readings that neither deny the real difficulties for Christians reading their scriptures in the presence of Jews, nor regard these difficulties as insuperable barriers. At the same time, as Mike Higton and Rachel Muers both suggest, David’s way of doing theology — in person in much as in writing — is characterised by playfulness as well as seriousness, the genuine joy that accompanies an activity undertaken first and foremost for God’s sake.
We hope that this special edition of the Journal of Scriptural Reasoning will be a fitting, if inadequate, birthday celebration. As at any party, there are numerous apologies from those who were unable to be here, and numerous recollections of absent friends. In particular, all the contributors to this volume were able during their time as David’s students to benefit from the wisdom and care of his father-in-law and close colleague, Daniel W. Hardy. We think Dan would have enjoyed this party, joining in with comment and criticism and counter-suggestion. His death in November 2007 was a great loss for all of us: for the authors of these pieces, for Scriptural Reasoning, and for Christian Theology. In offering this birthday tribute to David Ford we also remember, with much thankfulness, all we learned from Dan Hardy.
Rachel Muers, Mike Higton and Ben Quash