Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Karen Kilby

karen_kilbyDear Friends and Family,

Today I want to introduce you to Karen Kilby. Karen is currently an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology here at Nottingham, but has recently been appointed to the Bede Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Durham. A post which she will take up in January 2014.

Karen was born and raised in Connecticut and did  Mathematics and Religious Studies as an undergraduate at Yale. She then went to work at Cambridge, returning to Yale to do her PhD under George Lindbeck and Kathryn Tanner. David Kelsey, Nicholas Wolterstorff, George Lindbeck and Kathryn Tanner.

Karen’s work includes focus on specific modern theologians, especially Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar, as well as systematic theology (she has taught courses on the Trinity and on Christology) as well as more theory based theology (Liberation theology, Feminist theology, etc.) Karen’s approach to systematics tends to be historical, that is she is interested in showing how doctrines developed. Karen is also interested in the interplay between mathematics and theology.


Karen sadly does not have a full bibliography listed on the University’s Website, but below are some key texts she has written.

  • Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012.
  • Karl Rahner: A Brief Introduction, SPCK Publishing, 2007.
  • Karl Rahner: Theology and Philosophy, Routledge, 2004.


Why Study Systematic Theology at the University of Nottingham?

Why Study The Proslogion of St Anselm?

Why study Karl Rahner?

Why Study Hans Urs von Balthasar?

The Theology of the Trinity with Tom O’Loughlin and Karen Kilby

Philosophy in Theology with Simon Oliver and Karen Kilby

The ‘Five Ways’ of St Thomas Aquinas with Tom O’Loughlin and Karen Kilby

I hope you’ve enjoyed Karen’s videos. If you find yourself wanting to know more, make sure to check out any of Karen’s books, they’re all of reasonable length and quite readable. Also, be on the look out for more work by Karen as she takes up her new, and well deserved, post at Durham.


Related Posts

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Simon Oliver

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Mary Cunningham

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alison Milbank

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Tom O’Loughlin

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Richard Bell

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Roland Deines

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alan Ford

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Philip Goodchild

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: John Milbank

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Simon Oliver

simon_oliverDear Friends and Family,

I’ve been at the University of Nottingham for nearly two years now and have gotten to know many members of our faculty fairly well. That being the case, I thought I would take some time to do posts on some of our faculty. These first posts I intend to do will be on faculty I think to be stellar, but relatively unknown (or at least not widely known).

The first member of our faculty I wish to highlight is Dr Simon Oliver, Head of Department for Theology and Religious Studies here at Nottingham. Simon works in systematic and philosophic theology. Simon is also a priest in the Anglican Church, serving as  honorary Canon Theologian at the minster in Southwell and is an associate priest at a local parish. Simon also happens to be one of my supervisors. He is currently working on a book dealing with creation and teleology that meshes well with my own project on deification. You can read more about Simon’s interests here.


  • OLIVER, SIMON, KILBY, KAREN and O’LOUGHLIN, TOM, eds., 2012. Faithful Reading: New Essays in Theology in Honour of Fergus Kerr London: T&T Clark.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2012. The Parallel Journey of Faith and Reason: Another Look via Aquinas’s ‘De Veritate’. In:Faithful Reading: New Essays in Theology in Honour of Fergus Kerr London: T&T Clark. 113-130
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2012. Representing Evil in ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Life is Beautiful’. In: SELLARS, JEFF, ed., Light Shining in a Dark Place: Discovering Theology through Film Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2011. Actuality in Theology and Philosophy. In: MURPHY, FRANCESCA ARAN and BRITTAIN, CHRISTOPHER CRAIG, eds., Theology, University, Humanities: Initium Sapientiae Timor Domini Eugene, OR: Cascade Books. 91-111
  • OLIVER, S., 2010. Trinity, Motion and Creation Ex Nihilo. In: COGLIATI, C., SOSKICE, J. and STOEGER, W., eds.,Creation and the God of Abraham Cambridge University Press. 133-151
  • OLIVER, SIMON and MILBANK, JOHN, eds., 2009. The Radical Orthodoxy Reader Routledge.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2009. Wisdom in Theology and Philosophy. In: MCGEE, M. and CORNWELL, J., eds., Philosophers Amongst the Gods Continuum.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2009. Christ, Descent and Participation. In: PABST, ADRIAN and PADDISON, ANGUS, eds., The Pope and Jesus of Nazareth: Christ, Scripture and the Church London: SCM.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2008. Love Makes the World Go ‘Round: Motion and Trinity. In: SCHINDLER, D.L., ed., Love Alone in Credible: Hans Urs von Balthasar as Interpreter of the Catholic Tradition Eerdmans.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2008. What can Theology offer Religious Studies?. In: OLIVER, S. and WARRIER, M., eds., Theology and Religious Studies: An Exploration of Disciplinary Boundaries T&T Clark.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2008. The Holy Trinity and the Liturgical Subject. In: LEACHMAN, J., ed., The Liturgical Subject: Subject, Subjectivity, and the Human Person in Contemporary Liturgical Discussion and Critique SCM.
  • OLIVER, SIMON and WARRIER, MAYA, eds., 2008. Theology and Religious Studies: An Exploration of Disciplinary Boundaries T&T Clark.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2005. The Sweet Delight of Virtue and Grace in Aquinas’s Ethics International Journal of Systematic Theology. 7(1), 52-71
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2005. Philosophy, God and Motion Routledge.
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2005. Robert Grosseteste on Light, Truth and Experimentum Vivarium. 43(1), 109-138
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 2001. Motion according to Aquinas and Newton Modern Theology. 17(2), 163-199
  • OLIVER, SIMON, 1999. The Eucharist before Nature and Culture Modern Theology. 15(3), 331-353

Videos for the University of Nottingham

Why Study an MA in Systematic and Philosophic Theology at Nottingham

Why Study Plato

Why Study Aristotle

Why Study Negative Theology

Why Study Thomas Aquinas

Why Study Systematic Theology

Why Study the Theology of Creation

Philosophy in Theology with Karen Kilby and Simon Oliver

Sacramentality with Tom O’Loughlin and Simon Oliver

The Big Society with John Milbank and Simon Oliver

I hope you enjoyed these videos and will take the time to look up some of Simon’s work. He is an excellent and gracious theologian and it is my honour to work with him.


We Worship God Three-in-One: Trinity Sunday


Dear Friends and Family,

Today, for Western Christians, is Trinity Sunday. Today we set aside some time to contemplate a God that is both 1 and 3. This is terribly difficult understand. Since God is completely other than us, we can never come to full knowledge of him in his essence. Nevertheless, God has revealed himself to us and he has done so in three persons who are one.

There are many heresies surrounding the notion of the Trinity. There are some who want to deny Christ’s divinity (and implicitly the Spirit’s as well); there are some who accept the Son’s divinity, but deny the Spirit’s; there are some who deny that there are three persons at all, but only one who shows himself to us in three different ways. As many heresies as there are surrounding the Trinity, there are as many if not more analogies that attempt to explain it. While I think it good to try to understand God as Trinity, today, the key is worship the great mystery that is our God.

That being said, below you will find two videos on the Trinity. In the first, Dr Karen Kilby talks about a particular, modern analogy of the Trinity and her hesitancy about it. In the second, you will why using any analogy breaks down in the end.

May you find yourself in awe of the Trinity today, and away from incredibly difficult Irish snake farmers.


Deification: A Brief Explanation of My Topic of Study

Dear Friends and Family,

Last week I was asked to give a presentation in Dr Karen Kilby’s class on Christology (the study of Christ) on deification. Deification is a topic that comes up often when you study the early Church. I thought it might be helpful for me to post my presentation here. Please let me know what you think of it and if you have any questions. I will also post a short bibliography I made for the students in Karen’s class of seminal secondary works on the topic of deification.



Simple Definition

Karen has asked me to give a brief description of what is and is not deification. It is not surprising that deification has come up so frequently in a course on Christology. Deification was often used in discussions about the Trinity and the Incarnation, being, for the Church Fathers, inextricably tied to these doctrines. Broadly, a doctrine of deification is a way of understanding salvation and redemption. For most of the Church Fathers, deification is what has always been intended for humanity.

Becoming God

The simplest possible definition of deification is that it means Christians become gods, insofar as that is possible. What this might mean I will go into more in a moment, but I wanted first to note that at its core deification quite literally means becoming God.

Tied to Incarnation

The second thing it is important to note at the beginning is that deification is tied to the notion that God became man in Jesus Christ. As Athanasius said in On The Incarnation, ‘He became man that we might be made God.’ The way this is typically seen to work is that when the Logos took on human nature he deified not only his own human nature, but made it possible for all human nature to be deified. This is enough to get on with, for the moment. Now I want to look at what deification does not mean.

What Deification Doesn’t Mean

Losing one’s self/Absorption

The first thing deification does not mean in the Christian tradition, is the total loss of one’s self in the divine. The Christian is not so absorbed into God that they cease to be themselves. This is the kind of deification you see more in Eastern Religions and Neoplatonism, but none of the Church Fathers speak of it in this way.

Becoming a god in a Pagan Sense

Next, deification does not mean becoming a god in some kind of pagan sense. The Christian does not, upon death, like Herakles, become a god to be worshipped by those still alive. For the Church Fathers there is only one true God, and whatever deification means, it does not mean becoming a god in the same way God is God.

Crossing the Creator-creature Divide

Finally, deification does not mean creatures become uncreated. Being a creature is inherent to humanity. Thus, Christians do not become new members of the Trinity, there is still a distinction between them and God, as there must be for only God is uncreated and Creator.

What Deification Does Mean

Now I want to turn to what deification does mean. It is important to remember that what I am doing here is giving a general synthesis of what the Tradition has taught about deification. Reading individual Fathers and theologians you will find different emphases, but, I think, that at the core they all have the same general view in mind.

Becoming Truly Human

The main aspect of what deification means is becoming human, truly human. As I said earlier, deification does not mean ceasing to be an individual, nor does it mean crossing the divide between Creator and creature. Instead, when the Logos became human, he gave humanity the ability to be deified. In his death and resurrection, he defeated the weaknesses somewhat inherent to humanity and so allowed them to transcend humanity as we understand it now and come to humanity as God intended it to be.

The Four Aspects

Finally, I want to give you what I have found to be the form main aspects of deification. These aspects describe how it is humanity is said to be deified. In some ways, looking at these terms gives us the best chance at defining deification. The four aspects of deification, then, are Participation, Transformation, Imitation, and Virtue.


Participation, which is often synonymous with grace, adoption, and union, has two basic definitions. The first is that by having existence all created things participate in God. It is something very passive and inescapable. The second aspect of participation, however, is what allows Christians to be deified. It is in this sense where terms like grace and adoption are helpful for understanding it. Essentially, what Christ is by nature, God and Man, humans can become by participation (or grace, or adoption, or union). This aspect of participation is neither active nor passive, or better yet, it is both active and passive. It is something the Christian both actively does by prayer, contemplation, the Sacraments; and yet is something done to them by God. This active-passivity or passive-activity is inherent to understanding deification. I prefer to use the grammatical middle voice, which usually signifies reflexivity, to understand this paradox.


The next aspect of deification is often tied to participation, namely, transformation. This transformation is in one sense ontological, that is a change in being, for it is a change in human nature. However, as I said before, this change cannot be into something inhuman, but precisely human. This transformation is brought about by participation, as well as imitation and virtue. Also, it is important to note that while, as I said, deification does not mean the loss of identity, transformation does mean being transformed into Christ. This is why, as I shall show in a moment, imitating Christ, and understanding who Christ is is so important.


Imitation is then the next aspect of deification. This imitation means both imitating Christ in his earthly life as well as imitating those who have best imitated Christ. You could view imitation as a subset of participation, a kind of active aspect. However, for the Fathers, even imitation is something that is middle in voice for while it is done actively by the Christian, they are only capable of doing so because of the grace of God.


The final aspect of deification is the acquisition and employment of virtue. This is directly tied to imitation in that the virtues sought out by the Christian are those revealed in Christ, throughout Scripture, and seen in the saints. Essentially, virtue is about orientating one’s self to God and desiring to live a godly life that will aid in being transformed into the image of Christ.


I know this has been a whirlwind run through what deification means, but I think it is important both for understanding the ancient texts we have been reading in this module, as well as why, at least for the Church Fathers, discussions of what the Incarnation means and who Christ is are so important. For them, Christ’s being God has far reaching implications not only for all Christians, but all of creation.

Seminal Secondary Texts on Deification

Christensen, Michael, and Jeffery A. Wittung, eds. Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions. Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2008.

Collins, Paul M. Partaking in Divine Nature: Deification and Communion. London: Continuum International Publishing, 2010.

Finlan, Stephen, and Vladimir Kharlamov, eds. Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology. Vol. 1. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2006.

Gross, Jules. The Divinization of the Christian According to the Greek Fathers. Translated by Paul A. Onica. Anaheim: A&C Press, 2002.

Keating, Daniel. Deification and Grace. Naples: Sapientia Press, 2007.

Kharlamov, Vladimir, ed. Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology. Vol. 2. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2011.

Lossky, Vladimir. Orthodox Theology: An Introduction. Translated by Ian and Ihita Kesarcodi-Watson. Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978.

Meyendorf, John. Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes. Oxford: Mowbrays, 1974.

Russell, Norman. The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.