In his public lecture at the recent ANZATS Conference in Melbourne, Paul Fiddes, one of the most stimulating theologians writing today, considered three literary giants – William Shakespeare, William Blake and TS Eliot. He argued that for Blake, eternity is about the wholeness of persons under the aegis of imagination and forgiveness, and that imagination petrifies when reason casts its laws upon it. Of Eliot’s work, Professor Fiddes drew attention to the notion of eternity as the healing of time, and as that which overcomes the division between past, present and future. We were reminded, and that with eloquence typical of the speaker, that God holds and heals the past, the present and the future in the transforming presence of love, and that we never escape from time but time can bring us into a new sphere of love.
These are themes with have much occupied Fiddes’ thought in recent years (see, for example, The Creative Suffering of God, The Promised End: Eschatology in Theology and Literature and Freedom and Limit: A Dialogue Between Literature and Christian Doctrine), and around which he is due to lecture further this year. He will be a keynote speaker at ‘The Power of the Word: Poetry, Theology and Life’, a conference held jointly between Heythrop College and the Institute of English Studies, and at the 2010 Biennial Conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture, to be held at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, between 23–26 September 2010 around the theme ‘Attending to the Other: Critical Theory and Spiritual Practice’.