Monday, 27 April 2009

An enigmatic life - David Broughton Knox

This 2005 biography of (David) Broughton Knox has been my weekend reading. He was Principal of Moore (Theological) College from 1959-1985 and led it to from being a fairly parochial institution to being on the way to becoming the highly influential college it is now.

Brian Edgars review from Journal of Anglican Studies Vol. 6(1) 127-28 can be found here.

If you, like me, live with his influence, then you should read this book. For my self I am a Moore graduate from 1995, and living in Sydney and working in the evangelical scene the influence of Moore is widespread. Just take the example of theological education in Sydney. As well as Moore itself three of the four staff at PTC are Moore graduates, as are the Principal and several staff of SMBC and several of the staff at Morling College. Some of these were directly students of DBK, others of us have been taught by people who were profoundly shaped by him and by the college he lead.

Students and graduates of PTC would benefit from reading this and getting a historical prespective on DBK and Moore. I was surprised at the relative lack of formal study in theology he had himself, he had a D Phil in Historical Theology but his own undergradaute 'seminary' experience at St John's Higbury was very poor. The English Reformers were his main point of reference. For instance he did not start reading Calvin's Institutes until after he had finished his BD.

Much of DBK's life was filled with controversy and conflict. Some of the key conflicts were with Liberalism and Anglo-catholicism and it is claimed that he thought of MTC as being "Protestant and not Anglican". This shaped his theology.

The discussion of Knox's teaching shows his great ability to teach a way of thinking about theology without giving a great deal of content. He was committed to the scripture principle and tried to get students to engage with the Bible rather than to build on the thought of other writers. This is a great strength in many ways, though it seems as if many of his students interviewed for the book thought that a bit more interaction with others would have improved his teaching.

I was surprised at the level of conflict he had with the Diocese during his time as Principal. This was the most enlightening part of the book for me. I did MTS with Philip Jensen at UNSW from 1988-1991 and then was at MTC 1992-1995. During that time there was a fair bit of conflict still going on, and I'm sure I was only aware of a small part of it. Reading this helped me see where some of that conflict came from.

The piety of DBK's background and own life are impressive; as is his commitment to ministry and church life. This is part of the "enigma" of DBK. For his theology could seem highly 'intellectualist' and yet he had a quite piety. He taught about the importance of "fellowship", "friendship" and "relationship"; yet seems to have been somewhat awkward and prone to fights; however there were many people who knew him as gentle and compassionate.

There is much to thank God for in the life of DBK. For those of us who never knew him, it is worth reading this book to understand more about him and his influence.

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