Theology and Issues of Life and Death

By John Heywood Thomas and Susan F. Parsons (editor)

A collection of essays by the theologian John Heywood Thomas demonstrating the value and relevance of his theological perspective on life and death issues.

ISBN: 9780227174203


“Does theology have any relevance to the problem of life and death?” According to John Heywood Thomas the answer is an unequivocal yes. A largely personal expression of this conviction precedes the argument’s exposition, which is then stated first of all quite generally – that nothing human is alien to theology’s concern. Three main issues are considered: the unborn life, death as an event in life, and the possibility of global death. The issue of a life before birth is a complex problem, requiring as much awareness of philosophical issues as of relevant empirical factors. The same kind of multifaceted thinking is needed in confronting the issue of death, an inescapable topic for theology. If death is an event in life what does it reveal about the meaning of life? And what of the very human action of the funeral? After a discussion of the complex issues involved the argument returns to the global reference of theology. Two areas of concern are singled out to show that the theologian can offer guidance in debate: the environmental crisis and the threat of nuclear war.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 156

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

John Heywood Thomas, Emeritus Professor of Nottingham University, was Head of its Department of Theology and successively Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Arts Faculty. He had taught previously at the University of Manchester, Episcopal Seminary Austin, Texas, and the University of Durham. Described by Paul Tillich as his “logical critic”, he has written studies of Tillich as well as of Kierkegaard.


Foreword by the Editor

1. Theology and Matters of Life and Death
2. The Problem of the Unborn Life
3. The Problem of Death
4. Life and the Meaning of Death
5. Life, Death, and Paradise: The Theology of the Funeral
     Appendix to Chapter 5
6. Responsibility as an Inclusive Concept
7. Global Life and Death



Endorsements and Reviews

The profound meditations on life’s ultimate question contained in the chapters of this book are a joy to read. Although challenging, both intellectually and spiritually, they are the result of a lifetime’s thought and are full of ripe wisdom. … The context of these studies is the twentieth century, but the themes explored retain their relevance for the challenges of the twenty-first.
D. Densil Morgan, University of Wales

John Heywood Thomas’s deeply pondered essays on the ethics of life and death draw richly on his wide knowledge of literature, philosophy, and theology. He has an acute sense that detailed discussion of moral problems cannot be adequately sustained outside of a larger vision of the meaning of human living and dying. Through a series of striking insights – indebted particularly to Kierkegaard and Tillich – he shows what shape this might take.
Robert Song, Durham University

It has provided me with insight into Heywood Thomas’s thinking as he demonstrates that theology is of temporal as well as eternal use, and how it can be prepared to grapple with issues at the beginning and end of life that evade any simplistic solutions. Heywood Thomas’s intellectual vigour shines through the pages, as does his pastoral heart and his honesty … There is a wealth of material here for non-theologians such as myself, and especially for those with pastoral responsibilities.
D. Gareth Jones, in Theological Book Review, Vol 26, No 1

One of the great strengths of this collection of writings is the care with which Heywood Thomas reveals the complexity of the problems associated with certain ideas which have a great deal of currency in Christian circles … There is a good deal to be gained from the reflections contained within this short book and we should be grateful to Susan Parsons for her editorial hand ensuring its content an extended life.
Duncan Dormor, in Theology, Vol 118, Issue 3

Heywood Thomas … deserves praise for a much more dispassionate, pondered approach than has become common on all sides. Any claim to high-toned certainty is largely absent, and this is in itself, given the complexity of the issues, a comment on the quality or lack of it of many of our debates.
Nicholas Peter Harvey, in Studies in Christian Ethics, Volume 27.4