Dr John Wilks
A little about me
Raised in Southend Essex, I have never quite worked out how to fit myself into a round hole. Or a square one for that matter. My first BA is in Music and Chemistry, with subsidiary studies in Calculus and Psychology. That was followed by an MA in Composition and work as a self-employed music teacher of the piano, clarinet and grade 5 theory. Through my twenties, I won second prizes in two different competitions for orchestral writing and expected to continue via a PhD into a post as a music lecturer and composer. I am married with seven (adult) children and three and a half grandchildren as I type this. Beyond a continued interest in extremely contemporary classic music, I follow cycling and Manchester United, do jigsaws, read fewer novels than I want, and try to maintain an interest in photography. I recently finished a novel set in the immediate post-WW1 period that I’m trying to find an agent for.
I started my theological training with the Methodist Lay Preachers’ Training, followed by a Theology BA with London Bible College (as London School of Theology was then known) in my early thirties. This was followed by a part-time PhD with St John’s Nottingham, supervised by John Goldingay, Hugh Williamson and Margaret Barker. I studied the relationship between the structure and the rhetoric of Deutero-Isaiah. My attention was caught by the way that the opening of Deutero-Isaiah (40:1–11) appears to announce themes that then disappear until the start of chapter 51 and are discussed until the start of the fourth Servant Song in 52:13. I investigated why that might happen, and what it implied for the way we understand the overall message of the whole of chapters 40–55.
My ministry experience started as a worship pianist, and I strongly feel this is still my first calling from God. To be a Local lay Preacher was next, before the awareness that God wanted me to change subjects and become a Theological Educator rather than a Music Lecturer. So directly after finishing at LBC in 1992, the family moved to Romania where I taught music and Old Testament for two years in a recently formed Bible College in the north-western town of Oradea. Since then, I’ve taught in many diverse situations: Calver, Dhaka, Dubai, Hong Kong, Northwood and Perth. Before starting with St Michaels College at the beginning of 2013, I had been at London School of Theology as the Director of Open Learning for a decade. For nearly twenty years, I was pianist, a preacher and lay leader in a Church Plant operating from a local junior school, having been part of the team that set it up.
My research interests
I have a very diverse range of interests. Most obviously, that would be the study and interpretation of the Old Testament, in particular the prophets, hermeneutics, and the application of the text to contemporary situations. My music background means I am interested in the theology and theological interpretation of music, but not really liturgical music. So I’m as interested in Eminem or Lily Allen as I am in Mahler, Macmillan, Birtwistle, Adams and Richter. Since my doctorate, my theological interests have broadened to include male sexuality (predominantly heterosexuality), political interpretation of the Bible, engagement with contemporary society, and all aspects and branches of Chaplaincy.
Teaching, my signature module would be ‘The Horrors We Bless’ for the MTh Theology programme. It engages with the most problematic aspects of the Old Testament: child sacrifice, God’s silence and unreliability, his anger and violence, and the apparently misogynistic tone of so many texts. Instead of wishing to delete and ignore these problems, the module seeks a hermeneutic that embraces them and incorporates them into a more robust understanding of God’s revealed character.
I am currently supervising research on the following topics: a theology of dating, a theology of mission for workplace chaplaincy, and ‘A Good Death: A Roman Catholic theology for End of Life Care’. In the past, I have supervised: ‘Let Us Celebrate the Feast: A Biblical Theology of Eucharistic Blessings’, and ‘Hosea and the Prophetic Imperative’.
Some highlights of my published work
Member of the Editorial Board for Evangelical Quarterly, 2004–16.
Module Writer for LST distance learning modules including Hermeneutics (level 7), Evangelicalism (4), Theology of the Poor (7), and Future Hope: Biblical Eschatology (5).
A series of six small group study notes under the banner Deeper Encounter (Scripture Union, 2006–07).
‘A Portrait of the Person as an Ancient Artist’, Evangelical Quarterly 77.3 (2005), 195–210.
‘The Trinitarian Ontology of John Zizioulas’, Vox Evangelica XXV (1995), 63–88.