I realize it is a bit too early to write a blog post that reviews all of 2016. Still, I am busy with a lot of work at the moment and will leave soon again for the States. This post might be my only chance to write something decent before Christmas. Perhaps April will write a post at some point that explains her perspective on things. Until then, enjoy this one!
The big news for us this year is that we welcomed Sophia Grace Rathel into the world. She was born on June 21, 2016, in Dundee. We are so thankful for her and so proud of her. Although she is only roughly five months old, she already displays an amazing amount of personality. She loves people; specifically, she loves to smile at people. She bursts out laughing at the even the slightest hint that something might be funny. She seems very content and is easy to parent; so far we have taken her to Bath, Durham, San Antonio, and Atlanta with no serious problems. She is a world traveler, and she is not even six months old yet!
April is doing a fantastic job of being a mother. The UK’s long maternity leave allows her to devote a lot of time to Sophia. Although she is at home with Sophia for much of the day, one benefit of living in St Andrews is the fact that April can interact with other divinity students and their families. I think April is loving her life of pushing a pram through these beautiful streets, visiting coffee shops for conversations with friends, and attending a book club for ladies.
I am trying my best to juggle all of the demands of Ph.D. life—presence in our theology seminars, research for my thesis, and the production of (hopefully) good material for publication. I know that publication history will matter a lot in the future if I do decide to teach, so I want to make the most of these potentially fruitful years.
In terms of publishing, 2016 has thankfully been my most successful year yet. I received word that my article on John Gill’s soteriology will appear in next month’s Baptist Quarterly. An article that I wrote on Gill’s Baptist catholicity and originally presented at a Baptist history conference in Manchester will receive publication in a 2018 issue of Baptist Quarterly. I have a piece on Gill’s doctrine of the pactum salutis that is currently under review with the Journal of Reformed Theology. Three of my book reviews were also published this year—two in the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry and one in Themelios.
I hope to increase my output in 2017. I am now working on an article on Andrew Fuller’s arguments for religious liberty on behalf of the BMS in India that I would like to submit to a journal at some point if it turns out well. I am scheduled to present it at a conference in Cambridge in January of next year, and I hope that I will receive helpful feedback there. I would also like to send out to a journal a piece that I wrote in the autumn of 2015 on burial practices during the Scottish Reformation (exciting stuff to be sure). Several journals have agreed to accept book reviews from me during 2017: for Southeastern Theological Review I am reviewing David Allen’s book on the atonement; for the Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies I am reviewing the volume Nathan Finn edited on Andrew Fuller’s defense against Sandemanianism; for Regent’s Reviews I am reviewing a book on the English Dissenters; for Baptist Quarterly I am reviewing an introductory book on Baptist history written by Finn, Haykin, and Chute. I have other goals for 2017 as well, but I do not want to get too ahead of myself. My priorities for next year are family life and thesis work, and we’ll see how much time I actually have when life starts moving forward.
I still have a long way to go to get where I would like to be in terms of publications, but I am thankful for the modest opportunities the Lord has afforded me thus far. They have served to help develop me as a writer and thinker.
This year April and I have been confronted with the reality that sometimes the thought of staying in pastoral ministry can be quite appealing to us. We are trying to wrestle now whether it is best for me to serve in the academy or the church. If I were to step back into pastoral work, I would want to serve as a pastor-theologian in the model of Andrew Fuller, one of my heroes, and in the sort of role envisioned by the Center for Pastoral Theologians. I hope that we as a family can devote serious time this upcoming year to discerning what is best for us and Christ’s church. At times teaching at a Bible college or seminary is very interesting to me; other times the idea of preaching regularly and ministering to people makes me excited. In the end, we shall see what doors God opens for us. We must persevere and be patient.
In conclusion, thanks for your continued company on this journey with us. We love you all and wish you a wonderful holiday season!