1 September 2023
A desire to breach two often-separate worlds – the church and philosophy – sparked the search that coalesced into Australia’s latest Christian Book of the Year.
Biblical Critical Theory’s publisher describes the book as setting out a fresh vision for biblical and cultural engagement in which faithfulness to Scripture and sensitivity to culture walk hand in hand.
The work by Associate Professor Christopher Watkin was named Australian Christian Book of the Year on Thursday night, from among a field of 10 shortlisted works, including several other Melbourne writers.
Read more: A richer alternative to polarised debates
Associate Professor Watkin said he hoped the work would help Christians develop a way of being, living and thinking in modern society that was on the front foot, rather than just reacting to the latest cultural fashions – either through embracing them or denouncing them.
He said the Bible was a book containing riches for understanding, engaging with, serving, blessing and challenging culture.
He said one of the things the Bible did was make particular aspects of the world visible, a task critical theories also set out to achieve.
“If you let the Bible speak and breath and set its own table, it does generate rich and complex, and fresh and surprising, interventions into the big questions that are exercising us all today,” Associate Professor Watkin said.
Subtitled How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Culture, the work features a forward by Tim Keller.
It developed out Associate Professor Watkin’s experience as a philosophy student – where it felt like his church and his studies were two different worlds. His church was trying to take the Bible seriously and apply it to the whole of life, while his philosophical studies asked a lot of the questions the Bible addressed. But no one in either world knew about the other.
Associate Professor Watkin said he wondered what it would be like to bring the Bible into these conversations.
He remembers two big moments that crystalised the work. The first was listening to his first Bible overview, when he realised the overall shape of the Bible was an immense resource for cultural critique.
The second was reading the “electric cultural critique” of Augustine’s City of God. Associate Professor Watkin said the way Augustine dissected Roman culture became his model to emulate.
31 August 2023
Biblical Critical Theory by Melbourne academic Christopher Watkin has been named the Australian Christian Book of the Year for 2023.
Subtitled How The Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Culture, its publisher describes the work as setting out a fresh vision for biblical and cultural engagement in which faithfulness to Scripture and sensitivity to culture walk hand in hand.
Judges said Watkin’s curiosity, confidence and joy throughout the work were contagious. They described it as an enlightening and absorbing read for anyone wanting to understand the intersection of the Bible with culture here and now.
Biblical Critical Theory was among the 10 titles nominated for this year’s award, including Religious Freedom in a Secular Age by Ridley College academic dean Michael Bird, How to Find Yourself, by Ridley College principal Brian Rosner, and Practicing Peace by St Stephen’s Richmond priest Michael Wood.
The 2023 Australian Christian Teen writer went to Caleb MacLaren, for The Journey. A modern twist on the Noah’s Ark story, the screenplay follows four companions as they navigate an empty world devastated by an alien attack.
The Young Australian Christian Writer award was withheld for 2023.
The Australian Christian Book of the Year award aims to recognise and encourage excellence in Australian Christian writing. It is awarded each year by SparkLit – an organisation that aims to empower Christian writers, publishers and distributors around the world.
Among the other works nominated for the 2023 awards were Behind the Tears by Bruce Robinson, Bringing Forth Life by Jodie McIver, Disrupting Mercy by Matthew Clarke with Annabella Rossini-Clarke, Imagination in an Age of Crisis, by Jason Goroncy and Rod Pattenden, Practicing Peace by Michael Wood, Raising Tech-Healthy Humans by Daniel Sih, and The Future is Bivocational by Andrew Hamilton.
In 2022 the award went to The Forest Underground: Hope for a Planet in Crisis by Tony Rinaudo.