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Career Summary


A very recent arrival on the theological scene in Australia, I hail from a land where it rains considerably more, Northern Ireland. Studying for a BD at the University of Aberdeen was my route into theology in general, and one that eventually led me to re-evaluate my earlier desire to return to N. Ireland in ministerial capacity. Instead, I undertook doctoral research at Girton College in the University of Cambridge, under the watchful eye of Professor Nicholas Lash, and thereafter spent a little over 8 years as the Meldrum Lecturer in Systematic Theology at New College in the University of Edinburgh.


  • PhD, University of Cambridge - UK, 31/12/1999


Research keywords

  • Christianity
  • Religion
  • Theology

Research expertise

What is it that we are doing when we hope? How is our conception of self and world shaped within certain understandings of hope? These two broad questions have lingered through my doctoral research and beyond, inspired as I have been by encountering the writings of the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968). Exploring the complex theological dynamic of what it means to hope, and particularly what significance hoping has for human identity/agency, will be furthered, in one way or another, over the next few years through particular engagement with a host of diverse figures: primarily, but not exclusively, Sophocles, Euripides, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, William Shakespeare, Immanuel Kant, G.W.H. Hegel, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Donald MacKinnon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hans Frei, and Gustavo Gutierrez.

Currently I am on several projects. Most immediately, I am writing a paper for a conference on 'Trinitarian Theology After Barth', testing the theological assumptions of a particular account of petitionary prayer. Subsequent to this will be, among other things, the editing of several of Donald MacKinnon's published articles (Continuum/T&T Clark, 2010); a paper for a collection on theology and tragedy which will read Jesus' trial by Pilate in the light of Barth's 'Judge Judged in Our Place', Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Kafka's Trial; a study of important elements in Barth's theology; and an introduction to the history of eschatological perspectives (Eerdmans, 2011).

In the more distant future I intend to develop a conference paper that I delivered in 2001 ['Midnight Feastings: Hope and the Deglobalising of Theology']. This seeks to reflect on the manner of Christian praxis specifically through reflecting on the styles of hoping available in societies undergoing 'globalisation'.

Following that, I hope to explore the accounts of evil and its relation to the cross in the writings of Karl Barth, Jürgen Moltmann and Donald MacKinnon. The aim is to demonstrate that these thinkers who are critical of the 'project theological of modernity' require critical reconstructions to their approaches to the cross, but that despite their various tendencies they attempt to refigure the Christian as a hopeful subject resisting evil.

My research plans flow from various concerns: concerns to engage fruitfully with the theology of Karl Barth; to substantiate the feeling of the significance of the broadly iconoclastic philosophical and theological work of Donald MacKinnon; to develop ways of engaging literature (especially the genre of tragedy); to root theological education in the practice of engagement with non-academic environments; and to ask about the nature and manifestation of the inescapable interaction between church and 'world' (hence my book on Star Wars).

Fields of Research

220499Religion And Religious Studies Not Elsewhere Classified100

Highlighted Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

2007McDowell J, The Gospel according to Star Wars: faith, hope and the force, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America, 204 (2007) [A1]


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Click on a category title below to expand the list of citations for that specific category.

Book (4 outputs)

2011McDowell JC, Philosophy and the Burden of Theological Honesty: A Donald McKinnon Reader, T & T Clark International, London, 337 (2011) [A3]
2007McDowell J, The Gospel according to Star Wars: faith, hope and the force, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America, 204 (2007) [A1]
2004McDowell J, Higton M, Conversing with Barth, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Aldershot, Hampshire, England, 234 (2004) [A3]
2000McDowell JC, Hope in Barth's Eschatology, Ashgate Pub Limited, Aldershot, Hampshire, England, 263 (2000)
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Chapter (10 outputs)

2013McDowell JC, 'National Treasures: Joss Whedon's Assembling of Exceptional Avengers', Joss Whedon and Religion: Essays on an Angry Atheist's Explorations of the Sacred, McFarland Press, Jefferson, NC 183-195 (2013) [B1]
2013McDowell JC, 'The Ascent of Theological Reading: Iconoclasm and the Divine Event of Making Readers', Ears that Hear: Explorations in Theological Interpretation of Scripture, Sheffield Phoenix Press, Sheffield 94-113 (2013) [B1]
2012McDowell JC, 'Idolaters at providential prayer: Calvin's praying through the divine governance', Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church, Pickwick Publications, Eugene, Oregon 353-403 (2012) [B1]
2012McDowell JC, ''Unlearn what you have learned' (Yoda): The critical study of the myth of Star Wars', Understanding Religion and Popular Culture, Routledge, London 104-117 (2012) [B1]
2012McDowell JC, 'Silenus' wisdom and the 'Crime of Being': The problem of hope in George Steiner's tragic vision', The Wounds of Possibility: Essays on George Steiner, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne 248-264 (2012) [B1]
2012McDowell JC, 'From sky-walking to the dark knight of the soul: George Lucas' Star Wars turns to tragic drama', Myth, Media, and Culture in Star Wars: An Anthology, The Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland 65-82 (2012) [B2]
2011McDowell JC, 'Prayer, particularity, and the subject of divine personhood: who are Brummer and Barth invoking when they pray?', Trinitarian Theology after Barth, Pickwick Publications, Eugene, OR 255-284 (2011) [B1]
2011McDowell JC, 'Donald Mackinnon: Extraordinary theologian of the ordinary', Philosophy and the Burden of Theological Honesty: A Donald McKinnon Reader, T & T Clark International, London vii-xiv (2011) [B1]
2004McDowell J, 'Mend your speech a little: reading Karl Barth's Das Nichtige through Donald MacKinnon's Tragic Vision', Conversing with Barth, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Aldershot, Hampshire, England 142-172 (2004) [B1]
2004McDowell JC, Higton MA, '¿Introduction: Barth, Conversationalist and Conversation Partner¿', Conversing With Barth, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Aldershot, Hampshire, England 1-13 (2004)
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Journal article (23 outputs)

2013McDowell JC, 'Polis, poiesis and power', St Mark's Review, 27-37 (2013) [C1]
2013McDowell JC, ''Hospitality' at the end of religion', The Bonhoeffer Legacy: The Australasian Journal of Bonhoeffer Studies, 1 79-103 (2013) [C1]
2012McDowell JC, 'Schooled in a lifelong education in prayer', St Mark's Review, 222 143-153 (2012) [C1]
2012McDowell JC, 'The unnaturalness of natural theology: The witness of Rodney Holder's Karl Barth', Colloquium, 44 243-255 (2012) [C1]
2011McDowell JC, 'Crossing silence: The silences of the word', St Mark's Review, - 22-38 (2011) [C1]
2011McDowell JC, '¿Feastings in God at Midnight: Theology and the Globalised Present¿', Pacifica: Australasian theological studies, 23 299-321 (2011)
2010McDowell JC, ''Wars not make one great': Redeeming the Star Wars mythos from redemptive violence without amusing ourselves to death', Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 22 1-60 (2010) [C1]
2010McDowell JC, 'Dead dogs, Darwin and the design of the divine', St Mark's Review, 9-34 (2010) [C2]
2009McDowell JC, ''Openness to the world': Karl Barth's evangelical theology of Christ as the pray-er', Modern Theology, 25 253-283 (2009) [C1]
2009McDowell JC, 'Star Wars' saving return', Journal of Religion and Film, 13 7-7 (2009) [C1]
2009McDowell JC, 'What Athens has to do with Jerusalem: The wisdom of reason, the publics of theology', Pacifica: Australasian theological studies, 22 125-147 (2009) [C1]
2007McDowell J, 'The politics of a mel-paced passion and displaced bodies', Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 15 (2007) [C1]
2006McDowell JC, 'Karl Barth, Emil Brunner and the subjectivity of the object of Christian hope', International Journal of Systematic Theology, 8 25-41 (2006) [C1]
2006McDowell J, 'Karl Barth having nothing to hope for', Journal for Christian Theological Research, 11 1-49 (2006) [C1]
2004McDowell J, 'A very unnationalistic patriotism, or what the flag should not blind us to (2004) [O1]
2004McDowell JC, '¿Trapped in the Flag?¿', Third Way, 27 22-25 (2004)
2003McDowell J, 'Theology as conversational event: karl barth, the ending of 'dialougue' and the beginning of 'conversation'', Modern Theology, 19 483-509 (2003) [C1]
2002McDowell JC, '¿Enfleshing a Phantom Figure: Timothy Gorringe¿s Contextualised Barth¿', Quodlibet Journal, 4 na-na (2002)
2002McDowell JC, '¿Much Ado About Nothing: Karl Barth¿s Being Unable to Do Nothing About Nothingness¿', International Journal of Systematic Theology, 4 319-335 (2002)
2002McDowell JC, '¿Timothy Gorringe¿s Contextualised Barth¿', Evangelical Quarterly: an international review of Bible and theology, 74 333-350 (2002)
2002McDowell JC, '¿A Response to Rodney Holder on Barth on Natural Theology¿', Themelios, 27 32-44 (2002)
2000McDowell JC, 'Learning where to place one's hope: The eschatological significance of election in Barth', Scottish Journal of Theology, 53 316-338 (2000)
2000McDowell JC, 'Silenus' wisdom and the 'crime of being': The problem of hope in George Steiner's tragic vision', Literature and Theology, 14 385-398 (2000)
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Review (4 outputs)

2012McDowell JC, 'Predestination: Biblical and theological paths [Book Review]', Colloquium (2012) [C3]
2012McDowell JC, 'Karl Barth on the Filioque [Book Review]', Colloquium (2012) [C3]
2006McDowell J, 'Rudolg Bultmann', New dictionary of Christian apologetics (2006) [D2]
2006McDowell J, 'Karl Barth', New dictionary of Christian apologetics (2006) [D2]
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Conference (1 outputs)

2012McDowell JC, McDowell JC, 'Entertaining the Stranger in Polis, Ethos, Mythos: 'Hospitality', a Common Word at the End of Religion', Proceedings of the Annual Bonhoeffer Conference, Kincumber, NSW (2012)

Grants and Funding

No funding.


Research Supervision

Number of current supervisions2
Total current UoN PhD EFTSL0.75

For supervisions undertaken at an institution other that the University of Newcastle, the institution name is listed below the program name.

Current Supervision

ProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
20142018PhD (Theology)Principal Supervisor'Pansies', Patriarchy and Pre-Millennialism: Exposing the Aesthetics of Hyper-Masculine Christianity to the Light of Infinite Beauty
20092017PhD (Religious Studies)Principal SupervisorThe NT Picture of Judas Iscariot

Past Supervision

YearProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
2014PhD (Religious Studies)Principal SupervisorInterrupting Moral Technique, Transforming Biomedical Ethics: Reading Karl Barth Against the 'Sin' of the Common Morality and For the Postures of Human Flourishing
2014PhD (Religious Studies)Principal SupervisorBeyond Absolutism: Conversations with Karl Barth over the Reforming of Enlightenment Subjectivity in Judgement
2011M Philosophy (Religious)Co-SupervisorThe Ghostly Experiences of Non-Indigenous Australians

Professor John McDowell

Work Phone(02) 4921 8759
Fax(02) 4921 6933
PositionProfessor of Theology
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts
The University of Newcastle, Australia
Focus AreaPhilosophy, Religion and Theology
Behavioural Sciences,
University Drive
Callaghan NSW 2308