Monday, June 27, 2005

Bob Brow’s Model Theology

I cannot now remember the first time that I met the Reverend Bob Brow who had recently become the Anglican Rector at St. James’ Church on the campus of Queens University in Kingston. It was sometime in 1978, perhaps due to our friends Peter and Ann Jervis.

In any case, it was not long before I, and later “we”, (as my girlfriend, then later wife Eleanor) visited Kingston in 1980 and got to know him and his lovely wife Mollie and their children and regularly attended St. James. We shall never forget his sermons and his conversation and the times with him and his delightful, warm, witty and ever smiling wife Mollie (who died October 18, 2004).

Bob turns 81 years of age this August (the 30th) and this small tribute to him is to wish him “many happy returns” and to say “thank you Bob”.

Bob, it turns out, had studied philosophy at the doctoral level after earlier studies at Cambridge and Princeton and world travels here and there. He was fascinated by the implications of Wittgenstein’s insights for theology and he soon got the many students who went to the old gray stoned church interested as well.

He used to infuriate certain kinds of questioners by saying “it all depends what you mean by x, y, z….” and that lesson showed the importance of clarifying terminology. His “model theory” for world religions is hugely important and does much to show how human beings necessarily develop a model to explain their lives and goals whether they know it or not. This insight has been of great benefit to me over the years in trying to understand what we mean by “belief” and “faith” in relation not just to religion, but culture generally.

There is too much to say about this extraordinary man and his influence on a whole group of us at that Church in Kingston over twenty years ago. Fortunately Bob embraced the benefits of new technology early on and his work and biblical teaching may be consulted now on a very good website. There you can read a bit about his life and work. To those of us who knew and loved Bob and Mollie, we can only say “thanks” for their example and their love. Of his friends, and later ours, Dennis and Gladys Clark, another blog needs to be written.

See Bob Brow’s website:

Iain T. Benson©