3GCSC Keynote Preview: John Ashley Null

Listen to our conversation with Ashley from May 2021.

Speaker: John Ashley Null

Bio: Author of Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance: Renewing the Power to Love, the Rev’d Canon Dr Ashley Null is an internationally respected scholar on the grace and gratitude theology of the English Reformation. Holding research degrees from Yale and the University of Cambridge, Ashley has received numerous awards for his work, including Fulbright, NEH, Guggenheim, Royal Historical Society and the Society of Antiquaries in London fellowships. He currently holds a research post funded by the German Research Council at Humboldt University of Berlin and is a visiting fellow at the Divinity Faculty of Cambridge University and St. John’s College, Durham University. In addition to his scholarly activities, Ashley is an ordained Episcopal priest, Canon Theologian of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas, Theological Advisor to the ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas and Senior Fellow of the Ridley Institute of St. Andrew’s, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.  He teaches regularly in seminaries and churches in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Australia. Furthermore, having grown up in Kansas, he is co-chair of the National Drovers Hall of Fame Museum Development Committee and the author of “Cowboys, Cowtowns and Cattle Trails” in 150 Years of Kansas Beef. Finally, Ashley serves as a chaplain to elite athletes and coaches. He is the author of Real Joy: Freedom to be Your Best and served for six years as chairman of the Major Event Chaplaincy Commission. Ashley himself is a three-time Olympic chaplain, most recently at London 2012.

Presentation: Towards a Fresh Approach to Sport Competition and Christian Faith”

In recent years, much has been written about the autotelic nature of sport and how competition, on the one hand, especially at the professional level, and evangelism on the other, fundamentally distort, and for some writers, destroy the spiritual benefits found in play. This address will challenge those conclusions by rethinking how sport and Christian faith should go together, from the bottom up. For a fresh approach, we need to make two sets of distinctions. We need to distinguish between play as seen from a human perspective, e.g., Huizinga’s famous dictum that true play is always an end in itself, and play as seen from God’s perspective, an approach pioneered by Hugo Rahner. Secondly, we need to distinguish comparison as a means of seeking self-understanding versus as a means of establishing self-worth. With these distinctions in mind, we can look to Scripture for understanding God’s purpose in competitive sport as both a school of discipleship and as a means to reach others for Christ.