What is it that makes you who you are? In the West we live with a passionately autobiographical sense of self – I am who I am so long as I can tell my own story. Research tells us that people are more afraid of dementia than cancer because loss of identity is the worst thing we can imagine.
But are there other ways to think about this? Beginning from the experience of people whose identity is seemingly dissolving in dementia, two of our greatest theologians will consider what it really means to be a human being.
They will reflect on what roles our bodies, communities, faith and memories play, and ask how God in the person of Christ invites us to a radically new consideration of our humanity in all its variety and vulnerability, including its place in the very heart of the divine life.
John Swinton is the Director of The Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability and the Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen. His theology is founded in his background in nursing, ministry and healthcare chaplaincy. His books include Dementia: Living in the Memories of God, winner of the 2016 Michael Ramsey Prize for best contemporary theological writing, and Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship (both SCM Press).
Rowan Williams is the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and was formerly Archbishop of Canterbury. He is a poet and theologian and the author of numerous academic and popular works of theology, including Being Christian, Being Disciples, and Being Human: Bodies, Minds, Persons (all SPCK).
Chaired by Canon Tricia Hillas. Recorded 16 April 2018.