Thomas William Ruston

Thomas William Ruston

Department of Theology and Religion
Doctoral Researcher

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PhD title: Imago Dei: Receiving the Neo-Patristic Ecclesiology of John Zizioulas
Supervisor: Professor Nicholas Adams
PhD Theology and Religion


My research is a re-appraisal of the ecclesiology of the Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas in the light of recent criticism his work has received from Patristic scholarship. Zizioulas’ work has been criticised for propounding a Social Trinitarianism founded upon an analogia relationis between Divine and Human Personhood rooted in a perceived Trinitarian theology drawn from the ‘Cappadocian Fathers’. But I wish to argue that these criticisms do not take into account the role the doctrine of deification has in Zizioulas’ ecclesiology, and belies the greater significance Zizioulas’ work has for ecclesiology. In which a ‘Neo-Patristic Synthesis’ (a return to the Church Fathers) is a return to a doxological theology rooted in the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is from an ecclesiology drawn from the liturgy that a theology of human personhood, as the image and likeness of God, is found.   

Alongside my PhD research, I have undertaken research on behalf of the John Hick Estate to research the John Hick archives held at the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham. This research was funded generously by the John Hick Estate and the Spalding Trust, and was published recently as, ‘The John Hick Papers: Religious Pluralism in the Archives’ in The Expository Times, Oct 16, vol.128, 1: pp.4-19.  More information on this project