My name is Ian Paul. Originally from London, I studied pure maths at St John’s College, Oxford and applied maths (Operational Research) at the University of Southampton before working in industrial business with Mars Confectionery in Slough in planning, manufacturing and personnel. I trained for ordination in the Church of England at St John’s College, Nottingham, where I also did a PhD on metaphor in Paul Ricoeur and the Book of Revelation. I then lived for ten years in Poole, Dorset, working on the staff of St Mary’s, Longfleet during which I was also involved in diocesan education and a member of the General Synod of the Church of England. In 2004 I returned to St John’s, Nottingham, to teach New Testament and Practical Theology and was Dean of Studies from 2005 to 2012.
In the summer of 2011, I sensed a strong call of God to write more, and eventually left St John’s in 2013 in order to write, research and speak in a freelance capacity. For information, check out my Speaking page, and to find out what others think about me go to Commendations.
You can contact me by email on ian(at)psephizo.com or connect with me on Facebook. You can download my full CV here: Ian Paul Academic CV 2019
My theological academic interests include the Book of Revelation, the interpretation of metaphor, the work of Paul Ricoeur, the theology and practice of preaching, John’s Gospel, the letter of James, and the Pauline letters (a short list, I know). Since my first two degrees were in pure and applied maths, and I worked in industrial business before ordination training, I am also interested in these areas.
In relation to ministry, I am particularly interested in issues of leadership and mission, preaching, and how individual Christians and congregations encounter Scripture and experience it as life-transforming. I am also very interested in issues of culture, economics and politics and how Christian faith engages with them. For seventeen years I was Managing Editor of Grove Books Ltd and continue on the Board as Director of Publishing.
I am married to Maggie, who is a GP (family practitioner if you are over the pond), and we have three children: Lizzi, who lives in London; Ben, who is in his last year at university; and Becca, who is in her first year at university. We have a dog, Barney, who is a cavapoo.
I spend a lot of time in my garden, doting on the dog, eating chocolate, and meeting friends and colleagues for coffee and cake.
Some people seem to use their blog like a Facebook status, updating it with short comments. Others primarily re-post material they have found elsewhere. My aim is (in the main) to post my own, original research, observations and reflections, often relating to study, teaching or ministry I am engaged in. So I hope you will find the material here stimulating, useful and thought-provoking. Please feel free to pass it on—with appropriate credit!
My blog is called Psephizo, using the Greek verb meaning ‘to calculate’, ‘work out’ or ‘reckon’—my American friends might translate this as ‘go figure’ or ‘do the math’. The word only occurs twice in the New Testament, once in Luke 14.28 in his version of Jesus’ warning to reckon the cost of discipleship before embarking on it, and in Rev 13.18 (seen here in Codex Sinaiticus) perhaps the most notorious verse in the Bible! It is related to the word psephos meaning ‘pebble’, which would have been used to do such calculations, and also occurs only in Luke and Revelation (suggesting a surprising link between the two texts, supported by other links), being the ‘white stone with a new name’ in Rev 2.17.
My own experience in faith and theology is that, whilst being a Christ-follower is in many ways mysterious and irrational, in other ways it is the only way of making sense of life—in the end, when we really understand Scripture and listen to the Spirit of God, it really does ‘all add up.’
Pebbles were also used for casting your vote in elections, and in modern Greek the verb psephizo means ‘to vote [for]’. The puzzling figure at the centre of all this, Jesus, is challenging and puzzling at time, but the only one who has the words of eternal life. Once we have ‘done the math’, we then need to make a decision: will we take up the free but costly offer of following him?