What on earth is virtualtheology.net?

It started out over a glass of wine and a few wistful remarks in 2005. Simon Taylor and Paul Roberts, colleagues working at a church in Bristol, UK, were bemoaning the fact that they were no longer able to teach theology as they once had. Paul had been lecturer in worship and Christian doctrine at Trinity College Bristol in the 1990s. Simon had worked as a researcher for the Lincoln Theological institute in Sheffield before being ordained. Both of them hold doctorates in theology. Their theological braincells were active, but slightly festering around the edges. The wine imbibation continued, and eventually the idea of Bluffer’s Guides and virtualtheology.net took shape: an easy-to-access approach to learning theology seriously for those who really want to find out more, and a chance to listen in to some live teaching via podcasts.

The first series took place in a bar in Bristol in the summer of 2005 – dealing with an introduction to the Doctrine of the Trinity and the characteristic doctrine of the Incarnation. This used to be bread-and-butter for theological students for decades, but many non-theologically-trained Christians find the subjects baffling.

The talks were a big success as a live event but the surprise for us was how people picked up on them over the internet. Podcasting was a new technology at the time, and we were delighted that people were enjoying the downloads.

The following year saw the Bluffers’ Guide to … heresy series, spurred on partly by both of us reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and feeling that he shouldn’t get away with such a load of non-historical drivel.

The third series was on the doctrine of Ecclesiology – the meaning and purpose of the Church, and what the Church understands about itself. Sadly, one of the talks suffered with a calamitous recording failure, so there is a gap in the sequence when we dealt with Reformed Ecclesiology. One night, after some reading and a few beers, we may fill that gap. But in the meantime …

In 2009, Simon Taylor embarked on a series on his own: The Bible in an Hour where he takes a book of the Bible in one hour and will give an enlightening (and sometimes critical) introduction to it. The aim is to help people take the Good Book seriously, but introducing it in a way that can be taken seriously!

He followed this up with a second series in 2010. In 2011, both Simon and Paul are running a cut-down version of Series 1 at the Greenbelt Festival. We are delighted to bring you this, the latest of the virtualtheology.net exploits.

We hope you enjoy yourselves! With best wishes, Paul and Simon.

(Paul Roberts is presently Director of Anglican Formation at Trinity College, Bristol.
Simon Tayor is presently the Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe Church, in Bristol.)