Dan Hardy died last Thursday. Dan was probably one of the finest Anglican theologians of the twentieth century. I didn’t know him as well as I knew Colin Gunton or Lesslie Newbigin, but I still considered him one of my ‘authoritative others’ – someone whose views I always took very seriously – and Jubilate: Theology in Praise, the book he wrote with his son-in-law David Ford, is one of my favourite pieces of theology.
I first encountered Dan at meetings of the Society for the Study of Theology in the early 1980s. For someone who was just embarking on theological research listening to him speak was fascinating, challenging and often daunting (the theological equivalent of a keen amateur hillwalker watching a world-class mountaineer scrambling up a hitherto unclimbed route).
A single question from Dan during my first attempt to deliver a theological paper (during one of the Durham theological research consultations) unravelled my early research efforts and forced me to rethink what I was doing. Three years later I was privileged to have him as external examiner for my PhD thesis.
Yes, Dan could be intellectually daunting, but he was also a very fine preacher (see, for example, his 2005 sermon on ‘A Future for the Church’). And, above all, unlike some academics he was, at heart, someone who cared passionately for the well-being of others. Indeed, the Jewish philosopher Peter Ochs once described him as ‘a pastor's pastor – seeing light in the other, light as attractiveness in and with the other’.