Paul Badham

Episode 193,   Apr 23, 08:41 AM

My guest this week is Professor Paul Badham who for many years was Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Lampeter, where he began his career in 1973. His own father had done an English degree there before studying Theology at Oxford and whose own writings were influential on Paul.

We find out how Paul got interested in his seminal research on life after death, which hadn’t been a central plank of his studies beforehand. He mentions Penny Sartori’s work in terms of gathering the relevant evidence and we find out about other students of his who have undertaken research on NDEs and the afterlife, including his Canadian students who worked on the care of the dying which brought about a change of emphasis in Paul’s own work in this area.

Paul talks about being a patron of Dignity in Dying and how his work here prompted former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey to change his mind on the topic.

We discuss his media appearances and Paul talks about his regret that he has been associated so much with this particular branch of theology when his interests have spanned the wider area of Christian theology, with world religions being of particular interest to him.

We talk about his own PhD supervisor John Hick and how he made it respectable to talk about issues around parapsychology but that the work was not always seen in this way.

We find out about the funding that was available in the 1990s for students from Turkey to undertake PhDs in the department and we discuss Paul’s stance on the ordination of women and how in many ways he was ahead of his time.

We find out where Paul grew up and that his father was a vicar, and Paul reflects on how it feels as though he grew up into a different world in some respects. He did Theology at Oxford which, he reflects, was quite an old fashioned Christianity-centred degree. He talks about how the parameters of the subject and its relationship to Religious Studies was to change over the years.

We also find out about the way music has impacted on Paul’s life, and how he first met his wife, Linda, in a choir when they were both at Birmingham, and Paul talks about how music is often one of the triggers for religious experience.

We find out also how due to Paul’s health he has turned increasingly to being ‘read to’ via podcasts.

Paul also discusses his work on comparing religious experience in Britain and China, and we find out whether Paul, who was ordained, imagined that he would follow an academic or a church career.

We learn that at Lampeter Paul wanted to move away from the notion that academic theology should be taught only by believers and that other religions should be taught by atheists who were interested in religious studies. He is proud of how world religions were taught by scholars who were both within and from without the faith traditions concerned.

Paul talks about having gone five times to Japan to lecture and about his experience of working across theology and religious studies colleagues at Lampeter. It is all very different from when he arrived in Lampeter as back then everyone was a Christian theologian.

I ask Paul if there was a particular golden age from his time at Lampeter, and Paul reveals what his younger self would think about what he went on to do in his life and career. We also find out at the end of the interview whether Paul is a looking back or a looking forward type of person.