Culture Creators: An Interview with Dr. Tom Holland


One of my favorite ongoing blog series is LifeHackers' How I Work. Simple questions about how people in a variety of workplaces get stuff done. As I read more and more of these, I kept thinking about wondering about creative people I know and what their answers might be. That got me thinking. Why not host an interview series at my own blog with Christians who are working with excellence, who I admire, and who do creative stuff? I was concerned about getting enough people to host a meaningful series, but the yeses kept rolling in. So here we are.

Who is Dr. Tom Holland? Tom was born in Liverpool during the war years when the city was being devastated by German bombers because of its strategic importance as a major port. He left school at the age of 15, which was the lot of most young people at a time when higher education was the experience of a privileged few.

His early career as an engineer explains Tom’s interest in inventing and solving problems, and he continues to be fascinated by all forms of engineering achievement. His birthplace, Liverpool, explains his support for the football club of the same name and although its the music capital of the world, he’s the only member of his family who doesn’t play a musical instrument.

His two major works are Contours of Pauline Theology, Christian Focus, Fearn Scotland, 2006, and Romans: The Divine Marriage, Wypf and Stock, 2011. He has written a range of articles and reviews for Christian newspapers and theological journals and is presently writing several books which are due out later this year, one of them being about Paul’s understanding of the law and the Christian.

Tom now works part-time for the school in Bridgend (Wales Evangelical School of Theology), allowing him to accept more preaching and lecturing engagements as well as focus on completing a number of books he is anxious to bring to press. He continues to supervise PhD candidates in a range of NT topics.

He has been a guest lecturer in many institutions around the world and is an internationally recognised authority on Pauline studies. His research interests are Pauline Studies and the four Gospels. He is particularly interested to hear from potential PhD students who want to study in the area of the New Exodus promises of the OT and their influence on NT theology.


Mathew B. Sims: What kind of computer do you write on?

Dr. Tom Holland: PC at college, a laptop at home

MBS: What’s your writing application of choice?

TH: Microsoft Word

MBS: One word to describe your workspace?

TH: Small and fairly disorganised

MBS: How do you write?

TH: Large chunks at a time

MBS: What are you currently reading?

TH: Leviticus by Jay Sklar. It's a good reminder of God's holiness, something too easily forgotten.

MBS: Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?

TH: A moderate introvert

MBS: What tools are invaluable for you?

TH: Files I make in my Microsoft account. I pick up a whole range of information from the web, email it to myself and file it away. So I have files on all sorts of subjects that can be accessed from around the world

MBS: What’s the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had?

TH: A cup of extra- strong Columbian ground coffee I had thirty years ago. I measure all cups of coffee by that one, and none have come near to touching it

MBS: What makes a good theologian in one sentence?

TH: Being suspicious about any argument that ignores texts that challenge it.

MBS: What current projects are you working on?

TH: A study on the law and the church in Pauline theology; a group study bible on Romans; an evaluation of the work of a prominent NT scholar—name yet to be disclosed—and a joint analysis and biblical evaluation of contemporary American popular culture and identity

MBS: Early bird or night owl?

TH: Night owl

MBS: What advice would you give seminary students who are thinking of pursuing academic work?

TH: Be adaptable once you graduate. If you want to teach in higher education you might not get work in your own country and might need to follow your calling elsewhere. Such ministry can be incredibly enriching and helpful to national believers

MBS: When researching for your academic work, how do you organize your research?

TH: I take extensive notes of everything I read and file them away—it saves second readings, apart from very specific checks, before going to print

MBS: What’s the most common misreading of Paul?

TH: Failure to see that he was Jewish through and through, and crediting him with ways of thinking that his letters do not support he ever held. Whenever a commentator says that Paul did not mean to say what the text says, be very careful!

Follow what Dr. Tom Holland creates: