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A Time to Keep
Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of a Human Life

By Ephraim Radner

A Time to Keep
Paperback, 304 pages $34.95
Published: 1st December 2017
ISBN: 9781481305457
Format: 9in x 6in

Hardback, 304 pages $49.95
Published: 1st February 2018
ISBN: 9781481309462
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Theology, Systematic Theology

The miracle of birth and the mystery of death mark human life. Mortality, like a dark specter, looms over all that lies in between. Human character, behavior, aims, and community are all inescapably shaped by this certainty of human ends. Mortality, like an unwanted guest, intrudes, becoming a burden and a constant struggle. Mortality, like a thief who steals, even threatens the ability to live life rightly. Life is short. Death is certain. Mortality, at all costs, should be resisted or transcended.  

In A Time to Keep Ephraim Radner revalues mortality, reclaiming it as God’s own. Mortality should not be resisted but received. Radner reveals mortality’s true nature as a gift, God’s gift, and thus reveals that the many limitations that mortality imposes should be celebrated. Radner demonstrates how faithfulness—and not resignation, escape, denial, redefinition, or excess—is the proper response to the gift of humanity’s temporal limitation. To live rightly is to recognize and then willingly accept life’s limitations.

In chapters on sex and sexuality, singleness and family, education and vocation, and a panoply of end of life issues, A Time to Keep plumbs the depths of the secular imagination, uncovering the constant struggle with human finitude in its myriad forms. Radner shows that by wrongly positioning creaturely mortality, these parts of human experience have received an inadequate reckoning. A Time to Keep retrieves the most basic confession of the Christian faith, that life is God’s, which Radner offers as grace, as the basis for a Christian understanding of human existence bound by its origin and telos. The possibility and purpose of what comes between birth and death is ordered by the pattern of Scripture, but is performed faithfully only in obedience to the limits that bind it.

Preface: Recovering the Context of Life

1. Clocks, Skins, and Mortality

2. How Life Is Measured 

3. Death and Filiation

4. The Arc of Life

5. The Vocation of Singleness

6. Working and Eating

Conclusion: The Church’s Vocation to Number Our Days


Scripture Index

General Index

“Wide and expansive, sure to command the attention of scholars for years, even decades, to come.”

—J. Todd Billings, First Things

"Anything written by Ephraim Radner can be guaranteed to be serious, constructively difficult, spiritually challenging and original, and this book is no exception...This establishes Radner as not only an unusually profound analyst of ecclesial and ecclesiological issues (his previous books have shown that in abundance), not only a theological essayist of near-genius, but a truly systematic theologian in the best sense, someone who can connect the great themes of dogmatic orthodoxy and scriptural figure to the challenges of our culture, which seems increasingly adrift from any idea of what common humanity — let alone common created identity — might amount to."

—Rowan Williams, The Living Church

"Ephraim Radner is one of the most profound and creative theologians of our day. In A Time to Keep he examines some fundamental questions that lie at the root of how we understand ourselves as human beings. Every careful reader will come away from this book with significant new insights as to where the human project sits in the modern age."

—Gary A. Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, Notre Dame

"A formidable book repaid by a second reading"

—Jeremy James, Expository Times

"For pointing to the fundamental nature of finitude and creatureliness and for writing in a manner manifesting that very mode of being, we are in Radner’s debt. The book is commended, though the reader must be warned that, as in life, time will be taken to assimilate it."

—Michael Allen, Reading Religion

"A Time to Keep is a dizzyingly learned biblical and natural theology of human existence in which the mystery of humanity reveals the scriptural figure of Christ. We have forgotten that we will die, forgotten that our days are given in, and limited by, a context of divine generosity, generation, and death. In the cacophony of debates over the beginning and end of life, over marriage and sexuality, over the very future of humanity, Radner calls us to the patient discipline of numbering our days."

—Matt Jenson, Associate Professor of Theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

"This book is, among other things, one of the richest and most compelling Christian theologies of human sexuality to appear in decades. It should be ranked alongside works by Karl Barth and St. John Paul II as an indispensable touchstone for ongoing Christian reflection on the meaning of our embodied, procreative, and variously fruitful vocations as creatures of God."

—Wesley Hill, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Trinity School for Ministry

"Radner's prose is thoughtful, and he clearly names the complexities of contemporary life and presents a rich vision of the ways in which Christian wisdom calls humans to lives of meaning and purpose amid finitude."


Ephraim Radner is Professor of Historical Theology at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. His books include A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian ChurchThe End of the Church: A Pneumatology of Christian Division in the West, and Hope among the Fragments: The Broken Church and Its Engagement of Scripture. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 304 pages
 9in x 6in

 Hardback , 304 pages
 9in x 6in

  REL067000, REL067020, REL067110
 Baylor University Press

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