|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (September 2008)|
Dr. Lewis Ayres, a lay Catholic theologian, is Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology at Durham University in the United Kingdom. Between 2009 and 2013 he served as the inaugural holder of the Bede Chair of Catholic Theology at Durham.
Lewis Ayres was born and educated in the UK, completing his M.A. at the University of St. Andrews (1988) and his D.Phil. at Merton College, Oxford University (1994). He has taught in the UK, in Ireland at Trinity College Dublin and in the United States at Duke University and Emory University.
The core of his research has been Trinitarian theology in Augustine and in the Greek writers of the 4th century. Ayres's period of research into patristic pneumatology has resulted in a collaborative translation of patristic texts on the Holy Spirit, but as yet the much anticipated monograph on the subject has not appeared. Besides Trinitarian theology in this pivotal period he is also interested in the later development of Trinitarian theology and in the place of Scripture in Early Christianity – both the history of Christian reading practices from the late 2nd century and the history of what can be termed the theology of Scripture itself. He is at present writing a monograph that will concern the shifts in Patristic exegesis between AD 150 and 250. It is provisionally entitled As It Is Written: Ancient Literary Criticism and the Rise of Scripture AD 100–250.
Ayres claims "a number of interests in modern Catholic fundamental and dogmatic theology – as will be evident from the last chapter of Nicaea and some of the articles I have published."  That chapter of Ayres's book was subject to sustained critical attention by Maurice Wiles, in the latter's review of the book (Journal of Theological Studies 56.2 (2005): 670–675). Wiles's sharpest criticism is that Ayres fails to show that his approach "is compatible with modern changes in our understanding of the scriptural grounds of the doctrine [sc., of the Trinity] and its development in the early patristic period." With reference to two specific examples, Wiles characterises Ayres's 'way of reading the scriptural text' as 'forced and unconvincing'. Wiles connected these interpretive practices with Ayres's underlying conception of the Church.
Ayres also declares strong interest in the place of Scripture (and Tradition) in modern Catholic theology and the fundamental structure of Catholic theology. He is convinced that the ideological and professional divisions that have arisen between Scripture scholars, "systematic" and "historical" theologians have served Catholic theology ill. He believes that ressourcement theologians have offered us many resources that can move us beyond these divisions, but much further work is necessary for their agenda to be taken forward. In the hopes of contributing to this debate he is working on a book for Blackwells entitled Resting in the Word. With his wife, Medi Ann Volpe(PhD: Duke University, 2006), he is also co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Catholic Theology (hopefully forthcoming in 2014). He has co-edited the Blackwells series Challenges in Contemporary Theology" for the past 18 years. He also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Early Christian Studies, Modern Theology and "Augustinian Studies".
Collaboration with Michel Barnes
Together with Michel Barnes, Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University, and Rowan Williams, Ayres is part of a rereading of Augustine's trinitarian theology that breaks with the older neoplatonic-centered account. In his 2007 doctoral dissertation, Keith Edward Johnson referred to this new reading as "New Canon" Augustine scholarship. From a footnote in Johnson's dissertation (p. 108 n. 189), that name would appear to have been taken from a publication by Barnes; however, the bibliography does not provide further details. The basis of the New Canon reading of Augustine was worked out in the years 1995–2000, during which Ayres and Barnes conducted an almost daily common reading and discussion, via e-mail, of Augustine's trinitarian writings.
The mutuality of Barnes' and Ayres' partnership is evident from the following comments in their respective papers, "Remember you are Catholic" and "Rereading Augustine on the Trinity":
|Barnes, 'Rereading Augustine on the Trinity', in Stephen Davis, Daniel Kendall, and Gerald O'Collins (eds.), "The Trinity" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 148n.4.||Ayres, 'Remember you are Catholic: Augustine on the Unity of the Triune God', Journal of Early Christian Studies 8.1 (2000), p. 42|
|'Since 1995 my work on Augustine has been conducted in continuous conversation with Lewis Ayres (Trinity College, Dublin) regarding his work on parallel and overlapping themes. Our daily exchange of research and texts via email means that it is difficult to acknowledge all the points at which this detailed conversation has influenced both our accounts.'||'Since 1995 my work on Augustine has been conducted in continuous conversation with Michel Barnes and his work on parallel and overlapping themes. Our virtually daily exchange of research and texts via email means that it is difficult to acknowledge all the points at which this detailed conversation has influenced both our accounts, though I have tried to do so throughout the paper in particularly important cases.'|
- Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Trinitarian Theology (Oxford, 2004/6).
- Ed. (With Frances Young and Andrew Louth) The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature (Cambridge, 2004).
- Augustine and the Trinity (Cambridge, 2010).
- (with Andrew Radde-Gallwitz and Mark DelCogliano) Works on the Spirit: Athanasius and Didymus the Blind (Crestwood NY, 2012).
- M. Wiles, Review of Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology. By Lewis Ayres. Journal of Theological Studies 56.2 (2005): 670–675, http://jts.oxfordjournals.org/content/56/2/670.full.pdf+html?sid=213e3fa2-4352-4c58-a73b-cb7260ad6c96
- . M. Wiles, Review of Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology. By Lewis Ayres. Journal of Theological Studies 56.2 (2005): 673
- . M. Wiles, Review of Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology. By Lewis Ayres. Journal of Theological Studies 56.2 (2005): 674
- Keith Edward Johnson, A “Trinitarian” Theology of Religions? An Augustinian Assessment of Several Recent Proposals Duke University, Doctoral Dissertation, 2007.