Robert J. Banks (theologian)

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Robert John Banks is an Australian biblical scholar and practical theologian as well as an innovative lay educator and church planter.

Early life[edit]

Robert Banks was born in Sydney, raised and educated there, and studied Arts/Law at Sydney University.[1] In 1959 he entered Moore Theological College and on graduating three years later married Julie Lonsdale Johnson. After ordination and ministry at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Adelaide, he completed an MTh at King's College in the University of London and a Ph.D in New Testament on Jesus' attitude to the Law at Clare College Cambridge University. In 1969 he resigned from the Anglican Church on the grounds of its status distinction between clergy and laity, its ceremonial view of the sacraments and its over-emphasis on its members serving the institution and activities of the church rather than fulfilling their vocation in and witnessing to the world.

Returning to Australia in 1969, he was appointed as a Research Fellow in the History of Ideas Unit at the Australian National University, Canberra. During this time he helped develop several home-based congregations in the city, was also a theological consultant to people of faith in the Public Service and started a theological program for lay people.[2] In 1974 he became Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Macquarie University, Sydney. His publications during thus time included books on early Christian idea of community, the tyranny of time, private values and public policy, and going to church in the first century.

Mid life[edit]

In 1989 he was invited to become Foundation Professor in The Ministry of the Laity at Fuller Theological Seminary, Los Angeles, where he introduced a Master of Arts in Christian Leadership for lay people and a Doctorate in Practical Theology. Three highlights of this period were helping to found a national Coalition for Ministry in Daily Life, serve on the Board of InterVarsity Fellowship's Marketplace Ministries and nurturing independent and denominational home-based congregations in Los Angeles and other parts of North America. In the mid-90's he became the first Executive Director of the De Pree Leadership Center at Fuller Seminary, working among business, media and professional people as well as with church, para-church and missionary leaders.

His lifelong interest in film led to his becoming the first Director of an annual City of the Angels Film Festival, held annually at the Director's Guild in Los Angeles. This focussed on mainstream and independent films containing spiritual and moral themes. Along with books on the God as worker and re-envisioning theological education, he wrote and edited others on relating faith to work, leading with spirit, and Christianity in everyday life. Alongside being a Visiting Professor in theological institutions in Korea, Canada, Russia and Switzerland, he networked with facilitators of simpler, grassroots forms of christian gathering in a range of non-denominational, inter-denominational, and mainline denominational settings in overseas courses.

Later life[edit]

In early 1999 he returned to Australia where, shortly afterwards, his wife Julie died of a brain tumour. He then became the first Director and Dean of the Christian Studies Institute at Macquarie University, Sydney, which offered degree level courses to university students and professional development for Christians in the workplace. In late 2000 he married Linda Hope, who had been a Staff Worker for the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students and an Associate Pastor in a number of churches. In the following years he wrote books on everyday theology, religion in film, and apologetics.[3] In 2004 a Festschrift was produced in his honour with contributions from fifteen scholars around the world, including Edwin Judge, John Drane, Miroslav Volf and James Dunn.[4] He and Linda also created biblically-based resource materials for small groups and biographies of two pioneer female Australian missionaries who served in Fujian Province, China, a country for which they have developed a great love and to which they have made several visits.

He is presently an Adjunct Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, for whom he teaches courses overseas, at the Biblical Graduate School of Theology in Singapore and in the School of History, Philosophy and Politics at Macquarie University. In 2015 and 2016 he was appointed an Honorary Professor at Alphacrucis College, Sydney and an Adjunct Research Professor at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture of Charles Sturt University in Canberra. In recent years he has addressed theological students, Christians in the workplace, and congregations seeking more participatory, relational, and world-connected ways of operating in Asia and Europe. Several of his books have now been translated into Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Danish, Chinese and German and he has also won Book of the Year awards in Australia, Canada and the United States. He has been a member of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research in England, and the international Society for New Testament Studies..


  1. ^ A longer biographical sketch can be found in the introduction to a Festschrift for Robert Banks edited by Simon Holt and Gordon Preece, The Bible and the Business of Life: Essays in Honour of Robert J. Banks' Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ATF Press, 2004, ix - xvi.
  2. ^ An account of his role in the establishing and development of these more organic and interactive, societal and cultural involved groups in Canberra may be found at
  3. ^ A preliminary assessment of Robert Banks' theological contribution has been written by Geoff R. Treloar, "Three Contemporary Christian Radicals in Australia - Robert Banks, Stuart Piggin and Bruce Kaye", Agendas for Australian Anglicanism, ed. Tom Frame and Geoffrey Treloar, ATF Press, 2006, 195-229.
  4. ^ The Bible and the Business of Life: Essays in Honour of Robert J. Banks' Sixty-Fifth Birthday, eds. Simon Holt and Gordon Preece, ATF Press, 2004.

External links[edit]

Biblical Graduate School of Theology Adjunct Lecturers Page

IVP Press Author Page

LibraryThing Author Page

Major publications[edit]

  • Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1975
  • Paul's Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Historical Setting, Anzea, Sydney; Paternoster, Exeter and Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1980, revised version by Hendricksen Press, 1994.
  • Going to Church in the First Century, Hexagon Press, Sydney, 1980.
  • The Tyranny of Time, Anzea, Sydney; Paternoster, Exeter; InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, 1983.
  • Re-envisioningTheological Education: A Missional Approach to Ministry Formation, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
  • All the Business of Life: Bringing Theology Down-To-Earth, Albatross, Sydney; Lion, Tring, 1987, revised and expanded as "Redeeming the Routines: Bringing Theology to Life", Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.
  • God the Worker: Journeys into the Mind, Heart, and Imagination of God, Sydney, Albatross, 1992; Valley Forge: Judson, 1994
  • And God Created Man: Is God a Human Invention?, Lion Hudson/Kregel, 2010.
  • Daily Work as Divine Vocation: A Christian Perspective, Singapore: Ethos Centre for Public Christianity, 2017
  • (with Julia Banks) The Home Church: Regrouping the People of God for Community and Mission, Albatross, Sydney (Lion,Tring), 1986, revised and republished by Hendricksen Press, 1998.
  • (with Kim Powell), Faith in Leadership: Why it Matters and What Difference it Makes, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.
  • (with Michael Frost) Lessons from Reel Life: Movies, Meaning and Myth-Making, Open Book, 2001.
  • (with Bernice Ledbetter) Reviewing Leadership: A Christian Evaluation of Current Approaches, Baker, 2004, revised and expanded edition (with also David Greenhalgh), 2016..
  • Ed. Reconciliation and Hope: New Testament Essays on Atonement and Eschatology, Paternoster, Exeter and Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1974.
  • E.d. Private Lives and Public Policy: The Ethics of Decision Making in Government Administration, Anzea, Sydney, 1983).
  • Ed. (with R.Paul Stevens), The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity: An A-Z Guide to Following Christ in Every Aspect of Life, Dower's Grove: IVP, 1997 (ed).
  • Ed. (with Paul Stevens), Thoughtful Parenting: A Manual of Wisdom for Marriage and Family, Downer's Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001.
  • Ed. (with Paul Stevens), The Marketplace Ministry Handbook, Regent College, 2005.
  • (with Linda Banks) View From the Faraway Pagoda: A Pioneer Australian Missionary in China from the Boxer Rebellion to the Communist Insurgency, Acorn, 2012
  • (with Linda Banks) "They Shall See His Face": The Story of Amy Oxley Wilkinson and her Visionary Blind School in China, Melbourne: Acorn, 2018