Sanctification Without Fear with Dr. Jeff and Susan McSwain

April 9th, 2020

This episode, Rector's Cupboard speaks with Jeff and Susan McSwain about sanctification and spiritual growth.  

In evangelical circles, sanctification has often been more about self than it has been about God. As a theologian, Jeff outlines a healthier view of sanctification from the theology of Karl Barth (and from Christian Scripture). The concept is that as we are justified in Christ, so we are sanctified in Christ, not of our doing. This means that we are not better than anyone, not divided from anyone by our faith.

We talk about this idea in general and in the context of the work and vocation of Jeff and Susan at Reality Ministries and North Street Neighbourhood.

This episode opens with a host conversation recorded at about week 3 of the COVID lockdown. If you want to skip to the McSwain interview, it starts at 35:23

But hey, you’ve maybe got some time these days to listen to the whole episode. The host conversation is not sombre or depressing. We speak realistically, but hopefully about what we are facing right now.

Jeff and Susan are the founders of Reality Ministries, in Durham, NC (founded 2007). Reality Ministries fosters friendships amongst people of all abilities marked by mutuality, authenticity and the reality of Christ’s love for all. 

Susan currently serves as the Executive Director. Jeff is the Theologian in Residence. He has published various articles and two books, Movements of Grace: The Dynamic Christo-Realism of Barth, Bonhoeffer and the Torrances (2010), and most recently ‘Simul’ Sanctification: Barth’s Hidden Vision for Human Transformation (2018).

Keen to stay at the interface between systematic theology and practical ministry, in the last ten years Jeff and Susan have helped plant a new church and launch the North Street Neighborhood, an intentional community (17 houses) near downtown Durham where people of various abilities share life together.


Episode Terminology:


Systematic Theology: The academic discipline of theology with the perspective that theology can be divided into areas of particular study. The study of the Holy Spirit, the study of salvation, etc.


The Patristics: Often called Desert Fathers. Considered to be early influencers in Christian thought and teaching.


Sanctification: The area of theology having to do with moving from sinfulness to discipleship/wholeness. Follows from justification, being made right; sanctification implies a being made whole. For Jeff McSwain (among others) sanctification is a divine effort rather than a human effort.


Articles, books, and links referenced in this episode:

Jeff’s Website

Reality Ministries Website

ABC news story on North Street Neighbourhood 

Harvard Business Review Grief Article, March 2020

New York Times Article, April 2020 

CNN Video - Churches stay open, April 4, 2020 

The Plague - Albert Camus, 1947

John Swinton book – Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship, 2016

The Road to Now Theology podcast episode with Jeff and Susan McSwain

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