One of the first reviewers of this book described my writing as betraying “an unusually heavy theological accent.” I don’t know whether this was intended as a compliment, but I am happy to receive it as such. An accent reveals, whether you like it or not, where you live and where you’re from. In the following pages, I never attempt to hide where I come from, but it’s somehow reassuring to know that I couldn’t even if I tried. The theological accent that this reviewer detected is hardly the only one present. Whatever accents this book bears are a written record of the debts I owe to those who made it possible and who taught me to speak as I do.
Such debts begin with my parents, Velma and Dave Perry, who taught me to speak not only in a literal sense but in a deeper sense as well—and who taught me to love reading. If I ever teach well, it is something I learned from my dad, and if I am ever kind, it is something I learned from my mom. But even if I am neither of these, they are still both. My sister, Susan, and her husband, Björn Rådström, have been invaluable friends throughout.
I owe much to my many teachers. I first read John Locke in a seminar at the University of Minnesota with James Farr. It was the class that persuaded me to pursue an academic career. In subsequent years I learned much from Nancey Murphy, Glen Stassen, and John Goldingay. This project began at Notre Dame, where it was shaped most decisively by Jennifer Herdt: a wise teacher and advisor who has the uncanny ability to see what I’m trying to say even when I don’t know myself. This book wouldn’t have been written if she hadn’t believed in it from the start. And it wouldn’t have become what it is without the support of the rest of my committee, Jerry McKenny,