Timelessness, Dementia and the Appeal to Practice

A Response to Swinton’s Rejoinder


  • Wilko van Holten De Forensische Zorgspecialisten
  • Martin Walton Protestant Theological University




pastoral care, spiritual care, practical theology, chaplaincy, philosophical theology, timelessness of God, dementia, theological method, John Swinton


In this article, Wilko van Holten and Martin Walton continue the exchange with John Swinton regarding the understanding and usefulness of the “timelessness of God” (Swinton, 2016) in the context of dementia (see HSCC 8(1), “A Critical Appraisal of John Swinton’s Theology of Time and Memory” by van Holten and Walton, 2020, and “A Rejoinder to van Holten and Walton” by Swinton, 2020a). Both van Holten and Walton argue that Swinton’s restatement of God’s eternal presence in terms of unchangeableness comes with a serious theological price, namely, a static image of the divine. Swinton’s refusal to pay this price points to a tension in his thinking on this point. The authors adduce some empirical evidence to substantiate the claim that a timeless and immutable God is psycho-spiritually less appropriate in the context of pastoral care. For van Holten and Walton, their major concern is not with the intentions or conclusions at which Swinton arrives, but with the way in which he argues for those conclusions and expresses these intentions. In this exchange, practical and philosophical theology meet, and the authors explore some of the questions which are raised. These questions ultimately are concerned with theological method. A response to this article by Swinton will also be published in this issue of HSCC (see Swinton, 2022).

Author Biographies

Wilko van Holten, De Forensische Zorgspecialisten

Wilko van Holten is a Mental Health Chaplain with De Forensische Zorgspecialisten, a forensic mental health hospital in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, and a Research Fellow at the Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands. His research interest is in religious delusions and the theology of chaplaincy care.

Martin Walton, Protestant Theological University

Martin Walton is Professor emeritus of Chaplaincy Care at the Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands. His research topics include intercultural and inter-religious chaplaincy care, conceptualizations of chaplaincy and spirituality, and case studies research.


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How to Cite

van Holten, W. ., & Walton, M. . (2022). Timelessness, Dementia and the Appeal to Practice: A Response to Swinton’s Rejoinder. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 10(1), 93–107. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.18876

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