I had known John for a couple of years only when the Society for the Study of Theology met in his then home university of Oxford in 2000. In one plenary session, I found myself seated between him and Tony Thistleton, as the speaker started telling us of the ‘pastoral need’ to ‘forgive God’. Tony turned across me to John and said ‘forgiving God is rather a difficult concept theologically, is it not?’. John’s response was straightforward: ‘It’s not difficult at all; it’s blasphemy. Come on, we’re going for a pint.’

— Steve Holmes