The Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester is a community of scholars addressing cutting edge questions concerning theology and the nature and place of religions in the world from a wide range of perspectives. We are dedicated to excellence, both in our student-centred teaching and learning and in our research.

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  • Working with God: the practice of connecting Christian faith with everyday work

    Fulford, Ben; Graham, Elaine; Tee, Caroline; Leach, James (University of Chester, 2022-08)
    Against the background of moves, especially in the Church of England, to close the so-called Sunday-Monday gap and encourage whole-life discipleship, this thesis explores the ways that Christians connect their faith with their everyday work in practice. The research is based on analysis of semi-structed interviews with thirteen self-identifying Christians in non-faith-based paid employment who were associated with an evangelical Anglican church in the South East of England. Working with the theological consensus that sees work as co-operation with God, I found that the dimension of closeness, or proximity, to God and God’s purposes characterised the most salient connections between faith and work. Using categories from David Miller’s The Integration Box/Profile, participants tended to experience their work most strongly as co-operation with God when they could perceive God’s purposes being achieved at the closest, micro, level of their everyday activities. This tended to be more salient than a perceptually more distant connection at the mezzo (corporate) and macro (societal) levels of the overall activity and purposes of the enterprise. Such micro level connections were reinforced by experiences of God’s presence and providential activity at that level, framed as personal encounters with God. The more that participants experienced these close connections in their workplace experience, the more they felt that they were working with, as opposed to merely for, God. This suggests that teaching an overarching, macro-level, theological framework within which daily work finds a place will not be sufficiently salient to overcome the Sunday-Monday gap on its own. In several cases the experience of close co-operation with God was associated with deliberate practices of attentiveness and reflection. The evidence suggests, however, that further encouragement and training in such practices, perhaps especially in a workplace group setting, could have a significant impact on workplace discipleship. In identifying the significance of proximity to God and God’s purposes and connecting the experience of proximity with particular Christian practices, this thesis resources practitioners aiming to nurture workplace discipleship.
  • Don Cupitt: prophet, public intellectual and pioneer Prophet without honour: the marginalization of Don Cupitt

    Graham, Elaine; Smith, Graeme (SAGE Publications, 2023-01-05)
    This article is the first of three that will evaluate the work and legacy of the Cambridge non-realist theologian and philosopher of religion, Don Cupitt. We begin by suggesting that Cupitt might be depicted as a ‘prophet without honour’ in both his ecclesiastical home of the Church of England and at the University of Cambridge, where he spent most of his professional life. This is based on the observation that, after a promising early career, Cupitt never received the ecclesiastical preferment or academic promotion that many argued he deserved. This arguably represents a missed opportunity for both Church and academy, because Cupitt is more accurately understood not as an enemy of religion but as essentially an ecclesiastical insider whose chief motivation was to uphold the contemporary relevance and credibility of Christianity.
  • Early Christianity and War

    Middleton, Paul; University of Chester
    This essay examines the role of war in the New Testament and Early Christianity.
  • Martyrdom and Persecution in the New Testament

    Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Wiley Blackwell, 2020-01-30)
    Examines the phenomena of martyrdom and persecution as reflected in the New Testament
  • Creating and Contesting Christian Martyrdom

    Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Wiley Blackwell, 2020-01-30)
    This essay examines the way in which martyrdom narratives are not primarily accounts of a death, but literature that reflects a wider conflict in which the martyr represents a community against their real or perceived enemies. It examines the process of martyr making.
  • Helping Ministry Thrive: Pastoral Supervision in the Methodist Church

    Graham, Elaine; Llewellyn, Dawn; Craig, Ruth (University of Chester, 2021-11)
    This thesis develops a model of pastoral supervision to help clergy in the Methodist Church in Ireland thrive in their ministry. I argue that clergy experience difficulties such as lack of support, conflict, loneliness, stress and burnout, and the demands of unrealistic expectations from themselves or others. In 2006 a report was presented to the Methodist Church in Ireland Conference identifying many of these issues, maintaining that some form of accompaniment for clergy would be beneficial. As a supervisor who supervises clergy, I argue that supervision is the most effective way of providing support and accountability combined with other elements that can help clergy thrive in their ministry. As someone who has experienced difficulties in my ministry and the benefits of supervision, I set out to discover whether a more holistic model of supervision incorporating spirituality could help address these issues. First, I introduce and critique the model of supervision I have been working with for several years to construct an improved model for clergy. Second, I evidence through literature that clergy face many challenges in their ministry, such as those listed above. Through qualitative research and semi-structured interviews, my research explores clergy’s stories of ministry, revealing the full extent of the problems they have experienced. Considering these clergy narratives, this thesis argues that spirituality is essential to a minister’s life and wellbeing. The research argues that clergy are more likely to thrive in ministry if they have a strong sense of the transcendence of God and that any new model of supervision needs to be deeply embedded in spirituality to keep them connected to their relationship with God. I then explore the early modern roots of Methodism to identify some criteria for a more holistic model of supervision, which encourages and challenges ministers to consider how their relationship with God is developing, growing and transforming them. I draw on the writings and practices of John Wesley to indicate how this has always been an essential part of a Methodist understanding of ministry. My new model contains within it the elements that are part of all well-established models of supervision for clergy, but it also recognises the importance of the spiritual element that nourishes and maintains their relationship with the God who called them to this vocation.
  • In Sickness and in Health: A Theological-Exegetical Reading of Healings in the Gospels and Acts as the Basis for the Development of a Pentecostal Theology of Healing

    Clay, Martin; Frestadius, Simo; Ager, Rachel M. (University of Chester, 2021-12)
    There is, and always has been, a dark side to Pentecostal theologies of healing. This is because Pentecostal theologies and practices of healing have not adequately dealt with the reality that for many Pentecostals the promise of divine healing is not borne out by experience. This contradiction between promise and experience exacerbates the suffering of people who are not healed after prayer and alienates them from the very faith community that should be supporting them. The key argument of this thesis, and the original contribution to knowledge it will provide, is that a theological-exegetical reading of the Gospels and Acts can be utilised to inform and ground a renewed theology of healing which, rather than alienating those affected by illness, injury, or disability, empowers them. A literature review confirms that there is not already a biblically based and sufficiently developed pentecostal theology and practice of healing, which is consistent with the experience of the many Pentecostals who are not healed after prayer, which is, or could be, followed by Pentecostals in Britain today (Chapter 3). The Pentecostal hermeneutic of Spirit, Community and Word is utilised to ground the renewed theology of healing. The lived testimonies of Christians whose prayers for divine healing remain unanswered bears witness to the fact that not all faithful Spirit-filled Christians are healed today (Chapter 4). A theological-exegetical reading of the healing narratives in the Gospels and Acts reveals that the presuppositions held by many Pentecostals in relation to healing were not upheld (Chapter 5). This demonstrated that the Evangelists did not expect their readers to assume that Jesus healed all who came to him, or that faith was a prerequisite to healing. The outcomes of the reading of the Gospels and Acts, as well as the examination of the lived testimonies of current Pentecostal believers are utilised to ground a renewed Pentecostal theology of healing (Chapter 6). This theology is shaped by a theology of the cross and the message of Johann Blumhardt, which set healing within a cosmic-eschatological perspective. Significantly, this renewed theology is one which does not alienate those who suffer. Rather, it acknowledges the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are suffering, and it recognises their continuing faithfulness to God in the midst of suffering as lives that are victorious. It is theology which calls the church to fight the causes of suffering, but also to be present with those who suffer. The church can then respond consistently and compassionately to those who suffer both before and after prayers for healing, regardless of the outcome of those prayers.
  • A Study in Practical Theology on the Composition of Application for the Expository Sermon in a sample of Reformed Presbyterian Preachers in Northern Ireland

    Firth, Peter; Fulford, Ben; Sutherland, David (University of Chester, 2022-06)
    Composing sermon application is a problem for many expository preachers. Some consider it the most challenging element of their sermon preparation process. Consequently, application is often a weak element in their sermons. This qualitative study addresses that homiletic problem by exploring the significance of the expository approach, defined particularly by Doriani and Capill, for composing application in the expository sermon. A sample of nine Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland preachers participated in semi-structured interviews. Four themes emerged from the data collected: importance of application, significance of the defined expository method, difficulty of composing application, and inadequacy of the defined expository method. The findings showed that, while the participants considered sermon application important and the defined expository method was significant in their experience, the process of composing application remained difficult for them. The findings also showed that other elements beyond the defined method were significant in their experience. Those elements were identified as: the Holy Spirit, pastoral visitation, corporate worship, congregant input, and godly character. These beyond method elements are then reflected on theologically using church tradition and Christian Scriptures.
  • Understanding “flow”: A multimodal reading of political economy and capitalist erotics in hip hop

    Maxwell, Kate; Greenaway, Jonathan; UiT The Arctic University of Norway; University of Chester (SAGE Publications, 2022-11-10)
    One of the essential elements of a rapper’s art is “flow”: the delivery of text against beat. Hip hop, with its linguistic dominance and street origins, is traditionally male-orientated, with women often depicted in terms of (sexual) subordination. However, when considered through a female gaze, the discourses conjured by “flow” take on different meanings. From the flow of desire to monthly visits from Aunt Flo, “flow” is integral to female sexuality. As a commercial art form in a capitalist society, the flow of capital is another meaning that has been largely overlooked in hip hop studies. In this article we broaden the understanding of “flow” to include that of the libido, menstruation, capital, and social media. We analyse five hip hop songs (with videos) using a methodology that builds on Van Leeuwen’s (1999) multimodal analysis of sound, together with a tripartite division of “mode” into cultural practices, semiotic resources, and elements (Maxwell, 2015), underpinned by close readings of the Marxist philosophers Deleuze and Guattari. We show that the dominant flow in hip hop is inevitably that of capital – the Deleuzian great flow – and that even this self-consciously subversive music style is governed by the insatiable drive of the market.
  • When My Work is Found Wanting: Power, intersectionality, postcolonialism, and the reflexive feminist researcher

    Llewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester (Routledge, 2021-12-31)
    Feminist research emerges out of a struggle with power. Ingrained in feminist studies of religion is the identification and dismantling of religious hierarchies and structures that disempower. Feminist scholarship has contended with the essentialist categories of ‘woman’ and ‘women’s experience’ without questioning that its rendering of ‘religion’ and ‘gender’ was premised on and benefited from its own modes of dominance and suppression, conditioned by Western colonialism. Taking up feminist research is a reflexive position that can assist in upsetting the established hierarchies of power and the binary oppositions of researcher and researched, knower and known, political and personal. However, feminist thinking in religion and gender, like the author own, has not always been reflexively attentive to its almost exclusive focus on the relationships between religion and gender and its own power as the product of Western, colonial, secular discourses.
  • Hans Frei, 1922-1988

    Fulford, Ben; University of Chester
    An overview of the life and theology of Hans W. Frei.
  • Temple, Sex, Gender and Society

    Graham, Elaine; University of Chester (Sage Publications, 2022-07-04)
    This article gives an overview of the main economic, legal and cultural changes around the role of women, debates about gender identity and patterns of marriage and the family that have taken place over the past 80 years since Christianity and Social Order was first published.
  • Giants, Gods and Goods: Toward a 'new Beveridge'

    Graham, Elaine; University of Chester (Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2022-06-29)
    Eighty years ago, on December 1 1942, the Beveridge Report, widely seen as the founding document of the post-1945 welfare state in the UK, was published. In grandiloquent terms, the report called for an attack on ‘Five Giant Evils’ – Disease, Idleness, Ignorance, Squalor and Want -- that needed to be combatted as Britain prepared for peace and post-war reconstruction. Beveridge’s recommendations captured the public mood perfectly. Having made so many sacrifices for a common cause of defeating Nazism, armed forces and civilians alike shared a determination that the peace which followed should be built for the benefit of all. That mood found expression in the post-war Labour government’s pledges to achieve full employment, universal education and a welfare state, free of the privations and anxieties of poverty, low pay or old age. Like the 1939-45 war, the global COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fundamental inadequacies in the economy, the National Health Service and social care provision. As society moves out of the worst of the pandemic, it may be time to contemplate, as did Beveridge and his contemporaries (including William Temple), what kind of future provision may be required for the future: both in redressing the longer-term stresses and shortcomings of the existing system and in ‘building back better’. Certainly, the political historian Peter Hennessey believes the ‘never again’ impulse that sprung from the 1939-45 conflict has resurfaced today, and may be harnessed to build consensus around new priorities (Hennessey). Even so, this will entail more than simple reform of the existing welfare system, for two key reasons. First, the political, economic, cultural and demographic landscape of the twenty-first century has changed. Second, any revision of welfare requires a rethinking not only of its fiscal and operational dimensions, but of the very values that underpin a ‘welfare society’ that is fit for purpose. What principles might inform any kind of reform? And in the midst of that, what is the role of faith-based social action? In this article I will approach this question by beginning with the ‘Five Giants’ of Beveridge’s report, before asking what might form the basis of a ‘new Beveridge’ for the twenty-first century. Sam Wells’ recent survey of church-related provision argues that reforms of welfare should proceed not from a ‘deficit’ model but from one of ‘assets’ and social goods. It is in their ability to articulate and embody social capital, motivated by religious and moral values, that faith-based organisations demonstrate a distinctive and decisive contribution to civil society. This calls for a renewed focus on the significance of the voluntary sector in a revitalised ‘welfare society’, alongside the State and the market, and a consideration of five new social ‘goods’ to inform policy and inspire change.
  • Pentecostalism: A democratizing, liberating force for black women?

    McDonald, Patrice (Informa UK Limited, 2022-08-08)
  • The Significance of Gefühl for the development of Karl Barth’s Theological Anthropology 1909–1938

    Fulford, Ben; Clough, David; Templeton, Julian B. (University of Chester, 2021-10-01)
    This dissertation employs the work of late twentieth century and early twenty-first century affect theorists as a heuristic approach to Karl Barth’s theological anthropology. In Barth’s theology, Gefühl, usually translated as ‘feeling’, is the concept most like affect. From 1909 Barth’s earliest published theological writing and his early sermons show evidence of considerable alignment with Friedrich Schleiermacher’s approach in allocating a central place to experience and affection in the reception of divine revelation. However, Barth becomes aware of the conceptual weaknesses of the modernist appeal to experience. Then, the outbreak of war and the misguided fervor with which some of his theological teachers support Germany’s military aggression contributes to Barth’s gradual loss of confidence in the entire modernist theological approach. The critical view that Barth takes of Schleiermacher’s concept of Gefühl and its relationship to revelation is pivotal to the theological anthropology that Barth begins to develop in deliberate contradistinction to that of Schleiermacher. Barth constructs a theology of faith as the dialectical witness to the objective revelation of the Word of God. Barth proposes that the missions of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can reorientate alienated subjectivity. However, at a deeper level Barth’s description of the missions of the Trinitarian persons do not penetrate the affective centre of the human being. What Barth needs is a pneumatological description of the way in which divine activity works with the human being’s receptivity and spontaneity. In Church Dogmatics I/1 and I/2 he rehabilitates Gefühl by de-coupling it from Schleiermacher’s ‘feeling of absolute dependence’. He formally reconceptualises Gefühl as an affective self-determination in response to God’s sovereign determination. The addition of the concept of ‘analogy’ enables Barth to affirm that human self-determination participates in Christ’s self-determination through the Spirit’s outpouring. As a result, Barth can affirm that thinking, willing, and Gefühl are in no sense diminished in the person who in faith corresponds analogically to grace. In addition, reconceiving human spontaneity as a response to and participation in God’s sovereign activity makes it possible to affirm that divine activity and human spontaneity belong together and are consistent with one another. However, Barth’s recognition of Gefühl remains at the formal level with little material development. Nonetheless, at the formal level the concept of analogical participation has enabled Gefühl to be rehabilitated. Therefore, I conclude that Gefühl is significant in the development of Barth’s theological anthropology.
  • The Independent Schools Religious Studies Association Report Religion and Worldviews (Weltanschauung) June 2022 - A Personal Response

    Dossett, Wendy; University of Chester (Reforming RE, 2022-07-02)
    A personal reponse to the 2022 ISRSA statement on the 2018 proposals of the Commission for Religious Education.
  • Hebrews, Allegory, and Alexandria

    Middleton, Paul; Edwards, Owen C. (University of Chester, 2021-04-01)
    The problem this dissertation addresses is at face a simple one: in the very specific case of Hebrews 7.1-3, what interpretive move is the author using to interpret the Old Testament, when he offers a comparison between Jesus and the mysterious figure of Melchizedek? However, the answer quickly becomes complicated due to the inadequacy of our terminology, where “typology” and “allegory” – the most common interpretive moves assigned to Hebrews 7.1-3 in the scholarship – take on medieval or modern meanings rather than definitions available to the ancient authors themselves. This dissertation explores the historical background to figural and non-literal readings of sacred texts, considering in turn Greek, Jewish, and Christian readers. Each group of readers considered provides necessary context for interpretive activity in Hebrews. Greek allegorists provide the idea of a religiously or philosophically encoded text via the Homeric allegorists and their critic Plato. They also provide the actual ancient definition of the term “allegory”, as a rhetorical trope involving extended metaphor and poetic hinting by an author, which might include techniques ranging from metonymy to numerology to concept-for-concept substitution. Jewish allegorists – Aristeas, Aristobulus, and Philo – make the distinctive move to seeing a text as encoded not by a human poet like Homer or Orpheus, but by the great divine Author, God. When turning to Christian allegorists, a natural touchstone is Paul – who uses the term allegory in Galatians – but Jesus himself and (Pseudo)-Barnabas also provide very important context for distinctively Christian allegorical reading, particularly involving the Christological fulfilment of hints laid by God in the sacred history of the Old Testament (that is, “typology”). Trajectories in allegorical exegesis in early Christianity are considered, to examine the latent tendencies within the form. Finally, the definitions and understanding gained are turned to use in analysing exegesis in Hebrews, where 7.1-3 – and several other texts – are read against the background of Hellenistic literary allegory.
  • The Competing Values of Elim Leaders in Northern Ireland: A Theological and Practical Response

    Firth, Peter; Luke, David; Moore, Hamilton; Patterson, Mark G. (University of Chester, 2021-12-01)
    This thesis identifies how competing values divided transgenerational leaders from the Elim Movement in Northern Ireland (NI) over the last four decades. Divisions increased between leaders with competing values after changes to long-held beliefs and practices, which they never openly discussed until this research. This thesis also uses theological reflection to suggest how the situation may improve for leaders with competing values if they unite relationally to limit divisions and embrace their diversity. As an Elim leader, the researcher’s position allowed access to interview ten colleagues from NI for a qualitative investigation into their competing values in a field ready for extensive doctoral research. The “four voices of theology” model provided the structure for focused engagement with literature and empirical research to systematically examine four areas where leaders’ values competed: core principles, perspectives, differences and changes. The researcher reflected theologically on the field results to justify a unifying model that was always available but never intentionally prioritised. This model includes unifying values from the Apostles’ Doctrine and Fellowship in Acts 2:42 that leaders can prioritise in future collaboration. This thesis shows that it is apposite for Elim leaders to unite in closer relationships to embrace their diversity. Moreover, as a collaborative critique, this thesis hopes to contribute to practical theology by determining how Elim leaders’ competing values in NI are inevitable and can stop or stimulate progress for future practitioners and researchers.

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