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.

Recent Submissions

  • Don Cupitt: theological pioneer?

    Graham, Elaine; Smith, Graeme; University of Chester; Sarum College (SAGE Publications, 2024-01-31)
    This final article in a three-part series exploring the contemporary significance of the theologian and philosopher of religion Don Cupitt examines the extent to which he might be considered a ‘theological pioneer’. There are three possible areas of innovation: Cupitt’s work on non-realism, his adoption of postmodern philosophy and his advocacy of a religion of everyday speech. In each of these, Cupitt carried out ground-breaking work, but it is less clear whether his ideas have exercised a significant and lasting influence. While the Sea of Faith television series (1984) generated a substantial popular following, his work has not been widely adopted or developed by successive generations of theologians or scholars of religion.
  • God's Patience and Our Work. Hans Frei, Generous Orthodoxy and the Ethics of Hope

    Fulford, Ben; University of Chester (SCM Press, 2024-02-28)
    This book offers a new interpretation of Hans Frei's theology and ethics, their development, coherence in context and their relevance to contemporary Christian political theology and ethics. On this reading, Frei offered a subtle, flexible account of the essence of Christianity, a Christology which grounds Christ's living presence and enduring solidarity with the poor and marginalised and to history and the church in his particular identity. I show that he sought to recover the conditions for an ethics of responsibility and to articulate the terms of the publicness of Christian theology and ethics. His vision of Christian discipleship, shaped by Christ's identity, emphasises generous, reconciliatory love and practices of penultimate reconciliation amidst the structural divisions engendered by social sin. Above all, he outlined a theology of God's patience and providence to frame a hopefully realistic, contextually pragmatic, progressive engagement of Christian communities with politics and society.
  • Postliberal Theology

    Fulford, Ben; University of Chester
    An overview of Postliberal Theology, its characteristic concerns and themes, the contributions of key figures, debates about their ideas, its influence, achievement and agenda.
  • Embodying a Different Word about Fat: The Need for Critical Feminist Theologies of Fat Liberation

    Bacon, Hannah; University of Chester (MDPI, 2023-05-25)
    In contemporary Western society, fatness speaks for itself, affirming the fat person as an aesthetic and moral failure even before they say a word. Fat bodies, and fat female bodies in particular, are produced and reproduced as sites of excess and obscenity. Christian theology has protected itself from the contaminating touch of fat by ignoring fatness in theological discourse. Especially con-cerning is the relative absence of ‘fat talk’ from liberation and feminist theologies. It is time for a different word to be offered on fat that does not speak for itself and that emerges from the lived experiences of diverse women as they interpret their own faith and fatness. This essay explores the need for critical feminist theologies on fat liberation and identifies some features they might display. Here, I discuss Feminist Participatory Action Research and ethnography as methodologies that might help feminist theologians researching fat to prioritise the overlooked bodies and stories of fat women, and to continue liberation theology’s longstanding commitment to constructing historical projects oriented towards social change. Fat liberation, as a historical and theological project, calls for a ‘conversion’ to fatness and for a critical questioning of assumed ‘truths’ about fat. It positions the struggle against fat hatred as a pursuit of life and as faithful participation in the liberating activity of the God of Life.
  • Body/Image

    Bacon, Hannah; University of Chester
    According to feminist liberation theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid, if there is one thing that feminist theologies can claim in common it is that ‘the body always takes charge: our armpits come first’, more specifically our ‘bushy’ armpits. No doubt the choice of armpits here is deliberate by Althaus-Reid given the way this part of women’s bodies has been disparagingly associated with feminism and with the western feminist project of resisting restrictive beauty standards. To begin feminist theologies with women’s ‘bushy armpits’ is to begin with a confidence in women’s flesh and with a preparedness to confront and transgress social and religious norms that contain women’s bodies and mark them as disgusting. This chapter explores the ways in which Christian feminist theologies have approached the body, paying particular attention to feminist theological discussion around body image, especially concerning beauty, fatness and thinness. It first considers how feminist theologies have exposed, challenged and reclaimed aspects of Christian body theology before considering how feminist theologians have explored body image and women’s struggles for bodily integrity.
  • The Bible and the Violence of Fat Shaming

    Bacon, Hannah; University of Chester
    The Bible presents an ambiguous view of fat and fatness. Following normative gendered constructions of corpulence in the ancient world, fat symbolises excess, moral weakness, lack of self-restraint and lavish living, but it also represents divine abundance and is symbolic of life and wellbeing. Indeed, fat criticism in the Bible is reliant upon positive associations of fatness and this encourages us to read both constructions of fatness alongside one another. While negative constructions of fatness in biblical texts lend support to the gendered violence of fat shaming evidencing the ongoing influence of ancient attitudes on contemporary anti-fat attitudes, embracing the ambiguity of biblical texts troubles the contemporary political tendency to polarise fat as either ‘bad’ or ‘good’ and allows for the productive dimensions of fat shame.
  • Another World? Practical Wisdom for the End-Times

    Graham, Elaine; University of Chester (De Gruyter, 2023-11-11)
    Practical Theology today is inescapably and urgently conducted in the shadow of global climate emergency. This is made more acute by the emergence of the concept of ‘Anthropocene’, or the recognition that climate change is now being decisively driven by human intervention. This article explores aspects of contemporary ‘cli-fi’ culture which have emerged in response to environmental crisis. In their use of the language of ‘apocalypse’ to frame the nature of climate emergency, they carry strong resonances with Biblical literature and Christian theology. Can a dialogue between these different genres generate constructive theological wisdom that might direct us towards more equitable and sustainable ways of living?
  • Candrakīrti on the Use and Misuse of the Chariot Argument

    Jones, Dhivan Thomas; University of Chester (Springer, 2023-06-15)
    The publication in 2015 (ed. Li) of Chapter 6 of the rediscovered Sanskrit text of Candrakīrti’s Madhyamakāvatāra (MA) allows us to witness more directly Candrakīrti’s careful and deliberate critique of the ‘chariot argument’ for the merely conventional existence of the self in Indian Abhidharmic thought. I argue that in MA 6.140–141, Candrakīrti alludes to the use of the chariot argument in the Milindapañha as negating only the view of a permanent self (compared to an elephant), rather than negating ego-identification (compared to a snake in its hole). In contrast to this misuse of the chariot argument, in MA 6.150–165 Candrakīrti uses the chariot argument as an allegory to enable the meditator to refute the basis of ego-identification in seven ways. Candrakīrti’s use of the chariot argument does not establish any theory about the self or not-self, but acts as a guide to meditation as part of philosophy as a spiritual practice with the goal of liberation.
  • Embodying a Different Word about Fat: The Need for Critical Feminist Theologies of Fat Liberation

    Bacon, Hannah; University of Chester (MDPI, 2023-05-25)
    In contemporary Western society, fatness speaks for itself, affirming the fat person as an aesthetic and moral failure even before they say a word. Fat bodies, and fat female bodies in particular, are produced and reproduced as sites of excess and obscenity. Christian theology has protected itself from the contaminating touch of fat by ignoring fatness in theological discourse. Especially concerning is the relative absence of ‘fat talk’ from liberation and feminist theologies. It is time for a different word to be offered on fat that does not speak for itself and that emerges from the lived experiences of diverse women as they interpret their own faith and fatness. This essay explores the need for critical feminist theologies on fat liberation and identifies some features they might display. Here, I discuss Feminist Participatory Action Research and ethnography as methodologies that might help feminist theologians researching fat to prioritise the overlooked bodies and stories of fat women, and to continue liberation theology’s longstanding commitment to constructing historical projects oriented towards social change. Fat liberation, as a historical and theological project, calls for a ‘conversion’ to fatness and for a critical questioning of assumed ‘truths’ about fat. It positions the struggle against fat hatred as a pursuit of life and as faithful participation in the liberating activity of the God of Life.
  • Don Cupitt: prophet, public intellectual and pioneer Public intellectual

    Graham, Elaine L.; Smith, Graeme; University of Chester; University of Chichester (SAGE Publications, 2023-05-09)
    The 1984 BBC TV series The Sea of Faith offered Don Cupitt an exceptional degree of public recognition and notoriety. His advancement of a non-realist and social constructivist theology had a strong polarizing effect on his audience, engendering disapproval and approbation in equal measure. Opinion was strongly divided between those who resisted any kind of critical approach to Christian teaching and those who felt liberated by Cupitt’s call for a more modern and questioning theology. Through archives of audience reactions to his broadcasts and writings, this article considers whether Cupitt’s influence through The Sea of Faith and other writing and broadcasting was sufficient to rank him as a ‘public intellectual’. It will argue that the controversy Cupitt attracted and his categorization as ‘atheist priest’ and ‘radical theologian’ may ultimately have limited his efforts to promote broad-based, serious theological debate in Church and society.
  • Jaspers and Sartre: transcendence and the difference of the divine

    Casewell, Deborah; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2023-05-05)
    This paper takes the movement of transcendence in Sartre and examines it in relation to another understanding of transcendence in relation to God circulating in Paris in Sartre’s formative years: that of Karl Jaspers. Through exploring the transmission and reception of Jaspers' thought in French philosophy, different understandings can be advanced as to why he engages with the figure of God as that which we transcend towards, however impossibly, and why he counts Jaspers as a Catholic existentialist.
  • Why Were They Not Radicalized? Young Members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Aftermath of Egypt's 2013 Military Coup

    Abdelgawad, Doha; University of Chester (Middle East Institute, 2022-12-01)
    While many young members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood became politically disengaged in the wake of the 2013 military coup, others resorted to violence. Drawing upon fieldwork conducted in 2016/17, this article investigates the forces of radicalization among younger Brotherhood members after the coup. Rather than there being a positive correlation between repression and radicalization, I argue that the majority of rank-and-file movement members remained inclined against radicalism due to the effects of state repression, organizational schism, and transformative personal experiences.
  • Don Cupitt: prophet, public intellectual and pioneer Prophet without honour: the marginalization of Don Cupitt

    Graham, Elaine; Smith, Graeme; University of Chester; University of Chichester (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.
  • Gallows and Golgotha: Morbid Conventions in the Inherited Place-names of Seventeenth-century Quaker Burial Grounds

    Farrow, Thomas J.; University of Chester (Liverpool University Press, 2021-06-01)
    In the mid to late seventeenth century Quaker burial grounds were established throughout Britain on land donated by Friends or purchased specifically for the purpose. Among purchased sites, a small but consistent minority bear nominal association with gallows and gibbets through place-names inherited from prior land use. This suggests that a pattern of land acquisition relating to prior morbid use may be drawn. In the present work it is proposed that such undesirable land would not only have been cheap and convenient to acquire but that its connotation of liminality held further symbolic significance and purpose within early Quaker establishments. Two key case studies are provided and their conceptual significance investigated. Frameworks of enquiry are then theorised, culminating in suggestions for further research.
  • Early Christianity and War

    Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Cambridge University Press, 2023-05-11)
    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, 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, 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.
  • 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.

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