• Brexit, Babylon and Prophecy: Semiotics of the End Times

      Knowles, Steve; University of Chester (MDPI, 2018-12-03)
      This article examines the predilection some Christian premillennialist preachers and teachers have with the semiotic association of geopolitics and biblical prophecy concerning the end times. This was epitomised in the run up to the United Kingdom’s referendum on continued membership of the European Union in June 2016. Since its inception, many premillennialists have interpreted the European Union as the place where the Antichrist emerges. Material objects associated with the European Union such as architecture, sculptures, currency and even posters, have been routinely highlighted as providing clear signs of the coming eschaton. Prophetic links between the European Union and satanic agencies, purported to be behind the ambition for an expanding European confederacy, ensured that many premillennialists voted to leave the European Union or were advised to do so in light of such prophetic signifiers. Utilising Webb Keane’s notion of representational economies, I argue that a premillennialist representational economy drives the search for signs in the everyday, and specifically those associated with the European Union. In this case, such semiotic promiscuity ratified the need to leave the European Union.
    • Promoting the Good: Ethical and Methodological Considerations in Practical Theological Research.

      Graham, Elaine; LLewellyn, Dawn; University of Chester (SCM Press, 2018-10-31)
      In this chapter, we draw on our experiences as supervisors on a Professional Doctorate in Practical Theology (DProf) at the University of Chester, UK, to reflect on the ethical dimensions of undertaking research in this field of study. Using three case-studies, based on our students’ work, we examine how the ethical challenges they have navigated and addressed – using a range of methods -- offer examples of the ways practical theological research can trouble and speak back to well-established practices. First, we contextualize the Professional Doctorate in practical theology and introduce the idea of the ‘researching professional’, before suggesting that although practical theology is a broad discipline, it aims to transform the researcher’s practice, their institution, and the academy. The chapter then moves to outline the part that qualitative methodologies play in the discipline and focus on its forms of research as implicated and therefore ethical project. Finally, we discuss three illustrations of recent doctoral work in practical theology that raise issues of consent, privacy, anonymity, and avoiding harm. In particular, we draw out that these examples point towards ways that qualitative research strives towards ‘the good’.
    • Interrogating the Post-Secular

      Graham, Elaine; University of Chester (Routledge, 2019-02-28)
      This chapter seeks to engage in some detail with the conceptual underpinning of the post-secular. It seeks both to clarify, and defend, the relevance and value of what remains, for some, a relatively controversial conceptual term. However the idea of the postsecular is con-ceived —“post” as either against, beyond, or after; “secular” as denoting institutional decline, loss of personal belief or the effacement of the sacred—I will argue that it still has consider-able potential. It can illuminate the changing tensions between newly-visible religious actors with¬in local and global civil society and those who contest such incursions into the supposed neutrality of the public square. Above all, the unprecedented nature of the post¬secular serves to signal the contradictions inherent in the renewed presence of faith, especially in public life, alongside continuing opposition to religion as a source of legitimate public discourse. Such a juxtaposition of belief and non-belief within postsecularity infuses all our consciousness, even the most religiously devout. It follows that any attempt to speak of faith in public re¬quires a greater sophistication and sensitivity than ever.
    • Addiction and Forgiveness

      Dossett, Wendy; Cook, Christopher C.H.; University of Chester; Durham University (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018-09-21)
      This chapter explores the role of forgiveness in the personal stories of people in long-term recovery from addictions.
    • Hans Frei: beyond liberal and conservative

      Fulford, Ben; University of Chester (Wipf and Stock, 2018)
      At first glance, Hans W. Frei does not fit the profile of an ecumenical theologian, nor does he seem to have been considered in these terms before in scholarship. Unlike his colleague, George Lindbeck, he does not appear to have taken a close interest in the ecumenical movement or particular ecumenical dialogues or reconciliation, as Lindbeck did in his The Nature of Doctrine. Nor is his work seek to mediate between Anglican and Quaker beliefs. Yet he did seek a way forward, theologically, for what he called a ‘generous orthodoxy’ in an approach that would transcend and re-frame the conservative-liberal polarity and offer an approach to orthodoxy that was at once flexible, accountable to Scripture, resilient and progressive.
    • On Animals: Volume II - Theological Ethics

      Clough, David L.; University of Chester (T&T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2018-12-27)
      This book presents an authoritative and comprehensive survey of human practice in relation to other animals together with a Christian ethical analysis building on the theological account of animals David Clough developed in On Animals Volume I: Systematic Theology (2012). It argues that a Christian understanding of other animals has radical implications for their treatment by humans, with the human use and abuse of non-human animals for food the most urgent immediate priority. Following an introduction examining the task of theological ethics in relation to non-human animals and the way it relates to other accounts of animal ethics, the book’s chapters survey and assess the use humans make of other animals for food, for clothing, for labour, as research subjects, for sport and entertainment, as pets or companions, and human impacts on wild animals. The result is both a state-of-the-art account of what humans are doing to other animals and a persuasive argument that Christians in particular have strong faith-based reasons to acknowledge the significance of the issues raised and change their practice in response.
    • Scholarly and Popular Reception

      Collins, Matthew A.; University of Chester (Bloomsbury / T&T Clark, 2018-09-20)
      For more than two-thirds of a century, the Dead Sea Scrolls have left a trail of intrigue and controversy in their wake. They have had an immeasurable impact, not only within the realms of academia and scholarship, but also upon the wider world, thanks to the widespread permeation of the scrolls into popular culture. On the one hand, they have provided scholars with a previously unimaginable wealth of textual material from the Second Temple period (shedding light, for instance, on the literature and social, political and religious world of the intertestamental era, as well as the transmission history of the scriptural texts), while on the other, the infamy resulting from years of restricted access and the consequent perceived secrecy surrounding their content has made them attractive to a fascinated public, for whom ‘the Dead Sea Scrolls’ constitutes ‘a cultural “buzz-phrase” signifying mystery, conspiracy, and ancient or hidden knowledge’ (Collins, 2011, p. 227). How have the Dead Sea Scrolls come to occupy this conceptual space in the public consciousness, and how might we begin to examine and explain the impact they continue to have upon both the academic and popular spheres?
    • Go Forth and Shrink! Towards a Feminist Theology of Dieting

      Bacon, Hannah Jayne; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2019-04-18)
      The fat body has increasingly become a site for a confrontation of different ideologies about lifestyle, as it is increasingly stigmatized and concerns about the obesity 'epidemic' create headlines in the newspapers. Weight-loss industries are booming, and the rise in faith-based dieting among Protestant evangelical women in the US evidences a growing relationship between Christian devotion and the pursuit of female thinness. What exactly though is the relationship between Christianity and secular commercial diet plans? Bacon draws on qualitative research conducted inside one UK secular commercial weight loss group to show how Christian religious forms and theological discourses inform contemporary weight-loss narratives. Notions of sin and salvation resurface in secular guise, but in ways that repeat well-established theological meanings. Theological tropes help produce and sustain a set of contradictions and tensions about weight loss which conform the women's bodies to patriarchal norms while simultaneously providing opportunities for women's self-development. Taking into account these tensions, Bacon asks what a specifically feminist theological response to weight loss might look like. If notions of sin and salvation service hegemonic discourses about fat, how might they be rethought to challenge fat phobia and the frenetic pursuit of thinness? While naming as 'sin' principles and practices which diminish women's appetites and bodies, this book gives theological expression to the conviction of many women in the group, that food and the body can be important sites of power, wisdom and transformation.
    • Rituals of Reconciliation? How Consideration of Ritual can Inform Readings of Catholic-Jewish Dialogue after the Holocaust

      Vincent, Alana M.; University of Chester (Palgrave, 2018)
      One advantage of investigating inter-religious exchange through the lens of ritual is that it permits attention to a range of extra-textual phenomena such as tone, gesture, pacing, costume, and locatedness, which are capable of adding nuance to, or even subverting, a textual tradition. In the case of post-Holocaust reconciliation, it is worth considering whether and to what degree a consideration of ritual alters the conclusions that can be drawn from the record of published documents. This chapter will explore particular practices which have emerged in the context of post-Holocaust Catholic-Jewish dialogue, reading them as instances of inter-rituality and analysing the extent to which their inter-riting advances the project of reconciliation.
    • The "Noble Death" of Judas Iscariot: A Reconsideration of Suicide in the Bible and Early Christianity

      Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Philosophy Documentation Center, 2018-08-22)
      This essay problematizes the often repeated claim that Jewish and Christian traditions have always and unambiguously opposed suicide. By examining the suicide narratives in the Hebrew Bible and late Second Temple texts, alongside early Christian martyr texts which demonstrate not only enthusiasm for death, but suicide martyrdom, I argue that many Jewish and Christian self-killings conform to Greco-Roman patterns Noble Death. Finally, I consider the death of Judas Iscariot, and having removed any a priori reason to interpret his suicide negatively, I argue Matthew’s account of his self-killing compares favourably with Luke’s narrative, in which he is the victim of divine execution. Moreover, I conclude that Matthew’s main concern is to transfer the blame for Jesus’ death from Judas to the Jewish authorities, and that he has Judas impose on himself to the appropriate and potentially expiatory penalty for his action. Thus, I conclude, even Judas’s iconic suicide can be read quite plausibly as an example of Noble Death.
    • The Violence of the Lamb: Martyrs as Agents of Divine Judgement in the Book of Revelation

      Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (T & T Clark, 2018-05-03)
      The act of martyrdom in the worldview of the Apocalypse has been considered to be an exemplification of non-violent resistance. Paul Middleton argues here, however, that it is in fact a representation of direct participation by Christians, through their martyrdom, in divine violence against those the author of Revelation portrays as God's enemies. Middleton shows that acceptance of martyrdom is to grasp the invitation to participate in the Revelation's divine violence. Martyrs follow the model laid down by the Lamb, who was not only slain, but resurrected, glorified, and who executes judgement. The world created by the Apocalypse encourages readers to conquer the Beast through martyrdom, but also through the experience of resurrection and being appointed judges. In this role, martyrs participate in the judgement of the wicked by sharing the Lamb's power to judge. Different from eschewing violence, the conceptual world of the Apocalypse portrays God, the Lamb, and the martyrs as possessing more power, might, and violent potential than the Emperor and his armies. Middleton believes that martyrdom and violence are necessary components of the worldview of Revelation.
    • Martyrdom

      Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Routledge, 2017-05-23)
      An overview of martyrdom in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
    • A daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition

      Dossett, Wendy; University of Chester (Wiley, 2017-02-02)
      Beliefs and emotions are commonly accepted features of spirituality, but spirituality also includes ‘disciplines’ and ‘practices’. While ‘professional’ language and the ‘spiritual’ practices of 12-Step may be framed differently, they are not substantively different discourses.
    • Reflections on the Language of Salvation in Twelve-Step Recovery

      Dossett, Wendy; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2015-12-17)
      ‘In return for a bottle and a hangover we have been given the Keys to the Kingdom’ (The ‘Big Book’ Alcoholics Anonymous) Many who find recovery from alcoholism through the twelve steps speak implicitly or explicitly in terms of a salvific experience. Active alcoholism is experienced phenomenologically as a totally hopeless condition from which there is no escape; yet escape is made possible for millions by the discipline of the twelve steps and the support of twelve step mutual help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and/or treatment centres. For many, the profound transformation of recovery from a hopeless and terminal condition can be understood only by reference to a Higher Power, or even a transcendent being, and thus the experience is understood as ‘spiritual’ in nature. In a volume which interrogates and widens discourse about salvation, this chapter questions the utility of soteriological language in the context of addictions recovery. Is such language in this context descriptive, or normative? What are the risks in using it? Are new languages of release from addiction being developed? The chapter draws on some case studies from the Higher Power Project, a qualitative study of spirituality and recovery at the University of Chester to explore these questions.
    • George Jeffreys: Pentecostal and contemporary implications

      Kay, William K.; University of Chester (MDPI, 2018-02-15)
      The life and work of the Welsh evangelist George Jeffreys resulted in the planting of two denominations in the UK between 1915 and 1962, when he died. The Elim churches continue to this day to be one of the larger classical Pentecostal denominations in the UK, while the Bible Pattern Fellowship dispersed on Jeffreys’ death. The disputes that led to Jeffreys’ departure from Elim were said to have arisen from his adherence to British Israel doctrine, though his supporters believed they arose from his championing of local church ownership and democracy. This paper considers sociological and other reasons for Jeffreys’ remarkable success in the interwar years and his eventual departure from a denomination he founded. It concludes by reflecting on topics (such as the importance of debate and law) that have relevance for contemporary Pentecostalism.
    • How to speak of God? Toward a postsecular apologetics

      Graham, Elaine L.; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2018-04-11)
      Against most expectations religion has not vanished from Western culture. If anything, it exercises a greater fascination than ever before. Broadly, we might think of ourselves as occupying a new, 'postsecular' space between a renewed visibility of religion in public life, and a corresponding acknowledgement of the importance of religious values and actors; and persistent and widespread disillusion and scepticism towards religion, and objections to religion as a source of legitimate public discourse. In a world that is more sensitive than ever to religious belief and practice, yet often struggles to accommodate it into secular discourse, how do religious institutions justify their position in a contested and volatile public square? This article argues that the contemporary postsecular context requires a recovery of the ancient practices of Christian apologetics as a form of public, theological witness to the practical value of faith, articulated in both deed and word.
    • Twelve Step Mutual Aid: Spirituality, Vulnerability and Recovery

      Dossett, Wendy; University of Chester (Routledge, 2017-12-27)
      This chapter considers whether the lenses of counselling and New Religious Movements help to understand the phenomenon of Twelve Step recovery from addiction.
    • Religion, Equalities and Inequalities

      Llewellyn, Dawn; Sharma, Sonya; University of Chester; University of Kingston (Routledge, 2016-08-03)
      Presenting cutting edge research on how religion can confront and obscure social inequalities in everyday life, Religion, Equalities and Inequalities argues that when religion is left out of social scientific analyses, it can result in incomplete analyses that conceal pathways to social inclusion and exclusion. Bringing together an international and interdisciplinary group of contributors who operate at the vanguard of theoretical and empirical work on how social structures of power, institutions and bodies can generate equalities and inequalities in religion, the collection shows how religion can enable and challenge the inequities that affect people’s everyday lives.
    • Signs of Salvation: Insecurity, Risk and the End of the World in Late Modernity

      Knowles, Steve; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2015-12-17)
      This chapter is divided into three parts. First, an outline of Ulrich Beck’s world risk society thesis will provide an important part of the sociological context within which fundamentalism has flourished, particularly in the last 50 years. Second, an introduction to one specific aspect of Christian fundamentalism—namely ‘rapture culture’ (Frykholm 2004) provides the theological context for the discussion. Third, examples of contemporary ‘rapture culture’ are examined which demonstrates the influence of risk and the concomitant insecurity that serves such a theological perspective. Within this culture signs of the end of the world provide succour and point to the possibility that salvation is close at hand.
    • Brexit, prophecy, and conspiracy: A necessary rejection of an endtime empire

      Knowles, Steve; University of Chester (University of California Press, 2018-02)
      This study examines why some pretribulation premillennialist Christian leaders in the United Kingdom instructed their followers, both implicitly and explicitly, to vote to leave the European Union in the referendum in June 2016. The formation of the European Union is regarded as central to the fulfilment of prophecy by many premillennialists as it is purported to be the revived Roman Empire found in the books of Daniel and Revelation in the Bible. On the face of it, to vote to leave the European Union would seem to be contrary to such prophetic conjecture given the importance of the United Kingdom’s role in the Union, and the perceived destabilising impact this would have on it. This article argues, utilising evidence from interviews with two premillennialist leaders and other contemporary sources, that voting to leave did not necessarily contradict previous teaching. Rather, voting to leave was not only consistent with this teaching but also reflected the rejection of many features of the late modern condition. However, the rejection of the latter has sometimes resulted in a move beyond the premillennialist prophetic framework into the realm of conspiracy beliefs.