• Living Paradoxes: On Agamben, Taylor and human subjectivity

      Leung, King-Ho (Telos, 2019-06-17)
      Over the last two decades, Giorgio Agamben and Charles Taylor have produced important and influential genealogical works on the philosophical and political conceptions of secularity. Yet in their recent work, both of these thinkers have respectively returned to a prominent theme in their earlier works: Human life. This essay offers a parallel reading of Agamben and Taylor as post-Heideggerian critics of the modern conception of human subjectivity. Through examining these their respective characterizations of modern subjectivity — namely Taylor’s account of the “disengaged self” and Agamben’s conception of the “excluded-included” bare life, this essay seeks to highlight not only the Heideggerian currents underlying the philosophical anthropologies of Agamben and Taylor, but also the ontological paradoxicalities they detect in the conception of human existence and subjectivity in politico-philosophical modernity. After reviewing the different aspects of Agamben’s and Taylor’s critiques of modern subjectivity as well as the traditional metaphysical conception of humans as “language animals”, this essay concludes by sketching a robust and affirmative “paradoxical” conception of human beings as “language animals” which simultaneously takes into account the insights from Taylor’s (post)analytic philosophical renewal of Aristotelianism and Agamben’s critical analysis of contemporary biopolitics in the continental philosophical tradition.
    • Professors of Religion and their Strange Wives: Diluvian Discord in the Eyes of Matthew Henry

      Collins, Matthew A.; University of Chester (T&T Clark, 2019-05-30)
      The summer of 2014 marked the tercentenary of the death of Matthew Henry (1662–1714), a leading figure among early eighteenth-century Dissenters and author of the six-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testaments (1707–1714/25). This monumental work, which by 1855 had already been published in twenty-five different editions, attempted a peculiarly practical approach to the biblical text and continues to be widely used and readily accessible even today in both print and online versions. The theme of foreign (or ‘strange’) wives and Israelite intermarriage is one which occurs throughout the Hebrew Bible and, accordingly, throughout Matthew Henry’s commentary upon it. Where it appears, the practice of intermarriage is characterized by Henry as (at best) unwise and (at worst) a very real threat to both social and religious cohesion. This essay explores how Henry deals with the issue of ‘strange wives’, why he believes they continue to pose a threat, and (in view of the overall intention of his commentary) what ‘practical observations’ he offers to his reader as a result. In doing so it is argued that Henry’s commentary traces a thematic thread from the ante-diluvian age to the post-exilic period of calamities resulting from mixed marriages between ‘professors of religion’ and their ‘strange wives’.
    • ‘Filling up the Full Measure of their Sins’: Matthew Henry on the Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple

      Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Bloomsbury, 2019-05-30)
      This essay examines the treatment of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the 17th century Bible expositor Matthew Henry.
    • Introduction

      Collins, Matthew A.; Middleton, Paul; University of Chester; University of Chester (T&T Clark, 2019-05-30)
      Introduction to the volume Matthew Henry: The Bible, Prayer, and Piety – A Tercentenary Celebration (London: T&T Clark, 2019).
    • Matthew Henry: The Bible, Prayer, and Piety– A Tercentenary Celebration

      Collins, Matthew A.; Middleton, Paul; University of Chester; University of Chester (T&T Clark, 2019-05-30)
      Three hundred years after his death, Matthew Henry (1662–1714) remains arguably the best known expositor of the Bible in English, due to his six-volume Exposition of the Old and New Testaments. However, Henry’s famous commentary is by no means the only expression of his engagement with the Scriptures. His many sermons and works on Christian piety — including the still popular Method for Prayer — are saturated with his peculiarly practical approach to the Bible. To mark the tercentenary of Henry’s death, Matthew A. Collins and Paul Middleton have brought together notable historians, theologians, and biblical scholars to celebrate his life and legacy. Representing the first serious examination of Henry’s body of work and approach to the Bible, Matthew Henry: The Bible, Prayer, and Piety opens a scholarly conversation on Matthew Henry’s place in the eighteenth-century nonconformist movement, his contribution to the interpretation of the Bible, and his continued legacy in evangelical piety.
    • Introduction

      Morris, Wayne; University of Chester (University of Chester Press, 2019-05-25)
      Fr Martin McAlinden was a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Dromore and Director of Pastoral Theology at St Patrick’s College Maynooth. Martin was studying for a doctorate at the University of Chester when, in 2016, he sadly died. His research had focussed on the spiritual malaise experienced by many priests in the Catholic Church in Ireland. In response, he developed a theology rooted in the ancient notion of Acedia and he used this as a way of talking about the spiritual crises many priests experience. The ancient response to Acedia, the command to stay in one’s cell and pray, provided Martin with a way of speaking about how this spiritual malaise might be transformed. This book brings together a major article that has emerged out of Martin’s research, together with a series of responses from many who accompanied him during his studies. It is offered to Martin’s brother priests, and to the whole Church, as a gift of love that might, it is hoped, contribute to the spiritual renewal of the Church.
    • The embodied Deaf God: a God just like us

      Morris, Wayne; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2019-05-22)
      The body, whether understood positively or negatively, has always been a part of Christian thinking and practice. However, the body has often been viewed as a ‘prison’ from which humans should seek to escape. In this paper, I suggest that, despite dominant theological discourses that have sought to negate the human body – and especially bodies that do not conform to certain norms – we find in the Christian tradition extra-ordinary theologies and spiritualities of survival and resistance expressed through the body. Deaf perspectives on God provide one example of this. By giving attention to the ways in which Deaf people imagine God as embodied, I argue that we can imagine ourselves as just like God – concretely in God’s image in our embodied condition, and that in this discovery, we can learn to affirm our embodied states in all their diversity.
    • Creating Charisma Online: The Role of Digital Presence in the Formation of Religious Identity

      Tee, Caroline; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2019-04-23)
      This article investigates the construction and transmission of charisma through online channels, and its role in the formation of religious identities. Mindful of Max Weber’s observation that charisma inhabits the relationship between a leader and their followers, I argue for a critical reappraisal of the theoretical model in light of the ubiquity in the 21st century of new, virtual forms of social encounter. I focus my analysis on the Christian creationist movement in the USA, and particularly on an influential leader called Ken Ham. Using digital ethnographic methods, I show how Ham constructs charisma online, and how a virtual community forms itself around his charismatic claims. I illustrate how this virtual community intersects with offline worlds, and suggest that the theme park attractions that Ham’s organisation runs (Creation Museum, Ark Encounter) are imbued with deflected charisma by virtue of their association with his online avatar.
    • The Picture of Artificial Intelligence and the Secularization of Thought

      Leung, King-Ho; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2019-04-17)
      This article offers a critical interpretation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a philosophical notion which exemplifies a secular conception of thinking. One way in which AI notably differs from the conventional understanding of “thinking” is that, according to AI, “intelligence” or “thinking” does not necessarily require “life” as a precondition: that it is possible to have “thinking without life.” Building on Charles Taylor’s critical account of secularity as well as Hubert Dreyfus’ influential critique of AI, this article offers a theological analysis of AI’s “lifeless” picture of thinking in relation to the Augustinian conception of God as “Life itself.” Following this critical theological analysis, this article argues that AI’s notion of thinking promotes a societal privilege of certain rationalistic or calculative ways of thought over more existential or spiritual ways of thinking, and thereby fosters a secularization or de-spiritualization of thinking as an ethical human practice.
    • VOLUNTARY CHILDLESSNESS AND CHRISTIANITY: REJECTING THE SELFISH OTHER

      Llewellyn, Dawn (Liverpool University Press, 2019-04)
    • The First World War and the Mobilization of Biblical Scholarship

      Collins, Matthew A.; Mein, Andrew; MacDonald, Nathan; University of Chester; University of Durham; University of Cambridge (T&T Clark, 2019-03-07)
      This fascinating collection of essays charts, for the first time, the range of responses by scholars on both sides of the conflict to the outbreak of war in August 1914. The volume examines how biblical scholars, like their compatriots from every walk of life, responded to the great crisis they faced, and, with relatively few exceptions, were keen to contribute to the war effort. Some joined up as soldiers. More commonly, however, biblical scholars and theologians put pen to paper as part of the torrent of patriotic publication that arose both in the United Kingdom and in Germany. The contributors reveal that, in many cases, scholars were repeating or refining common arguments about the responsibility for the war. In Germany and Britain, where the Bible was still central to a Protestant national culture, we also find numerous more specialized works, where biblical scholars brought their own disciplinary expertise to bear on the matter of war in general, and this war in particular. The volume’s contributors thus offer new insights into the place of both the Bible and biblical scholarship in early 20th-century culture.
    • SOTS, SBL, and WWI: Anglo-American Scholarly Societies and the Great War

      Collins, Matthew A.; University of Chester (T&T Clark, 2019-03-07)
      In January 1917, in the midst of the First World War, a small group of biblical scholars gathered at King’s College London for the inaugural meeting of the newly-formed Society for Old Testament Study (SOTS). The decision to create such a society had been taken the previous summer at Queens’ College, Cambridge, on 29 June 1916, just two days before the commencement of the Battle of the Somme. Thus the origins of this British-based society are to be found firmly (and somewhat peculiarly) planted in the context and conflict of the Great War. As a result, the records and history of the early years of the society afford us a valuable window through which to view the landscape of biblical scholarship of the period. Likewise, the detailed minutes and papers of the wartime meetings of the larger and already established US-based Society of Biblical Literature (SBL; founded in 1880) offer a similar (yet distinct) insight into academic attitudes on the other side of the Atlantic and especially the challenges to biblical scholarship (both ideological and practical) posed by the outbreak of war. Accordingly, in thinking about the wartime mobilization of biblical studies, this essay takes as its focus the effect of the war upon British and American scholarly societies (epitomized here by SOTS and SBL) and the response(s) of those societies as indicative of shifts and trends in both wartime and post-war biblical scholarship. Although predominantly a historical survey, drawing upon the records and minutes of the two groups in order to reconstruct events, it is argued that, in both their rhetoric and the practical steps taken towards scholarly reconciliation, these societies may be seen as having actively resisted the idea of 'the enemy' prevalent in propaganda material of the time. In doing so, they were subsequently well positioned to play a significant role in the swift re-establishment of international scholarly relations after the First (and indeed later, the Second) World War. Thus, it is argued that, during wartime, these scholarly societies performed a potentially unintentional yet vital regulatory function as tools enabling and encouraging the maintenance, preservation, recovery, and continuity of international biblical scholarship.
    • On the Trail of a Biblical Serial Killer: Sherlock Holmes and the Book of Tobit

      Collins, Matthew A.; University of Chester (T&T Clark, 2019-01-24)
      In the book of Tobit, Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, is tormented by the demon Asmodeus. She has been married seven times, but each time the demon kills her husband on her wedding night. In despair, she contemplates suicide and prays for deliverance. In the course of the narrative, Tobias, the son of Tobit, travels from Nineveh to Ecbatana and, with the help of the archangel Raphael, defeats the demon and marries Sarah. Between 1939 and 1946, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred together in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a series of radio plays broadcast in the United States. One episode, aired on 26 March 1945, was titled ‘The Book of Tobit’ and featured Holmes and Watson investigating the deaths of a woman’s previous three husbands, each of whom, prior to his death, had received a threatening letter signed ‘Asmodeus’. Though substantially different in both content and context, throughout the case numerous comparisons are made with its scriptural forebear. This essay first explores the use of and engagement with Tobit in this wartime murder mystery before turning to re-examine the biblical text in the light of Holmes’ namesake investigation. By effectively transposing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated detective to ancient Ecbatana, the inherently murderous nature of the biblical tale comes into sharper focus and the peculiarities of the narrative and its folkloric origins are both reassessed and illuminated from a perspective informed by crime fiction. In doing so, this essay further illustrates the extent to which the ‘genre lens’ through which we approach a text may govern our reading of it. Putting Sherlock Holmes on the case, a rather different interpretation of the text emerges – one in which there is a serial killer on the loose in the book of Tobit, and Sarah may not in fact be as innocent as she seems.
    • Were the Early Christians Really Persecuted

      Middleton, Paul; University of Chester (Amsterdam University Press, 2019)
      In their writings, the Early Christians presented themselves as a suffering community, facing intolerance and misunderstanding from Jew and Gentile alike, to the extent that in Acts, the Jewish community in Rome are made to declare of early Christianity, ‘we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect’ (Acts 28.22). However, historians generally recognise that while members of the early Church undoubtedly did face some harassment, there was no empire-wide policy against Christianity until well into the third century, and even then, these were short lived. Where Christians experienced persecution, it tended to be localised, sporadic, and random, and resulted from pockets of prejudice rather than any official imperial interest in the Church. If we see those who take at face value the deutero-Pauline claim that ‘all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Tim 3.12) as representing a ‘maximalist’ view of persecution, then, in direct contrast, what might be termed a ‘minimalist’ account is gaining popularity among scholars. Minimalists go beyond the view that Christians faced ‘periodic persecution’, and conclude that in all significant respects, the Christian narrative of persecution is a constructed myth. Moreover, they tend to turn Christian charges against their pagan neighbour of intolerance back onto the early Church, arguing that in a Roman environment of general imperial tolerance towards varieties of beliefs and practices, it was Christian intolerance and intransigence that led to their appearances before magistrates. However, this was not persecution in any meaningful sense, but prosecution. Both maximalist and minimalist accounts of early Christian experiences of suffering construct a context in which a generally tolerant group encounter an intolerant ‘other’. Depending on which approach is adopted, either Christians or Romans were the ‘victims’ of intolerance. In light of this apparent scholarly paradigm shift, I return to the basic question: were the early Christians persecuted? First I outline the formerly dominant ‘persecution paradigm’, arguing that this way of presenting Christian experience is already promoted in New Testament texts. Next, I evaluate recent revisionist ‘minimalist’ accounts, noting that the idea Christians invented—or at least exaggerated—the extent of the persecution can be found as far back as the eighteenth century. These re-evaluations offer an important and valuable corrective to the maximalist approach. However, minimalists, I argue, tend to simply replace a one-sided Christian reading of history with an equally skewed Roman perspective. Instead, I offer a reading which might be categorised as ‘modified minimalism’, in which I sidestep the persecution/prosecution dichotomy, and conclude that while it is certainly the case that Romans would have understood their (albeit limited) actions against Christians as prosecutions designed to protect the integrity of the State, Christians experienced those actions, not without reason, as persecution. I argue that Christians and Romans were indeed ‘tolerant’ of the other—just not where it mattered!
    • On Animals: Volume II - Theological Ethics

      Clough, David; 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.
    • Review of Reading Faithfully. Writings from the Archives. 2 vols. By Hans W. Frei, edited by Mike Higton and Mark Alan Bowald

      Fulford, Ben; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2018-12-11)
      Book review.
    • Levi (Son of Alphaeus)

      Middleton, Paul; The University of Chester (De Gruyter, 2018-12-07)
      A dictionary entry on Levi (son of Alphaeus)
    • 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.
    • Interrogating the Post-Secular

      Graham, Elaine L.; University of Chester (Routledge, 2018-11-21)
      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.