A Century of Theological and Religious Studies in Britain, 1902-2002

A Century of Theological and Religious Studies in Britain, 1902-2002

Ernest Nicholson

Print publication date: 2012

ISBN: 9780197263051

Publisher: British Academy

Abstract

The chapters in this book give an account of how the agenda for theology and religious studies was set and reset throughout the twentieth century – by rapid and at times cataclysmic changes (wars, followed by social and academic upheavals in the 1960s), by new movements of thought, by a bounty of archaeological discoveries, and by unprecedented archival research. Further new trends of study and fresh approaches (existentialist, Marxian, postmodern) have in more recent years generated new quests and horizons for reflection and research. Theological enquiry in Great Britain was transformed in the late nineteenth century through the gradual acceptance of the methods and results of historical criticism. New agendas emerged in the various sub-disciplines of theology and religious studies. Some of the issues raised by biblical criticism, for example Christology and the ‘quest of the historical Jesus’, were to remain topics of controversy throughout the twentieth century. In other important and far-reaching ways, however, the agendas that seemed clear in the early part of the century were abandoned, or transformed and replaced, not only as a result of new discoveries and movements of thought, but also by the unfolding events of a century that brought the appalling carnage and horror of two world wars. Their aftermath brought a shattering of inherited world views, including religious world views, and disillusion with the optimistic trust in inevitable progress that had seemed assured in many quarters and found expression in widely influential ‘liberal’ theological thought of the time. The centenary of the British Academy in 2002 has provided a most welcome opportunity for reconsidering the contribution of British scholarship to theological and religious studies in the last hundred years.