Iris and the Christians: what did the British churches make of Murdoch, 1954 – c1983

The audio recording of a public lecture given at the University of Chichester on 19th February 2022, as part of a study day at the Iris Murdoch Research Centre. My thanks are due to Miles Leeson for the invitation, and to the audience for a very engaged and stimulating discussion afterwards.

(52 minutes.)

I examine Christian reactions to Murdoch’s work in three areas: her strictly philosophical work on metaphysics and ethics, and her novels. I explore the remarkable closeness of Murdoch’s distinctive preoccupations to those of British theologians in the period. However, her position outside the usual circles of Christian discourse made it difficult for her to be heard and, when she was, her fundamentally atheistic position made her philosophical work hard to digest. The final third of the paper then looks at Christian readings of her novels, in which readers found much more congenial material with which to engage.

Authors discussed include: (among the theologians) Don Cupitt, Colin Gunton, Eric Mascall, Alasdair Macintyre, John A.T. Robinson, Keith Ward; among the critics: Bernard Bergonzi, Ruth Etchells, David Holbrook, Valerie Pitt. In relation to aesthetics, there is some discussion of Walter Hussey, Anglican patron of the arts.

New article: Eric Mascall and the responsibility of the theologian in England, 1962-1977

This article was published in the International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church in 2022. This Open Access version (PDF) is as revised after peer review, but before copy-editing.

Eric Mascall was one of the most prominent and prolific theologians in the Church of England in the post-war period. This article examines a series of polemical works, in which Mascall attempted to assess, and largely reject, several trends in liberal theology in the 1960s and 1970s. Mascall detected a systemic crisis in the whole relationship of theology, theologians and the Church, that reached down to the foundations of human knowledge and radiated out to the parishes, via the universities and theological colleges in which their ministers were formed. The articles examines his view of the relationship of human nature, grace and the eucharistic Church, and its consequences for the theologian. Mascall’s polemics are read, as a group, for what they reveal of his understanding of the responsibility of the theologian, and how far his liberal interlocutors had, he believed, lost sight of the true shape of their vocation.

The version of record is available at https://doi.org/10.1080/1474225X.2022.2014243