Monasticism in Western Europe reached its zenith during the High Middle Ages of the late eleventh century and early twelfth century. Coming out of the ascetic tradition of the Desert Fathers at the end of the third century, monasticism grew to become a highly influential movement with centres of worship and learning throughout medieval Europe. In this paper I will describe the development of medieval monasticism and consider the spiritual benefits that it offered to men and women both inside and outside monastic communities. I will not provide a comprehensive analysis of the benefits. Instead I will look at examples from the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study and manual work. I will conclude with a reflection on what spiritual benefit monasticism might offer the life of the church today.
Writing • Theology
On these pages you will find a selection of my theological writing. These are essays I wrote while studying for a theology degree from the University of Chester.
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There has been a link between spirituality and learning throughout the Middle Ages, from the first monastic schools, to the rise of the cathedral schools and finally with the development of universities. There are differences between monasticism and scholasticism but there are also movements where these two perspectives converge. In this paper I will provide an overview of monasticism and scholasticism during the medieval period, describing their differences and then going on to discuss two movements, the Dominicans and the Brethren of the Common Life, where spirituality and learning come together. Finally, I will conclude with reflecting on how spirituality might be fostered through learning today.
The Evangelical Revival of the eighteenth century took place during a period of great cultural change in Europe. Enlightenment thinkers challenged the traditional sources of authority including the church. Traditionally, evangelicalism has been seen as opposed to the Enlightenment; even being regarded as a Counter-Enlightenment movement. In this paper I will provide an explanation for why this evaluation is not entirely valid by considering to what extent early Methodism was influenced by the Enlightenment era. After providing a brief description of the Enlightenment I will present the evidence for and against the assessment that eighteenth-century evangelicalism was an anti-Enlightenment movement.
The doctrine of the Trinity attempts to describe how the one God is revealed as three distinct persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and yet is one substance. The language of Father and Son could be viewed as implying a hierarchy within the Trinity. In this paper I will outline the problems with this interpretation and the use of figurative language when describing the orthodox understanding of the Godhead. After briefly presenting the historical and theological background to the doctrine of the Trinity and describing three common heresies I will explain how the language used to describe God can be regarded are hierarchical, and briefly touch on the problems of using everyday human language to describe the transcendent Trinity.
‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14). Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (c.296–373) took this verse from the Gospel of John in order to unpack his Christology of the incarnation. In this essay I will examine the work of Athanasius in order to study the claim that ‘The Word became flesh.’ Athanasius argued that God ‘became man, and did not come into man.’ The implications of his conviction are firstly, only God could save humanity and secondly, the Word was fully divine. I will assess the implications of Athanasius’ arguments in his treatise ‘On the Incarnation’ with reference to some of his other works.
Isaiah described Assyria as the ‘rod of YHWH’s anger’ (Isa 10:5). The Neo-Assyrian Empire was the dominant power during the period of First Isaiah. After discussing the historical, canonical and geopolitical background I will explain the imprint of the Assyrian Empire on the book of Isaiah. I will use 10:5-19 as a case study to demonstrate the impact and adaptation of imperial themes within the book.