F. D. Maurice and the Crisis of Christian Authority

F. D. Maurice and the Crisis of Christian Authority

F. D. Maurice and the Crisis of Christian Authority

F. D. Maurice and the Crisis of Christian Authority

Synopsis

F. D. Maurice was a leading nineteenth-century theologian famous for founding the movement called Christian Socialism. In the first major reassessment of Maurice's work for many years, Jeremy Morris argues that his importance above all lay in his thinking about the Christian Church, and aboutits social role. At a time when many people feared the collapse of Christianity and of social order, Maurice tried to show that Christians, despite their many differences, had a responsibility to the whole of society. By appreciating the source and strength of each other's convictions, they couldlearn to work together to restore the authority of the Christian faith. It was the Church of England's task in particular to bring its message of hope to the poor as well as the rich.

Excerpt

My interest in F. D. Maurice was first aroused by reading Michael Ramsey on The Gospel and the Catholic Church. Over the nine years or so in which I have been working on this book, it has changed shape several times, beginning as a biography, changing into a monograph on ecclesiology, and ending up as an attempt to understand Maurice's theology, and particularly his treatment of the doctrine of the Church, from the perspective of the context in which it was produced. That evolution may help to explain some of the inevitable gaps in my approach. I had thought, once, to write something like a systematic critique of Maurice's entire theological project, but the sheer complexity and breadth of his work prevented that. Anyway, the few attempts that have been made to impose a systematic framework on his theology have not been very successful. Yet the theme of ecclesiology does provide a useful point of entry to the most significant aspects of his work, not least with reference to his impact on the development of Anglicanism. Maurice was passionately committed to the defence of his own adopted church, the Church of England, but in making that defence, he adumbrated principles that proved attractive to the new 'Anglicanism' of the growing, worldwide Anglican communion, as well as to many in the non-Anglican churches.

I am well aware that, in highlighting this theme, I am likely to disappoint some who might have hoped to see more than a passing reference to Maurice's eschatological theories, or to his reassessment of the doctrine of atonement. Likewise, those who are looking for a full critical biography will also be disappointed. Apart from a few brief forays into the archives, I have sought to concentrate on Maurice's published work. There is still a great deal to be written on Maurice's life, and on his situation in the literary and intellectual milieu of mid-Victorian Britain. I hope that much of what I say will be of some interest to others who might attempt such a task.

Even so, in order to understand Maurice's theology and ecclesiology in context, it has been necessary to follow a broadly chronological sequence, connecting major works to his intellectual development and his ministerial career. Biography, then, interweaves here with wider social and political events, and with the contours of Maurice's religious thought, and each throws light on the other. But it is generally with the published Maurice, and not the private Maurice, that I am concerned—the Maurice who was read, argued over, emulated, and rejected during and after his own lifetime.

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