Revolution and the theology of F. D. Maurice

Berg, Daniel Norman (1978) Revolution and the theology of F. D. Maurice. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Frederick Denison Maurice was a well-known and controversial Anglican theologian whose published words approached two million and whose working life continued from about 1830 until he died in 1872. Maurice, the conservative who despises democracy and rejoices in class distinctions, is also Maurice, the Christian socialist whose involved sympathy with the workers and whose radical complaints against competition as the rule of society and atomism as its structure gained him deathless loyalty from his friends and virtually endless attack from his enemies. His utility for the modern meditation upon revolution is his apparent ambivalence. He reflects what is actually happening in the modern church vis-a-vis revolution. Drawing upon the experience of man as member of a family, a nation, and a universal society, Maurice examines his own era as one of confrontation. There is a confrontation between order and disorder. There is a confrontation between the spirit of sacrifice and the spirit of empire. Order, in particular the "divine order," will appear where society is developed and protected by the law of sacrifice. Disorder is the inevitable effect of the imperial drive for acquisition and dominion. With these principles in mind, three comprehensive problems confronting the potential Christian revolutionary are examined. The first is the problem of violence. Coercion is inevitable in human experience. Even the theological category of grace exhibits overtones of coercion. Coercion in a large social setting must, sooner or later, issue in violence, even when non-violence is the prevailing spirit. The issue for the Christian, therefore, is not violence or no violence. It is the responsible use of violence. Violence that betrays the spirit of its ultimate goal is ineffective and counter-productive. According to Maurice, sacrifice is therefore the only effective force. Sacrifice, understood as submission to the will of God, may become resistance to man. Revolution cannot therefore be precluded a priori because of its measure of violence. Nor can revolution be precluded for the Christian on the simple grounds that revolution is chaotic and disordering. As much as any man, Maurice appreciated order. But he could see and approve the function of true revolution (i.e., the making of a new constitution), as a possible witness to an order long violated by an imperial establishment. In such a distorted society, men would choose to honor elective affinities more than the relations of family, nation and universal society. They would hallow their contrived institutions overmuch. They would teach men to value possessions more than persons, and clubs more than communities. There is no essential reason why revolution should not be the chosen instrument of God for the overthrow of such disorder. Did not God use the armies of Israel to cleanse the land of the disorder of idolatry? But the decision to join the revolution cannot be precicated automatically upon the above considerations. According to Maurice, it is left to the person, but not in subjective solitude. He has a conscience. That informs him of relations and reminds him that there is an ethos appropriate to each relation. The same conscience reveals to him God. God is the source of information for the conscience. God through the same spirit of sacrifice is calling men to conform their relations with others to the divine order and thus manifest the kingdom of God. The conscience is the "personhood" of man. To violate its divinely-appointed prerogatives is to violate the person and thus to inhibit truly human community. We are not, therefore, free to prescribe or proscribe revolution in abstracto. Conscience and context, not casuistry, are the guides. Neither the nostalgia of conservatism nor the chiliasm of revolution must shake us from the calm assessment of present order and present responsibility within present Kingdom of God. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Alan D Galloway
Keywords: Theology
Date of Award: 1978
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1978-72022
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 13:21
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 13:21

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