Alan Richardson: Reappraising the life and work of a twentieth-century Christian theologian, cleric and educator

Root, Terry (2020) Alan Richardson: Reappraising the life and work of a twentieth-century Christian theologian, cleric and educator. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis reappraises the life and work of Alan Richardson (1905 – 1975) Anglican theologian, ecumenist and educator in the context of theological and ecclesiological developments in the middle third of the twentieth century. This is the first study of this well-known figure in twentieth-century theology since his death in 1975. Appraising his work the thesis questions why a muchpublished theological author, broadcaster and teacher whose clerical career included a leading role in the SCM, and in post-war ecumenical discussion, a canonry at Durham, a professorship at Nottingham and the deanery of York, should have disappeared from both academic and historical view after his death.

The thesis follows a chronological scheme with thematic discussions in each era, utilising the results of oral history and archival research together with field work and a review of Richardson‘s literary corpus. Discussion of his early academic career, first clerical appointments and theological publications draws on his engagement with English Modernism. Analysis of his time as Study Secretary of the SCM and canonry at Durham follow, the latter role impacted by the introduction of the1944 Education Act.

The thesis fulcrum reviews Richardson‘s post-war publications, particularly Science, History and Faith, within the context of continental historicism seen as a legacy of German Wissenschaft ideology. This leads to a discussion of Richardson‘s correspondence and discontinuity with the theological historicism of Troeltsch and Harnack. A further key aspect of Richardson‘s theological paradigm, the search for ecumenical agreement, drives his work in that area for both the Church of England and the World Council of Churches.

Richardson was a biblical theologian and a neo-orthodox Anglican and an investigation of his time as Professor of Christian Theology at Nottingham, considers those characteristics in the context of his interlocution with Rudolf Bultmann‘s theology and the Christian radicalism of Honest to God and similar Cambridge publications. Finally a review of Richardson‘s work draws conclusions regarding his possible legacy whilst also addressing questions of the lack of academic and historical recognition after his death. It will be argued that Richardson‘s long term impact was limited by the decline in the type of biblical theology that he espoused, his tendency to write for populist audiences and his carelessness with regard to the conventions of academic writing. However it will be further argued that there remain aspects of his thought which repay a fresh appraisal and his life presents an intriguing insight into central churchmanship played out in the mid-twentieth century Church of England.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Knight, Frances
O'Loughlin, Thomas
Keywords: Alan Richardson; Student Christian Movement; English Modernism; Historicism; History and Faith; Ecumenism; Biblical Theology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian denominations
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 63917
Depositing User: Root, Terry
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2021 11:52
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2021 11:52

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