Theo Hobson – England

Linked with Why I am a Christian, and with John Milton’s vision.

Theo Hobson (born 1972) is a British theologian. He was educated at St Paul’s School in London; he read English Literature at York University, then theology at Cambridge University. He focused on the strongest voices of Protestant tradition: Martin Luther, Kierkegaard, and Karl Barth. His PhD thesis became the basis of his first book, The Rhetorical Word – a study of the role of authoritative rhetoric in Protestantism. He gradually turned his attention to ecclesiology. His next book was Against Establishment: An Anglican Polemic. In this book he announced that the Church of England was doomed, and that he considered himself a “post-Anglican.” His third book was Anarchy, Church and Utopia: Rowan Williams on the Church – a critique of the Archbishop’s ecclesiology, and perhaps of all ecclesiology. He has written for various journals and newspapers including The Guardian, The Times, The Spectator, and The Tablet. His principal interests are the relationship between Protestant Christianity and secularism, which he believes is more positive than is generally understood; the relationship between theology and literature; and the post-ecclesial renewal of worship. He thinks that large-scale carnival-style celebration must replace church worship. He lives in Harlesden, London and is married and has two children. (on wikipedia).

He says: … “Hello! I’m a theologian who believes that Christianity must move in a post-ecclesial direction – that means I don’t like any form of institutional church. Down with organised religion! Down with orthodoxy! There ought to be lots of free-style Jesus Christ-communication, in which ‘worship’ merges with ‘art’” … and about his book Milton’s Vision: “My book on Milton is out. It basically argues that he’s the most important liberal Protestant theologian, for he sees the need to detach the Gospel from institutional authority. Only thus can Christianity be fully in tune with secular liberalism” … (on His website).


Theo Hobson – England

He says also:

  • (about Milton) “We sentimentalise the great poet as a mascot of British liberty, instead of looking at what he really thought”… (full text, 9 December 2008);
  • … There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with having faith at the centre of school life, it’s discrimination that’s pernicious” … (fullt text, 9 September 2008);
  • “Does it matter whether the majority of religious believers actually think the things atheists claim they do?” … (full text, 3 November 2008).

… In his most recent column, “A Pink Reformation,” Hobson argues that controversies over homosexuality now present the Christian church with a credibility crisis of historic proportions. Hobson presents an argument that demands careful attention. Indeed, Hobson argues that the church now faces a shift as cataclysmic as the Reformation of the 16th century. He asserts that it is “not absurd” to draw this parallel, arguing that the debate about homosexuality poses “a serious threat to organized religion” … (full text, February 12, 2007).

More articles:

… Hobson therefore tells us that he stands for an “explicitly secular state that treat[s] all religions equally, … mean[ing] the disestablishment of the Church of England – a move [that he finds] necessary to renew Christianity and free it from its aura of official privilege.” From looking at the American example, we see that Hobson may have a point, for Christianity has a rather powerful voice in American society … though I suspect that Hobson wouldn’t quite approve of that, either. (full text).

Find him and his publications on daylife Source HUB; on openDemocracy; on firstPost; on Google; on conservapedia; on the; on the Guardian; on amazon; on inauthor Google-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

… There has been a lot of criticism of the label “militant atheism.” An important and common criticism is the apparent lack of any substantive meaning to the term. Atheists do not go around promoting armed revolution or encouraging violence, so what’s so “militant” about them? Now we have an answer from Theo Hobson: atheists are militant because they actually want to change others’ minds about being religious theists! That’s right, “militancy” has been reduced from armed violence to merely promoting a viewpoint … (full text, October 6, 2007).

… Let’s revisit Theo Hobson’s ravings for a moment. In bemoaning the coarseness, violence and immorality of the James Bond series he complains that Bond debases the traditions of chivalry: In reality chivalry is simply incompatible with sexual hedonism. The heroic knight of medieval epic is a warning against sexual adventurism: his conquests are not of women but of various temptations. Chivalry is a tradition that encourages us to admire the sublimation of male desire rather than its indulgence … (full text, October 29, 2008).

… Now turn to Theo Hobson’s Milton’s Vision (Continuum, £16.99), a peppery defence of the writer as a lost pioneer of “liberal Protestantism”. Hobson combines literary bad manners and big-hearted vituperation – both features of Milton’s own polemical prose. He sees any attempt to strip Christian doctrine out of Milton as absurd, and curses Pullman as “the chief cliché-monger of our time”. As for Blake’s oft-cited one-liner, it is “the silliest thing in the history of criticism”. Hobson backs Milton’s infamous reluctance to grant Roman Catholics the same liberty as other sects on modern grounds, likening the Counter-Reformation papacy to the “Islamic extremism” that scorns democracy today. Milton still lives in the clatter and smoke of battle … (full text, 5 December 2008).

He writes:

  • … Every day, in the run-up to Lambeth, there’s a new crisis for poor Rowan Williams. On Monday, 1,333 ‘traditionalist’ clergy threatened to defect to Rome in protest against women bishops. The same day, 2,300 clergy in favour of women bishops signed a statement protesting against the protesters. On Friday this week the General Synod will discuss the two separate, but equally intractable breakaway groups – the English traditionalists (whose beef is with women) and the worldwide evangelicals (who complain most of all about homosexuality) … (full text, July 11, 2008).
  • … This, by the way, is what Milton wanted: a confident liberal state, devoid of religious institutional power. He wanted the withering away of all organised religion, with all its priestly power-dreams, and bullying fundamentalism, with its determination to bury the Gospel of Jesus Christ under rules. He wanted the state to tolerate all forms of Christianity, except those that were politically dangerous, as Catholicism was. Perhaps more than any other thinker, he invented the principle of the separation of church and state. He wanted a new sort of Christianity to emerge, in the context of a tolerant, de-clericalised state … (full text, 25 February 2008).
  • … Is this account of humanity a gloomy myth that sunny science has disproved? If only. It can hardly be said that experience disproves it. Humanity has not been on its best behaviour this past century. But that proves nothing about us, comes the cry. The secular illusion is to associate evil with other people. Hell is other people, not people like me. Evil is the business of Hitler and Hindley and so on. How we need these monsters, these scapegoats, how we worship them, in a sense, for they “prove” that the problem of evil is nothing to do with us, that it belongs to others … (full text, 8 April 2006).
  • … The more I pondered the question of Church and State, the more I realised that the problem went deeper than establishment. The very concept of Church seemed antagonistic to secular liberalism. Whether established or not, churches seemed to have illiberal, power-hankering tendencies … (full text, Oct. 31, 2008).
  • … The English civil war is not just a good setting for a drama. It is the messy birthplace of the modern intellectual world. This period is a sort of ideological Big Bang, to which most of the principal political and religious movements of subsequent centuries can be traced: secular liberalism, socialism, democracy, republicanism, Protestant nonconformity, the American revolution — maybe even 1960s counterculture (see Ranters and Quakers). It should be illegal to teach history students about Nazis, or anything else, until they have some grasp of what happened here … (full text, Nov. 9, 2008).
  • Prophet Obama smites king McCain: Theo Hobson sees parallels with the leaders of ancient Israel and God’s modern day elect, America, Dec. 12, 2008.
  • … The tributes being paid to Milton on his 400th birthday highlight the difficulty we have in placing this awkward figure. The safest approach is to focus on his poetic greatness. He was “the greatest English poet after Shakespeare”, said a Guardian editorial on Saturday. It quoted Rowan Williams as a witness to his poetic stature – the irony of this will cry out to anyone who knows how much Milton hated bishops … // … Milton did not believe in “liberty” in general, but in a particular account of liberty, rooted in a new understanding of Protestant Christianity. And as I explain more fully in my new book Milton’s Vision, he was the most important liberal Christian thinker we have ever had: he showed how Christianity is compatible with secular liberalism. I believe his approach to Christianity holds the key to its contemporary renewal. If we are to honour Milton, we should examine carefully what he actually said. (full text, 9 December 2008).
  • … A revived vision: So the real significance of Anglicanism’s crisis, at least from a domestic perspective, is that it is contributing to the final collapse of established religion. The bishops have lost their old aura of authority, their claim to represent the traditional-yet-liberal English soul. For now they can be convincingly portrayed as agents of discrimination, apologists for homophobia. A larger question emerges: can Christian institutions modernise? (full text, August 4, 2008).

Theo Hobson keeps predicting the death of liberal Anglicanism. Liberals became: “meek before the rise of evangelical orthodoxy, ” he says. He thinks that Rowan Williams has achieved getting liberals on his side: … // … There is no doubt that the liberals have to be stronger in what they do: their tendency to inclusivity always means they are softer and longer term in outlook (always jam tomorrow). They’re not buying into Rowan Williams’s fantasies, however. Things are just going to be organised differently from what he would like. The power bases are in the Churches, and they make the decisions, not some proto-Church that Rowan Williams would like to build. The more it does, the more it will be rejected, and as quickly as he sets up institutions of intervention. I can think of some bishops now caught between a rock and a hard place: but they haven’t had all the options yet. Rowan Williams stamped his impression on the Lambeth Conference: but that was but one option, and there are others coming. (full text, 5 August 2008).

(in a letter to Julie): … Finally, if you’re an Anglican, please be more honest about the current crisis. Do you or do you not agree with the current policy that discriminates against homosexuals? Please don’t wave this aside as a petty irrelevance. Your suggestion that the church might be better off under Bishops Sentamu or Nazir-Ali implies that you’d like to see a more strongly conservative line. Really? And there are other awkward issues that an Anglican ought to face. Do you agree with its education policy? Does it bother you that a good few of your fellow worshippers are trying to get little Charlie and Lola into a good school? Do you defend the church’s establishment, the presence of bishops in the House of Lords? These aren’t little liberal-guilt issues, fuelled by atheist propaganda, they are the issues that give Christianity a bad name among liberals, and hand the atheists easy victories. We have to think about them. If we are trying to advocate Christianity with new sharpness, we can’t fall back on the same old Anglican evasions. (full text, 21 August 2008).


Paradise deferred: John Milton still divides readers, Dec. 5, 2008;

Julian Baggini’s blog;


The Hauerwas Reader, November 14, 2008;

Why Russell Brand so upsets us, 25th November 2008;

British theologians.

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