Bishop Butler

Lori Branch

in The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544486
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780198614128 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Bishop Butler

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  • Religion
  • Religious Studies
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  • Philosophy of Religion


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One of the great ironies of the history of theological writing in England is that Bishop Joseph Butler (1692–1752) viewed his intellectual projects – scientific in spirit, clouded only by the careful qualifications of his claims – as eminently practical extensions of his pastoral duties as a clergyman. This article suggests that in the rise and fall of Butler's influence, one can see the way in which religion in modernity has tended to become rationalized and secularized into a morality that has no need of faith. In the apologetic quest for rational arguments in favour of Christianity, Butler came to affirm the element of uncertainty in religious belief to an extent so disturbing in the Age of Reason. Butler's gradual recognition of the subtle ways in which people shape their propensity to believe led to an interest in church ritual and self-construction.

Keywords: England; theological writing; Christianity; external religion; church ritual; Joseph Butler

Article.  8733 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Christianity ; Philosophy of Religion

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