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Religion Notes

History Notes > Intellect and Culture in Victorian Britain Notes

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Victorian
Religion

Contents

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Religion Tutorial
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Religion Class
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The Victorian Crisis of Faith and the Faith that was Lost -- F. Turner
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God and Greater Britain: Religion and National Life in Britain and Ireland
1843--1945 -- J. Wolffe

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Secularisation: The Orthodox Model -- R. Wallis and S. Bruce
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The Victorian Church: Part II 1860--1901 -- O. Chadwick
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The Church, the Universities and Learning in Later Victorian England -- A. G. L.
Haig

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New Perspectives on Victorian Class Religion: The Oral Evidence -- H. McLeod
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Varieties of Unbelief: Atheists and Agnostics in English Society 1850--1960 -- S.
Budd

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The Victorian Period: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature,
1830--1890 -- R. Gilmour

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Introduction -- H. McLeod
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Urban Popular Religion and the Rites of Passage -- S. Williams
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The Mechanism of Religious Growth in Urban Societies -- C. G. Brown
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Between Science and Religion: The Reaction to Scientific Naturalism in Late
Victorian England -- F. M. Turner

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The English Churches in a Secular Society: Lambeth, 1870--1930 -- J. Cox
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Religion and Rural Society: South Lindsey 1825--1875 -- J. Obelkevich
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Lux Mundi: The Holy Spirit and Inspiration -- Charles Gore
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Religion Tutorial
Moral / ethical -- emotional reaction
~ Losing capacity to move people
Trickle down the social hierarchy
Many tutors in university extension lectures are losing their faith
~ Beatrice Webb -- they transfer their sense of the divine from God to man
~ In working class areas they met well read men who had often autonomously
reached the same position
Were transferring to the 'religion of socialism'
~ Not tutors imposing themselves --> shared experience
Should reject 'false consciousness' model -- idea of 'superficial norms' enforced from
above
2 parallel movements
~ Genuine intellectual doubt linked to science -- more compelling than religion
~ Social process
William Temple -- public Christian socialist
~ Speaks at Balliol in 1912
~ Has not lost his faith but comes before a hall of sceptical working men
Range of social factors
~ Urbanisation -- religious ties are strong in small face--to--face communities

~ 1880s suburbanisation -- far removed from neighbours
~ Parochial structure starts to break down -- geographical structure in cities
~ Alternative careers -- civil service, academic careers, professions, medicine etc.

~ Scientific development in medicine -- by 1900 anaesthesia and antiseptics

have made surgery possible

~ Nursing comes in

~ Medicine is professionalised -- 1858 Medical Act
~ Growth of leisure -- trains, museums, seaside

~ Cycling clubs, pigeons, horticulture
1890s -- Daily Mirror
1871 -- 8 hour day negotiated by striking engineers
1850--1900 doubled wages in real terms for skilled workers
~ Much more disposable income
~ Relative cost of food goes down
The late 19th century is a great time to be a worker
Materialism --> opportunities
Man is now the measure of all things -- scientific achievements
Also idea of the Victorian world as alien to people -- anomie
Communal grief of the 1920s --> national movement towards spiritualism and seances

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Late 19th century -- great deal of spiritualism
~ Alfred Russel Wallace is a believer
Other idea of religion -- Comte's 'Religion of Humanity'
~ Post--Christian positivism -- still had ritual and worship
Oxford Movement split the university
~ Against Broad Church
~ 1850s generation is trying to put space between themselves and this theological
debate -- unnecessary rancour
Periods of enthusiasm followed by reaction -- mid--Victorian period
Growth of nonconformity in the first half of the 19th century
~ Thousands of men come into the city
~ Meet up at nonconformist chapels

~ 1851 -- about half of the population --> had risen from about 10% in the mid

18th century
1857 -- Ruskin in Turin --> 'unconversion'
~ Suffered a hellfire and damnation sermon
~ Contrast with the riches of artwork that he had seen in the morning
Robert Elsmere -- most successful serious novel of the late 19th century
~ Story of a clergyman who loses his faith
~ Squire is a sceptic
~ Gradually Elsmere loses his faith -- leaves his evangelical wife
~ Works with the poor -- ethical uplift rather than Christian uplift

~ Transference
Webb -- 1870s and 80s
~ Dominant theme of the transference of self--sacrificing service from God to men

~ Can no longer work through a Christian framework

~ Still talked of their 'mission'
Many women go to education lectures

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Religion Class

Was liberalism more of an opportunity or a threat to Victorian Christian thought
in the period up to c. 1870?

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John Henry Newman (Apologia Pro Vita uSa, 1864) -- 'The vital question was, how were
we to keep the Church from being liberalised? [...] I thought that if liberalism once got a
footing with her, it was sure of victory in the event.'

What was meant by 'liberalism'?
! Latitudinarianism

~ Bishop Butler to John Wesley (1739) -- 'Sir, the pretending to extraordinary
revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost is a horrid thing, a very horrid thing'

~ Dominant strain of 18th century churchmanship.

~ Preference for natural over revealed religion, comprehension for dissenters,
ethical teaching and distaste for 'enthusiasm' -- but doctrinally orthodox

~ Exemplified by Tillotson, Warburton and Paley

~ Reached apex with Feathers Tavern Petition of 1772

~ Suffered from wartime 'Evangelical' reaction, but upheld by some 19th century

'liberals' e.g. Whateley
! Anti--Dogmatism

~ Edward Hawkins (1840) -- '[T]he right exercise of our Judgement and Reason in

the pursuit of Christian truth becomes a necessary duty'

~ Accepted scripture as highest authority in matters of faith, but insisted on use of

critical faculties

~ In favour of relaxing terms of subscription to Thirty--Nine Articles in the Church


~ Achieved in 1865

~ Opposition to 'Evangelical' doctrines like eternal punishment and'High Church'

beliefs like the Apostolic Succession

~ Gorham Judgement (1850) and Essays and Reviews case showed that latitude of

opinion was legal.
Biblical
Criticism
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~ Julius Hare (1829) -- '[I]t is very possible in Germany...to unite a fervent faith in

Christianity...with considerable doubts and scruples about the historical value of

certain passages of Scripture'

~ Translation of German biblical critics like Niebuhr and Schleiermacher gave
impetus to English biblical criticism

~ Hamden (Regius Professor of Divinity, 1836--1848) -- scripture should be
elucidated through inductive reasoning

~ Jowett claimed the Bible could be interpreted 'like any other book' -- reservations

~ Bishop Colenso dismissed from South African diocese for biblical criticism (but

reinstated)

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Who were the pre--1870 'liberals'?
! Never an organised 'party' in the Tractarian sense -- no geographical centre, published
organ or manifesto

~ Still some continuity

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Oriel Noetics -- group of academics who passed through Oriel College in the 1820s

~ Whately, Copleston, Pusey (for a time), Hawkins, Hare, Hampden, Powell

~ Interested in application of logic to theology, biblical criticism and admission of

dissenters to Oxford

~ Major opponents of Tractarians in the 1830s and 1840s
! Thomas Arnold

~ 1841 -- 'Because man is changeable, the church is also changeable; changeable

not in its object...but in its means for effecting that object'

~ Also at Oriel, but better known as Headmaster of Rugby and Regius Professor of

Modern History (Oxford)

~ Advocated use of parish churches by Anglicans and dissenters in Principles of

Church Reform (1833)

~ Wrote of Church and State as inseparable partners in hastening the kingdom of

God on earth in the Appendix to his Inaugural Lecture (1841)

~ Saw 'comprehension' as a means of bringing dissenters and Roman Catholics

closer to Anglicanism
Broad
Church
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~ The term was coined in the 1850s to distinguish liberals from High and Low
Churchmen

~ F.D. Maurice believed in 'universal redemption' and that all are already children

of God

~ Promoted ecumenical project of Jerusalem Bishopric (1841), a diocese held
jointly by Anglicans and Prussian Lutherans, on the basis that the Church was most
Catholic when it was most Protestant

~ Both Maurice and Charles Kingsley represented the 'Christian socialist' element

in liberalism -- Christianity as a social mission to withstand popular godlessness
Essays
and Reviews
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~ A volume published in 1860 (mainly by Oxford academics) containing a denial of

eternal punishment (Wilson), approval of Darwinism (Powell), plea for biblical
criticism (Jowett) and rehabilitation of 18th centuryAnglicanism (Pattison)

~ Proceedings in Court of Arches and condemnation by Convocation only showed

futility of attempts to exclude liberalism

~ Essays and Reviews was too dry and sceptical for other Broad Churchmen like

Maurice

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What was the general impact of 'liberalism'?
! Universities

~ Liberalism was the dominant force in Oxford after the failure of the Tractarian

Movement

~ Liberals achieved their aim of abolishing religious tests with the Oxford
University Act 1854


~ In Cambridge, where Tractarianism never made headway, the 1856 act had


the same effect

~ Jowett, Master of Balliol from 1870 -- centre of gravity shifted there
Church of England
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~ George Eliot (1865) -- '...the rubicund cheerfulness of some modern divines, who

profess to unite a smiling liberalism with a well--bred and tacit but unshaken
confidence in the reality of the bottomless pit'









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~ Eliot's charge of hypocrisy was unjust -- reflects the difficulty of anti--religious

thinkers in adapting to the 'broader' Church
~ By adopting Tractarian liturgical practices and vestments liberals managed to
placate High Churchmen
~ Lux Mundi (1889) shows how liberal some High Churchmen became

~ Evangelicals like Birks and Garratt abandoned belief in everlasting
damnation

~ Most Low Churchmen donned surplices
~ Agnostics like Romanes outwardly conformed to Anglicanism.
Nonconformity
~ Congregationalists and Baptists not immune
~ British Quarterly Review (Congregationalist) professed' to encourage free and
reverent enquiry 'while holding to orthodoxy (1861)
~ Joseph Angus (Principal of Regent's Park in 1860s) saw theology as an inductive
science
~ 'Down Grade' controversy of 1887 (Spurgeon v. Baptist Union) reflected liberal
encroachment

What did 'liberalism' threaten in Christian thought?
! Natural theology

~ Paley out of fashion by 1850s

~ Whewell's ambivalence about natural theology (confirmatory, liable to human

error, could veil God)

~ Liberal acceptance of Darwin following Origin of Species (1859) -- evolution as

analogy for progressive revelation

~ Rejection of Latitudinarian emphasis on reason and empirical evidence


~ Farrar (1885) -- saw conscience as best evidence for God
! Doctrinal and biblical authority (cf. 'Biblical Criticism' above)

~ Evangelical and Tractarian emphasis on fixed dogma and biblical inerrancy
consistently challenged

~ Congregationalist R.W. Dale reiterated the doctrine of atonement in the face of

'profound and general dissatisfaction' with it (1867)

~ Jowett exhorted Christians 'not to inquire whether this or that word of Christ has

been preserved with superhuman accuracy, but to seek to form the highest idea of

God we can'


~ Uniformity of opinion no longer prized
High
C hurchmanship
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~ Form of High Churchmanship prevailed, but not substance -- Tractarians became

like a sect

~ Liberal 'comprehension' allowed for development of separate Anglo--Catholic

tradition with the Church of England -- relaxing of subscription benefited them as

much as liberals

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What opportunities did 'liberalism' create?
! Educational

~ Taunton Commission (1868) reported a broad desire for religious education, but

little concern about denominational differences

~ Liberal consensus of non--dogmatic Christianity important foundation for
nationwide provision of education

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