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The sacramental theology of Robert Isaac Wilberforce

Knight, Michael (1979) The sacramental theology of Robert Isaac Wilberforce. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The subjects of the thesis are determined by the published works of Robert Isaac Wilberforce on the doctrines of the incarnation, baptism and the eucharist. The study however, begins with a brief biographical introduction which is concerned to relate Wilberforce to his Oxford contemporaries and to make some assessment of his own intellectual background as well as of his academic equipment. Wilberforce’s three great works constitute the kernel of the three following chapters. His first major work – on the incarnation – is the basis and precursor of the others. In it he develops a doctrine of the incarnation in which the mediatorial and sacramental roles of Christ are emphasised. In other words, his concern throughout will be as much academic as pastoral. In the following year, 1849, Wilberforce’s work on baptism was published. This is the slightest of his works, being primarily a reply to contemporary polemic. It can only be properly assessed in the context of the nineteenth century baptismal controversy. With the publication of The Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, Wilberforce completed his theological synthesis. By far the most remarkable work from his pen, it defies classification with any of the competing understandings of the eucharist in Anglican theology. The key concepts of Wilberforce’s doctrine, and especially the understanding of the euchatrist as the means of union with Christ’s mythical body, are in turn examined. In these central chapters it has seemed right, as far as possible, to allow Wilberforce to speak for himself. The study concludes, as it began, in biographical vein. The drift of Wilberforce's theology has been Romewards. The publication of his final work confirmed this assessment: he signified his withdrawal of his subscription to Anglican formularies and became a member of the Roman Catholic Church. His sudden death at a sadly early age marked also the end of his influence as a theologian.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1979
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:41

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