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On not moving on: Nick Spencer takes on new role as Senior Fellow

On not moving on: Nick Spencer takes on new role as Senior Fellow

Nick Spencer steps down as our Research Director to take on a new role as Senior Fellow. 04/09/2018

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There comes a time when every prize winning stallion is put out to stud. The races have been won, the records broken, the trophy cabinet is full: what else is left to do but produce the next generation and watch them reach even greater heights?

And so it is, with a metaphor as appropriate as it is seriously intended, that I move on from being Theos’s Research Director for the last 12 years to the new post of Senior Fellow. It has been a privilege and a joy, and I will stay closely involved with the research programme and life of Theos more generally. But the formal duties will pass to the excellent Ben Ryan, and I will be freer.

Freer for…?

Well, over the last decade or so I have had the chance to write on a number of subjects – the influence of the Bible on British political thought and practice; the relationship between Darwinism and belief in God; the past, present and future of atheism; the true nature of humanism; the influence of Christianity on the West; the use and abuse of the parable of the Good Samaritan… It’s this line of work I want to continue.

We live at a time when the Christian faith is widely discussed but not necessarily widely understood. The influence of Christianity on our collective life – imaginative, intellectual, social, political – has been incalculable. Moreover, it remains immense, if poorly recognised. As we have observed many times over the last 12 years, the UK, and the West more generally, has not moved on to decisively to a new age but lingers in the shadow of Christendom, still “haunted by Christianity” but now unnervingly plural in our identities and commitments, all the time vying for sense and order. Christianity will no longer be in a position to dictate unilaterally what that is (though, as I argued in Freedom and Order, it hasn’t really done that since the 17th century). But it should and will be part of the conversation.

I have a couple of specific projects on the go. I’m trying to complete a part–time PhD on theology and the welfare state that I began shortly after William Temple was born. And I am also working on a project with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion exploring what it is that people think they are disagreeing about when it comes to science and religion.

But beyond that, I hope to keep up to speed with, write about and talk with some of our big intellectual beasts and their ideas that shape our mental landscape. I’ve started doing that here (with Steven Pinker) and here (with John Gray) and here (with Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett) and here (with Jesse Norman MP), all the time trying to show how Christian thought might engage with and contribute to the big debates of our time. Hopefully there will be more to come.

So, I’m not moving on. Rather, returning to the equine metaphor, like Boxer, I’ll be labouring away on many more tasks, all the time quietly whispering to myself: “I will work harder” and “Elizabeth is always right.”

Nick Spencer

Nick Spencer

Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, most recently ‘The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable’ (Bloomsbury, 2017), ‘The Evolution of the West’ (SPCK, 2016) and ‘Atheists: The Origin of the Species’ (Bloomsbury, 2014).

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Posted 4 September 2018


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