My name is Billy Crozier and I am a part-time, local Anglican PhD student here at the Centre for Catholic Studies (CCS) in Durham. A native of the North-East, I am 28 years old and live in Lanchester, a small village some eight miles or so outside of Durham, where I have lived all my life. As a former student of Durham University, I began my current research in October 2015, following several years away from academic life. My research interests primarily lie in the field of contemporary Catholic and systematic theology, particularly fundamental theology and the relationship between faith and reason, nature and grace. Following my BA in theology at Durham (2006 – 2009), I went on to complete a Masters Degree in theology at Durham between 2009 - 2011 under the care of the CCS. My Masters thesis explored the ecclesiologies of the twentieth-century Jesuit scholar Karl Rahner and his Calvinist contemporary Karl Barth, with a view to finding common ground between their divergent interpretations of Christ’s ecclesial existence under Word and sacrament. My current research diverges from this interest in modern systematics in that it focuses upon medieval theology, specifically that of the thirteenth and fourteenth-centuries.
My PhD thesis explores the theology of St. Bonaventure (c 1217-1274), specifically his doctrine of Christ’s knowledge and how it relates to his broader interpretation of the relationship between faith and reason. The question of how St. Bonaventure - the ‘Seraphic Doctor’ - understands the dynamic between the natural and supernatural orders of human cognition is a subject which has divided scholarly opinion for over a century, and it is one that I find particularly interesting and engaging. By using Bonaventure’s much neglected writings on Christ’s consciousness as an interpretative framework for his statements on Aristotelianism and natural philosophy as a whole, my thesis seeks to lay the basis for a new interpretation of the Seraphic Doctor’s thought on the relationship between faith and reason; one which critically appropriates the thought of eminent Bonaventurian scholars, such as Etienne Gilson and Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and takes advantage of recently discovered works attributable to St. Bonaventure.
Alongside my research on the Seraphic Doctor, I am also interested in the thought of the early Franciscan and Dominican schools of thought, in particular their respective - and significantly divergent - attitudes towards faith and reason and the status of Aristotelianism and natural philosophy within Christian learning. Of particular interest in this respect, is the thought of the early Franciscan masters Alexander of Hales (c 1185-1245), Odo Rigaldus (c 1200-1275), and John of La Rochelle (c 1200-1245), and their Dominican counterparts: St. Thomas Aquinas (c 1224/5-1274) and St. Albert the Great (c 1200-1280). I am also interested in the theology and philosophy of the later Franciscan scholars Bl. John Duns Scotus (c 1266-1308) and William of Ockham (c 1287-1347), in particular their interpretations of human cognition and the doctrine of the knowledge of God. Other points of interest for me include the thought of Robert Grosseteste (c 1168-1253), the theology of history and apocalyptic thinking of Joachim of Fiore (c 1135-1202) and the broader medieval doctrine of Christ’s knowledge, particularly that articulated between the twelfth and fourteenth-centuries.
I chose to do my PhD at Durham under the care of the Centre for Catholic Studies, because of the friendly and supportive nature of the staff and students, as well as the open and inclusive ethos of the Centre as a whole, particularly its commitment to ecumenical dialogue and the fostering of the personal, academic, and social development of its students. Through participating in the regular seminars, study days, and conferences organised by the CCS, as well as working in partnership with my academic supervisors, I have come to be part of a large and highly diverse community of postgraduate students, all of whom are exploring unique ways in which Catholic theology can be practised, and all of whom I am pleased to call friends and colleagues. The CCS provides an intellectually stimulating and dynamic environment in which it is possible to study both current trends within contemporary Catholic theology, as well as more longstanding and historical issues – such as the one my PhD explores. The Centre cultivates a scholarly environment which is grounded within a compassionate, supportive community spirit and a firm commitment to prayerful learning and theological reflection. The decision of the CCS to understand theology not as an abstract, dry academic science available only to a few, but as a dynamic, ever-changing discipline, which both shapes, and in turn is shaped by, the life of the church, has produced a unique scholarly environment; one in which the pursuit of theological learning, both that of its staff and students, is placed within the broader narrative of the Christian community and its ever changing witness to the Gospel.
My love of theological learning and the importance which it has come to play in shaping my own spiritual life and vocational journey has been greatly nurtured and supported by the CCS and the friends which I have made through being one of its students. I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to be part of such a thriving community of scholars. Through completing my PhD at Durham, I hope to lay the basis for a future career in adult theological education and to acquire the skills and experience needed to make a valuable contribution to my areas of interest. Without the gift of the Catherine McAuley Scholarship, of which I am in receipt, none of this would have been possible, and it is highly likely that without your generous support I would not have had the opportunity and privilege to develop my enthusiasm for learning and theological study at a world leading university like Durham. To this extent, it is safe to say that the scholarship, and the generous support and nurturing spirit of the CCS, has both broadened my horizons and opened doors for me that would otherwise be closed, or, at the very least, difficult to unlock, and for this I am incredibly grateful and indeed profoundly humbled. Thank you.
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