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Durham University

Centre for Catholic Studies

Joshua Mobley

I am a first-year PhD student from the USA, focusing on the ecclesiology of Henri de Lubac. Prior to moving to Durham, I lived for 6 years in the Middle East. During that time I was exposed to the broad international textures of the church, sharpening a life-long fascination with church-life. While living in the Middle East I completed an MA in theology by distance learning in which I was introduced to the work of Henri de Lubac and the 20th century Catholic movement known as ressourcement. The combination of de Lubac’s sense of the catholicity (universality) of the church and the rich diversity of church life I encountered internationally led me to pursue a PhD at Durham University.

My primary research is in ecclesiology, specifically the relations between the church, the gospel and the Incarnation. A common Protestant critique of Henri de Lubac’s ecclesiology is that he ties the church too tightly to the incarnation, undervaluing the role of the gospel as authoritative over the church. An Eastern Orthodox critique of de Lubac is that he does not tie the church closely enough with the incarnation. Through a creative synthesis of the work of de Lubac, Karl Rahner, Michael Ramsey and Sergius Bulgakov, I am trying to develop de Lubac’s ecclesiology in a way that navigates through these criticisms. Specifically, Karl Rahner’s theology of the symbol provides a helpful way of conceiving the unity-in-distinction of the church, gospel and Incarnation. This broadly ecumenical approach (Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox) enables us to see the unity of Christ and his church in a way that honors the insights of multiple traditions.

I am deeply grateful for the Centre for Catholic Studies. The funding I have received from the Centre has made studying at Durham possible, while the seminars, conferences and community have formed an indispensable part of my education. The opportunity to interact with scholars from various disciplines has both broadened and provoked my thinking. The community the centre fosters provides an enriching space in which to do theology. The scholarship the centre develops is both impressive and important for the academic discipline of theology and the life of the church.

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