The Vision of God

By Kenneth E. Kirk

Concentrating on the development of the ascetic tradition in Christianity, this book provides a justification for the centrality of worship in Christian life.

ISBN: 9780227679180


These, Bishop Kirk’s Bampton Lectures of 1928, have been recognised as amongst the most important and readable works of moral theology published in the twentieth century. They provide a reasoned justification for the centrality of worship in Christian life, within the context of moral theology and ecclesiastical history. Concentrating on the development of ascetical theology in the early church, Kirk asks, “Are rigorism, self-abnegation and world-flight no more than obsolete ideals of other days, or have they too an underlying principle of which the Church and the Christian are still in need?”

Despite the massive learning on which it is based, Kirk’s study of the Christian doctrine of the summum bonum never loses its way in a labyrinth of detail.

Additional information

Dimensions 214 × 136 mm
Pages 224

Trade Information JGEN

About the Author

Kenneth E. Kirk was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Sheffield, and St. John’s College, Oxford. After serving as a chaplain in France and Flanders during World War I, he returned to Oxford to become Tutor at Keble College, Fellow at Magdalen College, Fellow and Chaplain of Trinity, and in 1933 Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology. He was Bishop of Oxford from 1937 until his death in 1954.



I. The Vision of God in Pre-Christian Thought
I. The Vision of God
II. Formalism & Rigorism
III. Jewish Anticipations
     (a) The Old Testament
     (b) The Apocalyptists
     (c) Rabbinic Theology

IV. Pagan Anticipations
     (a) Plato
     (b) The Mysteries

V. Philo of Alexandria

II. The New Testament
I. Rigorism & Eschatology in the Teaching of Jesus
II. New Testament Variations
     (a) The Synoptists
     (b) S. Paul

III. The Origin of New Testament Rigorism
IV. The Vision of God in the New Testament
     (a) The Teaching of Jesus
     (b) S. Paul
     (c) The Fourth Gospel

III. Formalism
I. The Beginnings of Codification
II. Codification in the New Testament
III. The Dangers of Formalism
IV. The Motive of Reward in the Gospels

IV. Rigorism
I. The Beginnings of Monasticism
II. Monasticism & the Vision of God
III. The Gnostics

V. The Reply to Rigorism (I. – Discipline)
I. Rigorists & Humanists
II. The Two Lives
III. The Reform of Monasticism
     (a) S. Pachomius
     (b) S. Basil
     (c) S. Benedict

VI. The Reply to Rigorism (II. – Doctrine)
I. Naturalism & Christianity
II. S. Clement of Alexandria
III. S. Augustine
     (a) The Two Cities
     (b) Grace & Freedom

IV. S. Bernard of Clairvaux

VII. Confusion and Order
I. The Twelfth Century
II. The School of S. Victor
III. S. Thomas Aquinas
IV. S. Ignatius of Loyala
V. S. Francis de Sales

VIII. Law and Promise
I. The Reversal of Tradition
     (a) Protestantism
     (b) Catholicism
     (c) ‘Practical’ Prayer

II. Worship & Service
     (a) Is the Quest for the Vision a Selfish Ideal?
     (b) Is ‘Worship’ a Higher Ideal than ‘Service’?

II. Disinterestedness & Pure Love
     (a) Bossuet and Fenelon
     (b) The Spirit of Worship

IV. Conclusion


Endorsements and Reviews

We have never read any theological work which has a more direct bearing on practical problems of ecclesiastical statesmanship and religious policy.
Times Literary Supplement

A great book.
Expository Times