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Michael Burdett

Assistant Professor in Christian Theology, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

I joined the department in 2018 having held a research fellowship at the University of Oxford for a number of years. My interests have always been broad. I have undergraduate degrees in physics, philosophy, engineering and theology. I began my academic life at several universities in the Los Angeles area as a native Californian. But I gave up working in the aerospace and robotics industries in California to pursue further graduate work in theology and philosophy at the University of Oxford under the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, George Pattison. I then moved to the University of St Andrews for three years as a researcher where I was formed considerably by the late John Webster and his students. I moved back to Oxford for two years holding a permanent research fellowship before coming to Nottingham in my present role as Assistant Professor of Christian Theology.

Expertise Summary

I have a wide range of theological interests. I am trained in philosophical theology, broadly defined, and particularly continental philosophy of religion but I am increasingly sympathetic to and work with more analytic sources and scholars. I am a systematic/constructive theologian and I specialise in the image of God/theological anthropology and eschatology. I also maintain a strong interest in religion and science with a focus on Science and Technology Studies, and evolution and dabble in Christian ethics with topics like political theology and bioethics. Finally, I do some work in religion and culture with interests in aesthetics and secularisation.

Research Summary

I am currently authoring my next book tentatively titled Death and Glory: Humanism, Transhumanism and Christianity. It is currently funded by two grants: Co-creating Ourselves? Deification and… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

I am currently authoring my next book tentatively titled Death and Glory: Humanism, Transhumanism and Christianity. It is currently funded by two grants: Co-creating Ourselves? Deification and Creaturehood in an Age of Biotechnological Enhancement (The John Templeton Foundation) and Christian Flourishing in a Technological World (The Issachar Fund).

The book addresses the following question: What role ought reflection on death play in any vision of life and indeed the glorified life? My current research proposes to answer this question by engaging the Christian tradition with transhumanism and humanism more broadly.

In my research I argue that any vision of the glorified life must have an adequate vision of death and that this glorified vision is not sufficient if it does not do justice to how we experience death and its meaning in shaping our lives. What is more, certain lauded virtues that are paramount to a glorified life only arise in this vision when death and its concomitants (dying, suffering, disability) are considered. One recalls the lessons Ivan Ilyich embodies the last few days of his life when he finally faces his own death in Tolstoy's important novel by the same name: he learns to care for others, pities his wife and truly loves. Only when Ivan faces death as a genuine reality does he truly experience the full, glorified life. Like Ivan, we are jarred out of the 'idle chatter' of our thoughtless routines and called to a deeper sense of living when our projects and experiencing of each moment are called into question by death.

And, it isn't only our own deaths that lead to a fuller life. We have all experienced how a dying or suffering loved-one evokes pity, compassion, solidarity and a profound empathy that is the basis and test of lived relationships. Vulnerability, at the heart of caring for those who suffer and die, breeds intimacy and this intimacy directly contributes to human flourishing. Experiencing death, dying and suffering through others equally contributes to the full life.

My central thesis throughout this project is that only when the vision of eternal life is tempered through the crucible of death can it truly be called glorified. In this way, much of my approach in this project is that both the humanist and Christian traditions have much to offer in correcting the creeping ideology of transhumanism into our present techno-scientific society. Denying the universality of death and obsessively avoiding death's imminence is highly dangerous and detracts from true human flourishing. In essence, I argue for the continued relevance of Christianity in developing contemporary accounts of anthropology and flourishing in the face of popular ideologies.

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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