Overture to a Moral Messiah: God, Goodness, and the Heretical Tendency

  • Jonathan C. P. BirchEmail author
Part of the Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World book series (CTAW)


This chapter constructs a genealogy for an ethical turn in biblical hermeneutics and a modern emphasis on moral and sapiential conceptions of Jesus. Rather than being content with accounts which argue for the origins of this ‘liberal’ tradition of interpretation in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, I argue that it has roots in much older religious and philosophical controversies: from Plato to Desiderius Erasmus and the Protestant reformers, via St. Thomas Aquinas and medieval nominalism. I then show how Christian and Jewish heresies, especially Marcionism, Pelagianism, Spinoza’s one-substance monism, and various forms of theological rationalism, played their part in this multi-layered account of modern ‘liberal’ theology, characterised by commitments to the sovereign goodness of God, the value of reason, and the salvific potential of human freedom.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Critical StudiesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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