Clare Carlisle and Karen Kilby

Project leaders:

Prof. Clare Carlisle (King’s College London)
Prof. Karen Kilby (Durham University)


Theological Practice: Enquiry and Poesis


The project aims to generate new understanding of the craft and practice of philosophical theology, conceived as a spiritual practice. It undertakes a phenomenological enquiry enriched by both ressourcement of monastic practices and engagement with the arts. It responds directly to two of the Strategic Areas for Attention identified in the Widening Horizons vision: spiritual practice, and the method of ressourcement.

Focusing on the practice of academic writing, the project will explore “enquiry” and “poesis” (or “finding” and “making”), conceived as intertwined elements of theological practice. This conception is underpinned by a theological anthropology that recognises human being as at once truth-seeking and poetic. Our investigation of writing practice is structured by questions in six areas: desire, resistance, agency, relationship, temporality, and forms of life. In each of these areas theology has something distinctive to contribute, and we seek to develop a specifically theological model of academic practice that is informed by broadly continental traditions of philosophy.

Our project will break new ground in thematising and illuminating the practice of theological enquiry – a neglected subject, despite its deep and wide significance across the discipline. It will also provide practical guidance and orientation to scholars in the field, not least by supplying a vocabulary that facilitates reflection and discussion of aspects of intellectual work that often remain tacit and unexamined. Immediate outcomes include a phenomenological modelling of theological practice that draws on the experience of leading scholars during a series of writing retreats. A key written output will be a Manual of Theological Practice designed for PhD students and supervisors.

This innovative practice-oriented project poses new questions, and it will generate new thinking about issues relevant to everyone in the field. We seek to creatively shape philosophical theology in ways that promote and protect the vitality of the discipline for future generations of scholars.