Steven Foster

Steven Foster

Religious History PG Researcher

Summary: Thesis: Subject to the Higher Powers:The Reception of Romans 13:1-7 during the English Reformation.


My Current Research:

My research intends to trace the different ways the participants of the English Reformation tried to interpret the meaning of Romans 13:1-7 and how these interpretations made sense of the present during a period of seismic change.  The Pauline proof text ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God’ (Rom.13:1 KJV), has been a neglected crux in the evolution of political theology and was central in the early modern debates which concerned politico-religious allegiance.

This research will investigate how the reception of Romans 13 shaped governance during the Reformation period, and to hear more clearly the voice of the reader than those of the author. This text is probably the most important passage within the Bible on the theme of political obligation (viz. Luther), stating rulers are ‘minister[s] of God’ and those who oppose their power ‘resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation’. The mutual interplay of successive readings of Scripture will help illuminate how these readings made sense of the ‘present’ and the effects that these Biblical insights had upon political culture.

My research will explore the theological and political claims to jurisdiction, analyse the differing political theories which were built upon Paul’s model of government, and identify the key discourse which initiated the re-visioning of English government and shift from royal absolutism to the consolidation of legislature based upon Romans 13:1-7. As recent scholarship by Jacqueline Rose, Godly Kingship in Restoration England (2011), has shown how the concept of the godly magistrate was ‘common parlance’ and by the grace of God, the king was the defender of the faith and church. The English Church intertwined with the state producing fundamental proclamations of doctrine which used Pauline interpretations for legitimacy. By investigating the reception of this proof text, I hope to discover how the participants of the English Reformation actively contributed to its meaning with their interpretations, and these texts are vital in understanding this creative and parallel role.

Funded by: AHRC Doctoral Studentship

Supervisor: Stephen Alford

About Me:

I enrolled at university as a mature student after spending over fifteen years in various managerial roles in both the private and charitable sectors. I graduated in 2012 with a BA (Hons) in History with first class honours and my specialist subject was Heresy and Religious Revolution in the Central Middle Ages. My dissertation was titled ‘Usurpation of the Apostolic Office: The Poor of Lyons, 1170-1215’ and was supervised by Dr. Julian Haseldine.

The following year I completed my MA in Early Modern History and graduated with distinction. My dissertation thesis was ‘Reformation Hull: The Religious Composition of the Hull Corporation, 1550-1650’ and this was supervised by Dr. David Bagchi.

I started my research at the University of Leeds in October 2013.

Primary Academic Interest: Heresy and Dissent from the Patristic Period to the Reformation.