As we are united in one: Frederick Denison Maurice and Christian Socialism

Diane Maria Pella, Fordham University


This study of the Anglican theologian and founder of Christian Socialism, Frederick Denison Maurice, examines three significant points concerning his theology and the movement. Christian Socialism was developed 1848 to 1855 in response to the political, economic, social, and religious context of the Victorian period. The principles he emphasized were grounded in the Christian Gospel. Maurice advocated conservatism regarding the transformation of the political or social structures of England. The Church's responsibility was to defend the poor and oppressed, not with a mere Victorian philanthropy, but rather with Scripture, the Creeds, and the Sacraments, as the signs of the Kingdom of God and as the true foundation for social action. Maurice applied Christology to the Social Gospel, thereby initiating a tradition referred to as the Anglican Social Gospel. Understanding his theology and Christology is crucial for comprehending his social thought. Maurice used Christology to legitimize the existence of the Church's role in social reform against the injustices of capitalism. What distinguishes Maurice as important in the history of Christian theology is that his Christian Socialism is centered on the Incarnation of Jesus Christ as Head and Center of the human race. Secondly, Maurice was an advocate of Church unity rooted in Trinitarian theology, Christian Socialism emphasized the Triune God as the reality upon which humankind is grounded, and stressed cooperation and fellowship. A third point is the intercontinental contribution by Maurice to the larger Anglican tradition, notably the renewed interest in Christian Socialism in Britain in the 1870s; and secondly his contribution to the American Social Gospel. Representatives of these periods were examined, whose theology was the foundation for their involvement in Christian Socialism and in movements toward Church unity. One of Maurice's ideas imported to America was that the Kingdom of God was not confined to the limits of the Church, but rather it embraces all of human life. For reformers in America, the Church was the major agent of moral and social change in the urban and industrial areas. The Social Gospel created a legacy of continuing importance in the theological, ecumenical, and social thought of the Church.

Subject Area

Theology|Religious history|European history|Religious congregations|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Pella, Diane Maria, "As we are united in one: Frederick Denison Maurice and Christian Socialism" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9941916.