You are warmly invited to Spurgeon’s College for a special event on 4th December 2019

Christian Mission and the Abolition of God –Learning from History

Professor Alec Ryrie

Special guest speaker Professor Alec Ryrie will give two lectures, the first on the early history of (or lack of) protestant mission, the second on the recent history of un-belief:

11.15 – 12.45 ‘Evangelicals against Evangelism: Why Early Protestants Were Not Missionaries’

13.45 – 15.30 ‘Jesus, Hitler and the Abolition of God’

The event will be followed by marking the publication of Professor Ryrie’s new book, Unbelievers – An Emotional History of Doubt (copies will be available for purchase at the end of the event). (This paper will be followed by a short response from Nick Spencer, senior fellow of Theos Thinktank).

Alec Ryrie is the Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University , a co-editor of the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, and the author of numerous highly acclaimed books. He is a Fellow of the British Academy (2019- ), the Gresham Professor of Divinity (2018-21), and the President of the Ecclesiastical History Society (2019-20).

Both lectures will be open and free to the public, although donations are welcome. Lunch will be available between the two sessions. Lunches start at £2 per person. Please confirm your attendance by 12pm on 29 November and let us know if you plan to purchase a lunch.

Telephone: 020 86530850             Email:

Live streaming will be available (by prior request only) for those who cannot attend in person. You will need to book as described above and provide us with a valid email address. A link will be sent to the email address provided within 24 hours of the event start time.

You will need a device capable of streaming a live video feed, access to a web browser and a stable internet connection in order to participate in live streaming. Please note that we cannot be responsible for individual technical issues on the day.

Abstracts of the papers:

‘Evangelicals Against Evangelism: Why Early Protestants Were Not Missionaries’

‘Preaching the gospel to all peoples has been part of Protestant and evangelical identity from the Reformation onwards. But until the eighteenth century, there was very little Protestant cross-cultural missionary work – and this at a time when energetic Roman Catholic missions were putting down deep roots all round the globe. This lecture will ask why, concentrating on the handful of exceptions to the general rule – attempted Protestant missions in North America, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, South Africa and even the unsettled fringes of Europe. It will look at the structural and institutional obstacles to early Protestant mission, at the theological and conceptual barriers that had to be overcome, and at how the tempo finally came to change. The story suggests how cultural preconceptions of what mission is can, in practice, predetermine the outcome.’

Jesus, Hitler and the Abolition of God’

‘In the last half-century the mainstream culture in Britain and many other western societies has, as the anarchist philosopher Mikhail Bakunin predicted, decided to abolish God. This lecture will trace the roots of this momentous shift back to the religious crises of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, arguing that this is a story not about science or metaphysics, but about emotion and about ethics. In particular, the shattering impact of the seminal moral event of our age – the Second World War – has left secularism feeling intuitively and emotionally compelling in much of the western world. This lecture will trace the story down to our own times and ask where the emotional history of belief and unbelief might be going next.’