St John's College Oxford
Dr Matthew Mills

Dr Matthew Mills

Lecturer in Theology

Biography

I work with students on courses in church history, doctrine, and ethics.  I also provide thesis supervision, with recent topics including representations of disability in medieval saints’ lives, the spiritualities of Thérèse of Lisieux (d. 1897) and Teresa of Calcutta (d. 1997), and the career of Hildegard of Bingen (d. 1179).

As a student, I read Theology at Oxford and Durham, before returning to Oxford for a doctoral studentship with the Arts and Humanities Research Council.  Since 2014, I have been an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK.

Research Interests

The study of theology has rarely been more important than it is today, offering unparalleled opportunities to examine the roots and development of human cultures, as well as the causes and transformative effects of their historical encounters.

I would argue that, in many ways, it was the middle ages – with their biblical, classical, and patristic foundations – which provided the crucible in which modern ideas on a whole range of subjects were forged.  For instance, our understanding of the role of reason in intellectual enquiry, the proper functioning of the State, and even the nature and rights of individuals, can all be traced back to medieval theology and philosophy.

My own research has tended to focus upon ideas about the Virgin Mary and the monastic tradition, especially the life and work of Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109).  I am currently completing a monograph on the cult of the Virgin in the monasteries of medieval Britain, analysing the interplay between Marian thought and the Benedictine calling, as well as tracing some Patristic and Byzantine antecedents of key ideas.  I have also worked on a later monastic figure, Stephen of Sawley (d. 1252), a little-known Cistercian abbot responsible for interesting works on moral education and Marian devotion.

More generally, my interests range widely across the history, theology and philosophy of Christianity and its interactions with other religious traditions and secular society.  Recently, I have been working with colleagues in Social Theology and Ritual Studies as Co-Investigator on a project offering theological responses to Restorative Justice, with contributions on narratives of victimhood and satisfaction theory.