Liverpool Hope Logo Liverpool Hope Logo
Liverpool Hope Logo

Associate Professor Simon Podmore

Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies
0151 291 3573

I am a systematic and philosophical theologian and currently Associate Professor in the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. Broadly conceived, my research and teaching explores the confluence between constructive, philosophical, and mystical theology, psychotherapy, and the arts. After completion of my doctorate (King's College, London), I undertook training and work in Counselling and Mental Health Services (in the NHS and University sector). Following this formative period, which helped shape both my pedagogy and my research interests, I held teaching and research positions at the University of Edinburgh and St Olaf College (USA). Immediately prior to my current post at Liverpool Hope, I held the Gordon Milburn Junior Research Fellowship at Trinity College, Oxford in conjunction with the award of a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford (2010-13). I hold a PhD from King’s College, University of London (AHRC funded), an M.A. by Research in Jewish & Holocaust Studies from the University of Birmingham (funded by the British Academy), and an M.A. (Hons.) in Theological Studies from the University of St. Andrews, where I was awarded the prestigious Miller Prize in Arts. I also hold a Certificate in counselling and psychotherapy from the Westminster Pastoral Foundation. I am co-founder of The Mystical Theology Network (, established in order to reflect upon the status currently being assigned to the mystical and the apophatic within theology today; and former Secretary of the Søren Kierkegaard Society of the United Kingdom (

I am especially interested in questions surrounding the relationship between self-consciousness and consciousness of God. This interest is motivated by a particular concern with the radical otherness of God, on the one hand; and, on the other, the prospect of divine union in which such alterity seems to diminish.  My first book, Kierkegaard and the Self Before God: Anatomy of the Abyss (Indiana University Press, 2011), explores the difficult relationship between consciousness of self and consciousness of God with reference to the problem of the “infinite qualitative difference” between the human and the divine. I develop related themes in Christian spirituality further in my current monograph, Struggling with God: Kierkegaard & the Temptation of Spiritual Trial (James Clarke & co., 2013). This book provides both a reconstruction and a contemporary constructive account of the category of spiritual struggle (Anfechtung) in relation to mystical, Lutheran, and existential theology; the nature of evil and the secret of suffering; kenosis-in-ekstasis; the desire of Spirit; and the darkness of God. 

I am currently writing my third single-authored monograph, Dark Night of the Holy: Apophatic Abyss and Negative Numinous, which develops a distinctive theological approach to traumatic images of God by drawing on the notions of the Numinous and the apophatic strategies of mystical thought in Christian and Jewish traditions. I am also currently undertaking an MA by Research (Distance-Learning) in Jewish and Holocaust Studies at the University of Birmingham. My thesis explores the under-developed relation between Kabbalistic studies and (post-)holocaust theology, with particular focus on how kabbalistic notions of Tzimtzum, or divine ’contraction’, inform the search for a mystical theodicy—a theodicy that, rather than offering a conclusive answer to the problem of evil remains inexorably open-ended. 

I tend to be drawn to the darker, and hence often under-examined, aspects of theology and their relationships with issues in philosophy, spirituality, and mental health (see here to listen to my contribution to BBC Radio 4’s Beyond Belief on the topic of ‘Religion and Fear’: My research explores the inter-faces between theology, philosophy, spirituality, and mental health, with a particular emphasis upon the darker and liminal aspects of religious interiority (melancholia; despair; anxiety; acedia; doubt; guilt; temptation; spiritual struggle [Anfechtung]; God-forsakenness; trauma; death and dying). 

I am happy to hear from potential research students interested in working in areas such as: 

The thought, influences, and reception of Søren Kierkegaard/Rudolf Otto/Martin Luther

Jewish (Kabbalah) and Christian Mysticism

Theology and Philosophy of the Shoah (Holocaust)

The problems of Suffering and Evil

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Religious and 'Transcendent' Experience 

Continental Philosophy of Religion

The relationships between Theology, the Arts, and Psychotherapy

Selected Publications


Struggling with God: Kierkegaard & the Theology of Spiritual Trial (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2013)(

Kierkegaard & the Self Before God: Anatomy of the Abyss (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011)                (

Edited Volumes

David Lewin, Simon D. Podmore, and Duane Williams (eds.), Mystical Theology and Continental Philosophy: Interchange in the Wake of God, (Routledge, 2017)

Louise Nelstrop & Simon D. Podmore (eds.), Exploring Lost Dimensions in Christian Mysticism: Opening to the Mystical  (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013) (

Louise Nelstrop & Simon D. Podmore (eds.), Christian Mysticism and Incarnation Theology: Between Transcendence and Immanence (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013) (

Articles/chapters in edited volumes

‘Luther in Modern European Philosophy’, in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Martin Luther, edited by Derek Nelson and Paul Hinlicky (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). Online version in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Article published 2017. Oxford University Press, 2014–.

‘The Spiritual Trial of Divine Seduction: Temptation and the Confessing Self’, in Pafenroth and Russell (eds.) Augustine & Kierkegaard, Augustine in Conversation: Tradition and Innovation Series (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), pp. 63-87.

‘Mysterium Secretum et Silentiosum: Praying the Apophatic Self’, in Lewin, Podmore, Williams (eds.) Mystical Theology and Continental Philosophy (Routledge, 2017), pp. 197-216.

‘The Anarchē of Spirit: Proudhon’s Anti-Theism and Kierkegaard’s Self in Apophatic Perspective’, in Alexandre Christoyannopoulos and Matthew Adams (eds.), Essays in Anarchism and Religion (Stockholm University Press/Open Access, 2017), pp. 238-282.

‘Theophany of the Abyss: Job and the Negative Numinous’, in Harmut Von Sass and Leonie Ratschow (eds.), God’s Spiritual Trial: A Paradigm Shift in Engaging Theologically with the Book of Job/Die Anfechtung Gottes: Ein Paradigmenwechsel in der theologischen Auseinandersetzung mit dem Hiobbuch (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2016), pp. 233-261.

‘Transfiguring Forgiveness: The Apophatic Self and the Way of Forgetting’, in C. Stephen Evans and Paul Martens (eds.), Kierkegaard and Christian Faith (Baylor University Press, 2016)

‘The Forgotten and the God-forsaken: The Apophasis of Forgiveness’, in Johannes Zachhuber & Hartmut Von Sass (eds.), Forgiving & Forgetting: At the Margins of Soteriology (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015)

‘Between Sociology, Anthropology, and Psychology: The Insider/Outsider Self’, in Jon Stewart (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Kierkegaard (Oxford: Blackwell, 2015)

‘Mysterium Horrendum: Mystical Theology & the Negative Numinous‘, in Louise Nelstrop & Simon D. Podmore (eds.), Exploring Lost Dimensions in Christian Mysticism: Opening to the Mystical (Ashgate, 2013), pp. 93-116

‘Transforming Presence: Incarnation Between Transcendence and Immanence’ (Introduction), in Louise Nelstrop & Simon D. Podmore (eds.), Christian Mysticism and Incarnation Theology: Between Transcendence and Immanence (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), pp.1-12

‘Mysticism’s Secret: A Silent Prayer of Unknowing’, in Hartmut Von Sass (ed.), Stille Tropen: Zur Rhetorik und Grammatik des Schweigens (München: Verlag Karl Alber, 2013), pp. 218-239.

‘My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me? Between Consolation & Desolation’, in Christopher C.H. Cook (ed.), Spirituality, Theology & Mental Health: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (London: SCM Press, 2013), pp. 193-210.

‘The Abyss of the Heart: Transfiguration and the Imago Dei’, in Králik et al (eds), Acta Kierkegaardiana VI: Kierkegaard and Human Nature (Toronto and Å al’a: Kierkegaard Circle, 2013), pp. 88-104.

‘A Theologian’s Response: Otherness in Dialogue’, in G. Pattison & H. M. Jensen, Kierkegaard’s Pastoral Dialogues (Wipf and Stock, 2012), pp. 113-121

'“To Die and Yet Not Die”: Kierkegaard's Theophany of Death', in Patrick Stokes & Adam Buben (eds.), Kierkegaard & Death (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), pp. 44-64

‘Carl Rogers: “To Be That Self Which One Truly Is”’, in Jon Stewart (ed.), Kierkegaard Research: Sources, Reception and Resources: Volume 13: Kierkegaard's Influence on the Social Sciences (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), pp. 239-258

'The Infinite Quality of Forgiveness: The (Im)possible and the (Un)forgivable', in C. Diatka and R. Králik (eds.) Acta Kierkegaardiana Vol III: Kierkegaard and Christianity (Mexico City/Barcelona/Sala: Sociedad Iberoamericana de Estudios Kierkegaardianos, University of Barcelona, Kierkegaard Society in Slovakia, 2008), pp. 117-131

'Struggling With God: Kierkegaard/Proudhon', in C. Diatka and R. Králik (eds.) Acta Kierkegaardiana Vol II: Kierkegaard and Great Philosophers (Mexico City/Barcelona/Sala: Sociedad Iberoamericana de Estudios Kierkegaardianos, University of Barcelona, Kierkegaard Society in Slovakia, 2007), pp. 90-103

'The Dark Night of Suffering & the Darkness of God: God-forsakenness or Forsaking God in Gospel of Sufferings & St. John of the Cross', in Robert Perkins (ed.), International Kierkegaard Commentary: Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2005), pp. 229-256

Articles in peer-reviewed Journals

‘The Holy as Wholly Other: Kierkegaard on Divine Alterity’, The Heythrop Journal 53.1 (2012), pp. 9-23

‘The Sacrifice of Silence: Fear & Trembling & the Secret of Faith’, International Journal for Systematic Theology Volume 14.1 January 2012, pp. 70-90

‘Lazarus & The Sickness Unto Death: An Allegory of Despair’, Journal of Religion & the Arts 14.4, 2011, pp. 486-519

'Kierkegaard as Physician of the Soul: On Self-Forgiveness & Despair', Journal of Psychology & Theology, Fall 2009, Volume 37, Number 3, pp. 174-185

'Crucified by God: Kazantzakis & The Last Anfechtung of Christ', Literature and Theology Vol. 22 No. 4 December 2008, pp. 419-435

'The Lightning and the Earthquake: Kierkegaard on the Anfechtung of Luther', The Heythrop Journal XLVII (2006), pp. 562-578