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Simon Podmore

Associate Professor Simon Podmore

Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies
0151 291 3573
Arts and Humanities

I am a systematic and philosophical theologian interested in the integration of constructive and mystical theology. 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 the prospect of divine union in which such alterity seems to diminish, on the other. I hold an M.A. (Hons.) in Theological Studies from the University of St. Andrews, where I was awarded the prestigious Miller Prize in Arts, and a PhD from King’s College, University of London (AHRC funded). 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 book, Dark Night of the Holy, which examines the presence of the ‘Negative Numinous’ in Mystical Theology, with a particular focus on the relationship between apophasis and traumatic God-images.

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). My main interests are in philosophical and systematic theology, particularly the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Luther, and Rudolf Otto; Jewish (Kabbalah) and Christian Mysticism; theology of the Shoah (Holocaust); religious experience; continental philosophy of religion; forgiveness and the problems of suffering and evil; and the relationships between theology, the arts, and psychotherapy. I am keen to hear from potential research students interested in working in such areas. 

I am co-founder of The Mystical Theology Network ( and Secretary of the Søren Kierkegaard Society of the United Kingdom ( I was previously the Gordon Milburn Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College, Oxford and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford. Prior to this I held positions at the Hong Kierkegaard Library, St. Olaf College, USA, and at the University of Edinburgh. 

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

(with Louise Nelstrop), Exploring Lost Dimensions in Christian Mysticism: Opening to the Mystical  (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013) (

(with Louise Nelstrop), Christian Mysticism and Incarnation Theology: Between Transcendence and Immanence (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013) (

Articles/chapters in edited volumes

‘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 Šal’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


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