Keynote: Michael Banner


Dr Michael BannerMichael Banner is currently Dean, Fellow and Director of Studies in Theology and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK.

He has previous appointments as Bampton Research Fellow, St Peter’s College, Oxford; as Dean, Chaplain, Fellow and Director of Studies in Philosophy and Theology, Peterhouse, Cambridge; as  FD Maurice Professor of Moral and Social Theology, King’s College, London and as Professor in the University of Edinburgh and Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum. He was chair of the Committee of Enquiry for the Ministry of Agriculture from 1993 to 1995, the CJD Incidents Panel at the Department of Health, the Home Office’s Animal Procedures Committee from 1998 to 2006, and the Shell Panel on Animal Testing from 2002 to 2009. He also served as a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution for six years and recently completed a nine-year term on the board of the Human Tissue Authority and is currently a member of the Ministry of Defence’s Advisory Committee on Less Lethal Weapons. He also has an interest in ethical investment and has served on a number of boards for investment companies in the City of London.

His key publications are

  • The Justification of Science and the Rationality of Religious Belief (OUP, 1990)
  • Christian Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems (CUP, 1999)
  • Ethics and the Doctrine of God, ed. with A.T. Torrance (T&T Clark, 2004)
  • Christian Ethics: A Brief History (Blackwells, 2009)

In 2013 Michael Banner gave the Bampton Lectures in Oxford, which were subsequently published by Oxford University Press in 2014 as The Ethics of Everyday Life: Moral Theology, Social Anthropology, and the Imagination of the Human (2014). The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology published several responses to this book in its second issue of 2015. The book has been a key source of inspiration for this conference. As the book cover states:

… the Christian imagination of human life has been powerfully shaped by the imagination of Christ’s life – Christ’s conception, birth, suffering, death, and burial have been subjects of profound attention in Christian thought, just as they are moments of special interest and concern in each and every human life. However, they are also sites of contention and controversy, where what it is to be human is discovered, constructed, and contested… In The Ethics of Everyday Life, Michael Banner argues that moral theology must reconceive its nature and tasks if it is not only to articulate its own account of human being, but also to enter into constructive contention with other accounts. In particular, it must be willing to learn from and engage with social anthropology if it is to offer powerful and plausible portrayals of the moral life and answers to the questions which trouble modernity.

Theological anthropology can no longer be done at the side-lines, from a safe distance of everyday  realities. It is to be done at sites of contention and controversy in which what it means to be human is at stake. The book invites the question ‘What would Christian reflection on what it means to be human be when pulled down from philosophical discourse into life, understanding ‘what it means to be human’ as something that is lived out in concrete moments of life and precisely contested there and then?  It is this question that we take up in the conference.

See also blog posts about Banner’s work at our conference blog.