Courage as Moral Action: An Interview with OCH Research Fellow Dr. Matthew Drever - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities

Courage as Moral Action: An Interview with OCH Research Fellow Dr. Matthew Drever

Dr. Matthew Drever was selected as a 2020-21 OCH research fellow. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School and is currently the Rita and William H. Bell Associate Professor of Anglican and Ecumenical Studies at TU. His research work focuses on the areas of systematic and historical theology. Here, Dr. Drever chats with us about courage as both a concept and an action.


Why are you interested in the topic of courage/or rage?

As a scholar who works at the intersection of religion and philosophy, the topics of courage interests me in the way they intersect moral, spiritual, social, and political dimensions of human experience and life.  Courage is an action, but one that carries moral weight and aims, at least implicitly, for a better and fulfilling life.  Act and understanding, hope and resilience come together to form a vision beyond the world that is and for one that should and could be.  In this way, courage is both pragmatic and idealistic, addressing real-world problems that plague life and society, not as an abstract question, but rather with moral cause for transformation.

What questions do you hope to explore during the upcoming academic year?

How do we understand courage in different social, cultural, and historical contexts?

What motivates people to act courageously within these different contexts?  What models of virtue and human excellence stand behind these different contexts?

How do we enable people to become courageous and enact positive change?  How do we as individuals and communities support and build people to act courageously?

What do models of courage look like within the current context of the pandemic?  Within current social movements—BLM and Me Too?  What are the wider issues at stake and how does courage impact them?

What do models of courage look like within the Tulsa community?  How have they impacted the community in positive ways?

How do different methodologies within the humanities and the social sciences approach the topic of courage?  What do different academic approaches to courage look like?  Can these approaches help illuminate one another?  Do they stand in critical tension with one another?

Why do you think it’s important to examine and discuss the notions of courage/or rage in an interdisciplinary way? 

Courage offers a window into fundamental questions of moral action, spiritual and psychological insight, political vision, and social transformation.  If we are to do justice to the way courage intersects life and society in this multidimensional way, we must approach it with the range of methodologies available within the humanities and sciences.  Here we might find new insights that challenge and deepen our understanding of courage, as well as the fundamental questions that attend it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself–your fields of study, interests, etc. 

I am the Bell Associate Professor of Anglican and Ecumenical Studies and Chair of the Philosophy and Religion Department at the University of Tulsa.  I am also the co-Chair of the Augustine and Augustinianisms Group of the American Academy of Religion.

My fields of study include the History of Christian thought, with a focus on early Christianity and the Reformation Period, and the Philosophy of Religion, with a focus on French and German scholarship.

I am the author of numerous articles on Augustine and the reception history of Augustine in the modern period.  I am also the author of Image, Identity, and the Forming of the Augustinian Soul (Oxford, 2013).  Currently, I am working on two major projects.  The first project is a manuscript that examines Augustine’s understanding of divine action and its intersection with church and state, and the way these issues come together in Augustine’s understanding of human spiritual and moral identity.  The second project works at the intersection of science and religion, where I am reexamining classical Christian accounts of spiritual and moral affections in light of research coming out of contemporary work in the Cognitive Science of Religion.

My interests outside the university include fishing and backpacking, but mostly center on whatever interests my children happen to have at any given moment.

To learn more about our annual theme, visit our Cou/Rage page. See our 2020-21 research fellow announcement here.