The Shining Human Creature

Christian Ethics, Vol. 1

By Thomas Traherne, Modernized by Colin Redemer

Publication Date: Februrary 9, 2023

About this book

A vision of man restored in glory, now in modern English

What did God intend man to be? What will man be when restored by grace? How can this vision drive our thoughts, actions, and–most importantly–our loves?

In the wake of the Reformation, Christians all over continental Europe sought to take the theoretical concerns of theology and pair them to the practical. In the wake of the gains made by the Protestant movement, they asked a question posed by all great Christian thinkers before them: what does it mean for man to live as one restored in Christ?

Into this conversation comes Thomas Traherne—clergyman, poet, and mystic—to cast a vision of the “shining human creature,” the truly virtuous man, and the God who made and loves him. His writing demonstrates how philosophy can befriend poetics, how the intellect can be at home with the imagination of the heart, and how virtue ethics can be transposed into a truly Christian key.

In this new modernization—complete with a new introduction—by Colin Chan Redemer, readers can delight in this poetic and masterful seventeenth century text without stumbling over arcane language.

Traherne is less well-known than he ought to be, given his rich prose and ability to weave together theology, anthropology, and virtue ethics, all in service of Christian devotion. Traherne’s work is a revelation not only for students of the Reformation but for anyone asking foundational questions of ethics and anthropology. We are thrilled to bring what should be a Christian classic back into the Church’s awareness.

Paperback | xxii + 96 PAGES | 5×8 | PubliSHed February 9, 2023 | ISBN: 978-1-949716-16-0

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From the Introduction

“As Lewis might have put it: Traherne isn’t a man looking at the beam of light thrown off by theology – aloof, scientific and technical. Rather, he is enraptured, looking along it, warming his intellect directly in the countenance of God. All of philosophy is an ever greater attempt to see reality for the sheer delight which seeing it has to offer. The motive for building this postern which you hold, this portal into the seventeenth century, is that more people might put out of mind for a moment their brunch and see as Traherne saw. For all his rarified language and the elite natureness of his audience, he has so much to offer any Christian layman. I hope, in putting this book out, to add my small drop to the growing sea of work on Traherne so that he will not be forgotten, and additionally that in reading this book more of us begin to see our lives as he saw his: with deep gratitude and joy and a hope for the more that is still to come.”

read a free sample here


Colin Chan Redemer

To The Reader


The End of Virtue 


The Nature of Happiness 


Virtue Defined 


The Powers and Affections of the Soul 


Knowledge Defined 


Love and Hatred 


How God Benefits from Love 


The Excellence of Christian Morality

About the Authors

Thomas Traherne (1636-1674) was an Anglican poet and theologian, known for his distinctive union of scholarship and spirituality. After graduating from Oxford in 1656, he entered the ministry of the Church of England, and he continued in ministry until his in death in 1674. While only one of his works were published in his lifetime, many others were discovered and published afterwards, gradually disclosing his uniquely poetic piety. His most famous work is Centuries of Meditations, which C. S. Lewis praised as “almost the most beautiful book in English.”

Colin Redemer (Ph.D. candidate, University of Aberdeen) is Vice-President of the Davenant Institute and the Provost of Davenant Hall, Poetry Editor and podcast co-host for Ad Fontes, as well as a professor at St. Mary’s College, California. He also regularly lectures in Philosophy at Davenant Hall, including ongoing cycles in the works of Plato and Aristotle. Follow him on Twitter @REDEMTHETIMES.

Praise for this work

“Thomas Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations is an unparalleled classic of cheery Christian mysticism, much of it animated by Paul’s ecstatic declaration: “All things are yours.” His Christian Ethics is less exuberant, but Traherne’s treatise on virtue, happiness, and love—now expertly introduced, edited, and modernized by Colin Redemer—expresses his delight in the goodness of God and creation and his confidence that “All will be included in his bliss.”


President, Theopolis Institute

“The ‘beauty of virtue’ is not something most Protestants think about. But it is the theme of this beautiful treatise written by the seventeenth-century Anglican poet and theologian Thomas Traherne, whose writings are now being discovered as gold suddenly appearing at the bottom of a long-lost cave. Colin Chan Redemer is a masterful writer and translator whose new rendition of Traherne’s Christian Ethics is a must-read for Anglicans and all Christians who want to ‘leave elementary doctrine’ and go on to “maturity” that relishes the beauty of holiness.”


Retired Anglican Chair of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

“Redemer accomplishes a wonderful feat in both his introduction and his treatment of Traherne’s philosophical and theological meditation on Christian ethics. Tuned to the modern ear, this well-composed presentation advances Traherne’s 17th century voice into today’s living room. If you have ears to hear, you must open this initial volume and listen; Redemer conducts as Traherne sings. I eagerly await the encore of future completed volumes.”


Chair of Christian Formation & Ministry, Wheaton College

“Colin Redemer is to be congratulated on making Traherne’s inspiring theology of love accessible to today’s reader. By modernizing spelling, tactfully simplifying syntax and by supplying the occasional judicious footnote to explain difficulties, Redemer has managed to clarify the meaning while preserving the emotional power of Traherne’s style.”


Chairman of the Traherne Association;
author of The Voluble Soul: Traherne’s Poetic Style and Thought

C. S. Lewis on Traherne

“Remember too what Traherne says: that our appreciation of this world–and this becomes fully conscious only as we express it in art–is a real link in the universal chain. Beauty descends from God into nature: but there it would perish and does except when a Man appreciates it with worship and thus as it were sends it back to God: so that through his consciousness what descended ascends again and the perfect circle is made.”

Letter 150 in They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963)

“At present I’m re-reading Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations, which I think almost the most beautiful book (in prose I mean, excluding poets) in English”

Letter 205 in They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963)

“A good book to balance it [The Imitation of Christ] is Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations, which I expect you know. (Not to be confused with his poems, which I don’t recommend.) There is all the gold & fragrance!”

Letter 286 in They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963)


The Davenant Institute endeavors to restore wisdom for the contemporary church. We seek to sponsor historical scholarship at the intersection of the church and academy, build friendships and facilitate collaboration within the Reformed and evangelical world, and equip the saints with time-tested resources for faithful public witness. Below are some of the works we’ve published towards that end.

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