Sewanee: School of Theology Theses 2012


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 7
  • Item
    Holding the Place of Christ: Leadership in the Divine Household
    (2014-01-20) Bourlakas, Mark Allen
    The thesis of this paper is that the Benedictine monastic tradition provides an effective foundation for leadership in the parish church. The Rule of Benedict provides a sturdy template for the organization and functioning of a community committed to prayer and work in service of the Gospel. Its principles have been employed, in varying degrees, to structure the ongoing life of many intentional religious communities. More specifically, this study looks at how the Rule of St. Benedict presents the authority of the abbot and how leadership inspired by this model can shape and strengthen Christian discipleship. Because the vitality of any intentional community depends upon the quality of leadership that oversees and shapes its common life, this paper explores the Benedictine tradition for its wise principles of leadership and of community structure that can serve us well during the current period of cultural transition. Benedict prescribed the fundamental nature of the abbacy as he did because he understood its function as the anchor of the community’s life. In order to make leadership parallels and applications, chapter one sketches the kind of regime Benedict intended for the abbacy. Monastic life began when Christian ascetics went out to the deserts of Egypt and Palestine to find God in the practice of silence, prayer, and purification of the heart. Because they needed a teacher and guide, communities began to form around charismatic leaders. Thus, the living out and passing on of an intentional religious life has been, and continues to be, the goal of all divine households patterned on the Rule. It is the abbot’s interpretation and adaption of the Rule that allows for shaping the character of the community’s ongoing life. Chapter two describes how Thomas Merton guided younger vocations to an understanding how the Rule had been adapted over time by monastic communities. As Novice Master at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Merton taught that communities must make discriminating use of Cassian and the Desert Fathers just as Benedict did when producing his Rule. In doing so, Merton sought to recapture a spiritual balance in the essential traditions of Cistercian life. Chapter three describes ways the Church might reorganize its leadership models as we shift from a modern to a postmodern culture. This transfer is creating stress because the understanding of leadership among the quickly ascending Millennial generation differs significantly from that of the Baby Boomer generation. I believe that there is an urgent need for an evolution in leadership models. Churches must come to terms with how the perception of leadership in this new cultural landscape has changed. In this new postmodern environment, the relational aspects of leadership must come first. Nurturing emerging leaders is similar to lifting up indigenous leaders from within a new mission field. The leadership models employed in this expanding, boundary-free world of the internet and social networking will greatly influence how any community marshals the resources available to it for its mission. Whether abbot or rector, existing leaders will need to engage others in the cultivation of new forms, while reforming traditional methods, so that the vitality of their Gospel communities can continue or be renewed. This thesis claims that the Church has many deep, and sometimes untapped, resources. The Rule of St. Benedict offers a perennial wellspring of wisdom, guidance, and inspiration for the leaders of divine households to meet the challenges of these uncertain times.
  • Item
    The Theology and Practice of Confession of Sin in the New Testament and the Most Primitive Churches
    (2014-01-20) Hutchinson, Travis David
    This thesis explores the theology and practice of confession of sin in the New Testament and most primitive churches (AD 30-100) by examining relevant passages exegetically: Acts 19:18-20; 1 John 1:9; James 5:16; Didache 4:14, 14:1; and 1 Clement 53. These passages are examined in light of the penitential practices of Second Temple Judaism, particularly Leviticus 16:20-22, 26:40-45; Deuteronomy 30:1-10; 1 Kings 8:22-61; Ezra 9-10; Psalm 32:1-5; Psalm 51; Tobit 3:1-6; the Prayer of Azariah; Words of the Luminaries (4Q504; 4Q506); the Damascus Document (4QD); and the Communal Confession (4Q393). In the examination of the penitential practices of Second Temple Judaism, this thesis relies heavily on the work of Rodney Werline, Mark Boda, and Daniel Falk. Additionally, this thesis briefly surveys penitential practices in Church history through the early middle ages, comparing canonical and private sacramental confession of sin to the practice of the most primitive churches. The magisterial work of Joseph A. Bingham is used extensively as well as the more recent work of Thomas Tentler. The thesis concludes with a provisional theological construction for the confession of sin in the contemporary Church as well as some practical suggestions for placing open confession of sin within the liturgy of public worship. This thesis finds that there was a definable common inheritance regarding penitential practice in Second Temple Judaism and this inheritance, demonstrated so aptly by Werline, Boda and Falk, regarded the confession of sin as an essential requirement for obtaining forgiveness and restoration from deliberate sin. This inheritance can be found in a continuity of belief and praxis from earlier Old Testament texts, such as Leviticus and Deuteronomy, through the later Exilic texts, Kings and Ezra, and canonical worship material (Psalms). This inheritance is additionally demonstrated in intertestamental literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Since the most primitive texts of Christian communities give clear evidence of being in continuity with the Second Temple texts these texts should form the framework for reading Christian texts regarding confession of sin. This thesis argues that primitive Christian texts reveal an understanding of confession of sin that was public, specific, and unscripted. The earliest Christian communities saw confession of sin as intrinsic to Christian conversion and intrinsic to ongoing Christian formation (sanctification). This thesis, in surveying confession of sin through the early middle ages, concludes that the primitive practice of confession of sin developed into public canonical confession and was eventually displaced by private sacramental confession which grew out of the private confessional practice of the Irish churches. The thesis gives a theologically constructive proposal for considering the intrinsic place of confession of sin in Christian life and worship. While the proposal is given from an evangelical Reformed perspective, it should have applicability to Christian worship in the larger Church as well. The author closes with suggestions and reflections on the practice of confession of sin in public worship from a ten-year experience of putting it into practice in his congregation.
  • Item
    The Priest as Clinician: A Case for Intentional and Informed Involvement of Parish Clergy with Clinical Teams Caring for Parishioners
    (2014-01-20) Dunagan, Joe Kimbell
    A challenge for parish clergy is to minister to parishioners as they experience illnesses in such a way as to help transform the experience of being sick from one of objectification and isolation, to an experience that can be interpreted as part of their spiritual journeys. This thesis illustrates how barriers to spiritual care of parishioners during times of illness can be breached and parish priests can become full participants in the healthcare team. To be integral in the delivery of care, clergy must be intentional and informed. Narratives of persons confronting illness while being objectified and isolated by the healthcare system are utilized to illustrate this thesis. These stories include early seventeenth century Anglican priest and metaphysical poet, John Donne; Sue Baier, who wrote about her experience of being paralyzed for weeks in a modern intensive care unit; the main character in Margaret Edson’s play about a Donne scholar with terminal cancer; and, stories adapted from the author’s ministry. The divergent understanding of spirituality is problematic, but there is agreement among clergy and clinicians that spirituality understood in some fashion is important. This common ground can be an entry point for parish clergy who seek opportunities to interact with clinicians. The medicalization of illness occurs when clinicians focus on treating the disease, i.e. curing or changing the course of the illness. This treatment is typically data driven, algorithmic and influenced by costs. With clergy involvement, all healthcare can be more holistic. The clinical term palliative refers to treatment that aggressively manages physical, emotional, social and spiritual symptoms and which addresses the patient and family as a unit of care. A palliative approach to episodic, chronic and terminal illness that involves a patient’s clergy and parish complements clinical interventions and may affect outcomes. Anglican incarnational theology holds that God is with us in our suffering. The prayers of the Church include petitions for healing but there is no denial of death. The prayers for sanctification of suffering suggest that illness can be a part of our spiritual journeys. These theological and liturgical spiritual disciplines are suspect in clinical settings where spirituality is appreciated but not well defined and certainly not of primary importance to healthcare professionals. Parish clergy need not be daunted by the realities of the healthcare system or defeated by its clinical culture, language, social strata and rules. The key to becoming effective in clinical settings and integral to the care of sick parishioners is intentionality, information and focus, one soul at a time.
  • Item
    Observations of a Pastoral Psychotherapist on Discipleship
    (2014-01-20) Rule, James
    This examination of the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of Thomas, and the oral traditions of ancient desert Christianity, helps us rediscover thinking and approaches to becoming authentically human that are simultaneously ancient and modern. Science, psychology, and theology are found to complement and supplement one another. Even given the often hostile atmosphere existing between theology and psychology, there are many values that are held in common including the importance of stable interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, an abiding sense of loving and being loved, the capacity for empathy, and a profound respect for the unknown. Against a background of steady decline in loyalty to specific Christian denominations and even of Christianity itself, people still search for spiritual moorings. What they often find is continuing conflict between science and religion. Scientists avoid questions of ontology while Christians locate their focus and authority on ancient texts and traditions. Yet both are dealing with human beings embedded in a largely unseen creation and this forms the basis for exploration of the considerable common ground between them. Science contributes valuable concepts like emergence and limerence, which reveal key patterns, principles, and mechanisms that describe human behavior as well as the creation as a whole. In the still-emerging science of fractals, we are gaining insight and confirmation of the creation as a repetitive, interactive whole. Psychology increasingly gravitates away from theory and towards measurable, technologically-aided methods of understanding human cognition and response. Christianity has preserved a treasure trove of symbolism, some readings of which effortlessly fit with modern science. Christianity also provides enduring templates for living both as individuals and in communities. By acting as a collection point for thought about being human in the context of a larger seen and unseen creation, and as a place of support for scholars investigating its literature, the church has earned a place that is never far removed from the accompanying considerations of commerce, science, education, and politics. The research asks questions that all people must answer. Who am I? Where am I? Am I known? Do I matter? How do I go about the business of living with myself and those around me? What makes me the way I am? What does the life have in store for me? All these are fundamental questions that are answered over and over, sometimes in words, sometimes in symbols and art, sometimes in the motivations that drive our passionate investigations into our chosen professions, but always in our actions and the way we approach living. The answers to these questions is the measure of discipleship. If we assume that as agreements are found between old and new approaches and among people who have a long history of disagreement, there will an increased chance that their findings will prove important and more reliable over the long term. Traditional Christian doctrines are neither accepted nor rejected in this thesis. Rather, they are temporarily set to one side while renewed questions are asked: how does it work, and how might this be true?
  • Item
    The High-Priestly Christology of the Letter to the Hebrews: A Fusion of Late Second Temple Theology and Early Christian Tradition
    (2014-01-20) Fishbeck, Nadine Braunda
    The high-priestly Christology of the Letter to the Hebrews is unique in the New Testament canon. As an early Christian writing, this letter may help us in our understanding of what ideas, concepts, and traditions of late second temple Judaism influenced the development of early Christian theology and Christology. The author of Hebrews inherited the apocalyptic world view of second temple Judaism and of the early Christian church. The author’s theology also has antecedents within the second temple priestly tradition. One of these antecedents included the hope of a savior figure as seen in the expectation of a priestly messiah. The author also believed in the efficacy of the temple cult and drew from the cultic tradition as he developed his high-priestly Christology. The author fused elements from the Jewish priestly theology with the early Christian tradition that he had received to argue that the exalted Jesus Christ was Son of God as well as the heavenly high priest of the heavenly sanctuary.