This collection contains the Doctoral and Masters by Research theses produced within the department.

Recent Submissions

  • How do Baptists discern the 'mind of Christ' at the Church Meeting?

    Llewellyn, Dawn; Moriarty, Ruth E. (University of Chester, 2023-09)
    At the heart of every Baptist church is the Church Meeting, where church members make decisions for their local congregation by discerning the mind of Christ. As a Baptist minister, I operate as a practitioner-researcher in this project by observing four local Baptist churches in north London and interviewing twelve members on the practice of discernment. As a relatively unexamined area of church life, this project aims to articulate Baptist discernment to renew the Church Meeting. Through the data collected and analysed by thematic and axial coding, Baptist discernment is identified, articulated, and named as slow wisdom. Slow wisdom is slow, listens to all members, and seeks consensus agreement through a prayerful and prophetic atmosphere. The theological emphasis on participation, described as ‘this body life’ is shown to be based on biblical images of the church as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12.4-27) as the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2.4-5). By comparing slow wisdom to bell hooks’ practical wisdom (1994, 2003, 2010), slow wisdom finds broader terms of expression and rationale for participation and the Church Meeting is recast as a radical place. Slow wisdom uses embodied knowledge to form Christian practical wisdom (Miller-McLemore, 2016) that long-standing members use as an epistemological source to verify discernment. Therefore, knowledge of Baptist discernment is expanded from a biblical basis to recognise phronesis in the lived experience of faith and bodily practice of attending the Church Meeting as fundamental to discernment. Slow wisdom is not present when the Church Meeting fails to listen to all members. The project shows how members who are different to the habitual norm of the church are excluded. The low attendance of younger members and members from other denominations is shown to be effectively addressed by examples of best practices, alongside the project recommendation of sharing slow wisdom as a model for reflection. To explore Black and Brown members whose voices have been overruled in Church Meetings, Willie Jennings’ (2010, 2020) work on challenging racism in education provides a contrasting analysis. Through Jennings’ example, the project demonstrates how the design of the Church Meeting can be changed to be inclusive of all members to increase belonging among Black and Brown members. Having articulated slow wisdom, this new knowledge contributes to other denominations' discernment approaches and provides a pathway for renewal of practice and a revitalisation of the Baptist Church Meeting for Baptists. The portfolio submitted before this thesis shows a reflective research journey in Practical Theology as a Baptist minister. At the beginning of the professional doctorate programme, my research question concerned a critical discussion held at my first church in London. At the Church Meeting, church members shared their different views regarding whether the church building was a sacred space. My focus throughout the programme has been to understand how Baptists hear varied opinions and make decisions together at the Church Meeting. In my literature review, I examined the concept of churches as sacred spaces and places in Baptist research and other Christian traditions. By using a modified pastoral cycle, I reflected on the critical Church Meeting discussion, followed by an exploration of biblical models of revelation, churches understood as storied and incarnational places, and sociology and place. The review highlighted that while the content of the original discussion on sacred places was important, the context of the Church Meeting in which it was held was critical for Baptists. For my publishable article, I reviewed a contrasting sample of literature on unholy places. Now in my second pastorate in Cheshire, I explored ‘Mischief Night’ and the practice of charismatic Christians to prayer walk outdoors to reclaim the local streets from an unholy environment into a sacred place. I identified parallels between Baptist charismatic views regarding place and Celtic views on liminal places. I argued that determining good from evil through testing in prayer was believed by Baptists as a factor in discernment practice on Mischief Night. To complete the first stage of the professional doctorate, I returned to reflecting on decisionmaking within the Church Meeting to form the basis of my research proposal. Now in my third pastorate, I sought to make generalisations about the practice of discernment for Baptists at the Church Meeting. I selected a qualitative research approach to analyse a set of Baptist churches using the tools of observation, interviewing and coding. With a concern to express the lived experience of faith for Baptists, these methods were chosen to generate fresh data concerning an unarticulated discernment practice to existing discernment literature. I sought to articulate how Baptists discern together at the Church Meeting with an interest in revelation, testing or judging good decisions in discernment, the role of prayer and the significance of the Church Meeting for members. The project began with a specific question of revelation and sacred space in a multi-ethnic Baptist church. Through stage one, a broader topic emerged of how Baptists search for revelation from God to make decisions together which led to the final research question of ‘How do Baptists discern the mind of Christ at the Church Meeting?’
  • Examining human-technological relationships and the pursuit of godhood in Battlestar Galactica

    Graham, Elaine; Knowles, Steve; Bremmer, Jonathon Paul Tristan (University of Chester, 2023-05)
    This thesis explores the extent to which science fiction conveys latent sociocultural attitudes about the human pursuit of godhood through technology. The use of myth as a conceptual lens becomes a means to negotiate different strategies for analysing popular culture, providing a rationale for the selection of methods which prioritise and emphasise certain narrative traits. The entities in this field (humanity, technology, God, culture) are located within a unifying framework and ontological scheme of process (process studies, process theology, and process philosophy). This thesis undertakes a theological engagement with fictional speculations about human divinity obtained, emulated, or performed by technological means. Theological appraisal of these exemplars against alternative conceptions of divine nature (such as those of process theism) exposes their (problematic) potential. Conceiving divinity solely in terms of creative provenance, ownership, dominion, and control alludes to the need for alternative configurations of human -technological relationships. The metaphor of myth-as-lens (described by Wendy Doniger) helps frame science fiction narratives for engagement at the level at which they are consumed. Using principles of processual research, a conception of myth is articulated to emphasise points of interest, and to facilitate both interdisciplinary dialogue, and theological research performed from an agnostic perspective. This approach recognises how some narratives seemingly solicit or call for engagement as though they were myth (in a mythical mode or manner), and how the use of myth (as a concept) is already established in theological engagements with popular culture. In this case, the mythoanalytical lens oscillates between broader genre analysis of science fiction, and more focused case study of Ronald D. Moore’s 2004-2009 re-imagined television series Battlestar Galactica. Theological appraisal of these fictional examples of relatedness exposes the truth they conceal and contain. This reveals the damaging potential of relationships conceived in techno-demonological terms of lost control, and the need for refigured relationships constituted through openness to technological agency and a nurturing encouragement of technology towards an optimal aim.
  • Seeking an Honest Word A Theological Reflection on Anna Carter Florence’s ‘Preaching as Testimony’

    Wright, Stephen; Schwáb, Zoltán; Quant, Benjamin (University of Chester, 2022-12-12)
    This thesis grew out of the dilemma of how to respond to the tension I experience when my biblical interpretation and theology differ from dominant interpretations within my context as a minister and leader in an evangelical church and denomination. This affects my public ministry, particularly preaching, leading me to seek a homiletic that enables me to speak honestly and passionately about my understanding of scripture within this setting. Florence’s Preaching as Testimony appears to offer such a homiletic. Building on historical case studies, philosophy, biblical studies, and feminist theology, Florence responds to the insights of postmodernism regarding truth and knowledge, providing practical exercises to illustrate and apply her approach. This research uses methodology based upon Graham’s ‘theology by heart’, alongside a description of the research context. Nine sermons were prepared and preached, implementing Florence’s homiletic across Acts. Chadwick and Tovey’s reflective cycle was applied to reflect upon what this revealed about her homiletic, and assess if it did indeed enable me to speak as desired. These reflections revealed the importance of Florence’s exercises. They encouraged the attentive listening she describes, and creative sermon forms, whilst applying a hermeneutical lens informed by and speaking to the contemporary world and daily life. Their application moved me as the preacher away from a presumed objective periphery to the subjective heart of the sermon, open and honest about my encounter with God in the text and life and what I believed about that, yet maintaining scripture as the heart of the sermon, taking its interpretation and application seriously. These findings indicate that in this instance, Florence’s homiletic did indeed enable me to speak honestly about my understanding of scripture within my context, offering me a way forward as a preacher and leader.
  • Homiletical Apologetics and the Local Church: Equipping believers through holistic apologetic preaching

    Wright, Stephen; McCormack, Philip; Abel Boanerges, Seidel (University of Chester, 2022-11-05)
    This thesis researches the question, ‘To what extent does apologetic preaching equip evangelical believers to defend and share their Christian faith today?’. It argues that a holistic approach to apologetics and a textual approach to apologetic preaching are helpful to evangelical believers to understand their Christian faith deeply, and to defend and share it in a relevant and contemporary manner. The three main motivations that led to this project were 1) a lack of apologetics in preaching during Sunday worship services, 2) a dearth of academic literature on apologetic preaching (and none from a British perspective), and 3) to develop professionally both ministerially and academically in this subject area. The research was conducted at Apologia Baptist Church (anonymised), a small evangelical Baptist church in the UK. Ten participants were chosen through purposive and maximum variation sampling. Norton’s pedagogical action research methodology was employed for the research, and it included two sermon series: Topical Apologetic Preaching (TAP) and Holistic Apologetic Preaching (HAP). Kemmis and McTaggart’s Spiral was used for individual sermon reflections. Originally, ten topical sermons were planned for the TAP series. However, critical reflection and reflexivity as part of my action research methodology resulted in major issues being identified. The two major issues (dominance of the intellectual nature of apologetics and the weaknesses of the topical approach to apologetic preaching) halted the TAP series after six sermons. My response to these TAP inadequacies was to develop three original ideas. First, I made a case for a holistic understanding of Christian apologetics. I argued for the inclusion of spiritual gifts alongside intellectual apologetics (moral arguments, proofs, contradictions), and I encouraged the use of action-oriented forms of apologetics (fighting injustice, solidarity, compassion). Secondly, I made a case for the HAP model with a textual approach. HAP sermons encourage believers to defend and share their Christian faith intellectually and spiritually, embracing imagination and creativity through action-oriented apologetics. Thirdly, I developed a HAP homiletical framework that enables preachers to develop holistic apologetic sermons. Six textual sermons on the Book of James were subsequently developed using the HAP homiletical framework. I employed a SWOB (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and barriers) analysis to the results of my thematic analysis. Participants reported that holistic apologetics provided opportunities to defend and share their faith in imaginative and holistic ways, and that textual apologetic sermons helped them understand their faith more deeply. The HAP Homiletical Framework was useful in generating holistic and relevant apologetic sermons. Finally, the micro, meso and macro changes for further development are presented in this thesis.
  • God with Child: A Comparison of the Respective Theologies and Pedagogies of Godly Play and Evangelicalism

    Barfield, Robin (University of Chester, 2022-11)
    This thesis notes the use of Godly Play in evangelical settings for children’s ministry. The processes of each are examined with attention paid to their pedagogical approaches and the theology which informs them both. Evangelical authors recommending Godly Play are examined and discovered to appreciate the non-directive approach, the two-way learning and the focus on awe and wonder in the process. As Godly Play raises the question of divine-child encounters this becomes the focus of analysis around four aspects of God, the child, impediments to an encounter and how those are overcome. An examination of divine communication is undertaken which examines three key differences between the two approaches in general and verbal revelation, the possibility of divine speech and language and the interpersonal engagement of God with humanity. Three key differences around the child concerning the nature of humanity, the child in Scripture and developmental approaches are then examined and analysed. This is then followed by impediments to such encounters in each circumstance examining and analysing contrasting approaches to personal sin, original sin, and the effect of sin on said encounter. How those impediments are overcome are examined with reference to the basis and process of overcoming impediments, how salvation is actualised and the possibility for the child to actualise that overcoming. This thesis finds that Godly Play is a consistent and coherent process that must be taken seriously by evangelicals, yet there are certain incongruities suggesting Godly Play would be incompatible with evangelical settings. Instead, evangelicals must take each of these four aspects seriously and reflect on how these should affect a children’s ministry process.
  • What is Working Well? Exploring a Theology of Work at Urban Community Church, Belfast

    Llewellyn, Dawn; Miskimmin, John David Mark (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2022-05)
    This thesis argues that there is a need for a rehabilitation of the Reformed doctrine of vocation within the area of practical theologies of work. Theologians and Church leaders in this tradition have paid limited attention to the practice and purpose of work, despite most people spending more time at work than in any other activity (Archbishops’ Council, 2017, p. 4, Forster, 2018, p. 145). I make two contributions by advocating for an interplay of agency between God and humanity in the ordinary elements of working. First, this resets the purpose of working within the wider context of missio Dei, where human and divine action collaborate in work, rather than in private piety, ecclesiastical identity, or ethics. Second, I rehabilitate the language and performance of vocation by using the term ‘callings’ to consider work as a purposeful intrinsically valuable component of human flourishing. The study draws on qualitative research with twenty interviews conducted in a contemporary Charismatic-Evangelical church network known as Urban Community Church (UCC), which has its theological roots in the Protestant, Reformed tradition of Northern Ireland. The study critically interrogates Evangelical interpretations of vocation, and how it informs contemporary practice at UCC. The research suggests inequalities in the public validation of work in Sunday services, including the promotion of church planting, overseas mission, and paid church work to the detriment of other forms of employment. The thesis reveals how individuals attach meaning to their work through callings which are multiple, evolutionary, and less well defined than that traditional understanding of vocation as a call from God to work for the church or in a specific role. Participants in this research imagine work to have lasting significance in Christian redemptive purpose in society, beyond the promotion of the work of the church.
  • A Constructive Pentecostal Theology of Dementia: Responding to Black Women Living with Dementia

    Morris, Wayne; Henry, Joyphen Clementina (University of Chester, 2022-05)
    This thesis examines Pentecostal theologies and their relationships to the experience of living with dementia. The increasing likelihood of developing dementia among ethnic minority people, particularly older Black women, poses an urgent challenge for the Pentecostal movement, not least to the British Pentecostal churches. The Pentecostal movement does not currently have an adequate theology of dementia that speaks meaningfully to the experience of living with dementia and, especially, the multi-dimensional experiences of Black women. Certain features identified in Pentecostalism require memory and cognitive capacity in order to participate in the practices of the Churches, but this has had profound harmful implications for persons living with dementia, particularly when they are unable to remember, to make decisions and to function independently. This research is the first of its kind in the quest for a Pentecostal theology of dementia that seeks to eliminate malignant structures that cause suffering to Black women with dementia. Womanist theology provides the lens with which to examine Pentecostal theology. As a theoretical tool it allows us to centralise the liberation of Black women and, in so doing, reconceptualize traditional understanding of sin. It names as social sin, any structure or system that contributes to the marginalisation, dehumanisation and suffering of Black women. Using this lens to deconstruct Pentecostal theology, highlighted doctrinal themes and practices that have harmful implications for persons with dementia including: the expectation to participate in church practices which require the use of memory; the requirement of cognition in order for the Holy Spirit to communicate with human beings and for human beings to interpret and share what the Holy Spirit revealed. Furthermore, it is necessary for individuals to be conscious of sin in order to repent, and repentance leads to relief from suffering, healing and future salvation. A reconstructed theology responding to dementia re-imagines suffering as inclusive of the experience of Black women with dementia and opposes all forms of discrimination whether theological, political, environmental, or socio-economic. It demonstrates that not all people will be healed, and that salvation can be enjoyed in the present time from the care and love expressed to persons with dementia rather than only at some future realised eschatology. A Pentecostal theology of dementia establishes the belief that God is not limited to the intellectual capacity of human beings and will minister to persons with dementia through the Holy Spirit, irrespective of their capacity to remember or understand.
  • Working with God: the practice of connecting Christian faith with everyday work

    Fulford, Ben; Graham, Elaine; Tee, Caroline; Leach, James (University of Chester, 2022-08)
    Against the background of moves, especially in the Church of England, to close the so-called Sunday-Monday gap and encourage whole-life discipleship, this thesis explores the ways that Christians connect their faith with their everyday work in practice. The research is based on analysis of semi-structed interviews with thirteen self-identifying Christians in non-faith-based paid employment who were associated with an evangelical Anglican church in the South East of England. Working with the theological consensus that sees work as co-operation with God, I found that the dimension of closeness, or proximity, to God and God’s purposes characterised the most salient connections between faith and work. Using categories from David Miller’s The Integration Box/Profile, participants tended to experience their work most strongly as co-operation with God when they could perceive God’s purposes being achieved at the closest, micro, level of their everyday activities. This tended to be more salient than a perceptually more distant connection at the mezzo (corporate) and macro (societal) levels of the overall activity and purposes of the enterprise. Such micro level connections were reinforced by experiences of God’s presence and providential activity at that level, framed as personal encounters with God. The more that participants experienced these close connections in their workplace experience, the more they felt that they were working with, as opposed to merely for, God. This suggests that teaching an overarching, macro-level, theological framework within which daily work finds a place will not be sufficiently salient to overcome the Sunday-Monday gap on its own. In several cases the experience of close co-operation with God was associated with deliberate practices of attentiveness and reflection. The evidence suggests, however, that further encouragement and training in such practices, perhaps especially in a workplace group setting, could have a significant impact on workplace discipleship. In identifying the significance of proximity to God and God’s purposes and connecting the experience of proximity with particular Christian practices, this thesis resources practitioners aiming to nurture workplace discipleship.
  • Helping Ministry Thrive: Pastoral Supervision in the Methodist Church

    Graham, Elaine; Llewellyn, Dawn; Craig, Ruth (University of Chester, 2021-11)
    This thesis develops a model of pastoral supervision to help clergy in the Methodist Church in Ireland thrive in their ministry. I argue that clergy experience difficulties such as lack of support, conflict, loneliness, stress and burnout, and the demands of unrealistic expectations from themselves or others. In 2006 a report was presented to the Methodist Church in Ireland Conference identifying many of these issues, maintaining that some form of accompaniment for clergy would be beneficial. As a supervisor who supervises clergy, I argue that supervision is the most effective way of providing support and accountability combined with other elements that can help clergy thrive in their ministry. As someone who has experienced difficulties in my ministry and the benefits of supervision, I set out to discover whether a more holistic model of supervision incorporating spirituality could help address these issues. First, I introduce and critique the model of supervision I have been working with for several years to construct an improved model for clergy. Second, I evidence through literature that clergy face many challenges in their ministry, such as those listed above. Through qualitative research and semi-structured interviews, my research explores clergy’s stories of ministry, revealing the full extent of the problems they have experienced. Considering these clergy narratives, this thesis argues that spirituality is essential to a minister’s life and wellbeing. The research argues that clergy are more likely to thrive in ministry if they have a strong sense of the transcendence of God and that any new model of supervision needs to be deeply embedded in spirituality to keep them connected to their relationship with God. I then explore the early modern roots of Methodism to identify some criteria for a more holistic model of supervision, which encourages and challenges ministers to consider how their relationship with God is developing, growing and transforming them. I draw on the writings and practices of John Wesley to indicate how this has always been an essential part of a Methodist understanding of ministry. My new model contains within it the elements that are part of all well-established models of supervision for clergy, but it also recognises the importance of the spiritual element that nourishes and maintains their relationship with the God who called them to this vocation.
  • In Sickness and in Health: A Theological-Exegetical Reading of Healings in the Gospels and Acts as the Basis for the Development of a Pentecostal Theology of Healing

    Clay, Martin; Frestadius, Simo; Ager, Rachel M. (University of Chester, 2021-12)
    There is, and always has been, a dark side to Pentecostal theologies of healing. This is because Pentecostal theologies and practices of healing have not adequately dealt with the reality that for many Pentecostals the promise of divine healing is not borne out by experience. This contradiction between promise and experience exacerbates the suffering of people who are not healed after prayer and alienates them from the very faith community that should be supporting them. The key argument of this thesis, and the original contribution to knowledge it will provide, is that a theological-exegetical reading of the Gospels and Acts can be utilised to inform and ground a renewed theology of healing which, rather than alienating those affected by illness, injury, or disability, empowers them. A literature review confirms that there is not already a biblically based and sufficiently developed pentecostal theology and practice of healing, which is consistent with the experience of the many Pentecostals who are not healed after prayer, which is, or could be, followed by Pentecostals in Britain today (Chapter 3). The Pentecostal hermeneutic of Spirit, Community and Word is utilised to ground the renewed theology of healing. The lived testimonies of Christians whose prayers for divine healing remain unanswered bears witness to the fact that not all faithful Spirit-filled Christians are healed today (Chapter 4). A theological-exegetical reading of the healing narratives in the Gospels and Acts reveals that the presuppositions held by many Pentecostals in relation to healing were not upheld (Chapter 5). This demonstrated that the Evangelists did not expect their readers to assume that Jesus healed all who came to him, or that faith was a prerequisite to healing. The outcomes of the reading of the Gospels and Acts, as well as the examination of the lived testimonies of current Pentecostal believers are utilised to ground a renewed Pentecostal theology of healing (Chapter 6). This theology is shaped by a theology of the cross and the message of Johann Blumhardt, which set healing within a cosmic-eschatological perspective. Significantly, this renewed theology is one which does not alienate those who suffer. Rather, it acknowledges the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are suffering, and it recognises their continuing faithfulness to God in the midst of suffering as lives that are victorious. It is theology which calls the church to fight the causes of suffering, but also to be present with those who suffer. The church can then respond consistently and compassionately to those who suffer both before and after prayers for healing, regardless of the outcome of those prayers.
  • A Study in Practical Theology on the Composition of Application for the Expository Sermon in a sample of Reformed Presbyterian Preachers in Northern Ireland

    Firth, Peter; Fulford, Ben; Sutherland, David (University of Chester, 2022-06)
    Composing sermon application is a problem for many expository preachers. Some consider it the most challenging element of their sermon preparation process. Consequently, application is often a weak element in their sermons. This qualitative study addresses that homiletic problem by exploring the significance of the expository approach, defined particularly by Doriani and Capill, for composing application in the expository sermon. A sample of nine Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland preachers participated in semi-structured interviews. Four themes emerged from the data collected: importance of application, significance of the defined expository method, difficulty of composing application, and inadequacy of the defined expository method. The findings showed that, while the participants considered sermon application important and the defined expository method was significant in their experience, the process of composing application remained difficult for them. The findings also showed that other elements beyond the defined method were significant in their experience. Those elements were identified as: the Holy Spirit, pastoral visitation, corporate worship, congregant input, and godly character. These beyond method elements are then reflected on theologically using church tradition and Christian Scriptures.
  • The Significance of Gefühl for the development of Karl Barth’s Theological Anthropology 1909–1938

    Fulford, Ben; Clough, David; Templeton, Julian B. (University of Chester, 2021-10-01)
    This dissertation employs the work of late twentieth century and early twenty-first century affect theorists as a heuristic approach to Karl Barth’s theological anthropology. In Barth’s theology, Gefühl, usually translated as ‘feeling’, is the concept most like affect. From 1909 Barth’s earliest published theological writing and his early sermons show evidence of considerable alignment with Friedrich Schleiermacher’s approach in allocating a central place to experience and affection in the reception of divine revelation. However, Barth becomes aware of the conceptual weaknesses of the modernist appeal to experience. Then, the outbreak of war and the misguided fervor with which some of his theological teachers support Germany’s military aggression contributes to Barth’s gradual loss of confidence in the entire modernist theological approach. The critical view that Barth takes of Schleiermacher’s concept of Gefühl and its relationship to revelation is pivotal to the theological anthropology that Barth begins to develop in deliberate contradistinction to that of Schleiermacher. Barth constructs a theology of faith as the dialectical witness to the objective revelation of the Word of God. Barth proposes that the missions of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can reorientate alienated subjectivity. However, at a deeper level Barth’s description of the missions of the Trinitarian persons do not penetrate the affective centre of the human being. What Barth needs is a pneumatological description of the way in which divine activity works with the human being’s receptivity and spontaneity. In Church Dogmatics I/1 and I/2 he rehabilitates Gefühl by de-coupling it from Schleiermacher’s ‘feeling of absolute dependence’. He formally reconceptualises Gefühl as an affective self-determination in response to God’s sovereign determination. The addition of the concept of ‘analogy’ enables Barth to affirm that human self-determination participates in Christ’s self-determination through the Spirit’s outpouring. As a result, Barth can affirm that thinking, willing, and Gefühl are in no sense diminished in the person who in faith corresponds analogically to grace. In addition, reconceiving human spontaneity as a response to and participation in God’s sovereign activity makes it possible to affirm that divine activity and human spontaneity belong together and are consistent with one another. However, Barth’s recognition of Gefühl remains at the formal level with little material development. Nonetheless, at the formal level the concept of analogical participation has enabled Gefühl to be rehabilitated. Therefore, I conclude that Gefühl is significant in the development of Barth’s theological anthropology.
  • Hebrews, Allegory, and Alexandria

    Middleton, Paul; Edwards, Owen C. (University of Chester, 2021-04-01)
    The problem this dissertation addresses is at face a simple one: in the very specific case of Hebrews 7.1-3, what interpretive move is the author using to interpret the Old Testament, when he offers a comparison between Jesus and the mysterious figure of Melchizedek? However, the answer quickly becomes complicated due to the inadequacy of our terminology, where “typology” and “allegory” – the most common interpretive moves assigned to Hebrews 7.1-3 in the scholarship – take on medieval or modern meanings rather than definitions available to the ancient authors themselves. This dissertation explores the historical background to figural and non-literal readings of sacred texts, considering in turn Greek, Jewish, and Christian readers. Each group of readers considered provides necessary context for interpretive activity in Hebrews. Greek allegorists provide the idea of a religiously or philosophically encoded text via the Homeric allegorists and their critic Plato. They also provide the actual ancient definition of the term “allegory”, as a rhetorical trope involving extended metaphor and poetic hinting by an author, which might include techniques ranging from metonymy to numerology to concept-for-concept substitution. Jewish allegorists – Aristeas, Aristobulus, and Philo – make the distinctive move to seeing a text as encoded not by a human poet like Homer or Orpheus, but by the great divine Author, God. When turning to Christian allegorists, a natural touchstone is Paul – who uses the term allegory in Galatians – but Jesus himself and (Pseudo)-Barnabas also provide very important context for distinctively Christian allegorical reading, particularly involving the Christological fulfilment of hints laid by God in the sacred history of the Old Testament (that is, “typology”). Trajectories in allegorical exegesis in early Christianity are considered, to examine the latent tendencies within the form. Finally, the definitions and understanding gained are turned to use in analysing exegesis in Hebrews, where 7.1-3 – and several other texts – are read against the background of Hellenistic literary allegory.
  • The Competing Values of Elim Leaders in Northern Ireland: A Theological and Practical Response

    Firth, Peter; Luke, David; Moore, Hamilton; Patterson, Mark G. (University of Chester, 2021-12-01)
    This thesis identifies how competing values divided transgenerational leaders from the Elim Movement in Northern Ireland (NI) over the last four decades. Divisions increased between leaders with competing values after changes to long-held beliefs and practices, which they never openly discussed until this research. This thesis also uses theological reflection to suggest how the situation may improve for leaders with competing values if they unite relationally to limit divisions and embrace their diversity. As an Elim leader, the researcher’s position allowed access to interview ten colleagues from NI for a qualitative investigation into their competing values in a field ready for extensive doctoral research. The “four voices of theology” model provided the structure for focused engagement with literature and empirical research to systematically examine four areas where leaders’ values competed: core principles, perspectives, differences and changes. The researcher reflected theologically on the field results to justify a unifying model that was always available but never intentionally prioritised. This model includes unifying values from the Apostles’ Doctrine and Fellowship in Acts 2:42 that leaders can prioritise in future collaboration. This thesis shows that it is apposite for Elim leaders to unite in closer relationships to embrace their diversity. Moreover, as a collaborative critique, this thesis hopes to contribute to practical theology by determining how Elim leaders’ competing values in NI are inevitable and can stop or stimulate progress for future practitioners and researchers.
  • Paul as Jesus: Luke's use of recursion in Luke-Acts

    Cole, Timothy J. (University of Chester, 2021-04)
    My thesis argues that through the literary technique of recursion, the key stories and major characters in the depiction of Paul in Acts 9-28 were strategically arranged by the author to parallel the key stories and major characters in the portrait of Jesus in the Third Gospel. Recursion is a literary device that has wide currency in the Hebrew Bible, is common to the Hellenistic literature of the day, and is part and parcel of Luke’s literary strategy. The narrative technique of recursion is the author’s conscious shaping of narrative events so that key elements of one narrative are repeated with variation in others. We argue that Luke concentrates on Paul in Acts 9-28 because to some Jewish and Gentile readers, his apostleship was suspect, handicapped by an unknown association with Jesus, an adversary of Jesus, persecuting and attempting to wipe out the church. As part of his larger strategy to sanction Paul, the author shapes selected narrative portions of Acts 1-12 so that the depiction of Peter, the Jerusalem apostle par excellence, well established in the minds of readers, is aligned by recursion to remind readers of his association with Jesus in the Third Gospel. If Jesus raises the dead, heals a man lame from his mother’s womb, and gives the Holy Spirit, so does Peter. Having reaffirmed Peter’s connection to the founder, Jesus, Luke begins in Acts 9 with an extended series of recursions that show Paul as an apostle on par with Peter, performing the same miracles, paving the way to show that Paul is a legitimate apostle to the Gentiles. The major characters and key events of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles are aligned by recursion to remind readers of the major characters and key events of Jesus’ ministry in the Third Gospel. If there was a Joseph, a key figure in Jesus’ early life, there was also a Joseph in Paul’s early ministry. If Jesus experienced a major event like Gethsemane, so did Paul. As the Acts narrative unfolds, readers are made increasingly aware of Luke’s co-occurring arguments: the pattern of Paul’s apostolic ministry to the Gentiles is a recursion of Peter’s apostolic ministry to the Jews, and the extended depiction of Paul is a recursion of the portrait of Jesus in the Third Gospel. Presented with this comprehensive and compelling series of strategically arranged recursions, validating Paul’s equality with Peter, and repeated imitation of Jesus, Luke’s readers could overcome suspicion about Paul and become certain that he was equal to Peter, a true apostle of Jesus, who guarantees the authenticity and continuity of the Christian proclamation. Luke’s legitimizing of Paul via recursion, then, is one key to understanding the content of Acts 9-28.
  • Personal Daily Reflection And Involuntary Loneliness: A test of Ignatius’ Examen in a Swedish local church context

    Fulford, Ben; Svensson, Bengt S. (University of Chester, 2021-08)
    Involuntary loneliness has been recognised as a health hazard with the potential to cause physical pain in general, specific diseases, and risk premature death. In a culture characterised by highly independent individuals, the question of loneliness also needs to be addressed on a personal level. This research explores the thesis that the practice of Ignatius’ Examen has the potential to decrease involuntary subjective loneliness in the context of a Swedish Christian congregation. To test this thesis, it was necessary to examine both the larger historical and cultural contexts and the milieu of the congregation with reference to loneliness. According to the 2020 version of the Inglehart-Welzel World Cultural Map, Sweden has the most extreme position of Self-Expression Values. This test of the Examen is an example of an ecumenical activity in the frontier between Catholic and Protestant traditions, which adds to the hybridity of the project in a multidenominational congregation applying tools from different theological traditions and social science typical of practical theology. The personal encounter between God and the participant is the locus of the research and provides the paradigm from which the methodology is developed. The research used a mixed method of both quantitative and qualitative methods in a sequential and narrowing manner, beginning with an all-member survey, followed by a pre-test post-test quasi-experiment of the use of the Examen over 30 days, completed with six case studies based on interviews. The surveys indicate that one-third of church members suffer from high levels of involuntary loneliness, similar to Sweden in general. Of the 26 participants who tested the Examen, ten did it daily with a reduction of their loneliness from 43 to 34 (women) and 34 to 31 (men) on the UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3). Three themes were examined through a critical conversation with input from social science and theology: Image of God, relationships, and thankfulness. An I–Thou relationship with God seemed to be helpful. Relationships saw limited increases where established ones were maintained and restored. In reference to Mindfulness, both common ground and difference were observed, where the inherent direction of thankfulness was noted. Trust in people in general seemed to play a limited role. A moderate to high inverse correlation between loneliness and thankfulness was observed, as possibly the most significant observation of factors in this intervention to decrease involuntary loneliness. The different relationships, divine and human, were summed up under the concept of persons in relation, including closeness, trust, and gratitude.
  • Mission Team Life Transformative discipleship and leadership development in context

    Knowles, Steve; Graham, Elaine; Silk, Ian G. (University of Chester, 2021-06)
    Mission team life - the lived experience of missioning together that is given shape and meaning through relationships, practices, processes and values - is a social reality and modus operandi whose transformational potential has been largely unrecognised. The way discipleship is currently being reimagined for churches is impoverished by this lack of recognition. This study investigates the shape of mission team life in lived experience and its impact on those who participate in it. Using qualitative research methods including semi-structured interviewing, thematic analysis, theological reflection and poetic reframing I draw on the life-stories of thirteen mission leaders in a variety of local contexts to explore both the constituent elements and the overall character of mission team life. As a reflective practitioner and facilitator of mission teams I bring my own experience to the interpretation of their narratives. I demonstrate that mission team life comprises six interweaving relational dynamics: synergia (co-working), koinonia (the sharing of lives), diakonia (serving), pneumatika (spiritual practices), mathemata (lessons learned) and euremata (attending to surprise discoveries). The character of the whole is relational, complex, chaordic, adventuresome and Spirit-filled. Such life together is a way of discipleship in which vocations are mutually discerned and leadership emerges in context. An understanding of the dynamics and character of mission team life can equip the Church’s theological imagination in vital areas. This research addresses debilitating dichotomies highlighted or implied in recent official reports through a robust conceptualisation of discipleship and an account of practice based in lived experience. Reflective practitioners whose values in ministry are formed through mission team living demonstrate an understanding of collaboration, compassion, hospitality, spirituality, co-empowerment and prophetic imagination. When these qualities also become the hallmark of the mission teams they lead the result can be a way of discipleship that is both imaginative and transformative. My conceptualisation of the relational dynamics of mission team life is thus a fresh paradigm, offering to churches, missions and the academy a way of seeing, understanding and living a transformative discipleship rich in spirituality, synergy, community, ministries and leadership potential.
  • A New and Living Way A Study of Leviticus as Rhetoric A Multi-Disciplinary Critique of Moshe Kline’s Approach to the Reading and the Writing of the Book

    Alexander, Philip; Morgan, Jon; Collins, Matthew; Hocking, Paul J. (University of Chester, 2021-09)
    This research is focused on the rhetoric of Leviticus as a bounded book, and on the different ways that scholars argue for its structure and purpose. In so doing, it examines the validity of Milgrom’s words that “structure is theology,” asking if the compositional structure of the book indicates its ideological thrust. The thesis question is epistemological—how can one know? How can one know if the book of Leviticus has a coherent literary structure (its composition), and, if so, what purpose that structure is meant to serve (its suasive intent)? The thesis method is empirical—on what evidence is knowing based? The thesis conclusion is that the final form of the book of Leviticus does indeed show strong evidence of an internal literary structure with suasive intent. However, given that a series of scholars since Milgrom have proposed various literary structures and purposes for the book, how can one know which are most plausible? Are there rhetorical-critical tools one can use to appraise any proposal, to gain evidence of its plausibility? This thesis takes the form of an empirical Case Study, and models a multi-disciplinary, rhetorical-critical approach to appraising a proposal by Moshe Kline, evaluating his reading based on his understanding of how the writing was structured. The thesis intends to test and evaluate the validity and reliability of the exemplar proposal, not to defend it. My main contribution to the field is therefore both specific and general: specifically, to evaluate, using literary-critical tools, the plausibility and significance of Kline’s composition proposal in the context of others, and, then generally, to demonstrate how these tools may be used by scholars to appraise the adequacy of other composition proposals. The assumption here is that the use of a range of tools will limit researcher bias and increase the validity of conclusions in rhetorical-critical studies. In simple terms, use of a suite of methods can help in discerning whether any specific proposal of literary composition constitutes an adequate explanation of the evidence regarding the structure and purpose of the text. The evidence from the specific Case Study is sufficient to confirm the plausibility (the validity and reliability) of Kline’s composition proposal, though a number of provisos are indicated. It concludes that the composition of Leviticus projects a sanctifying journey, “a new and living way.” Further depth is added to the study because Kline’s model of Leviticus’ composition proposes not just a new reading of Leviticus but also argues for a new paradigm of writing in certain ancient texts. Therefore, this thesis not only evaluates Kline’s reading of Leviticus but also his paradigm of writing itself.
  • Spirit-Centred Personhood: re-reading anorexia nervosa through a feminist practical theological frame

    Graham, Elaine; Babb, Julie B. (University of Chester, 2021-06)
    Anorexia nervosa is a ‘frequently lethal illness’ (Watson et al, 2019). Watson et al make this assertion as they and other researchers seek to understanding the role that genes play in the illness and its lethality. Recent biological research such as this has vastly extended knowledge about anorexia, as has recent psychological and sociological research into the illness. However, researchers in these areas acknowledge that understanding of anorexia remains insufficient notwithstanding the new knowledge that they are generating through their painstaking work (Nunn et al, 2011). I argue across this thesis that biological, psychological and sociological models of anorexia are unable to generate more sufficient understanding because they are limited by the binary opposition that structures discourse in the West. I claim that this limitation results from the way in which Aristotle’s metaphysical figuration of the subject of discourse as a universal male continues to frame subjectivity in the West: a framing of subjectivity that I argue the experience of female anorexia brings into view when engaged in an interdisciplinary dialogue with feminist practical theology. In order to respond to the limitation that inheres in biological, psychological and sociological models of anorexia, and to generate more sufficient understanding of the illness, I develop a model of spirit-centred personhood through which to embody subjectivity and women with anorexia. I establish a reflexive narrative methodology to underpin the dialogic nature and dialectic movement of the theoretical framework of this model. I argue that these combine through the relational subjectivity that is embodied by the intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions of the traits of my model. My model of spirit-centred personhood thus enables me to respond to the research problem in two important ways. First, it enables me to generate knowledge from an embodied and sexuate location as it frames my engagement with the philosophy of Luce Irigaray, my key conversation partner. Second, it enables me to employ that knowledge to embody subjectivity in theory and women with anorexia in practice. In enabling me to respond in these two ways, my model assists me to achieve the overarching aim of this research project: namely, to enable women with anorexia to recover and sustain recovery across time.
  • Pauline Slave Welfare Ethics in Historical Context: An Equality Analysis

    Bennema, Cornelis; Holland, Tom; Thompson, William H. P. (University of Chester, 2021-05)
    While many assume that human equality is incompatible with slavery, equality theorists argue that any equality claim must be further defined. They also claim that every coherent ethical system presupposes an implied equality and inequality when it requires “identical” treatment for those it considers similar enough and “different” treatment for others it views as dissimilar. This thesis deploys a heuristic equality analysis to distinguish between the different kinds of equality that may be implied by a text’s ethical reasoning—a text’s equality ethic. It distinguishes between an egalitarianism that seeks to eliminate certain differences between persons; the “identical” treatment of “numerically-equal” persons regardless of those differences; the “variable” treatment, proportionate to a particular attribute, of persons who share that attribute to a variable degree; and “different” treatment between persons who are deemed dissimilar because of those differences. The equality analysis in this thesis on slavery compares how slaves and free persons were treated in antiquity. It demonstrates how Pauline scholarship on slavery neither defines nor consistently reasons about equality. While scholarship has stressed Pauline exhortations for slave obedience, the thesis focuses on scholarship’s neglect of Paul’s exhortations for slave welfare. The thesis reconstructs the equality reasoning of Paul’s possible ethical sources—Aristotelian natural slavery, Seneca’s slave welfare, the Torah’s slave welfare texts (Exod 21; Deut 5:12–15; 15:12–18; 21:10–17; 23:15–16; 24:7; Lev 19:20–22; 25), and Philo. The thesis reconstructs a Jewish numerically equal treatment ethic between slave and free that imitates Yahweh’s impartiality, and demonstrates its best conceptual fit for Paul’s slave welfare ethics. The thesis justifies Paul’s inclusion of the slavery pair in his unification formula of Gal 3:28 and argues that Paul’s unification formulae (also 1 Cor 12:13; Col 3:11) imply the numerically equal treatment of their ethnic and slavery pairs. The thesis argues that Paul’s exhortations for slave welfare in the Colossian and Ephesian Haustafeln (Col 4:1; Eph 6:9) place the Jewish numerically equal treatment and imitation ethic into a Christological framework that urges slave-masters to imitate how God is impartial between slave and free in their treatment of their slaves. The thesis also argues that Paul’s twofold purpose in composing his epistle to Philemon was to urge Onesimus’s inclusion within Philemon’s pre-existing slavery ethos, which was already compliant with Paul’s ethics on slave welfare, and for Philemon to send Onesimus back to Paul. Paul did not need to specify a new slave welfare ethic for Philemon to adopt.

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