Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Looking for a Thesis

I had to come up with three possible thesis topics for a class assignment this week. (Thesis work starts in January) So here's what I've been thinking of doing. The first one is the frontrunner right now.

1. Chesterton's Critique of Protestantism

As a Christian with fairly fixed Protestant roots who has been profoundly effected by the writings of Gilbert Keith Chesterton I would like to explore and better understand why he converted to Catholicism and see if there is anything to be learned from him in this post-Vatican II era of increasing dialogue between Protestants and Catholics.... It may be best to frame the question this way:
Properly understood in context, what insight can Protestants today gain from GK Chesterton’s conversion to Catholicism in 1922?

2. Theodicy in The Man Who Was Thursday

Since systematic theologians stumble at the point where they have to concede a great deal of mystery in Theodicy, I would like to study what GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday is able to say through imaginative narrative about the problem of evil and the belief in a good and holy God (aka Theodicy).... Particularly intriguing would be the metaphorical connection that there seems to be between Chesterton’s slippery character "Sunday" and some of the ideas of Karl Barth concerning the "shadow" side of the Election of God or CS Lewis’ description of Aslan as "not a tame lion".... It may be best to frame the question this way:
What does GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday contribute to theology by probing the mysteries inherent in Theodicy through imaginative narrative?

3. The Rallying Point of the Church

The Western Church conveys an image of itself that seems to say that holiness, or moral rightness, is to be the hallmark and the unifying bond between Christians. However, I would like to contend that while holiness is a common goal of Christians it is forgiveness, or reconciliation, that is to be their hallmark and unifying force. I wouldn’t want to polarize things too much simply in order to simplify the topic, however, nor would I want to miss the essential tension that I think I’m trying to address, but perhaps I could pose the question this way:
What should be the hallmark and rallying point for church health and identity this side of heaven, an atmosphere of holiness, moral rightness or of perpetual reconciliation with each other and God in the name of Jesus Christ?

Incidentally, an awful thing happened when I was saving a paper this week. I had two to hand in and I saved one over the other, meaning I was left with two copies of the same one. Try as we could there was no way we could find in WordPerfect to retrieve teh old one. So I got up at 5:00 the day of class and retyped the one I lost. Not sure if the original or the new one was better, but by that point I almost didn't care. Sheesh that blew.


Heidi said...

Wow! Yikes about the lost paper.
Interesting topics. #3 has instant resonance with me. Personally I feel that the obvious answer is reconciliation. While I'm sure holiness and moral rightness are things Christians should strive for in their personal walk, using that as a rallying point may create barriers between those still outside the church. Reconciliation, on the other hand, seems to fit more closely with the commandment to love others as well as the Great Commission.
You first said forgiveness, then reconciliation. Reconciliation (generally) evokes some strong personal emotions in me. As a First Nations person, and as a Christian who has worked closely with other FN, I still feel that the church has yet to effectively reconcile with FN re all bad things done under the name of "evangelizing" or "civilizing" during the colonial process, not just here but in other countries around the world as well. (Governments found the church a cheap and easy way to deal with restless natives everywhere.) I don't even know if reconciliation like that is even possible this side of heaven, but I don't see missions working all that well with FN until it is. As the poorest group of people living in Canada, many of them living in Third World conditions, I find it unbelievable that Christians in Canada choose to focus missions first on those overseas. Embarassment perhaps? Ignorance of all the issues? Belief in the media portrayal that since they get millions from the government what could they possible need from us? I don't know, I just know that it bothers me, and I'm always a little afraid to bring this issue up with other Christians. I don't always enjoy the attitudes I get in response.
Anyways, I'm sure you'll pick whatever topic you feel most drawn to. Good luck.
Again, really enjoying your blogs and what they make me think about.

Coutts said...

thats a passion i'd encourage you to pursue. i just think you'll have to present positive ideas and keep doing it until people believe it is possible to do First Nations ministry. I think many in church would like to reach out that way but don't have a clue where to start and are frankly pretty afraid to try (i mean they have enough trouble in environments they are used to, let alone branching out)

reconciliation on a church scale is a tough one but i agree with you. it just has to be done smartly since we are so far removed historically from the original oppression. we should have to deal with its local manifestations, residiual effects, and so on though. at the same time, i think it would be sad if we forgot that while many in the church were oppressing, there were also heroes in the mix too.

i agree with you though. seems to me an opportunity again where the church could be leading the way forward in a big way, but by and large, isn't.

everyone's afraid of other cultures, and i think if more people like yourself who are able to bridge two cultures speak up and show hope that its possible, well, that could go a long way. maybe that sounds like its all on your shoulders. i don't mean it that way, its everyone's responsibility. but then again, we need leaders with passion to get us going

thanks for the encouragement on the topics.

a little update for anyone keeping score at home: it looks like it will be topic #2, at least for the research pre-Christmas and we'll see where it goes from there.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jon,

Although I haven't read a lot of Chesterton's work I think I would have to agree that option 2 does sound like it would get the brain working.

Option 3 also has much to be said within it. I would probably be tempted to tackle that one due to problems I see in what we classify as "holiness". If we are truly pursuing holiness then reconcilliation must be happening. Scripture such as "Be Holy, because I am Holy" or the great commandment point to the significance of holiness and reconcilliation together as the rallying cry. It is almost hard to seperate them when we are speaking of the "church". Maybe if we ever learn to balance these things the church will be more effective in what it is supposed to do.

Keep posting things as you write your thesis.

Dave Brown

Tony Tanti said...

Amy and I read these this morning. We both like all three and will be excited to read whichever on you go with.

That being said here are our rankings:

Amy 1)#2 2)#1 3)#3
Dave 1)#3 2)#2 3)#1

Consider them three levels of awesome because even my 3rd ranked one is a topic that sounds great.

Coutts said...

awesome is a good word for it because i find each exciting, but also awesome in the sense that there is an incredible amount of research that each would require. i started digging on #2 and felt like indiana jones in the periodical shelves of the library dusting off ancient bindings and discovering things no one (at least in this library) has never looked at. it gives your project a feeling of vast importance, and overwhelming unimportance at the same time. humbling either way.

thanks for your input, and encouragement. i do plan to use this blog for "free-writing" along the way, as encouraged by my prof.

dave brown, wow, nice to have you here. you are so right. if i had done that topic (and I still could) i definitely would have had to narrow the question and it very likely might have turned to a question of balance. (the only thing is that when you are correcting one thing you tend to want to go way in the other direction)

you are right though. what is reconciliation if there is no concern for holiness? (fluffiness) and what is holiness if there is no reconciliation? a facade. we must have a strong commitment to both, and in fact realize that you can't get to one without the other.

i've said before something to the effect of:
"saying sorry is the strongest way to stand up for what is right"

i don't know if that makes sense, but basically, it is so strong because you are standing up for what's right, even against yourself

well, that could have been a post all its own. thanks all for interacting, it helps me a lot