OK, here it is, the proposal for my dissertation:

Genesis 1:31a And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Despite the early scriptural affirmation of the goodness of creation, Greek philosophical dualism, where heaven=good and earth=bad, still pervades much Christian thought. Heaven is to be ‘sought after’ and all that matters in the Christian life is that, one day, we will be in heaven with God. Heaven becomes the ‘be all and end all’ of faith, turning attention away from the needs of this world and its inhabitants.

Yet this theological perspective, with its unfortunate implications for Christian ethics, does not enjoy incontestable scriptural backing. Rather than leaving this ‘bad’ earth behind, the apostle Paul speaks of the redemption of creation, freeing it from decay (Romans 8:20-21). NT Wright argues that Paul has ‘reimagined’ Jewish Messiahship and salvation in the context of an inaugurated eschatology, encompassing the entirety of creation. It is not, nor has it ever been, God’s ‘plan’ to wipe away this ‘bad’ earth and start afresh.

Driven by the scriptural emphasis of redeemed creation and an inaugurated eschatology, our theology and ethics must encompass a better sense of what the ‘new heavens and the new earth’ mean for the ‘here and now’ and not just for some indeterminate future.

Picking up on Wright’s insistence on a ‘reimagined salvation’ encompassing all creation, this dissertation will explore the theological ground of what eschatology means for creation itself.

My supervisor is looking likely to be Professor David Fergusson and he reckons it’s “a worthwhile dissertation topic”. I’m currently trying to put together a possible bibliography, but the names Wright, Moltmann and Polkinghorne seem to crop up with regularity when searching for suitable sources, so I guess they’ll feature somewhere.

4 responses to “Dissertation”

  1. in one course for my masters, i can’t remember which one, the dichotomy of redemption vs. incarnational understandings was the focus.  are we inherently good, and need reminding to stay on course, or are we inherently bad, and need saving?  i think there was a bruegemann tome involved, but i’ve forgotten.

  2. seems to me i remember another dichotomy about eschatolgy and utopia.  there’s one school of thought that the eschaton is the restoration of the perfection of an earlier configuration.  things start perfect, then continually decline until something supernaturally miraculous restores the perfect configuration.  it seems like garden of eden and new jerusalem restoration eschatollgy are about these.  then there’s the school of thought that things start out in a simple configuration and become gradually more perfect as time goes by, that history is a serial story of improvements toward perfection.

    can’t tell you where these two schools of thought come from, though.  i don’t remember where i read about them.



  3. A lot of those issues were touched upon in our introductory class for Doctrine of Creation. Arguments between linear creation – moving onwards – or cyclical – a return to a ‘perfect’ state, ‘good’ creation reconciled with the presence of ‘evil’ – the serpent was already present in the garden before the fall.
    Unpicking the different philosophies/theologies is tricky – there are just so many influences and not a few are reactions against ‘heresies’ rather than an informed series of thoughts from a particular starting point.
    I’ve only read a little Brueggemann and that was in the context of Biblical interpretation (there’s a discussion on here somewhere concerning his ‘demythologising’ approach to scripture). I’ve managed to come up with a bibliography of around 25 works – books and journal articles – but it’s fluid at the moment. I still need to be assigned a supervisor so the focus may change a little depending on who that is. It’s a topic that can be taken in any number of directions, all of which interest me, so I’ll just need to wait and see. I’m probably not going to do any significant work on it until the exams are over for this semester. Having only one subject next semester will give me more time to concentrate on it.

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