Our 2009 MA (Hist Theol) Candidates (Updated)


From left to Right: Scott Clark, Jim Renihan, Mike Brown, Josh Forrest, and Dennis Johnson

Congratulations to our 2009 MA (Historical Theology) candidates, (Rev) Mr Michael Brown and Mr Joshua Forrest. Last night the latter defended the thesis, “Absolute Dependence or Classical Synthesis?: Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Appropriation of Lutheran Orthodoxy” and the former defended the thesis: “Christ and the Condition: The Covenant Theology of Samuel Petto (c. 1624-1711).”  The annual MA (Hist Theol) thesis defense is one of the highlights of the academic year and this year was no exception. The event was well attended. Thanks to all who came out to support the candidates through their last trial. This summer these theses will be bound and then accessioned in our library. For more information about the MA (Historical Theology) program at Westminster Seminary California or for more information about our MDiv program or other MA programs call 760 480 8474 or go to wscal.edu

Update: Here are the thesis abstracts.

Joshua Forrest:

This thesis assesses Schleiermacher’s use of Lutheran orthodoxy in 1811. At the newly founded modern Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (1810), Schleiermacher surprisingly selected Johann Gerhard’s Loci Theologici (Theological Commonplaces) and Johann Quenstedt’s Theologia didactio-polemica (Didactical-Polemical Theology) as theological texts to accompany his lectures. After giving an overview of the Lutheran orthodoxy’s prolegomena and the Aufklärung’s (German Enlightenment) discussion of metaphysics for the purpose of setting the context, this thesis narrows in on Schleiermacher’s life and thought—basically showing that Schleiermacher’s life revolved generally around metaphysics and Kantian morality along with their political implications. Among the Romantic circle in Berlin, Schleiermacher decided neither metaphysics (knowing) nor morality (doing) solved the God-world (creator-creature) problem. Instead, he argued that religion was intuition. Schleiermacher, however, did not intend to be a professional theologian, but at the request of the King William III, he was appointed to faculty of theology at Halle (1804). The rationalist theologians believed that theology was primarily either metaphysics or morality or a combination of both, and they wanted to depart from the seventeenth-century’s theology, but the Breslau theologians, wanting to return to old Lutheranism, opposed this point of view. In addition to using Gerhard and Quenstedt to “out-Lutheranize” the Lutherans, Schleiermacher chose Gerhard and Quenstedt because they grounded theology in faith seeking understanding, which Schleiermacher called Gefühl (feeling) in his Glaubenslehre. Nevertheless, like the rationalists, he did not wish to return entirely to old orthodoxy. He received, rejected, and redefined some of Gerhard’s and Quenstedt’s fundamental doctrines.

Michael Brown:

On the eve of the tricentennial anniversary of his death, Samuel Petto (c.1624-1711) and his work is largely unknown by students and scholars of Reformed orthodoxy and seventeenth century covenant theology. This is true of scholars on both sides of the “Calvin v. the Calvinists” debate, as well as current discussions in Reformed circles regarding covenant theology and the doctrine of justification. This thesis seeks to make a contribution to the ongoing studies of the development of British Reformed orthodox covenant and federal theology by examining Petto’s covenantal thought in its historical context. It demonstrates that he viewed the Mosaic covenant as a republication of the covenant of works for Christ to fulfill as the condition of the covenant of grace in order to uphold and defend his doctrine of justification sola fide.

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  1. I wish the MA thesis defenses at GCTS were open to the student body. That would have made mine a bit more interesting.

  2. Please, please, excuse my ignorance, but as one who is seriously thinking of pursuing an MA and a Ph.D, could someone please explain exactly what goes on in the defense of a thesis? Is it the reading of one’s thesis paper followed by questions from the faculty, or is it that the faculty reads the paper and the defense is strictly left to answering questions? Or is it something else? And what is the nature of the questions asked? How does one “pass” this trial? What is considered sufficient?

    I am leaning towards seeking the MA in historical theology (from WSC) at the moment.

    Thank you much for your time and help.

    • Allan,

      The MA thesis defense at WSC goes as follows:

      1. We decide beforehand who will go first

      2. There is a brief introduction of the candidates and the process

      3. The first defense is given. A defense is a synopsis of the entire thesis given in 30 minutes. The candidate summarizes the basic proposition of the work (hence “thesis”), the relevant secondary literature, the main arguments of the work in evidence for and in defense of the thesis, responds to major objections, and then summarizes in conclusion.

      4. Faculty present ask questions arising from the defense.

      5. Others present may ask questions.

      6. A brief recess is taken to allow faculty to consider whether the defense given was clear and cogent.

      7. The candidate is notified of the outcome and the process begins again with the second candidate (if there is one).

      8. After the second defense the candidates are presented to the assembly.

      All of this is the capstone of 2-3 years of research and study which led to a 30,000 word thesis (about 100 pages or more) which is submitted about 10 days before the end of term.

      • Wow, you need a thesis for MA at WSC? Is that equivalent to Th.M. elsewhere or WSC is just a really really tough school?

        • Well, WSC is old school, but no, not all our MA programs require a thesis. We have three MA programs and only the MA (Hiist Theol) requires a thesis. The other two are “taught” degrees. The MA (Hist Theol) is a research degree.

  3. Greetings,

    Is the thesis “Christ and the Condition: The Covenant Theology of Samuel Petto (c. 1624-1711)” now accessible on your website? Where can I find it?

    Thanks and God bless,
    Pascal Denault

    • Pascal,

      You may be able to order it via inter-library loan. There’s only one copy, so far as I know, and it’s housed in the library at Westminster Seminary California, so I don’t know if they will loan it.

  4. Pascal – you can try to request it via inter-library loan. WTS always puts a copy of the successful or accepted thesis into the library holdings. But I don’t know if they will let a thesis circulate to other institutions.

    At the WTS (PA) campus they all get housed in the “over-size holdings” shelves, since they are always a tad-bit taller than the 8.5×11 paper on which they are printed. It’s fun to go in and look over the theses of old friends and class-mates!

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