Our PhD students conduct research in a wide variety of subject areas--to find out more about their work click on the tabs below.

Sheila Akomiah

Thesis title: Church Growth in an Age of Decline? New Churches in Glasgow 2000 – 2015

Research: Although Christianity in Scottish and British society as a whole, has experienced decades of decline, recent evidence from some regions across the country, suggest news of renewed vibrancy, change and even growth in church attendance and membership.

This project seeks to highlight any recent changes in the Scottish Christian landscape in relation to the above, by focusing on new church growth in the last 15 years. To achieve this, I will be 'counting' the number of new churches (new Christian congregations  started from scratch) established in the city of Glasgow between 2000 - 2015 and following them up using several methods, to determine if they are growing, and to also learn their demographic compositions.

As an end result of the project, I hope to draw attention – both academic and otherwise, to the fact that church growth may be occurring alongside decline, thus inspiring hope and encouraging more research.

Aleksandar Apostolovski

Thesis title: Slaughterhouse J: Metafiction and the Book of Jeremiah

Research: We live in an age which is characterized by growing biblical illiteracy. While there is no doubt that the causes of this problem are complex, my teaching experience has shown that lack of creative avenues of approaching the biblical text for the benefit of those who have never encountered it is one of them. To that effect, I propose to draw upon my long-standing interest in the Book of Jeremiah and its multiple references to reading, writing and written materials. I intend to argue that dialogue with the theory of meta-fiction, with its interest in stories about story-telling, as well as stories about the reading and writing of written compositions,  will shed new light on the role of characters, the purpose of a jumbled chronology, the function of reading and other key issues in Jeremiah studies. I also hope that this model of dialogue will be beneficial to anyone who seeks to engage a biblically-illiterate society, be that in the church or the academy.

Prior to coming to Aberdeen, I earned both a first degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Old Testament Studies from the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia. In subsequent years I have had ample opportunities to teach undergraduates, partake in several international research projects, publish some of my findings and serve the church in various lay capacities. In addition to the Book of Jeremiah, my research interests include the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, the roles of reading and writing in antiquity and contemporary culture, the depiction of biblical themes and motifs in contemporary literature, cinema and theatre, creative approaches to teaching the Bible in church contexts etc.

Lynne Ashley-Emery

Thesis Title: Does Christian spirituality facilitate well-being for Christian adult Survivors of childhood sexual abuse?

My work is supervised by Professor John Swinton and Dr Katie Cross, the purpose of my research project is to discover what, if any, impact spirituality has upon a Christian adult Survivors well-being following their childhood experiences of sexual abuse.  By listening directly to the Survivors voices the findings have the potential to offer the scientific and theological world a new direction in understanding how Christian adult Survivors of childhood sexual abuse relate to God and in turn how this affect’s their well-being following such traumatic events. 

Through a multi-disciplinary approach the interwoven methodologies between health and theology aims to tackle the grave health and social issues associated with childhood sexual abuse.  This approach could not only provide a multifaceted and robust approach in understanding the issues that arise directly from the Survivors own experiences, but also, the results could substantially assist the church and secular authorities to respond appropriately after child sexual abuse has taken place.  Identifying a clear methodology, challenging perceived boundaries between disciplinary fields and observing other scholars work from different disciplines, will highlight the transformative nature that interdisciplinary work can offer. 

Gerard Bogan

Thesis title: Contemplation and Action in the early Cistercians

Research: My doctoral studies focus on contemplation and action in the early Cistercians. The research is an examination of the Cistercian monks who sought solitude and contemplation yet were also involved with the wider society. The focus is mainly on the contemplation of St Bernard of Clairvaux and his engagement with extra-claustral ecclesial and political matters. This apparent contradiction will be explored in relation to liminal space, in other words, the way in which the individual and the community, the temporal and the eternal, may interact. In this way it is my intention to attempt to present contemplation and action not as two mutually exclusive elements, but as two facets of life which live in a dialogical relationship.

I hold a BA in Theology and Education, and an MTh in Church History. I am a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Motherwell.

Zachary Brigante

Thesis title: Fear Not: Redefining the Root of Sin as Fear in Light of Pychological and Pastoral Observations

Research: The hypothesis I am exploring with my thesis is this: If fear is the root of all sin, and fear is a natural or innate aspect of humanity, does that suggest that sin is also natural or innate to humanity? If so, what would that mean for Christianity today?

Observing the early attempts of Kierkegaard to psychologize an understanding of sin in the world, I intend to build from that foundation to establish the viability of fear as the root of sin through researching the works of prominent theologians such as Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Herbert McCabe.

Once a viable foundation has been laid intellectually, I will then explore the psychological nature of fear, and whether there is sufficient evidence to claim it is innate, such as the study done by Poulton and Menzies in 2002 whereupon six month old children were shown to have a statistically significant increase in startle response and magnitude when shown pictures of snakes over any other animal.

The final stage would be a thorough look at the apparent repercussions of acknowledging fear as the root of sin through examination of grass roots movements and pastoral counselling techniques which have already begun to do so. Such individuals are the Reverend Alfred L. Durrance, John and Stacey Eldridge, Jason Whitehead, in addition to various charismatic healing seminars and events.

Ultimately, I hope to show that sin, being innate to humanity, is not something that should be rejected, but rather understood, much the way that fear is understood in psychology. That is, sin should be understood as a sign or indicator of deeper issues that need to be addressed, not some form of unholy marker or indicator of God’s disfavour. If the Christian world begins to work with those who act in sin, rather than reject them, perhaps we could do better at loving our neighbours as well as God himself, because we would no longer feel distances or persecuted by Him, but rather guided as a Good Father might guide His strong willed children.

Daniel Cameron

Thesis title: The Doctrine of Order and the Church in the Theology of Thomas F. Torrance

Research: My project focuses on the ecclesiology of Scottish theologian, Thomas Forsyth Torrance. More specifically, I will be examining how his understanding of the concept of order relates to the nature, structure, and action of the church in the world in order to further Torrance studies and to provide a theological foundation to present ministry practice. 

Prior to beginning my studies at the University of Aberdeen, I earned my BA in Theology from the Moody Bible Institute and my MA in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I am an ordained minister with the Moody Church in Chicago, Il and currently serve full time as a Jr. High Bible teacher and Spiritual Life Coordinator at Calvary Academy in South Holland, Il. I am an adjunct instructor at The Moody Bible Institute in the theology department and at Trinity Christian College in the education department. I am the author of Flesh and Blood: A Dogmatic Sketch Concerning the Fallen Nature View of Christ's Human Nature (Wipf and Stock, 2016), "Thomas Forsyth Torrance: Ecumenical Theologian" (Christianity Today, Christian History: People), and multiple articles in Lexham Bible Dictionary. My research interests are as follows: T.F. Torrance, Karl Barth, H.R. Mackintosh, Christology, Ecclesiology, and Prolegomena. 

Jiseung Choi

Thesis title: Post-exilic poetic literature in Yehud, and the “theology of the poor”

Research: Prior to beginning my PhD in 2015, I received a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering at the Seoul National University (South Korea), a M.Div. and Th.M. at Chongshin Seminary and University (South Korea), and a M.Th. in Biblical Studies at the University of Edinburgh. I am working with Professor Joachim Schaper on a project which how the “theology of the poor” was formed during the post-exilic period, especially in the poetic literature. My research interests include the Psalms (and its formation), the prophetic literature, and the Israelites community in the post-exilic period.

Robert Costello

Thesis title: The Influence of Jewish Traditions about a Mosaic Heavenly Ascent on the Nature of the Angelic Powers, the Cosmology, and the Theology of Ephesians

Research: Prior to starting at Aberdeen, I completed a Pre-doctoral Biblical Interpretation program at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, USA. My thesis was titled “The Influence of Ezekiel the Tragedian’s Exagōgē on the Writing of Hebrews.” My current research involves the influence of both Exagōgē and another Jewish tradition of a Mosaic heavenly ascent, which is reflected in the Babylonian Talmud, on the writing of Ephesians, with an emphasis on how these Jewish heavenly ascent traditions may have influenced the author’s cosmology, theology and his understanding of the nature of the heavenly powers. I hope to publish my work and contribute to the scholarly discussion in the area of biblical studies, with an emphasis on how extra-biblical writings and traditions may have influenced the authors of the New Testament.

Personal: I am retired from the U. S. Navy. In 2017, I received an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Regent University, where I was presented with the Charles Holman Biblical Studies Award. I also hold an M.S. in Systems Technology from the Naval Postgraduate School (1991), a B. A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame (1984), and a B. S. in Physics from the University of Notre Dame (1983). I live in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA with my wife Patricia.

Michael DeFazio

Research: My research is just now (Spring 2018) getting underway so the project doesn’t yet have a title per se, but under the supervision of Grant Macaskill I will be examining how Paul (and perhaps the New Testament more broadly) brings together visual sensibilities with calls to think differently in his exhortations related to our being reshaped into the image of Christ. The goal will be to understand how for Scripture in general and Paul specifically, moral transformation, cognition, and vision are not separate things but instead aspects of one integrated dynamic: thinking about Jesus means imaginatively seeing Jesus, and seeing Jesus properly results in becoming more like him in some way(s). Or conversely, becoming more like Jesus requires thinking in particular ways, and thinking about Jesus – not only who he is but also and perhaps particularly what he has done – is to some degree a visual experience.

I am a Professor of New Testament and Hermeneutics at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. I received a Bachelor of Theology from Ozark (2005) and an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary (2007). I live and teach alongside my wife Beth and together we are raising Claire and Carson. I preach regularly at our local church and elsewhere, and my simple goal in life is to help people see Jesus clearly so they can follow him faithfully. I’m interested in pretty much anything to do with Scripture, Christian Doctrine, and spiritual formation, but specifically I teach and read in the areas of Paul’s letters, Mark’s Gospel, theology proper, theological anthropology, and biblical hermeneutics.

Jack Droppers

Thesis Title: Theology of Suffering in Popular Art

Research: My research asks questions of popular art (mainly film, TV, and music) and how it interacts with the pain/suffering of the creator, characters, etc. Drawing upon the study of this interaction with pain, the research will attempt to develop a pop art explanation for the role of suffering and where God is in said suffering. This will then offer as an invitation to see the Church's unique role in our attentiveness and reaction to the suffering in the world. 

Kaitlyn Dugan

Thesis title: Toward an Apocalyptic Theology of the Cross

Research: My doctoral research focuses upon the implications of Pauline New Testament apocalyptic studies for the task of systematic theology. My thesis primarily engages New Testament scholars including but not limited to Ernst Käsemann, J. Louis Martyn, Martinus de Boer, and Beverly Roberts Gaventa and seeks to probe their convictions concerning the central role of the cross in God’s conflict with the anti-God powers of Sin and Death. I’m primarily interested in the shape that an apocalyptic soteriology might take specifically in relation to questions of power and how apocalyptic theology uniquely contributes to theories of God’s redemptive activity in and for the world.

Personal: Kaitlyn is the Curator of the Barth Collection for the Center for Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. Her work involves both maintaining and developing Princeton Seminary’s Barth Research Collection along with managing the daily programs and operations of the Barth Center. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in philosophy and political science from Taylor University, a Masters of Arts in theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. She is also a member of St. James Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Harlem, New York City.

Topher Endress

Thesis title: Literal and Theoretical Constructive Ecclesial Theology: Building a Church on Inherent Inclusion

Research: As a former minister with great love for church practice, I approach my research from a place of concern and hope. I am concerned with the lack of anthropological theology within the bulk of Christian traditions and expressions, which leads to structures which are ableism in form and function. Those with disabilities of any sort tend to be excluded, or, included only as an afterthought, in whatever manner of church expression one might seek. 

I carry hope, as well, though, that a new focus on disability and theology can lead to an emergent praxis which embodies an inclusive and socially-conscious gathered community. The future of the Church, which is at once theoretical-universal and contextual-local, must be rooted in new expressions of anti-ableism.

To do this research, I am focusing on the historic architecture of major movements in Western Christianity and the resultant theological changes these architectures ushered in. I am also working with the emerging Friendship House project in Aberdeen, committed to bridging the gaps in inclusion, community, and faith-agency here and now. Taken together, my research will lead to new constructions (theological, structural, and architectural) of church modeling.

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership/Supervision at Purdue University (Indiana, USA) and my Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University (Tennessee, USA), where I met my wife. Most recently, I worked as a commissioned minister in Austin, Texas, and am still pursuing ordination in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with the goal of one day educating future church leaders on disability theology and inclusive practice.

David A. Escobar Arcay

Thesis title: Theologia (God in se, God ad intra) and Economia (God pro nobis, God ad extra) in the Theologies of Robert W. Jenson and John B. Webster: The Importance of the Distinction in Contemporary Trinitarian Theology with Special Attention to the Doctrines of Creation and Providence.

Research: My research interests are in the area of Christian dogmatics particularly the expressions, treatments, meanings and implications of Trinitarian theological discourses in contemporary modern systematic theology.  I am primarily interested in the impact of the doctrine of the Trinity in systematics, the church, the Christian life, cultural engagement and the intellectual life.  I am working under Professor Dr. Philip Ziegler (Chair in Christian Dogmatics).  My project centres on two major twenty-first century master dogmaticians (British Anglican theologian John Webster and American Lutheran theologian Robert W. Jenson) whose legacy will be analysed and evaluated within the so called renaissance in Trinitarian theology as prompted by German theologians Karl Rahner and Karl Barth.  My project is part of a life-long pursuit to highlight and incorporate the contribution and need of doctrine in the life of the church and in spiritual formation practices.  An equal pursuit is the intersection of systematic, contextual and constructive theological discourses as they pertain towards the need for theological metaphysics in the construction of doctrine and the relationships between God's being and God’s action, God and the world, Creator, creation and creature.  Other interests include the theological interpretation of Scripture, Christian ethics, the intersection of theology, culture and education (the church, the world and the academy), the history and philosophy of religious education and multidisciplinary approaches to the study of systematic theology and the practice of pastoral and spiritual theology.   

Personal: Dr. Escobar Arcay was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico (United States commonwealth).  Having attended and graduated from the public schools in the Caribbean island, he was then educated in the Unites States at the University of Rhode Island (B.A. Speech Communications/Public Speaking), Rhode Island College (M.A.T., Teaching English as a Second Language), Harvard University Graduate School of Education (Ed.M., Administration, Planning and Social Policy) and Boston College (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Educational Change).  He has served as a teacher and administrator in the public schools.  He has also worked as a United States Citizenship instructor as well as English as a second language and bilingual educator in various venues such as community colleges and non-profit community organizations.  Currently, Dr. Escobar works as an international associate professor of education, leadership, culture and change at a private higher education institution in the state of Florida (USA). 

Prior to entering into the Ph.D. in Divinity program at Aberdeen, Dr. Escobar completed Master of Theology (Th.M.) degrees at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Michigan) in Systematic Theology and in Reformation and Post-Reformation Theology and a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Christianity and Classical Studies (summa cum laudeWestern Classics Award) at Knox Seminary (Fort Lauderdale, Florida).  While residing in the U.S. northeast (New England), Dr. Escobar completed a Th.M. in Theology and Culture (summa cum laude, The Christian Thought Award); a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) in Biblical Studies and Christian Ethics (summa cum laude, The Presidential Award) and a M.A. in Urban Ministry (summa cum laude) all at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, Massachusetts).  Dr. Escobar is a highly passionate believer in the power of education to enhance the human condition, improve society for the disadvantaged and equip the church.  He has served the church as a Sunday school teacher, local church Bible instructor and is currently pursuing ordination while occasionally preaching, teaching and speaking in various churches and seminaries in the United States and throughout the world.

Haley French

Thesis title: A Practical Pneumatology of Counselling: Pentecostal & Charismatic Perspectives on the Holy Spirit's Role in Therapy

Research: I am presently working under Professor John Swinton to explore the experiences of Pentecostal therapists and the cultivation of hope in the counselling relationship; with particular emphasis on the clinician's understanding of how the Holy Spirit operates within the therapeutic encounter in relation to fostering hope.

Prior to arriving at the University of Aberdeen, I completed a B.A. at Oral Roberts University in Sacred Music with a vocal emphasis (2006), an M.Div. at Oral Roberts University (2009), and my M.A. at Denver Seminary in Clinical Mental Health Counselling (2012). I am also a Licensed Professional Counsellor (LPC) in the State of Colorado. My research interests include practical theology, counselling psychology, eschatology, hospitality theology, Pentecostal/Charismatic theologies, and theological dialogue with the arts. 

Jeffrey Gang

Thesis title: Where is the True Church? Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Dialogue with Seventh-day Adventist Ecclesiology

Research: I am working with Professor Philip Ziegler, with a focus on systematic theology and ethics. My specific area of interest is ecclesiological ethics. In my thesis I am attempting to stage an encounter between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Seventh-day Adventist ecclesiology, employing the German theologian as an interlocutor with the denomination’s theological and ethical concepts of the ecclesia. As a life-long member of the Seventh-day Adventist church, it is hoped that my faith tradition will be enriched by a dialogue with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s thinking about the nature of the church, particularly within the historical developments in Germany in the 1930s. 

While the entire Bonhoeffer corpus is taken into account, my project theorizes that his participation in the ongoing debates in the German church struggle, the formation of the Confessing Church, and the ecumenical movement outside Germany, provides a rich context for dialogue with Seventh-day Adventist ecclesiology because of the theological and ethical questions he is working through during this time period. Of special interest in this encounter is the German theologian and pastor’s ecumenical theology during this period of intense church polemics. 

In my research I am inquiring what these two differing theological perspectives and ecclesiastical contexts share in common. How they may differ. And where places of encounter may be located, if any may be found, especially in the discussion of ecumenics. I am asking these and similar questions within the framework of a central organizing set of questions: How do Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Seventh-day Adventists understand the nature of the longstanding Protestant question: Where is true church? And what are the implications of those findings for ecclesial-ethical responsibility? I hope to conclude my thesis by drawing out potential ways forward for Seventh-day Adventist ecclesiology in the future in view of the discoveries made in my research.

Personal:  I am an ordained Seventh-day Adventist Minister, having served congregations in my denomination over twenty years. I am currently serving on the faculty of Loma Linda University’s School of Religion as an Assistant Professor in Relational Studies, in Loma Linda California. I hold a Batchelor of Arts in Religion from Southern College (1991), a Masters of Divinity from Andrews University Theological Seminary (1995), and a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary (2006). I currently reside in Redlands, California with my wife and teenage three children. 

Emmanuel Gergis

Thesis title: One True Reality: T. F. Torrance and the Unitary Ontological and Economic Christology of the Alexandrian Patristic Tradition

Research: My current PhD research at the University of Aberdeen is focused on exploring the dialogue between the Alexandrian Patristic tradition and the theology of T. F. Torrance. Within this dialogue of traditions, I am specifically interested in the understanding of Christology as a unitary reality and its implications on theological anthropology and the concept of realism.

Before my research at Aberdeen, I completed an M.A. from the University of Balamand where I focused on the Christology of Cyril of Alexandria and an M.Litt from the University of St. Andrews where I focused on the theological anthropology of Gregory of Nyssa and Ephrem the Syrian. My research interests include systematic theology, theological anthropology, Patristics, theological realism, and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Danielle Hayward

Thesis title: The ‘actualisation of confession’: Karl Barth’s insistence upon proclamation as a dynamic reality.


Research: Prior to enrolling at the University of Aberdeen, I completed both BTh (2012) and MTh (2013) degrees at the Queen’s University of Belfast. My MTh dissertation focused on the ecclesiology of the Confessing Church and was entitled, ‘The German Confessing Church of the 1930s: reaction against or realistic reinterpretation of the Body of Christ?’ During the process of writing this, I became interested in the theology of Karl Barth upon whom my research at Aberdeen now focuses.


I am currently working under Professor Paul Nimmo within Barth’s doctrine of revelation. My research seeks to clarify Barth’s understanding of the creation and deployment of formal confessions of the Church with the aim of exploring how these confessions function as decisive and formal documents in view of their relationship to the dynamic truth that exists behind them. My research also hopes to contribute to contemporary discussions in ecclesiology by discerning how the Church relates to the truth statements it sets forth and claims as its own.

Michael Hedrick

ResearchMy research brings together New Testament and early Christian literature with the literature and archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean world, with an emphasis on the complex interplay of narrative, ritual, and identity in early Christian communities. My doctoral research - under the supervision of Professor Tomas Bokedal - explores the role of ritual and narrative in the processes of early Christian self-definition and identity-formation in context. In particular, my project utilizes narrative-critical methodology to examine depictions of memory, remembrance, and forgetting in the New Testament, with an eye towards comparative analysis of similar themes and motifs in the life and literature of Second Temple Judaism and the broader Greco-Roman world. Ultimately, my research seeks to contribute to our understanding of the ways in which early Christian communities interacted with pre-existing narrative and ritual paradigms in the course of their attempts to conceptualize their sense of identity as individuals and communities in relation to the world around them.


Prior to my studies at Aberdeen, I earned degrees from the University of Texas at Austin (B.S., Film), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A., Biblical and Near Eastern Languages and Archaeology; M.Div., Biblical Studies), and Emory University (Th.M., New Testament). When I don't have my nose in a book, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my wife and son.

Claire Hein Blanton

Thesis title: Between Resistance and Collaboration: Locating Ecclesial Responsibility to Government Action in the Political Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Research: After finishing a Bachelor of Arts in History from Rice University in Houston, Texas and a Master’s of Divinity in Theology from Truett Seminary at Baylor University, I started doctoral research at the University of Aberdeen in Theological Ethics. My project engages with the broader ethics of Bonhoeffer with a specific focus on his political theology. I am exploring how Bonhoeffer holds in tension an historic Lutheran theology of an ordering of church and state in creation, within the historic context of Nazi Germany, and how this theology has been constructed in modern church state contexts. 

My research interests include political theology and theory, ecclesiology, ethics, reconciliation and restorative justice, historical theology, and German history.

Ryan Heinsch

Thesis title: Hagar in Galatians: Paul and the Problem of Supersessionism in Galatians 4:21-31

Research: My research is focused on an examination of the portrayal of Hagar in Galatians 4:21-31. Comparing the portrayal of Hagar in LXX Genesis, Second Temple Jewish literature, and Paul, I argue that Paul's portrayal of Hagar in Galatians should be read within the stream of ancient Jewish traditions on Hagar. 

Prior to coming to Aberdeen, I completed a BA at Moody Bible Institute (2008) and a Master of Divinity at Moody Theological Seminary (2014). Currently, I am an adjunct professor at Moody Theological Seminary teaching New Testament Greek. My research interests include: New Testament, Pauline studies, Post-supersessionism, and Second Temple Judaism.

Emily Hill

Research: My PhD research is at the intersection of theology and economics with a specific focus on marketing and consumption. Among Christians who are beginning to notice a conflict between their faith and consumerism the typical response is to begin to ask how we can shop differently, provide living wages, create more transparent supply chains, or how we can budget better in order to be more generous. This is evidenced by movements such as ethical consumption, fair trade, and minimalism. These approaches, while good and important, underestimate the extent to which we are formed by the system of consumerism. In my research I will focus on marketing as a critical aspect of that formation and contend that it provides a false reality within which we operate and learn what it means to be human. From there I will draw out the reality of Christ, his contradicting logic of what it means to be human and formed in our determined reality.

I completed an M.A. in Economics at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and spent 10 years as an international marketing research consultant before getting an M.A. in Social Justice at Kilns College in Bend, Oregon. That combination of experience led me to Aberdeen to begin my PhD in Theological Ethics.

Daniel Jesse

Thesis title: The Religious End of Sorrow: Resurrecting Sadness through Liturgical Vulnerability 

Research: Working under the supervision of Leon van Ommen and Brian Brock, I am researching the role of sadness, sorrow and grief in Christian worship. Through examination of the historical liturgies and funeral practices coupled with the works of theologians, I am tracing the negation of sadness in our worship which then leads to an inability to give sadness the proper place in our lives.

I am constructing a phenomenology of sadness inside of this to foster a better understanding of what St. Paul describes as "Godly Sadness" in 2nd Corinthians 7:10. My goal is to show that a communal liturgy that allows mourning, grief and sadness to enter the world does not negate the joy that God has given us, but augments it. Equally important to this is recapturing the prophetic nature of liturgy which calls us to repentance and communion with God and the rest of humanity. 

Brent Johnston

Thesis: How the Theology of Karl Barth and Paul Tillich Help Interpret and Critique Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Prison Theology

Research: I realize that Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not speak highly of Tillich’s approach to theology; nevertheless, I do believe Bonhoeffer to be making a Tillichian like move with respect to his assertion that the world has come of age by Jesus Christ, no longer in need of a nanny to be looked after where the Church provides the answers and the faithful believe without questioning as in the Middle Ages.  Because of the Enlightenment, the world has come of age, matured, no longer needing to appeal to God for answers provided by religion.  Bonhoeffer saw this situation as an opportunity for Christianity to shed its religious clothing, as he reminded Eberhard Bethge in a letter from prison, “Christ calls us not to a new religion but to life.”  Given this religionless situation, what does worldly Christianity look like?  “Who is Jesus Christ for us, today” Bonhoeffer asks. 
I believe Paul Tillich is doing something similar in his answering theology for those who are Christianity’s cultural despisers.  Moreover, both Bonhoeffer and Tillich are doing what Paul did in Athens.  Paul started with the human situation and then related the Good News to what the Athenians worshiped in ignorance.  Tillich’s method of correlation was with philosophy, biology, and psychology.  Bonhoeffer’s method of correlation is with the natural sciences like physics, philosophy, and sociology.  But, in each, the Good News is grounded in God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.  For Tillich it is in the concept of New Being, courage to be, and theonomy. For Bonhoeffer it is in the concept of Jesus - the man for others, vicarious suffering, and the world come of age. 
Thus, it is the intention of this thesis to demonstrate how the theology of Paul Tillich can help interpret Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prison theology, particularly the concepts of New Being, courage to be, and theonomy so that Jesus Christ is Lord even in the religionless situation. 

Daniel Karistai

Research: The South in the United States is concretely seen in this country's cultural imaginary as inherently paradoxical. How can a region of this country have an international reputation for both its brand of hospitality and its long-standing history of racial oppression? While these two facets of "The South" and southern identity appear to contradict each other, this research seeks to make sense of it by examining the central concerns of "southern hospitality" that have to do with protecting the sovereignty of the host. This thesis will then pivot and interrogate "southern hospitality" with a theology of hospitality grounded in both kenosis and The Eucharist; but not before recognizing Christianity's own complicity in enforcing estrangements and participating racial oppression from the antebellum period through Jim Crow, Civil Rights Movement, and today's resistance to Black Lives Matter.

I completed my MTh in Applied Theology through International Baptist Theological Seminary, accredited by the University of Wales. Before that I earned a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Hope International University in Fullerton, CA. I currently live in New Orleans, LA and work full time in Information Technology as well as teach a couple of online courses in both philosophy and theology.

Benjamin Kim

Research: My research seeks to investigate Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s missional theology. Bonhoeffer is often considered as someone who did not have a formal missional theology, thus not having much to say on the matter, but was more concerned with the battle against the German Church and its harmful influences. However, this thesis seeks to show that mission was a central motivation throughout his life and thought and are constructive in shaping his ecclesiology and his ethic of obedience. 

I received an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and an S.T.M. from Boston University School of Theology. I am a part of the Evangelical Covenant Church and have a variety of pastoral and chaplaincy experiences.

Kenneth Laing

Thesis title: The Rule of Faith and the Basis of New Testament Authority in Irenaeus.

Research: My research interests are in the area of early Church doctrines of Scripture and understandings of the nature of revelatory authority, particularly among the ante-Nicene patristic writers prior to the close of the New Testament canon. My thesis focuses specifically on the thought of the second century figure Irenaeus of Lyons and his understanding of the nature of the authority of the apostolic writings. Applying his concept of the Rule of Faith as a central hermeneutical key, I explore previously unacknowledged distinctions between the Jewish Scriptures and apostolic writings, and suggest that for Irenaeus the role of the apostolic writings as concrete forms of the apostolic Tradition has greater centrality in their unique revelatory authority then does a perception of their scriptural status, often understood on the basis of modern notions of inspiration which are read into his thought.

Prior to beginning my PhD in Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen in 2015, I completed a BA with a double major in Christianity & Culture and Media Communications from Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada (2013), followed by an MTh in Systematic Theology from the University of Aberdeen (2014). My Master’s dissertation was similarly concerned with Irenaeus’ doctrine of Scripture and understanding of the nature of authority.

Michael Langston

Research: Dr. Langston was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He attended the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana on an athletic scholarship in Football. In 1975 he entered the USMC’s PLC Officer Commissioning program. He graduated from UL with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree in Education in 1977 and was subsequently commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the United States Marine Corps. Capt. Langston resigned his regular active duty commission and accepted a reserve commission subsequently, serving Marine Corps Reserve units in Raleigh, NC and Greenville, SC. Dr. Langston entered Seminary and graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity Degree (M.Div.) in Theology and Pastoral Care.

He has an earned Doctorate (D. Min.) from Bethel Theological Seminary (1996), Saint Paul, MN with a concentration in Military Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care. In 2003 he graduated from the Naval War College, Newport, RI, earning a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. Dr. Langston has additionally earned the Navy designator Master Training Specialist for Naval Education. Additionally, he completed the Marine Corps Command and Staff JPME Seminar course at Camp Lejeune, NC. He is presently enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland. Dissertation thesis title, “Exploring the Practical Significance of Evangelical Theology on Evangelical Military Chaplains Praxis of Chaplaincy: A Grounded Theory Approach.”

Dr. Langston joined the faculty of Columbia International University Seminary & School of Ministry in 2011 and has built the Chaplaincy program and taught Chaplain Ministries from that date until the present. Dr. Langton has served as a Law Enforcement Chaplain, Healthcare Chaplain and Military Chaplain in the United States Navy. He is also a graduate of the Naval War College. He is ordained and endorsed through the Southern Baptist Convention. He is married to the former Kathy Lee Jones PhD, of Greenville, SC. They have been married for 29 years and have three grown children. They reside in Blythewood, SC.

Jonathan David Lynch

Thesis title: Strength Perfected in Weakness: The intimate Brotherly Discipleship of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Research: Prior to beginning a PhD at the University of Aberdeen, I received a BA in History and MDiv from Oral Roberts University, as well as an MA Taught in Christian Theology from Durham University. My primary focus of study was biblical languages, Christology, and gaining competency in eight languages. My previous research at Durham University examined the concept of the fear of God in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christology as a response to the German Nazi Church and Humanism.

Currently my research at the University of Aberdeen investigates using Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology of weakness as a hermeneutical key for reading the Bonhoeffer corpus. In evaluating weakness and shame in the life of discipleship, I am seeking to better establish Bonhoeffer’s rationale for discipleship in relation to his concept of Religionless Christianity. In the future, I wish to pursue a post-doctorate that explores the ways in which post-enlightenment philosophy, Western capitalism, democracy, and idealism has cultivated a strong individuality in the Western church. In this way, I hope to discover not only why a strong individuality presently exists in the Western church, but also to provide possible solutions for increasing platonic intimacy in the context of discipleship. My research interests are quite vast, but include Pauline theology, Christology, hamartiology, soteriology, ecclesiology, ethics, Post-enlightenment theology and philosophy, and Christian discipleship.

Alan Macgregor

Thesis title: Word for Today: Preaching in a Hypertext World

Research: Preaching today in the Reformed Church is in crisis. Many people, both among ministers and congregations, have lost confidence in the suitability of the Reformed Church’s historical tool of communication and mission - the sermon - to address that crisis.

A refocus on the medium and genre of the sermon is required if we are even to begin to resolve this crisis of confidence. We need to derive a way of helping our preachers recover a consciously oral mindset for effective sermon composition and delivery.

That is what my research endeavour seeks to do. Building on the developing disciplines of Performance Criticism and Discourse Analysis in Biblical Studies, it will seek to apply the insights of these approaches to develop a homiletical approach, as an oral synthesis of biblical exegesis, composition and performance.

This research will provide a starting point to devise a useful homiletical toolset based on an understanding of the essentially oral nature of the sermon and its delivery.

Personal: I was ordained into the Church of Scotland ministry in 1992 and have spent the years since then in full-time parish ministry. Currently I am minister at Marnoch Parish Church in Buchan Presbytery.

John Paul Marr

Thesis title: Exclusive or simply eccentric psalmody?  The Reverend Doctor Thomas Clark’s (1720-1791) 1784 pamphlet publication Plain Reasons, set within its historical, theological, and exegetical contexts may be pious presumption or just plain peculiar.  

Research: Written in Albany, New York, Clark’s Plain Reasons, why neither Dr. Watts' imitations of the Psalms, nor his other poems, ought to be used in the praises of the great God our Saviour--but, that a metre version of the book of Psalms examined with wise and critical care by pious and learned divines and found by them to be as near the Hebrew metre Psalms as the idiom of the English language would admit, ought to be used ... with a short address to ministers, and heads of families, concerning family government may be considered simply another Presbyterian example of the so-called worship war regarding the manner of expressing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs within the Christian church.  Clark, labelled “eccentric” by Southern USA Presbyterian historian George Howe (due to Clark’s fastidious upholding of exclusive psalmody) interacts in Plain Reasons with Isaac Watts’ 1719 psalter paraphrase exegetically and theologically, and finds Watts’ attempts unsatisfying spiritually as well as dangerously diminishing the profound realities of God.

Plain Reasons needs to be analysed within its historical context of immigration and church planting, imposed oaths of office, wars for and of independence, and the Irish Presbyterian confessional subscription controversies.  It then needs to be examined for its exegetical strengths and weaknesses, particularly as handling of the Hebrew songs have improved since English bishop Robert Lowth proposed in a 1753 publication on Isaiah three categories for understanding parallelism in Hebrew poetry. Such explorations will explain why Clark was called the “father of the Associate Reformed Synod of the South” and why years later his supposed fatherhood of the ARPC denomination has been neglected and perhaps even discounted.

Alex Mason

Research: My research explores a Reformation-era theory of resistance to authority called the doctrine of the lesser magistrate, which was introduced in the Magdeburg Confession of 1550. This doctrine teaches that in certain scenarios when a ruler has become an incorrigible tyrant, he has abdicated his claim to legitimacy and relinquished his de jure status in exchange for that of a de facto magistrate. Consequently, the doctrine holds that those magistrates with lesser authority under the illegitimate magistrate may defy and resist him (and his unjust laws) for the sake of protecting others. By suffusing the ethical conception of political engagement with a thentofore atypical configuration of the freedom of individual conscience and a duty to resist injustice, the Confession offers us a usefully clarifying window into the West’s transition into modern democratic politics. In order to bring the doctrine into conversation with more recent political theory/theology, I am examining the socio-political and theological aspects of the Confession through a lens crafted from the biopolitical theory of philosopher Giorgio Agamben, whose homo sacer theory provides an applicable metanarrative about the abuse of political power in a fallen world. My purpose for this project is to excavate a theological/ethical understanding of submission and resistance for faithful Christian living in post-Christian societies. In a time when the ideas of resistance and revolution are discussed with increasing frequency, I hope this project will be helpful to anyone who seeks to think carefully and biblically about these issues.

Personal: I am blessed with a wife and two daughters. Prior to moving to Aberdeen, I completed an MA in Christian Ethics at Southeastern Seminary, an MDiv at Southern Seminary, and an MA in Public Policy and a ThM in Church History at Liberty University. My current research at Aberdeen is the result of a long convergence between my interests in political theory and Christian theology. In my free time, I am an amateur architectural photographer.

Matthew Mason

Thesis title: Human Flourishing in the Moral Theology of John Webster

Research: I am working under the supervision of Professor Paul Nimmo to explore how the late John Webster’s fundamental dogmatic commitments shaped his account of the moral field within which human action takes place.

I am an ordained Anglican minister, a Fellow of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics Research Institute, and a Fellow of the Center for Pastor Theologians. 


Nathan McConnell

Thesis title: ‘Prisoners of Hope’: Asylum Seeking and the Christian Mission in Malta

Research: My research explores the theological, political and ecclesiological ramifications of irregular migration and asylum seeking. More specifically, the use and role of containment for those seeking asylum to the European Union. Part of this research involves ethnographic/phenomenological analysis of North and East African migrants and the complications of their entry, acceptance and integration.

Previous to my PhD project, I completed my MTh in Practical Theology and Christian Ethics at King’s College, University of Aberdeen under the direction of Brian Brock and Chris Brittain.

Daniel Mcdowell

Thesis title: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Karl Barth

Research: My doctoral work, taken under Professor Paul Nimmo, is a focused comparative analysis of Schleiermacher and Barth's pneumatologies as set forth primarily in Christian Faith and the Church Dogmatics with a constructive aspect that attempts to come to a more complete doctrine of the Holy Spirit for the church, and the Reformed tradition in particular. The comparative aspect will use several sub-themes of pneumatology as a heuristic lens with which both pneumatologies can be compared, defended, and ultimately drawn together.

The constructive aspect of the research would seek to address the problem of subjectivity for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. This flows naturally out of the comparative aspect of the research, as the problem of subjectivity, and turning theology into anthropology, lies at the very heart of Barth’s criticism and rejection of Schleiermacher, and is also perhaps the key problem for pneumatology in general.

Personal: Daniel is an ordained ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently serving on session at historic First Presbyterian Church “Old South” in Newburyport MA. He is also under care of the Presbytery of Northern New England as he pursues pastoral ordination. He was educated at Central Washington University (B.A., history), and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.A., Theology; MDiv.; ThM, Theology), where he also worked as a Byington Scholar and the Semlink Theology Teaching Fellow. He and his wife have two children and reside on the North Shore of Boston.  

Sean McGever

Thesis title: Theology of Conversion in Wesley and Whitefield in Relation to Evangelicalism

Research: My research is the theological understanding of conversion in John Wesley and George Whitefield related to modern evangelicalism. Experts of evangelicalism routinely point back to the first Great Awakening as the formal origin of the Transatlantic Revival, with John Wesley and George Whitefield at the focal point of this activity.

Conversion is a foundational element of both modern and the early accounts of evangelicalism, but my thesis is that much has been lost and a careful review is needed. While theology proper has explored many essential soteriological categories, conversion is an aspect which has been overlooked. While not seeking to be a psychological or sociological study, this study does seek to investigate a theological understanding of conversion. More specifically, when John Wesley and George Whitefield preached conversion, wrote on conversion, and organized for conversion, what did they believe theologically about conversion? While coming from different angles related to conversion, most notably the free grace controversy, there is much overlap and commonality in their theology of conversion which is at the heart of an evangelical theological understanding of conversion. My previous studies were on the New Testament Kerygma and Creed of Nicaea, MLitt (St. Andrews), as well as an MDiv (Phoenix Seminary), and BSE in Mechanical Engineering (Arizona State University).

David McNeish

Thesis title: Celebration and Lament: towards a practical theology that embraces the fullness of life

Research: Celebration and lament are important dimensions of human existence and yet we rarely reflect directly on how to acquire the skills and habits necessary to navigate through the intensity of tragedy and delight.  Western culture often constructs a dualism between celebration (as purely joyful) and lament (as purely sorrowful), yet these experiences can frequently overlap and blend together.

This project aims to explore the interrelationships between celebration and lament, and whether a better understanding of these relationships can encourage the acquisition and practice of skills that enable healthy celebration and lament.  Working with Prof. Chris Brittain I am combining my part time doctorate with parish ministry in the West Mainland of Orkney.

Prior to my BD (Edinburgh, 2010) I worked as a parliamentary campaigner with Citizens Advice Scotland, a church musician and a hospital doctor.  I also have degrees in Psychology (Edinburgh, 1997) and Medicine (Edinburgh, 1999) but have recovered well from these experiences.

Gary Michael

Thesis title: Divorce and Remarriage from the Perspective of Matthew 19

Research: My research focuses on divorce and remarriage in the Bible using the Greek text of Matthew 19 as an initial lens. I’m also interested in connections to the Old Testament, including the Masoretic Text, Septuagint, and Dead Sea Scrolls. The research further explores extra-biblical literature from Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism, Greco-Roman society, and the Patristic period.

Before studying at the University of Aberdeen, I completed a B.A. in Geography and Studio Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Theology at Vintage Bible College and Seminary, and an M.A. in Biblical Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (all in the USA).

Michael Morelli

Research: Technology and war have proceeded cheek by jowl throughout history. The three-age historical system of stone, bronze, and iron is constituted as much by weapon as it is by tool innovations. Advances in computer technology are as connected to militarism as much as they are to the sciences and economics. In historical accounts of technology it is by now commonly agreed that there is a constant relation of technology to war. For this reason, the question of technology as it is posed my research is less a question of facts and more a question of how one tells technology’s story. What kind of story does a person tell when they speak or write about technology and how does it reflect their ethical perception of technology? 


As it is the case with many ethical questions, one’s socio-historical context shapes how our ethical questions are answered. A twenty-first century Western context, for instance, is characteristically optimistic about technology and consequently is disposed to producing popular and academic narratives and scholarship which resist thinking critically about technology’s story. Scholars such as Jacques Ellul and Paul Virilio, however, relentlessly and critically analysed optimistic narrations of technology. As such, they offer some key insights for today’s technologically globalised world. Their socio-historical context in postwar France focused their critiques of technology on its most warlike tendencies, and for this reason, one could read them as valuable counterpoints to uncritical technological optimism. It is as if Ellul’s and Virilio’s works independently and collectively suggest what might lie ahead for our globalised world if it continues to place its hopes in technology as it does today.


With this in view, much could be drawn from Ellul’s and Virilio’s account of the ways technology determines social, political, or economic phenomena. My research primarily explores the extent to which technology is a determinative factor in the phenomenon of the church as it exists in the world today. Which is to ask, what can scholars like Ellul and Virilio, who are critical of technology and include theology in such critiques, teach churches about technology? Can such an account fruitfully describe how individual and gathered disciples of Jesus might live ethically and transformationally in a technological world? My research proposes that both scholars can teach churches much on both scores. 

Rubens Ramiro Muzio

Thesis title: Godliness and Sanctification in Early Modern Protestant Spirituality

Research: This study envisions a roundtable conversation, particularly among leading Puritan thinkers within the late seventeenth century, gathered together in a panel discussion. Relatively unknown but remarkable devotional writers - Joseph Alleine, William Bridge, Thomas Brooks, Anthony Burgess, Jeremiah Burroughs, John Flavel, Walter Marshall, Thomas Watson, Thomas Boston, among others who wrote major works on doctrine and devotion in Early Modern Protestantism - will be, metaphorically speaking, invited to discuss specific elements concerning Christian life development and the doctrine of Sanctification.

Rubens Ramiro Muzio graduated from the Southern Presbyterian Seminary in Campinas with a B.A. in Theology. He has a Th.M. in Pastoral Theology from Calvin Seminary in Michigan and a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) in Pastoral Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary of Philadelphia. He is the author of ”O DNA da Liderança Cristã” (The DNA of Christian Leadership), “O DNA da Vida Cristã” (The DNA of Christian Life), and “Jornada de Fé” (The Journey of Faith) among other books.

Andrew Nelson

Thesis title: A Theology of New Covenant Forgiveness: T.F. Torrance and the Greater Conversation

Research: My research focuses primarily on the works of T.F. Torrance with a view to analyze and understand his view of the forgiveness of sins offered to believers in Christ. My research investigates the relationship between covenant and forgiveness in Torrance with special emphasis being placed on the objective and subjective nature of this forgiveness. The research will ultimately lead to a synthesis of sorts wherein the implications set forth in Torrance's writings are explored in context of the "greater conversation" of the topic. 

I am a professor of Bible and Theology at Multnomah University in Reno, NV. I am also a pastor in town, and the author of Fight for Grace, Grace Unchained, and Children of the King. I have the privilege of belonging to my beautiful wife and beloved children.

Markus Nikkanen

Thesis title: Participation in Christ in Paul and Early Eucharistic Traditions

Research: My research is focused on the origin of the Pauline concept of participation in Christ. I argue that Paul’s participatory theology is connected with antecedent Eucharistic traditions and is Jewish in character. 

I am ordained in the Evangelical Free Church of Finland (2005-) and have spent most of my adult life serving the church in Finland. I received my Masters degree from North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago (2013). I started my PhD research at the University of St Andrews (2014) but transferred to the University of Aberdeen (2015) with my supervisor, Professor Grant Macaskill.

Kevin O’Farrell

Research: My research attends to the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his account of the exception. The concept has received renewed attention in political theology through works from Giorgio Agamben and Ted A. Smith and it is most famously connected with political theorist Carl Schmitt. While the language of the exception is not explicit in Bonhoeffer’s work, the concept is prominent in essays like “History and Good [2]” where Bonhoeffer speaks on the limits of the law and the exercise of responsible action that is contra the law (both in the legal and ethical sense). I am exploring the character of Bonhoeffer’s account in relation to his larger corpus as well as in relation to recent scholarship on the topic. Through this research, I hope to shed additional light on Bonhoeffer’s ethics and political theology as well as to develop how Bonhoeffer’s own account can contribute to the contemporary discourse on political theology as well as the nature and limits of theological ethics.


Before coming to the University of Aberdeen, I received my B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Biola University (2010) and my M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology (2013). I also received an MTh in Theological Ethics from the University of Aberdeen (2017). My master’s dissertation was concerned with Bonhoeffer’s account of moral proclamation to the world, particularly in his later Ethics.

Troy Onsager

Thesis title:  The Confessional Foundations of Ecclesiastical Unity In Karl Barth

Research: My research will be focusing upon Barth’s nascent understanding of the confessional foundations of church unity beginning with his study of the Reformed Tradition, and then will look forward to his more mature, articulate understanding of church unity in its act of confession for the sake of the visible global church. The research will focus both on Barth’s dogmatics works as well as his own ecclesiastical participation and ecumenical addresses. I am a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (M-DIV), and I studied Reformation Theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford on a Parish-Pulpit Fellowship from PTS.

Madeleine Parkes

Thesis title: ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’: How do modern healthcare chaplains practically address the spiritual needs of non-religious patients, and what theological challenges do they overcome in order to do this?

Research: Traditional religious adherence in UK society declines, yet many people would still consider a spiritual dimension to life important, whether or not they believe in a God or higher power. There are also an increasing number of people who would consider themselves not spiritual at all, yet in my experience there still remains an existential struggle around hope, meaning and ‘big questions’ that need to be answered without reference to religion. This is especially true during times of crisis and ill-health.

This research is primarily concerned with moving the debate around the relationship between spirituality and healthcare forward, moving from conceptual ideas about ‘what is spirituality?’ to practical implementation of spirituality in healthcare - what does it look like in a hospital setting when delivered by chaplains? As part of this, I will be looking at the theological challenges chaplains face when they address an atheist or non-religious patient and how this impacts their approach.

I am currently working as a Spiritual Care Facilitator in the chaplaincy department of a large mental health NHS Trust in the West Midlands of England. Prior to beginning my PhD I gained my undergraduate degree in Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham and subsequently trained in clinical research at post-graduate level. I have also enjoyed additional training in counselling and psychotherapy which I find valuable to my pastoral work.

I have contributed  to the nationwide discussions on spirituality and mental health through articles and conference presentations, and have recently completed a book during my time in paediatric chaplaincy entitled Multifaith Care of Sick and Dying Children and Their Families (2014 Jessica Kingsley). My current research aims to contribute to the developing role of the chaplain in hospital who is serving an increasingly secular and diverse society.

Martin Phillips

Research: My research, under the supervision of Prof. Tom Greggs, attends to the relationship between repentance and holiness in the theology of John Wesley by drawing out his rootedness in Augustine. Wesley presents a timely and necessary corrective amidst problematic trends within and without contemporary Christianity. Reading Wesley's account of holiness—or, as it’s more notoriously understood, 'Christian perfection’ presents a striking assertion that acknowledging human finitude through repentance is the place and ground of holiness. This account of holiness depicts a call to continual submission and self-effacement, to a life that constantly situates oneself in overflowing gratitude. My working hypothesis is that holiness, or Christian perfection, presents a constructive and critical way to understand the particularity of the Christian life and the immediacy of salvation upon social and individual transformation. 


Prior to this project, I earned a MTh in systematic theology from the University of Aberdeen and a BS in social studies from Indiana Wesleyan University. My Master's thesis dealt with Paul Tillich's doctrine of justification. My wife and I both are driven by concern for education as a means towards healing and transformation. While I explore this in an academic setting, she teaches primary school in a nearby town. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, fishing, and following Michigan sports (Go Tigers!).

Joel Pierce

Thesis title: Neo-Aristotelian Engagements with Human Rights


Research: My project focuses on the viability of a robust conception of human rights within Aristotelian and Thomistic frameworks.  My dissertation examines resistance to human rights from figures such as Alasdair MacIntyre as well as attempts to ground rights claims in Aristotelian language by theorists such as Jean Porter and Martha Nussbaum.  Through engagement with these theorists I hope to shed light on some of the tensions in modern human rights discourse and suggests ways to improve how the language of human rights is deployed.


My interest in ethics first arose during my undergraduate study of philosophy at the University of Washington in Seattle, though in between that degree and this I have had a career as a librarian.  I completed my MTh degree in Theological Ethics in 2016, and was subsequently offered at PhD place with the Centre for Citizenship, Society, and the Rule of Law (CISRUL) at the University of Aberdeen. 

Braulia Ribeiro

Thesis title: Pentecostal Millennial Spirituality

Research: My thesis investigates Christian Spirituality as it is defined by the millennial generation in the 21st century.  Global Christian spirituality in this post-modern age is highly influenced by  Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism is the fastest growing Christian movement and has expressions within major denominations, free churches, and the Catholic church.  This study seeks to understand the main characteristics of this emerging Pentecostal post-modern spirituality from within the minds and hearts of the millennial generation.

Before enrolling at Aberdeen, I  dedicated many years to ethnographic and linguistic research among the Amazonian tribes. I hold a BA and an M.A. in Ethnolinguistics, and I am also finishing my MDiv in 2019 at Yale University. My areas of interest besides Pentecostalism are Theological Ethics, and the history and influences of the Company of Jesus in Latin America, especially in the northern part of Brazil. 

Daniel Robbins

Thesis title: Biblical Testimony: An Epistemological-Dogmatic Study

Research: My work is an interdisciplinary attempt to develop an account of Christian epistemology by considering the use and significance of the term "testimony" and social modes of learning in the Biblical Canon. This involves exegetical work across the Canon along with dialog between current philosophical developments in social epistemology and the tradition of Reformed dogmatics. I aim to contribute a constructive dogmatic proposal using testimony as the organizing centrepiece at the intersection of the doctrines of the nature of Scripture, theological anthropology and faith & certainty. I hope this work will fund further work in pedagogy and hermeneutics, along with other theological accounts of epistemology.

I am married to my lovely wife Bethany. We have three children who have (mostly) willingly joined us in our adventure, giving us joy and leaving us exhausted by the end of the day. I served as a minister in Bellingham, Washington for the last 5 years, and am an ordained Teaching Elder in the PCA. We are pursuing this doctoral training in hopes of leveraging our privilege and lives on behalf of the African Church, serving under African seminaries with our missions organization Serge. I received my B.A. in Philosophy at the University of Washington, Seattle (2007), and my M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri (2013). 

Christopher Schutte

Thesis title: Evangelical Episcopalians and their debates over women’s ordination and abortion in the 1970s

Research: I’m looking at how self-described Evangelicals within the Episcopal Church (TEC) discussed both women’s ordination and abortion in the 1970s. The Evangelicals were a beleaguered minority within the ranks of TEC, almost always at odd with the theological and political developments within TEC during the tumultuous period between 1964 and 1979. I’m drawing the doctrinal and hermeneutical frameworks among Evangelical Episcopalians, as well as their interface with both non-Episcopal evangelicals and the nascent Charismatic renewal movement.

I’m an Anglican priest in Phoenix, AZ, with a BA in History and Classics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ, USA, and an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA, USA.

Anthony Stiff

Thesis title: Befriending the Invisible Stranger at the Table: Toward a Theology of Food-Related Disabilities

Research: I am working under Professor John Swinton in the area of disability theology. The research I am doing has an intersectional quality to it. It utilizes several disciplines, including: disability theory, disability theology, food theory, theology of food, and food in the Christian tradition (looking specifically at monastic practices and early reformation eucharistic theologies). As an exercise in Practical Theology my research also explores food-related practices in the Corinthian body and in congregations today.

The church in via is beset by many ism's and phobia's that obscure its true form. Among them, ableism, "the ideological hypervaluation of ableness and the ways in which such norms of abled and disabled identity are given force," (Fiona Kumari Campbell, Keywords for Disability Studies) has left a legacy that is less than hospitable within the Christian tradition toward individuals whose particular embodiment's are neither anticipated, understood, or celebrated. Nevertheless, I believe there are rich theological anthropologies and food-related practices that once heard clearly can offer wisdom for the late modern church's food-related practices.

By asking these simple questions: whose God is the God we worship and whose Jesus do we follow? (see John Swinton, "Who is the God We Worship? Theologies of Disability; Challenges and New Possibilities); and why did God create a world in which every living creature must eat? (see Norman Wirzba, Food & Faith: A Theology of Eating) we can begin to imagine what a theology of food-related disabilities looks like. And, in our practice of shared meals, we can begin to befriend the invisible strangers at our tables, and receive the gift of their friendship as well.

Personal: I have a Doctor of Ministry degree from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI in the area of spiritual formation. My Advisor was Chuck DeGroat. My thesis title was, "Worship as Public Truth: Toward a Liturgical-Missional Ecclesiology for Evangelical Congregational Leaders." I also have a Masters of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA in the area of urban missiology. I am presently an ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church with over eighteen years of ministry experience across the U.S.A. My family comes from Sacramento, California where I served as an Associate Pastor for the past seven and half years at a large twelve hundred person congregation. I am married to Jessica Stiff, and we have two children (Cali, nine years old; Liam, six years old). Our son Liam has a food-related disability. When Liam was one he was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune illness called Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE). One of the symptoms of EE is that individuals can also have life-threatening allergic reactions to a variety of foods which create challenges for them to share meals with others in a number of settings, both public and sacred. Other food-related disabilities include individuals with Crohn's disease, severe forms of Celiacs, Type Two Diabetes, and according to some disability scholars anorexia and obesity. 

Michael Straus

Thesis title: Inspiration, Text and Translation:  Paul to the Colossians as a Case Study

Research: My original fields of studies as an undergraduate at Columbia College in the City of New York were in History and Philosophy (A.B.) and I thereafter studied law at New York University School of Law (J.D.).  I practiced for some years principally in areas of international transactions.  I left off that practice to pursue theological studies, beginning at Beeson Divinity School (M. Th. S.) followed by deeper immersion in languages, first in Greek and Latin at Columbia University (M.A.) and then in Greek the University of Cambridge (M. Phil.).  With that basis, I am now a distance Ph.D. candidate in Divinity with a focus on translation theory as it might be applied to the New Testament.  I am in the initial reading and outlining stages of my thesis, testing whether different theories and/or approaches to translation are called for depending on the nature of the material, e.g., whether prose narrative, doctrinal passages or efforts to convey spiritual concepts or experiences.

Joshua Stinson Honeycutt

Thesis title: The Presentation of the Priesthood in the Context of the Twelve Minor Prophets

Research: My research is based on a synchronic reading of the Minor Prophets with special attention placed on how the priesthood is presented literarily within the context of the individual books as well as the Book of the Twelve.  While I have a variety of research interests, I am particularly interested in literary studies within the Hebrew Bible, prophetic literature, and Hebrew poetry.

Before enrolling at Aberdeen, I received an M.A. from Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  My primary focus of study was in biblical languages. Before Southeastern, I completed my B.S. in science education with a physics emphasis from NC State University. 

Cynthia Tam

Thesis title: Finding Meaning in Silences: The Experience of People with Autism and Limited Speech-Language Abilities

Research: In the book Receiving the Gift of Friendship, Reinders says, “disabled people are rarely chosen as friends, except by other disabled people.” Sadly, this is particularly true for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and limited speech and language abilities. These individuals face prejudice from all sections of the community, including the church. They are rejected, laughed at and judged negatively. For the church to move from inclusion to belonging, we need to respect the world lived by people with disabilities and seek its value. With the use of qualitative research methods, I would like to attempt to enter into the inner world of people with ASD and speech-language difficulties and seek to understand the values, challenges and questions that they may have regarding their lives. The purpose of this project is to provide data for a theological reflection on the church’s practice that may affirm the meaning, worth and values of the lives of people with ASD and speech-language difficulties.

Previous to entering into the PhD program, I completed my M.Div. Program at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto, and a M.Sc. Program in Rehabilitation Science at University of Toronto. I am currently a pastor of a church, the national coordinator for disability for my denomination and the President of a Christian organization for support of families with children with special needs.

Daniel Thorpe

Thesis title: A re-examination of the “one new man” in Ephesians 2:15

Research: I am interested in exploring the origin and use of the concept “one new man” in Ephesians 2:15. My broader focus has been to examine this concept against a backdrop of Second Temple literature, specifically the Dead Sea Scrolls and 1 Enoch, with the intent to compare any findings with contemporary interpretations which identify the one new man as the “church.”

Prior to my studies at Aberdeen I completed a BA in Bible at Moody Bible Institute (2008) and an MDiv at Moody Theological Seminary – Michigan (2013). I am currently a full-time associate pastor at Emmanuel Baptist church in Flint, Michigan, and an adjunct professor for Moody Distance Learning. My research interests are: Second Temple studies, Apocalyptic literature, New Testament, Pauline studies, Post-Supersessionism, and Hermeneutics.


Thesis title: Should the church use media in discipleship to youth?

Research: Digital media, especially the Internet, has permeated our everyday lives, especially the lives of youth who grow up surrounded by digital media. However, it seems that the church has either missed the importance of media in the life of the youth or does not know what to do about it. As one who has been ministering to youth for quite a number of years, I seek to study this phenomenon deeply in order to assist the church in discipling the youths of this digital age. The aim of this research is to provide an understanding of how digital media affects the communication of the gospel to youth and to point towards some ways forward for the church to practically disciple youth in the digital age.

I completed MTh in Theological Ethics at the University of Aberdeen before starting PhD research under Dr Brian Brock. I also received a Master of Divinity and a Bachelor of Computer Science and Engineering before coming to Aberdeen. I had eight-years working experience in software industry and also served as a youth worker at my local church.

Luman Wing

Thesis TitleEpigenetic and Theological Perspectives on Addiction Research

Research: There is substantial evidence that prolonged stress or even a single traumatic experience can lead to persistent neurobiological and behavioural changes.  One of these changes is addictive behavior, which is associated with epigenetic changes that result in altered gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence.  These epigenetic changes may result in the abnormal responses to environmental stimuli that may lead an individual to addictive behavior.  The epigenetic changes involve a memory component and an inability to extinguish unwanted behavioural responses, particularly long-term memory effects involved in addiction.
 Current research in understanding of neurobiological circuits and epigenetic mechanisms that mediate substance abuse, has found that activating this circuit periodically may cause relapse of drug-seeking behavior.  There is an emerging consensus that the best treatment strategies engage the circuits involved in behavioural inhibition, coupled with pharmacological manipulations designed to target those circuits, with the goal of creating lasting behavioural inhibition.  However, it is important to determine if spiritual transformation also engages the circuits involved in behavioural inhibition, and whether continual spiritual experiences either complement or supplant these other treatment strategies.  An epigenetic assessment of behavioural inhibition may determine the efficacy of spiritual transformation.
Due to the changeable dynamics of epigenetic mechanisms that mediate substance abuse, behavioural inhibition may also have a theological foundation, particularly as it related the sin nature of man.  In the fallen state of man, early-life adversity may be profoundly affected by spiritual transformation as this implicates epigenetic alterations, consisting of molecular modifications that alter gene expression.  Through spiritual experiences, creating lasting behavioural inhibition as a result of epigenetics to approach memory suppression may be a particularly useful avenue to pursue in designing treatments for disorders that involve failures of inhibition, such as substance abuse.


Jakub Zbrzeżny

Thesis title: The origin of existing Hebrew and Greek psalters in the light of Jewish, Christian and Muslim literary evidence read against manuscript tradition of the Bible and the Koran – a biblioclastic theory

Research: The research I am conducting deals with the role of biblioclasm in the editorial and textual history of the Jewish and Christian Bible. The canonical figures of modern biblical scholarship have long pointed out that book-burning affected or might have affected editorial and textual developments of the Hebrew and Greek Bible (e.g. Leiman (1976), Metzger (1964), Alands (1981)). Ouaknin’s acclaimed Le livre brûlé (1986) still offers literary, theological, and philosophical insights into the meaning of biblio-clasm in the very Mosaic sense of the word. Nonetheless, the topic has remained unexplored.

My investigation of biblioclasm was triggered by discovery of fragments of a hitherto unknown kai-ge version of the First Book of Maccabees. I identified these fragments in Eusebius’ Commentarii in Psalmos (MS Coislin 44) at an early stage of my doctoral studies in Aberdeen. The fragments bear chief evidence for the pivotal role the book-burning in the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes played in the formation of the Book of Psalms. My thesis is supported by historical and textual analogies I draw between this book-burning and biblioclastic events that affected, firstly, the Christian Bible in the time of Emperor Diocletian and, secondly, the Koran in the time of Caliphs Uthman and Abd al-Malik.

The methodology I am developing in work on the Book of Psalms should be applicable to other biblical books. It is the origin of the Torah in the light of biblioclasm that I intend to explore during my post-doctoral research. 

Anchored in Scotland at the University of Aberdeen and supervised by Prof. Joachim Schaper, I have been also privileged to conduct several research or study visits abroad. Thus, I have benefited from libraries and scholarship at the University of Oxford, University of Tübingen, and the Institut Catholique de Paris. Still, the institution that has formed me as a researcher is the College of Interdepartmental Individual Studies in the Humanities at the University of Warsaw.