by dmwestfall6

My bar on the top tells me that this site still gets a few hits most days, which is pretty remarkable in view of my long hiatus from blogging! In short, things got crazy the last year of seminary, crazier still over the summer in the midst of packing up and moving, and I didn’t have a schedule that was particularly hospitable to blogging.

That has changed, however, as my wife and I find ourselves in a new and very different situation. Earlier this year I accepted an offer of admission to the PhD program in Divinity (New Testament focus) at the University of St. Andrews, where I am now studying under the supervision of Prof. N.T. Wright, whose work I’ve been reading for many years. My three year program at St. Andrews will consist in research for a thesis, which at the moment is tentatively called “Substitution, Participation, and Paul’s Representative Christology.” The purpose of my research, basically, is to ask how we can speak of the death (and resurrection) of Jesus as something that both includes and excludes us—as an event in which we die and rise to a new existence “in Christ,” and in which something is done in our stead that we could not do. The place of substitution (much less “penal” substitution) in Paul’s understanding of the death of Jesus has been quite controversial, particularly in recent years. I hope to contribute to the conversation by analyzing the ways in which words like “substitution,” “participation,” “representation,” and others are used in theological discourse, identifying their distinctive insights, and trying to map those concepts onto the theology of the apostle Paul as represented in his letters.

Since it’s a research program, a great deal of my time—much of almost every day—is now spent reading and writing. With this change comes the possibility of a renewed season of blogging, but this time blogging with a more focused intent: the discussion of ideas and sources that are relevant to my study and to the argument of my thesis (though the body of the dissertation obviously won’t be appearing here!). It’s not as though the world desperately needs another “academic blog,” but the medium of blogging does serve as an excellent way of developing good writing habits and refining one’s style in order to present complex topics to a general audience. If you’re interested in following, subscribe to the blog at the bottom of the page!