Current PhD Projects

Tiffany C. Robinson

PhD candidate, University of Toronto

My objective is to research the ways in which theology (talk about God) and spatiality (specifically, its articulation in the built environment) mutually shape one another. In other words, to research how our experiences of spatiality affect the way we speak about God through theological statements and how our view of God can significantly determine the way we shape and are shaped by the built environment. Although there has been a significant amount of research done on the relationship between architecture and religion, there has been almost none in the area of the direct relationship between the perception of the human spatiality and how it relates to our theological constructions about who God is. The work produced by theologians (Tillich, Barth, T.F. Torrance, Gunton) is theologically rigorous but very brief. None goes beyond a chapter-length appraisal of possible relations between spatial understanding and theological claims.

The benefits of pursuing this interdisciplinary study would be threefold: for the critique of theological concepts, for the analysis of the built environment, and for the provision of pedagogical tools. For theology, the study will undoubtedly reveal ways in which our theological descriptions of God are constrained by spatial presuppositions. On a more constructive note, certain spatial constructions might lend theology new ways of speaking about God. For the built environment it will add a critical lens (alongside anthropology, sociology, architectural theory, urban planning and other relevant fields) for the analysis of why we build the way that we do and provide critical tools towards building in a manner through which humanity can thrive. And finally, a rigorous interdisciplinary approach to theology and spatiality may provide heuristic teaching tools with value for students and instructors alike by revealing those conceptions which can work critically in both fields.

My particular research will be on the doctrine of the ascension, with specific attention to the spatial questions inherent in that doctrine. There has been a tendency in theology to identify the event of the ascension with either Christ's divinity or his humanity and furthermore to confuse the soteriological significance of the fact of Christ's two natures with the ontological descriptions of Christ. This tendency to correlate, in a variety of ways, the two movements of Christ's descent and ascent with his two natures as divine and human has been damaging to Christology and in particular to understanding the ascension as an event for Christ in his humanity. By extension, it has affected Christian definitions of the human person and definitions of the life of the church. The damage occurs, in part, because of the limiting spatial concepts and language we employ to discuss both Christ's two natures and his presence and absence to the church as the ascended God-man. My research goal is first to identify damaging spatial concepts that have dominated the discussion of Christology in relationship to the ascension. Secondly, I would like to develop a more fruitful set of spatial metaphors for the discussion of Christ's two natures as they relate to the event of the ascension. The intent of this research is to work towards a more fruitful understanding of the nature of ecclesial life, that is, human life in created space, as it finds its direction and nourishment through its relationship with the ascended Christ.

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Elizabeth Callender

PhD Candidate, The University of Otago, NZ

Elizabeth is working on the spatiality of God in the theology of Karl Barth. While it has usually been supposed in the Christian theological tradition that God is transcendent of space and time, and thus aspatial in himself, Barth contends, in his discussion of the omnipresence of God, that God has his own space. Spatiality, Barth further contends is one of the conditions of relationality. The differentiation of Father, Son and Spirit in the triune God implies both hypostatic distinction and distance between the three persons. The thesis will explore the immanent spatiality of God before going onto trace the implications for space and time of the divine economy, in which first, God makes space for that which is other than himself, becomes present as a subject within space and time, and reconstitutes through the redemptive life, death and resurrection of Christ the whole of the created order. The thesis will conclude with an examination of the means by which God is present now in our time and space as the body of Christ in church and sacrament.

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Eric Jacobsen

PhD Candidate, Fuller Theological Seminary

Eric is currently undertaking the preliminary course work within a PhD degree at Fuller Theological Seminary and plans to develop a thesis on the theological anthropology implicit in the urbanism of three architects (LeCorbusier, Wright, and Koolhaas) - LeCorbuser - Cartesian Rationalism; Wright - Romantic Individualism; and Koolaas - Nihilism.



University of Otago Theology and the Spatial Arts