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The binding characteristic of Biola University’s theological identity represents a hierarchical spirituality rooted in “thinking biblically about everything.” As a result, Biola espouses a resolutely kataphatic [1] spirituality that reduces Christian formation to the transmission of biblical knowledge while neglecting the formation of the whole person. This approach is regrettably deficient in addressing the dynamics of embodiment and the role of ritualized rhythms in both the curricular and co-curricular educational pedagogy.

This project explores an alternative approach regarding Christian formation for undergraduate students at Biola. It will establish methods of habitual immersion in a combination of Christian practices. The project will also proffer meaningful change in light of three critical areas: the infusion of an apophatic spirituality, an exclusively transgressive pedagogy, and the synchronization of a Christian habitus that is reflective of a complexified theory of practice.

The body of this dissertation is divided into three parts. Part One begins with the examination of Biola's historical and theological context. This section determines Biola's current state regarding core practices. It will indicate my initial observations and the potential and likely resistance for a proposed alternative. Part Two will develop a foundation for sociological and theological reflection to intentionally respond to the ministry challenge. This section begins with a literature review of five diverse resources. The remainder of Part Two investigates Pierre Bourdieu's complex theory of practice and articulates an apophatic spirituality grounded in Jürgen Moltmann’s ecological doctrine of creation. Part Three develops a ministry strategy to reimagine Christian formation at Biola. The strategy pragmatically addresses the ministry problematic by proposing a co-curricular immersion program that is robustly apophatic, pedagogically transgressive, and practically Bourdieuian. The project concludes with a summary of insights gained and highlights implications for the future of the ministry.

[1] Although the words “kataphatic” and “apophatic” are traditionally italicized, because of the nature of this project, they will be presented non-italicized.

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Doctor of Ministry

First Advisor

Jones, Tony H.

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Spirituality, Education, Creation, Sabbath, Bourdieu, Moltmann


Higher Education | Practical Theology


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