Tuesday, January 22, 2008

[LIF] It's Complicated, Like Usual

That last post was a bit sloppy, but that is stream of consciousness writing for you. I have been wanting to put something more coherent up ever since, but life took a turn for the complicated (again). Sharon called me last Thursday to tell me that she took a tumble snowboarding, yup she broke her wrist. It has been insane here since. I have tonnes of reading to do for my courses. A chunk of photocopying too. And I decided to take a safer tack on my research - which means more work but it is more conventional. So somehow I need to get a survey together, something compact enough that I can convince a good sample of Canadian Emerging Church leaders to respond, yet complete enough to give me usable data.

I attended a doctoral defence today, yikes. I didn't read the thesis, but from the conversation I could tell that the defender didn't have a sufficient theology of suffering for what she was doing. My understanding is that only once in the history of my school has a dissertation been rejected at this point (interrogation is always expected though) and that the deliberation after the examination is about 5-10 minutes. 40 minutes later I could sense that she was in trouble. About 50 minutes later a hesitant acceptance provided the document was revised was announced. I felt bad for her, but I was thinking that it is really important to work with you director to avoid that kind of stress. The defender was really calm until the deliberation dragged on and on. Six years of work is a long time, and she did take a quite adventurous approach. But it was her methodology, or rather lack thereof, that tripped her up. I learned a lot.

First I learned that it is extremely important to deal with all of the main themes a theologian you engage uses. Even if you don't think their other key themes are important to your thesis. This will get called out. This doctoral candidate used a feminist liberationist theologian (Ivona Gebera) without engaging Gebara's redemptive theme of justice. I know that the candidate was trying to do something else, but you need to at least acknowledge why you left off such a major theme.

Second I learned that you need to be clear about what you are doing each step of the way. The criticism that was given explicitely and implicitely was that the readers had to guess at how the research connected to the conclusions. That hurt her and I'm sure by her answers that this is not going to be an easy fix.

And finally I learned that it is good to listen to the wisdom of your supervisor. I know that this will be hard. Not that I don't have tonnes of respect for Prof. Eaton, I certainly do. But it is that I am interested in some radical ideas and I'm not afraid to take radical routes to get to it. But I have to be able to satisfy the examiners. There will be time enough to be a maverick theologian later. I can even take risks in the work provided I use established means to back up my choices. But if it is too far out then I could be number two to not make it through.

Please pray for us. I'm doing almost everything around the home as well as my studies and pastoring. There is a lot on my plate.

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