Ryan Clevenger

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Dissertation (Proposed): “A Swift, Fleeting Flash of Lightning Shining in Our Eyes ”: The Role of Mental Images in Gregory of Nazianzus's Account of Theological Language

Ryan ClevengerAs I began my theological education, I slowly become aware of the importance of Church History. I could debate fine points of theology, but I only really felt that I understood those points if I saw them within their historical context. In good Protestant fashion, I began with the Reformation, but then began to see that I couldn’t understand the issues of the Reformation unless I first understood the Medieval Church. Then, looking at the issues discussed in the Medieval Church, I saw their constant engagement with those who had preceded them and I was pushed back further. I began to see and appreciate the important role that the Early Church played in all subsequent theology, whether one agreed with them or not, and decided to pursue my studies in that period. When I looked to the Early Church, I began to see that one of the important theological issues wasn’t just about the Trinity, but how to speak well of God in general. My attention was drawn to Gregory of Nazianzus, a very important but often ignored Christian thinker in English speaking (and especially American) Christianity. I choose to come to Wheaton for my doctoral studies because of their emphasis on the integration of Biblical and Theological Studies in a way that parallels what I see the Fathers doing. More so, I was excited about the unique opportunity to be part of the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies and their work in promoting and study and use of the Early Church for the life of the Church today. I think my time here at Wheaton and with the Center will prepare me to teach in the academy and the Church in a way that imitates the best of the Patristic tradition.

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