It's that time of the year again, when the Seniors of Clapham School display an important outcome of their schooling. The defense of their Senior Thesis is a rite of passage that ushers these well deserving students into early adulthood, as they are empowered and equipped to serve Christ.
Throughout the months of April and May we will share posts featuring the work of each of our seniors. If you are intrigued by these appetizers, be sure to join us for their presentations and defenses during the week of May 10th. More details will be shared as we approach the dates.
The History and Theology of Emotions in Faith
by Isabele Southard
Question: What is your thesis about?
My thesis addresses our current and past perception of emotions in faith while considering the Lord’s intended purpose of emotions and emotional expression. I will be examining biblical texts and philosophical texts to discover how to think about the role of emotions in our faith today.
Question: How did you narrow down your topic?
I knew I wanted to do something theological in nature because those topics tend to be what interest me most. From there I decided to choose a topic that I, myself, was working through in my own spiritual life. I wanted to discuss something that was applicable and that would impact my current mode of thinking.
Question: What was the hardest part of writing your thesis?
The hardest part of thesis writing was probably the actual writing aspect. I had to overcome the perfectionist in me while also trying to produce worthwhile content. The prospect of such a large research paper was often daunting and took many pep talks from Dr. Egan to make it more feasible.
Question: What surprised you most about the process or the findings?
I was surprised by the extensive influence of past philosophers and theologians on our current perception of Scripture and our personal spiritual lives. Growing up there were ideas that I had accepted as true without knowing the reasoning or Scripture behind those ideas. Now with the research I have done, I have really begun to see how philosophers like Francis Bacon or John Locke, or theologians like Jonathan Edwards or Saint Augustine, heavily influence my own worldview.
Question: What resource was most helpful or made the biggest impact on your research or conclusion?
The resource that drove a lot of my research was A Treatise of Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. He provided many great insights on what affections are and how to discern if they are genuine. He took a nuanced position on appropriate and genuine holy emotions.
Question: How will your findings impact your life personally?
My findings continue to impact me daily. The Scriptures that I have read for this project have changed how I interact with the Lord, how I treat others, how I evangelize, as well as my perspective on other’s walks with the Lord.
Question: How does your faith inform your conclusion?
When I began writing my thesis, I knew that above all else I wanted my writing to be scripturally based. I wanted my thesis to be based in truth with the purpose of revealing truth. Hopefully I have accomplished that goal.
Question: How did you experience the process of writing the thesis?
Writing was definitely the hardest part of the entire thesis process, especially for someone whose best work comes in long periodic bursts of inspiration. The writing process mostly consisted of long writing sessions that were interrupted by feelings of despair. Looking back, I am elated I am no longer writing it, and I am even more elated at what I have accomplished despite tears, long nights, and many, many prayers.
Question: How are you preparing for the defense?
Because of the theological and philosophical nature of my thesis, preparing my defense has mostly consisted of continuing my research by reading Scripture and articles pertaining to my topic, as well as thinking through objections that might be raised or clarifications that might be necessary to convey my research.
Question: What advice do you have for next year's seniors?
The most helpful thing in the long run was choosing a topic that I had not previously taken a stance on. I found that curiosity and genuine interest are much better fuel for research than brute will or the desire to persuade. Also, trust the process and start writing a lot sooner than you think you should.
Isabele attended Clapham School for twelve years, although she was elsewhere during her freshman and sophomore years. Next year she will attend Discipleship Training School through Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and then will enroll at Grove City College in the fall of 2022. Her dream is to get her Masters of Divinity (M.Div.), go on to do Ph.D. work, and eventually go to the missions field to teach biblical studies.