On Tuesday this week I was in Lampeter at the University of Wales Trinity St David. I was there to have my viva where I had to defend my dissertation “Reformed Thought and the Free Offer of the Gospel: With Special Reference to The Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622-1658)”. The outcome was the award of the PhD with no changes to the dissertation other than the correction of typos- the end of 6 years hard study and writing! Soli Deo gloria!
The viva itself was a good experience. I had been well prepared by my supervisor (Dr. Gwyn Davies) but he constantly emphasized you can never tell where the challenges are going to come from! In the event questions focused on:
- How did the 17th C Reformed theologians make the case that a well meant gospel offer was consistent with a particularist soteriology?
- Did they really in practice preach a well-meant gospel offer?
- Why did I chose the three later controversies over the free offer that I did as evidence of “ongoing” disputes over the free offer? (I looked at the Marrow Controversy, the credal revision controversy in America leading up to the 1903 revisions to the Westminster Confession and the disputes over the “three points of common grace” in the Christian Reformed Church.)
- Was James Durham’s theology sufficiently Trinitarian? Was it as Trinitarian as I claimed?
- Had I given enough time to, and treated fairly enough, those who deny the Reformed tradition has held to a well-meant gospel offer?
- What are the implications of a well-meant gospel offer for the doctrine of God?
But overall the conclusion of the viva was that the dissertation made its case in a convincing manner and was therefore passed. The external examiner was Rev. Professor Andrew McGowan and the internal examiner was Professor Densil Morgan. Thanks are due to both men for their challenges to, and engagement with the dissertation, but most especially to Professor McGowan as the expert in the area.
Well, now that the PhD is over … I have some articles I can finally get round to writing :-)