Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Religious Education, PhD
John V. G. Matthews
Christianity is in decline in the United States and, with it, discipleship engagement. While several explanations and many remedies have been offered as solutions to the problem over the last half-century, demographic research shows that the decline continues. The problem addressed in this dissertation is the lack of a theological model to augment psychological models of religious attachment theory. The research sought to identify a canonical model of divine attachment which may contribute to the revitalization of personal discipleship and religious education by offering a new relational context. This model is based on an understanding of God as an attachment figure.
Because God is not visible to humans and therefore unobservable, demonstrations of divine attachment behavior were sought by examining direct divine utterance through an inductive reading of Scripture. Ample evidence was collected that God self-reveals in ways that may be interpreted as providing the two attachment caregiving behaviors reasonably expected of attachment figures: a secure base and a safe haven.
This study shows from a theological perspective that does God self-reveal in ways that may be interpreted as engaging in attachment caregiving behaviors. Additionally, the canonical data revealed that God also self-identifies in ways that may be interpreted as attachment-seeking behaviors.
Attachment theory provides a relational context that has been recognized for its applicability to religion and religious expression. The idea that God is a sufficient attachment figure is supported in the literature; however, that support is based on subjective perceptions. This research contributes to the literature and expands the understanding of God as an attachment figure by providing an intersubjective theological model based on evidence found in the biblical canon: God self-reveals in way that may be interpreted as engaging in attachment caregiving and attachment seeking behaviors. The God of the canonical model of divine attachment is an incredibly relational God seeking reciprocated connection with humans.
Christianity--21st century; Discipling (Christianity);Revelation; Presence of God; Spiritual formation--Seventh-day Adventists; Religious education
Freed, Kristina Marie, "Divine Attachment: A Canonical Model for Discipleship and Religious Education" (2023). Dissertations. 1802.
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