Re-imagining a Theology of Wilderness

At the end of every academic year, we host the Integrative Project symposium, in which The Seattle School’s alumni, current students, faculty, staff, and the Seattle community at large are invited to witness and celebrate the bold, thoughtful, and creative work of our graduating Master of Divinity and MA in Theology & Culture students.

For these students, the Integrative Project serves as a capstone of their time in graduate school—born out of years of study, countless conversations with peers and faculty, and each student’s distinctive embodiment of text, soul, and culture. Their work utilizes a blend of research methodology, personal exploration and engagement, and The Seattle School’s unique lens.

In this video, Alicia Landis Choi (MATC) presents on her project, “Apophatic Mystery and Kataphatic Interrelationship: Re-imagining a Theology of Wilderness.” Drawing on her education and experience as a wilderness guide and from her theological studies at The Seattle School, Alicia argues that we need a new theology of wilderness, and that the analogies commonly used to connect wilderness and theology are insufficient.

“All those analogies about maps and compasses fall a little flat when you realize that they tell you a story that only acknowledges a very limited idea of God, of Scripture, and what it means to walk in a complex world.”

We tend to think of wilderness from a lofty, pristine vantage point (like a beautiful mountaintop as a background on a computer). “But here’s the thing,” says Alicia. “That vantage point doesn’t actually tell you the full story of what it means to be a person in this place, just like the analogy of a map doesn’t tell us what it means to embody our theology.”

“The analogy of a map doesn’t tell us what it means to embody our theology.” tweet

Alicia shares how a theology that acknowledges the mystery of God—rather than a theology that seeks to dominate and erase blank, unknown areas—has invited her to a more spacious theology of wilderness that allows her to move as an embodied human who is only one part of a larger creation.

“The emphasis on the mystery of God creates space in my theology, space in which that which I do not know, and which is not myself, is equally as important as that which I am familiar with. Simultaneously, as I acknowledge mystery, I find myself invited into connection.”

You can watch the full video of Alicia’s talk below. We are consistently inspired by the work that our graduating students present in their Integrative Projects. You can see more videos from last year’s graduating class here.

The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology's mission is to train people to be competent in the study of text, soul, and culture in order to serve God and neighbor through transforming relationships.

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