Newbold lecturer, Tihomir Lazić, was recently awarded his doctorate by the University of Oxford.
Dr Lazić, who joined Newbold’s Department of Theological Studies in September 2015 as a Lecturer in Systematic Theology, completed the examination process in October when he successfully defended his research viva voce exam in front of a panel of examiners.
Dr Lazić’s thesis, which was titled Remnant in Koinonia: Towards an Adventist version of communio ecclesiology, focuses on rethinking the identity of Adventism in the 21st century, and redefining who we are as Adventists and how we relate to other Christians and non-Christians.
“Recent tensions that Adventism is experiencing in relation to the issue of women’s ordination, and the nature of church unity and authority, are a strong reminder that we can no longer afford to ignore a foundational task of spelling out a more comprehensive vision of church,” Dr Lazić claims. “A more thorough ecclesiological engagement,” he argues, “will not only enable a deeper understanding of our shared spiritual identity, but will also help Adventist community to retain its global unity, maintain its relevance in the world at large, and participate in a more fruitful and meaningful interaction with others.”
Dr Lazić’s thesis is described by Oxford examiners as a “ground-breaking and original piece of work that seeks to bring the traditional distinctive ideas of Seventh-day Adventist theology into a dialogue with wider Christian scholarship.” It facilitates a recent Adventist ecclesiological quest by proposing ways of reaching a more rounded and systematically articulated concept of church from an Adventist perspective. His thesis also engages with the ideas of some of the ablest ecclesiologists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and examines the way in which an enhanced vision of church could assist Adventists confront some of the most divisive issues we face as a denomination today, such as those regarding church structure, mission, ministry, communal interpretation, unity and reform.
When asked to comment on his experience as a student at the University of Oxford, Dr Lazić said that his favourite moments were those he spent debating and interacting with other students and world-leading scholars in an informal context. “Our visions of theology and Christianity in general were quite different, and even conflicting at times, but, after long hours of conversing with them, I realised that there is no better path to a deeper self-understanding than a dialogue with somebody who can challenge the unquestioned assumptions that we hold about the world, and stimulate fresh thinking.”
“If we really want to grow in our knowledge and spirituality,” Dr Lazić said, “we should not avoid hard questions; neither should we shy away from those who think differently than us. If we decide to engage in a dialogue, we should do so with an open mind; not only to teach others, but also to learn from them.”
Dr Lazić who, through his responsibility for Public Campus Ministry (PCM) in the Trans-European Division, oversees efforts to reduce the ever-increasing number of Adventist students who leave the Church during their university or college studies. He is now incorporating his research and findings into Newbold’s postgraduate Theology degree including a new module, Emerging Perspectives in Ecclesiology. Focusing on the nature of the church, it will next be taught in the Spring semester 2017. The aim is to inspire and equip current and future generations of students with the ability to engage in the important task of developing a mature and more complete vision of what it means to be a church in the 21st century.
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