on Monday, January 30, 2023

Photo:  Micah Chung (L) and Alex Wendel (R)


Two New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary doctoral students won top prizes in a paper competition sponsored by the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Micah Chung, NOBTS doctoral candidate in theology, won first place in the second annual paper competition in conjunction with the SEBTS Exploring Personhood annual conference. Alex Wendel, NOBTS doctoral resident in the counselor education and supervisor doctoral program, took third place.

Participants submitted first an abstract of their papers and then were invited to submit the full paper. The competition focused on factors and practices that shape identity and lead to human and spiritual formation.

Chung’s paper, “Deleting Trauma: A Christian Response to Memory-editing Technologies and the Crisis in Human Identity Formation,” addressed today’s fast-growing trend of memory-editing that promises to dampen, erase or replace unwanted memories.

This trend of memory-editing, or memory-modifying technologies (MMTs), is “yielding frighteningly provocative results” with ethical implications, Chung said.

“Given these unsettling possibilities, I explore in this paper a Christian response to MMTs in light of the crisis they would bring to human identity formation,” Chung explained.

Chung traced out past and current models of memory to explore what memory is and then drew from Miroslav Volf’s “The End of Memory” as a Christian theological guideline to help develop a Christian understanding of memory as well as a response to MMTs.  

“I specifically address MMTs targeting memory erasure,” Chung said. “Finally, I employ these insights to draw out implications for MMTs regarding personal and communal formation from a Christian perspective, centering the discussion on the Christian virtues of mercy, justice, godliness, and love.”

Chung, an NOBTS adjunct professor, has served as an assistant pastor and high school teacher in New York City. Chung’s paper will be published in the Spring 2023 issue of the Southeastern Theological Review.

Wendel’s paper, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy: Trinitarian Processions, Participation in God, and The Holy Spirit’s Formation of Human Holiness,” explores how the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in believers leads to joy and comfort.

Wendel said that in researching the paper he found a description of the Holy Spirit as a “gift of love” shared between God the Father and God the Son. Wendel pointed to Jesus’ words that a “Comforter” would come.

“The Spirit is naturally in and of Himself, a gift of love,” Wendel said. “The Spirit shares Himself with us, but also in that, He shares love.”

Believers are not left alone in their trauma, in their own sin or in the sins committed against them, Wendel explained. He added, “We have the Spirit who empowers us to overcome.”

Wendel, associate director of clinical training for the NOBTS graduate counseling program, is a licensed professional counselor.

Second place was awarded to Wes Treadway, assistant pastor at First Baptist Church, Durham, North Carolina, and a Ph.D. student in Christian worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His paper was “Embodied Worship: Defying the Disintegration of a Digital Age through Regular, Gathered Formation.”

The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture is directed by Dr. Ken Keathley, SEBTS senior professor of theology. The winners will be announced also at the Exploring Personhood: Human Formation conference, Feb. 2-3, at SEBTS.