Divine Power, Divine Excess: A Marginal Hope Open Access

Smith, Jessica Mitchell (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/qv33rw94m?locale=en


This project is an examination of divine power on the margins of the institutional Church. To approach the margin, I examine the Christian micro-narratives of three women from different historical periods whose lives are all marginalized by the institutional Church. They include the early twentieth century painter Séraphine Louis, nineteenth century preacher Jarena lee, and fourth century contemplative St. Macrina. By examining these women's narratives in the ecclesial margin, I aim to demonstrate three things. First, it is to honor these women's lives and their stories that figure as more minor in the history of Christianity. It is to celebrate the ecclesial margin as a rich space for encountering the divine regardless of its relationship to the institutional center. Second, it is to articulate how divine power appears as an "excess" in the ecclesial margin. God responds to the margins with more than what is expected. Divine power excessivly flows through beauty, the Biblical narrative of salvation history, and the mystery of the holy. The third aim is a therapeutic one, namely a proposal that the Church continue to practice its life together in the knowledge that Christians worship a God of excess. Such knowledge counters what Paul Ricoeur calls "the logic of equivalence," an operational logic that often results in a disposition of institutional anxiety and uncertainty. This knowledge and reflection on both the wisdom of the ecclesial margin and the generous and hospitable nature of divine power might foster an institutional attitude of continued humility and hope for the Church.

Table of Contents


Reading the Margin for Divine Power

Séraphine Louis: Chaotic Mind, Beauty, and Divine Power

Figure 1: "Les Grenades"

Figure 2: "The Tree of Life"

Figure 3: "The Tree of Paradise"

Writing Jarena Lee: Divine Power Exceeds Discrimination

The Life of Macrina: The Excessive Nature of the Holy

The Power of God Exceeds: A Marginal Hope


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