Interview with Goodwin Prize Winner Nathan Walton

The title of your paper: Freedom From or Freedom For?: The Prosperity Gospel, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Social Responsibility

What inspired you to pursue an advanced degree in theology? What do you hope to do with your degree?

I was inspired to pursue an advanced degree in theology because of my interest in the relationship between academic theological discourse and church communities.  I hope that my degree will further equip me to teach theology in both academic and ecclesial settings.

Where do you see connections between your personal faith, your intellectual work and the other aspects of your life?

While serving as Community Life Pastor of Charlottesville Vineyard Church, I have had opportunities to integrate ideas and concepts from my theological studies into sermons, formation courses, and various aspects of liturgy.  Conversely, my involvement in the church has shaped my academic interests by helping me to be accountable to a concrete community.

How would you summarize your paper for someone without a theological background? 

My paper draws from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s views on the Christian life to critique how the Prosperity Gospel Movement responds to socioeconomic inequality.  I argue that the Prosperity Gospel emphasizes an individualistic view of socioeconomic progress that does not effectively address wealth disparities, whereas Bonhoeffer provides a better theological framework for socioeconomic equality and interdependence.

How might this award make a difference in your life?

I recently have begun ethnographic work for my dissertation, which involves research at two churches in Richmond, Virginia.  This award will help mitigate research expenses as I travel back and forth to Richmond to conduct fieldwork.

What would you say to prospective donors might fund the Goodwin Writing Prize?

The Goodwin Writing Prize plays a unique role in cultivating scholarship among aspiring academics that is both theologically innovative and deeply practical for the church.  Through their financial support, those who fund the Goodwin Writing Prize help to mitigate the frequent chasm between the church and the academy, while promoting theological discourse that is beneficial to both communities.

How do you spend your time when you are not studying?

When I am not studying I spend a lot of my time serving as the Community Life Pastor of Charlottesville Vineyard Church.  For fun, I enjoy weight training, playing basketball, and playing the saxophone.  I also am quite prone to spontaneous Netflix and Hulu binges.

Any other comments?

I am deeply grateful for the Goodwin Writing Prize and the generosity of the Board of Directors of Theological Horizons.  The Goodwin Prizes promote the type of creative, sophisticated, and practical theological reflection that is most needed today.