Baylor Philosophy and Religion Departments Celebrate Graduate Student Accomplishments

April 25, 2012

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Media contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (April 25, 2012) - Three graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences at Baylor University--Blake McAllister, doctoral candidate in philosophy; Kyle Welty, doctoral candidate in religion; and Michael Whitenton, doctoral candidate in religion--were recently recognized for research accomplishments in their fields.

Blake McAllister

McAllister's paper, "Escaping Murphy's Trilemma," was named best graduate student paper at the annual conference of the Society of Christian Philosophers held March 22-24 at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.

The recognition made him feel honored and a little surprised, McAllister said.

"There were a number of very high quality graduate student papers, many of them from my Baylor colleagues," McAllister said. "I count myself very fortunate to have won."

McAllister, who earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Pepperdine University in 2010, said his paper defends a particular kind of divine command theory against an objection developed by philosopher Mark Murphy.

"Divine command theory is a metaethical theory which contends that moral obligation--what is right and wrong--is in some way determined by the commands of God," McAllister said. "Murphy argues that if divine command theory is true, then we must reject either God's freedom in commanding or the supervenience of the moral on the non-moral, neither of which is a very good option."

"Escaping Murphy's Trilemma" tries to show that accepting divine command theory doesn't force one into accepting one of the bad options. One can consistently hold all three positions, McAllister said.

Kyle Welty

Welty was awarded the F. Bullitt Lowry Prize for his paper, "Evangelical Missionaries in the Slave Societies of the British West Indies, 1800-1835," at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Historical Association held April 4-7 in San Diego.

"Initially, I was surprised when I learned that my paper had been selected," Welty said. "As the paper was derived from a dissertation chapter, I was pleased that the award offered some validation of the larger product. It was reassuring to learn that other historians saw a degree of merit in my project."

Welty said his research centers on the work of two British foreign missionary societies, the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society and the Church Missionary Society, in Sierra Leone and the West Indies between 1785 and 1835.

"In particular, I am interested in the challenges that these unique contexts posed to the societies and their missionaries," Welty said. "For example, I examine issues such as missionary work among slaves and missionaries' interactions with planters in the West Indies."

Before coming to Baylor, Welty earned his bachelor's degree in international studies at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., in 1999, and his master's degree of Christian studies at Regent College in Vancouver.

Michael Whitenton

Whitenton recently published his fourth academic journal article, "Rewriting Abraham and Joseph," in Novum Testamentum, a journal devoted to the study of the New Testament and related subjects.

"I am delighted to see my work published in such a prestigious journal," Whitenton said. "After spending countless hours poring over ancient texts it's incredibly rewarding for your work to be recognized by the academy as worthy of wide distribution. To have your own voice added to the ongoing scholarly discussion of ancient Christianity and its relation to the Judaism from which it arose is a humbling thing."

The paper originated from his New Testament colloquium on Jewish interpretation of scripture last fall and spring, Whitenton said. He was fascinated by the relationship between reader and text within the Jewish context.

"Since my primary research interest is in ancient rhetoric and the New Testament, especially the Synoptic Gospels, for my paper, I chose to investigate the interpretation of Scripture in a particularly rhetorically charged section of the New Testament, 'Stephen's Speech,' in the Book of Acts (specifically, Acts 7.2-16)," Whitenton said. "This study, it seemed to me, had unique relevance since the author is widely acknowledged to have exposure to rhetorical training at some level."

Whitenton, who earned his bachelor's degree in health from Texas A&M University in 2006 and his master of theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2010, said this article was particularly rewarding because it was his first major publication since coming to Baylor.

"The New Testament program here at Baylor is fantastic," Whitenton said. "I could not dream of better colleagues, professors, or a better working environment in which to pursue my own scholarly goals and aspirations."

About Baylor

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions.

About the College of Arts & Sciences

The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University's oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 27 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.

by Katy McDowall, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805