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Department of Theology and Religion


Mr Benjamin DeSpain

Contact Mr Benjamin DeSpain (email at


Before coming to Durham University, I completed a M.A.T.S. in church history and Th.M in historical theology at Erskine Theological Seminary. My studies at Erskine focused on Patristic, Reformation, and Post-Reformation theologies. For my Th.M I completed a thesis on the theological compatibility of John Cassian and Augustine's soteriologies. In my thesis I argued that both Cassian and Augustine present christologically-contextualized conceptions of soteriology through which they speak of salvation as being both immediate and progressively achieved.

Current Research

My current PhD research concerns the doctrine of the divine ideas in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. It is my contention that the divine ideas define the contemplative momentum of Thomas's theological pedagogy in the Summa Theologiae. To establish the significance of the divine ideas in Thomas's thought, I am addressing the relation of the divine ideas to the act of theology by considering their role in Thomas's articulation of how the human intellect understands the Trinity, creation, and providence. The broader objective of my study is to propose a way of understanding how the Summa works as a theological event in itself. This study also has contemporary relevance since the divine ideas are generally absent from contemporary theological and philosophical discussions. By demonstrating the theological relevance of the divine ideas for Thomas, I hope to provide a reappraisal of the divine ideas for contemporary theological reflections.

Research Interests

Thomas Aquinas

The Doctrine and History of the Divine Ideas

The Relation between Theology and Spirituality


Theological Anthropology

Patristic Theology