Alex Mason is a native of Lynchburg, Virginia. After completing an undergraduate degree ingovernment from Liberty University, Alex went on to complete graduate degrees in public policy, church history, ethics, and theology from Liberty University, Southeastern Seminary, and Southern Seminary. Currently, he lives in Scotland where he is a PhD candidate in Divinity (Theological Ethics) at the University of Aberdeen. He has a beautiful, talented, and capable wife as well as two delightful and rambunctious little girls who make every day enjoyable. For more than a decade, Alex has worked in the private non-profit sector, and he’s been an university adjunct instructor since 2010. In his free time, Alex likes to visit various Scottish castles with his wife and daughters.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to study Theology at an advanced level?
Like many people from the South, I was raised in a Christian home and underwent all my childhood education at a Christian school. As a result, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have regular exposure to Scripture and theology on some level. During my teenage years, however, I was more interested in politics than theology. I entered college with the intention to go on to law school and then a political career. During those college years, I underwent serious discipleship from an older mentor who helped ground me in the truth of the Christian faith as well as the all-encompassing implications of a robust Christian worldview. I began reading deeper theology, which served to whet my appetite for more. As my faith in Christ grew and began to mature, the idea of vocational theology seemed more and more fitting. Near the end of my college education, I decided to apply to seminary instead of law school, a choice that has set my life on a much different trajectory than what I once envisioned. Throughout my seminary education, I was challenged and trained by a variety of brilliant professors who exemplified the rigor and beauty of theology as an academic pursuit. God used those years to instill in me a desire to be a witness in the academy and a servant to the Church, so it didn’t take long before I knew I wanted to go as far as I could with theological education.
2. What is your particular area of research?
In the broadest terms, my project aims to excavate a theme and a period that has been formative in the political theology of the modern West. Specifically, I am working with a unique Christian theory of resistance to authority called the doctrine of the lesser magistrate, which was first detailed in Magdeburg Confession of 1550. This doctrine teaches that when a ruler has become an incorrigible tyrant, he has abdicated his claim to legitimacy and relinquished his de jure status in exchange for that of a de facto magistrate. Consequently, those magistrates with lesser authority under him may defy and resist the illegitimate magistrate (and his unjust laws) for the sake of protecting others. For the embattled Protestant Reformation, the Magdeburg Confession became the embodiment of a theology of resistance allowing not only for a right to resist in certain circumstances, but a duty. In order to bring the doctrine into conversation with more recent political theory/theology, I am examining the socio-political and theological context and content of the Confession through a lens crafted from the biopolitical theory of philosopher Giorgio Agamben, whose homo sacer theory offers us a useful metanarrative about the abuse of political power in a fallen world. My purpose for this project is to excavate a theological/ethical understanding of submission and resistance for faithful Christian living in societies hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. How did you first become interested in this area in particular?
The intersection of Christianity and the state has intrigued me for a long time. Although I ultimately chose seminary over law school, I remained involved in the political arena for a few more years. While attending one seminary, I worked as a campaign manager and a legislative aide in my home state’s capital. I worked for some upstanding Christian people, but the longer I was behind the curtain, the more I became frustrated with the widespread abuse of power and lack of regard for truly good governance. Frankly, you don’t even need to work in government to see the Machiavellian bent of modern secular politics. Those experiences required me to start thinking more clearly and biblically about the God-ordained nature and role of authority as well as the ensuing dynamic between rulers and the ruled. I think my current research is the result of a long convergence between my interests in political theory and Christian theology.
4. How would like to see your scholarship impact the church today?