Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Modern Theology Course?

Over the last week or so I have been thinking on the lines of what sort of course could introduce ordinary churchfolk to modern theology, to begin to bridge the gap said to exist between clergy and many in the laity. Such a course would have to be introductory and on voluntary adult education principles (that is a resource, a discussion, an activity possibly, and drawing on thoughts and experiences already existing) whilst providing information. If the course was a package, then there could be additional resources online that would also attract in others wishing to make use of the course.

Each topic would involve the questions: what issue/s were the theologians involved trying to tackle, what did they present (in much summary form) and what were the consequences of what they presented. This would be a theology course, and yet involve some background of, let's call it, theological sociology. These would be the headings of a course, biased towards England/ Europe with US theology input and somewhat Anglican too, but not exclusively (and updated):

  1. Introduction session
  2. Karl Barth - neo-Calvinism
  3. Emil Brunner - up and down
  4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer - on to secular theology
  5. Reinhold Niebuhr - pragmatism
  6. Paul Tillich - ultimate questions
  7. Rudolf Bultmann - demythologising
  8. Hans Kung - all rounder
  9. Modern theologians - summary
  10. Victorian Oxford Movement and after
  11. Victorian Evangelicalism and after
  12. Essays and Reviews
  13. Traditionalisms from the past (eg Thomist theology, Anselm, Puritans, etc.)
  14. Background and shadows - summary
  15. 1938 Church of England Doctrine Commission
  16. Honest to God and Debate - metaphors and mixing Bultmann, Tillich and Bonhoeffer
  17. The Myth of God Incarnate - meanings of myth
  18. Theology of David Jenkins - using Barth and Bonhoeffer
  19. Evangelical reactions - National Evangelical Anglican Congress (NEAC) 1967 and after
  20. Feminist theology - Sallie McFague and Rosemary Radford Ruether
  21. Faiths - John Hick and exclusivists, inclusivists, pluralists and universalists
  22. Postmodern theology - nihilist textualism and Radical Orthodoxy
  23. Movements summary
  24. Theological issues for the future
These 24 topic areas would cover at least a whole year (if not two) with some topics lasting two sessions. The trick of the course design - if possible - is to translate by resources complex theologies down to summary points and presentations around which folks could make their discussions and, if so moved, go off and do some of their own finding out. There would not be homework as such - just tasters of these all the way along the line so that people get a picture of theology through the twentieth century and where it has landed now.

Of course such a structure does lend itself to a more complex treatment, and such a course could have a higher level method too. Each week someone makes a short presentation followed by discussion, and during the course half way through can ask each person to do a little writing on a subject of interest at which sessions are made available for presentation and discussion. The best way to do this in a church setting would be on a rerun of the structure but using deeper resources and tackling the issues again having done the basic course right through. Indeed the structure allows for continuing education, multiple runs and specialisation into one or two topics.


Doorman-Priest said...

No room for Moltmann?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I knew this would happen. The idea is to inform people who are aware of Robinsons, Jenkins, Cupitt, and put them into context. You get the background in the modern theologians, and the background to the background, and the controversies, and some around, and the ways to the future.

Mystical Seeker said...

Well, for what it's worth, I was noticing that process theology (Hartshorne, Cobb, Griffin) does not seem to be on the list either. I guess everyone can nitpick about their favorite theologian not being included on that list, of course.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Elsewhere has come the comment of no post-colonial theology, no after the holocaust theology, no liberation theology, and that this is as comprehensive as high level training in spread...

The idea is that we have these controversies in the recent past, and that there are main signposts and backgrounds, and it is a rather narrow English perspective too, and I was thinking I could take Emil Brunner out (a moderating of Barth) and even Niebuhr - but these are individuals who've set up the modern perspective...

It could be fiddled with all over the place of course.

I suppose there needs more place for science, politics, world, even ecology (though partly in Sallie McFague), and the experience of loss of deity (as in holocaust, modern thinking). This is a two year programme!

I welcome these comments. I'll do a revised list later, I think.