Sunday, 17 August 2008

Theology Course

Some months back I referred to a theology course I wanted to do. It is still very much under production, but the first ones have been done. Online is a syllabus page that is basically a menu, but they are all individually listed under theologians in the Learning/ Religion area. the resource paper for each and a summary only, the actual course has questions and clarifications, and a task. There will be some piloting of some of these, and this activity will be part of the St Mary's In-Depth Theology Group. The idea is that such a course is accessible to any reasonably intelligent church person, and that such theology should not be the preserve of academia. It may be, however, that I am not the best person to do it, or that this goal is an impossibility, because the material remains at too high a level. Still, without trying we won't know.

The first session just introduces theology and ethics, but then we get to a sort of starting point for modern theology, which is nineteenth century liberalism, where theology took from other emerging academic specialities and understandings, such as history as progress and social science. When you listen today to evangelicals going on about liberals, those who are called liberal usually follow some theology or combination that was set by the modern theologians that was actually anti-liberal. It was not just Karl Barth who was anti-liberal: they all were, but all then accepted biblical criticism and academic knowledge. Things have become so backward that what was not liberal is now counted as liberal: the moderns rejected subsuming theology with culture and produced a protected area for a theological essence.

My own position in this is irrelevant for the course, other than a desire to open up theology: but for the course I just work out the theologies and see how they connect. As it happens, as regards the moderns and before, my own position is probably closest to that of Ernst Troeltsch, who was a liberal in every sense, although mine is updated; of his sociology of religion categories applied to the Churches (and indeed theology) my stance would be that of his oft forgotten 'Mysticism', a post-Enlightenment individualist approach to religious belief in a setting of a voluntary collection of people who come together for religious practice. I'd modify this slightly towards using a pathway liturgy and received tradition, but not much.

Here is the list as it now exists, and is subject to change as it goes along.

  1. Ethics and Doing Theology Today
  2. Mainly Nineteenth Century Theological Liberalism (Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Harnack, Troeltsch)
  3. What Became Narrative Theology: Karl Barth (1886-1968)
  4. Towards God and Secular Theology: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
  5. Theological Correlation: Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich (1886-1965)
  6. Demythologising and Keeping a Distinctive Christianity: Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976)
  7. Pragmatism and the Supreme Sacrificial Ethic of Jesus: Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
  8. Modern Theologians - Building Blocks
  9. Anglican Controversy: Essays and Reviews
  10. 1938 Church of England Doctrine Commission
  11. Honest to God and Debate - Metaphors and Mixing Bultmann, Tillich and Bonhoeffer
  12. The Myth of God Incarnate - Meanings of Myth
  13. Theology of David Jenkins - using Barth and Bonhoeffer
  14. Traditionalisms from the past (eg Thomist theology, Anselm, Puritans, etc.)
  15. Victorian Oxford Movement and Evangelicalism
  16. Evangelical reactions - National Evangelical Anglican Congress (NEAC) 1967 and after; the rise of fundamentalism
  17. Comprehensive: Hans Kung
  18. After the Shoah and a Theology of Suffering: Jurgen Moltmann
  19. Theologies of Liberation with Politics and Radical Education
  20. Eco-Feminist theology: Sallie McFague and Rosemary Radford Ruether
  21. Classics and Conversation: David Tracy
  22. Faiths: John Hick and Exclusivists, Inclusivists, Pluralists and Universalists
  23. Real Absence and Back to Transcendence: Raw, Cold Theology and the Poet
  24. Postmodern Theology: Nihilist Textualism and Radical Orthodoxy
  25. Theological Issues for the Future


Adam B said...

How would/will you provide the context for the rise of liberalism in 19c? Or are you assuming your students will possess at least a cursory knowledge of church history and/or historical theology? Does Pelikan's work, particularly on doctrinal development, play a part in this course? Also, is there space for catholic or E. orthodox thinkers like Rahner or Ware?

Just curious. This looks like a fascinating course, but the names in the syllabus are predominantly protestant...

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

The course is quite limited in scope; it has to start somewhere, and not keep going back (I haven't touched latitudinarianism for example) and indeed it is Western, Protestant and Anglican mainly - some touches elsewhere. The real problem is that the folks have little knowledge and this is too high a level. The In-Depth Group has existed for some time, and in recent years presented by someone very liberal (Spong and all that) and so I am picking it up there.

I am hoping that Rahner gets a look in after the Anglican controversies, but Kallistos Ware I'm not sure about. Perhaps there should be a space fitted in somewhere, but it would only be brief.

We have a go early in September when the group will treat some sessions of the course as if it is running and also to criticise it. So I shall see what they say. It may not even be a runner if it is too complicated.