Archive for the ‘Theological education’ Category

Paul: A Pre- and Post-Test

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Just for fun, I started the semester with some version of the following true/false “pre-test” in my courses on Paul’s letters and theology, one in the (Catholic) seminary and the other in the Ecumenical Institute of Theology. Although I do not give final exams in either course, after a semester of study, it could make for an interesting essay or take-home exam. Each question is meant to be a bit of a trick question, or at least to have a twist or two.

1. Paul was a Christian.

2. Paul was a Jew.

3. Paul was converted after falling off a horse on the road to Damascus.

4. Saul changed his name to Paul after his conversion.

5. Paul wrote Romans.

6. Paul wrote Ephesians.

7. Paul wrote Hebrews.

8. Catholics like Jesus, but Protestants like Paul.

9. Paul was a misogynist.

10. The center of Paul’s thought, and his abiding contribution to Christian theology, is the doctrine of justification by faith.

Each question provoked a few minutes of give and take that made the “obvious” answers look  simplistic and the questions appear–rightly–more complicated than they seem at first.

Taizé Course

Monday, November 1st, 2010

As many people know, I am a huge Taizé “fan” and have been to the community in France seven times. I am excited to be teaching a course about Taizé next term (spring 2011). Following are the texts for the course:

Required Texts

1.      Jason Brian Santos, A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation. InterVarsity Press, 2008. ISBN13 978-0830835256.

2.      Kathryn Spink, A Universal Heart: The Life and Vision of Brother Roger of Taizé. SPCK/GIA, 2005 [1986]. ISBN13 978-1579995683.

3.      Brother Roger [Schutz] of Taizé, The Sources of Taizé: No Greater Love. GIA G-5363. ISBN-13: 978-1579990862(ISBN10 1-57999-086-X).

4. Marcello Fidanzio, ed., Brother Roger of Taizé: Essential Writings. Orbis, 2006. ISBN13 978-1570756399.

5.      Taizé. Seeds of Trust: Reflecting on the Bible in Silence and Song. GIA, 2005. GIA G-6719. ISBN13 978-1579-995386 (ISBN10 1-57999-538-1).

6.      “Songs and Prayers from Taizé.” GIA CD, 1995. B000003YKF

In addition to normal academic requirements (analytical essay, research paper, book review), students will use Seeds of Trust and the CD for daily prayer,  visit a Taizé prayer service, and write about these experiences.

I wonder if anyone else has taught such a course. The closest I have found thus far in a quick search is a pilgrimage course to Taizé offered at Drew’s theological school. I took students and others there once as part of a study trip course called “Courage and Conviction in Christian France.”

Why are 1,100 People Going to a Conference about N.T. Wright?

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Next Friday and Saturday the annual Wheaton College Theology Conference in Illinois will be devoted to the subject of N.T. Wright’s contributions to the study of Jesus (Friday) and Paul (Saturday). “A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright” will consist of a series of presentations by some of the world’s top biblical scholars and theologians, a panel with the presenters and Tom Wright each day, chapel with Tom preaching, and a concluding lecture each night by the good bishop.

Why are 1,100 people, including yours truly, attending? Why did 900 come to my seminary to hear him, and in the process buy $13,000 worth of his books in about a 24-hour period? He may well be the most widely and influential New Testament scholar of all time.

A few thoughts:

1. Bishop Tom is a first-rate historian, New Testament scholar, theologian, churchman, and rhetorician all rolled into one. He is the total package.

2. As an historian and interpreter of texts, he is enormously insightful in his analysis and creative in his synthesis.

3. He has almost boundless energy and is simply a spellbinding speaker. As one noted speaker said when introduced as the next presenter following the bishop’s magical presentation, “No one should have to follow Tom Wright on a program.” Amazingly, he can do what he does often with little time for preparation—for instance, a riveting lecture or sermon prepared in a few minutes early in the morning and delivered before the rest of us have begun to think for the day. As one good friend of mine says, it’s a question of theodicy, of the justice of God, that someone can do that.

4. He is sometimes traditional and sometimes progressive, and often both at the same time.

5. He brings theology and Scripture to life, making the connection between them and the role of Christians in the real world.

6. Finally (at least for now) he has helped to revolutionize and solidify our understanding of many things about Jesus and Paul and the mission of the church. That’s not to say anyone, including me, agrees with him all the time. But he must always be taken seriously.

What else about him is worth noting?

Brian McLaren (not) at Southern Seminary and at St. Mary’s

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Brian McLaren, the sometimes controversial emergent-church leader whose new book, A New Kind of Christianity, is really stirring up some elements of the church, will be speaking at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology of St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, my institution, this coming Monday.

He will be giving an all-day seminar entitled “Worship as Spiritual Formation and Preparation for Mission” and then, at 7:30 in the evening, a free public lecture entitled “The Gospel, the Postmodern Conversation, and the Church that is Emerging.” The seminar is quite full (on-site registration is possible, but it will not include lunch), but there should be plenty of room Monday evening.

Brian McLaren is a friend of mine, and he comes at my invitation. That does not mean I agree with everything he says. (I don’t agree with everything anyone says.) I have not yet read his new book, and I may find it troubling. I don’t know. But Brian is nothing if not two things: sensitive to postmodern culture and serious about understanding the meaning and consequences of the gospel.

Is he a theologian? Technically, no. Does he need some theological guidance? Probably. (We all do.) Does that make him a heretic?

Yesterday the President and four faculty members from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held a critical discussion of the book. Whatever you think of Brian McLaren, if you watch this video, you might want to ponder some questions about the nature of a panel book review (this one or any other):

1. Do the panelists attempt to summarize the content, argument, and purpose of the book objectively?

2. Is there diversity of perspective among the panelists?

3. Does the moderator moderate or dominate?

4. Is the tone of the panel appropriate to its context and function?

In any event, if you are in the Baltimore area, come on out Monday night!

What I am Teaching in Spring 2010

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Classes begin for me today, with the following lineup:

Pauline Spirituality for Church and Ministry, a course I first taught at Duke last spring. We will read some recent works on Paul’s spirituality, pastoral vision, ecclesiology, and counter-imperial theology:
—Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross
—Kent E. Brower and Andy Johnson, eds. Holiness and Ecclesiology in the New Testament
—James W. Thompson, Pastoral Ministry According to Paul: A Biblical Vision
—Richard A. Horsley, Paul and the Roman Imperial Order
—some articles by Kathy Grieb, Morna Hooker, and Beverly Gaventa

In addition, students will be doing some practical case studies and panel presentations on the intersection of these topics in Paul and in the life of the church.

The Book of Revelation and its Interpreters, which I have taught numerous times here and also taught at Duke last year. I only have three students, so it will be a small seminar, but very interesting: two of them are advanced students from Africa. Focusing on the text with them will help me finalize by little book on Revelation. The students will read the fantastic commentary by Mitchell Reddish and the fine theology of Revelation by Richard Bauckham.

The Cities of Paul and John, my bi-annual study tour to Turkey and Greece. We have 24 people going in February, and it is always a wonderful experience. (See the link to the right.) Reading includes parts of my Apostle of the Crucified Lord, the little commentary on Revelation by Gonzalez and Gonzalez, and the superb guide to biblical sites in Greece and Turkey by Mitch Reddish and Clyde Fant.

Bible Handbooks and Introductions

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

I am wondering what other folks have used, benefited from, and recommended in the way of handbooks of the Bible and introductions to each of the two Testaments—not necessarily textbooks, but they are not excluded. What would you recommend to the average young (or older) adult to be a companion? Not a book on hermeneutics or method, but on the Bible itself. (What prompted this was a query from a good friend who teaches a college- and career- class at his church.)

Let’s start with one-volume Bible handbooks and companions. Suggestions?

I very recently ran across a copy of The Complete Bible Handbook and Illustrated Companion, edited by John Bowker and published in 2001 by DK. Since I have regularly annotated such works here and there, I was surprised both that I did not know about it and that it was so good! I am now thinking of recommending or even requiring it for my students who are new to biblical studies. The team of contributors and editors is excellent, the text very historically responsible and theologically engaging, and the photos, etc. both lavish and helpful.

Rick Steeves and I in the Footsteps of Paul

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Not together, unfortunately.

I will be leading my fifth trip to Greece and Turkey, “The Cities of Paul and John,” February 11-21, 2010. It’s a great trip, and I am always eager to share my experiences (and Illume, the company I work with/for) with others. I am also usually able to take students from other institutions with me.

What about Rick Steeves?

Rick Steeves is a wonderful travel writer and travel documentary producer. He is also an active Lutheran. The following 40-minute video features Steeves following in Paul’s footsteps. Though not an academic resource, it includes commentary by biblical scholars, including Craig Koester, whose own web sites of his travels (here [Paul] and here [Revelation]) have great photos.

Source: ELCA Book of Faith web site.

Daniel Kirk Wrestling with Theological Interpretation

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Over at Sibboleth, Fuller’s Daniel Kirk is wrapping up (I think) a series on theological interpretation that has run most of July and is quite a good introduction to the issues. Daniel is juggling a number of issues—all prompted in this series by his review of Steve Fowl’s forthcoming book on the subject. It’s worth spending some time with the various posts. Today’s post, written after considering the debate about historical criticism within the theological interpretation of Scripture, is entitled “What if we’re all right?”

Romans Course Syllabus

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

I have made my decision about required readings for my fall 2009 course on Romans. Thanks to all who gave input some time back.

Required Texts
1. Michael J. Gorman, Reading Paul (Cascade, 2008)
2. Leader E. Keck, Romans (Abingdon NT Commentaries; Abingdon, 2005) (Richard Hays is also using this, with Tom Wright’s in the NIB, as a common commentary this fall.)
3. One additional (and longer) commentary, selected in consultation with the instructor, to be read in the library or purchased (student’s choice). Options will include Byrne, Cranfield, Dunn, Fitzmyer, Moo, Schreiner, Wright, etc.
4. J. R. Daniel Kirk, Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God (Eerdmans, 2008)
5. Several additional articles on the purpose, theology, and theopolitics (e.g. Georgi) of Romans.

Recommended Texts
1. Mark Reasoner, Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation (Westminster John Knox, 2005). Students will take turns reading and reporting on portions of this.
2. Michael J. Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers, revised and expanded edition (Hendrickson, 2009)

Course Requirements and Grading
1. Regular attendance, preparation of an exegetical notebook with annotations on the text of Romans, and appropriate participation in class discussions. 40%
2. Four brief (two-page) papers: 20%
3. Final paper: 40%

Epiphanius on Christian Books

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

“The acquisition of Christian books is necessary for those who can use them. For the mere sight of these books renders us less inclined to sin, and incites us to believe more firmly in righteousness.”—Epiphanius

(courtesy of Scott Savage at Two Empty Hands)