Vision and Goals

I believe God sees this course as a fellowship. We are a team brought together for a season of growth through mutual training, challenge, equipping, and discipline. All these serve the ends that every participant attain new and lasting appreciation for the theological beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ, and every participating follower of Jesus gain new and lasting skill in the Church's practices of theological reflection.

More specifically, the course intends its participants:

  • To hear and understand the good news of the Kingdom of God that has arrived in Jesus Christ. This involves grasping the centrality of Jesus Christ and his gospel to Christian worship, doctrine, and life.
  • To work together as colleagues in Christian liberal arts education in a fellowship whose relationships and tasks embody the Kingdom. These tasks require and foster strengthened academic discipline, particularly regarding good writing, listening, and critical reading.
  • To gain opportunities to respond to that good news by becoming more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. In the context of this particular class, they manifest themselves in active corporate and personal engagement with the discipline of orthodox Christian theological enquiry. In the wider context of the Christian faith, a positive response entails full commitment to Jesus as crucified and risen Lord: Son of the Father, Way to eternal life, redeemer of the world, King of all kings, firstfruits of the new creation, giver of the Holy Spirit, head of the Church, and final judge.
  • To become familiar with the historical, theological, ecclesial, and biblical shape of the Christian tradition that conserves, pursues, and deepens its appreciation of the Kingdom. Historically this means weighing various Christian communities' visions of the identity, character, and work of the God of Jesus Christ in the world's creation, redemption, and perfection. Ecclesially it involves deliberate efforts to connect Christian theology with Christian practice, centering both on the life of the worshipping Church. Biblically, it means gaining facility in faithful, responsible, imaginative Christian biblical practices.

I describe the general objectives of all my courses in my rules of the game.

A group of my colleagues from other disciplines formulated the following list of aspirations for this course: "We want our students to be able to reason about their faith, and then be able to apply their reasoned faith to all other disciplines and to all areas of their lives. We want students to recognize ways in which this reasoned faith is both biblically based and historically located. We want to acquaint students with both the basic grammar of theology and the complexities of its syntax in competing theological traditions. We want students to know that theology is both a useful and a limited tool. (For example, each model of the atonement seems to contribute something to our understanding of the crucifixion, but no one model of the atonement seems completely to account for the mystery of the crucifixion.) We want to deconstruct less thoughtful theologies that students may bring with them, but only to help them reconstruct more thoughtful and durable theologies." To this I say, Amen.

You are about to discover the Christian tradition to a depth you cannot now appreciate – and maybe discover yourself as well, for you are about to encounter the deepest mysteries of our faith. Some of these have taken centuries to unfold to the Church's satisfaction; others remain unsolved to this day, waiting for some faithful community of disciples (including you?) to describe the faith in new and clarifying ways. You are about to spend a decent chunk of your brief life training in the practices of intellectual discipleship through which the Church has proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ, bringer of the Holy Spirit and witness to the infinite love of God the Father.

You and I are also about to do a whole lot of work, because while the power to do these things is God-given, they don't come easily.

Course
Vision
Reading
Tasks
Schedule
MATERIALS
Rules of the Game
A Few (Strong) Suggestions on Essay Writing
Pointers for Presentations
Peer Review Guidelines
Review Form (PDF)