The Course

In this 3-unit course, "recent Christian thinking concerning the important issues facing the Church in the modern world [is] explored. Emphasis is placed on the twentieth century and today's Western, post-Christian culture" (Undergraduate Catalog). It meets the general studies requirement for "God's Word and the Christian Response." Prerequisites are CMIN 108, PHIL 220, UBBL 100, and UBBL 230 or equivalent.

This is an odd course to teach. The typical form of a course on "contemporary Christian thought" parades a list of notable theologians, most of whom are European, all of which (even the so-called "radicals") comfortably subsist in the narrow agenda of western academic theology. While the form has merits, this course will dispense with it. The Christian world looks less and less like the western Christian academy, and the two usually care very little about each other. It would only perpetuate the breach to honor the structures it has imposed upon both the school and the Church. (Those students who want exposure to the typical course form anyway have my permission to substitute David Ford's fine book The Modern Theologians, listed among the alternative readings, for Hans Frei's Types of Christian Theology.)

The undergraduate catalog unwittingly speaks volumes. First, the twentieth century is over. Second, Western, post-Christian culture is over too — not in the sense of being extinct, but in the sense of being doomed. That does not make either one unimportant for serious study, for the shadow of the twentieth century and the context of western post-Christianity are the location of our school and our churches. But they are receding, not approaching. Our location is an ever smaller part of the ever bigger picture.

Consequently we will look back to the twentieth century west as something we, even we, have passed through on the way to something new. We will try to learn the lessons of the past without letting them determine our present, let alone our future.

We will not dispense with the most ancient and holy form of Christian thought, which has always centered in the Church, and always moved beyond the Church into the world into which Jesus sent his apostles.

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