Final Exam Review

This course has been structured around four big stories in contemporary Christian thought: division and reconciliation among denominations (Newbigin), the long conversation and conflict with modernity (Olson and Frei), worldwide demographic upheavals (Jenkins), and overarching confessional stability (Catholic Catechism). Each of these stories is by nature different from the others. Constructing a final exam out of their material is nearly as daunting a task as preparing for and taking it.

One of my favorite reasons for having a final exam is to ensure that students go through the material one more time just to etch it more firmly in your awareness. Another is to force students to do it all at once, so you can see the 'big picture' that has been unfolding over the course of the semester. These are still my main reasons for having a final, but I realize with you that the nature of these stories and the differences among the readings makes both efforts particularly difficult, especially the latter.

To avoid getting bogged down, you will need to appreciate some basic distinctions among these books.

Newbigin, Frei, and Jenkins are each developing one main thesis. The details serve that main thesis. You will be ready for this test when you can articulate that thesis in, say, one short paragraph, and when you can appreciate how every chapter in each book finds its place in the book's broader argument. I do not expect you to learn these texts at a level of detail smaller than the chapter level.

Olson and the Catechism are different. They are relating unwieldy bodies of information that are hard to generalize. They organize those details into broader categories, but the broader categories do not really become theses of their own, let alone one main thesis. Reviewing these is a fundamentally different task. Regarding Olson, you will be ready for the test when you are generally familiar with the substance and significance of each of the broad movements and main figures (e.g., Barth, Schleiermacher, fundamentalism, eschatological theology) so that you can give me a sentence or two on each movement/figure, and a short paragraph articulating the main story of each of the four chapters.

There is a lot more in the Catechism. Thus your knowledge of these things can be a little more casual. The good news here is that each section ("article") closes with a summary 'in brief'. The bad news is that there are still around a hundred of these! But be not afraid: The first paragraph in each is a summary of the summary, and the following paragraphs just unpack it. Furthermore, some sections are clearly more important than others. This is more doable than it at first appears. You will be ready for the test when you are familiar enough with the substance and significance of the Catholic teachings in, say, the forty most important 'in brief' summaries that you can answer a pretty straightforward true/false question about it.

I hope that scales down the volume of material to manageable levels, and focuses your attention to each text in a helpful way.

In both cases, I think you will find the student presentations helpful as you review, not necessarily as authoritative summaries but at least as starting points.

Expect a test with true/false questions on the catechism and perhaps on Olson, multiple choice questions on every text but the catechism, and a few fill-in-the-blank questions on only the most key terms from every text but the catechism. There will be no essay or short-answer questions. We will both take it and grade it in class.

(I curve the scores in a way that corrects for the fact that I sometimes ask difficult questions. However, I do not have a preconceived picture of how many A's, B's, C's etc. I will give out. You are not competing with each other for a limited supply of good grades. We are all on the same team!)

(Back to Schedule)