Westmont College's Religious Studies Theology Core

I view our theology core as an extended introduction into the disciplined ways Christians think about the substance of our faith.

Among these "Christians" we should be open to including all those who appear from the perspective of Westmont's core constituencies to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, but here we should concentrate on thinkers who are near to us, influential for us, challenging to us, helpful to us, and important for us. By "disciplined ways" we should be open to including all the different styles of theology that serve the mission of this Church of Jesus Christ, but we should concentrate on certain styles in the same way as on thinkers. Similarly, what "the substance of our faith" means is subject to the same kind of breadth and focus.

Among these voices I consistently stress figures in the evangelical Reformed and Wesleyan traditions, the radical Free Church traditions, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Augustinian traditions, and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Because Westmont, I, and many of our students are products of the first three communities, our studies inevitably and happily lean their way. Because Roman Catholics are so numerous, so vibrant, and so neglected by most evangelicals, they receive special attention too. The same is true for theological voices often overlooked in the academy, such as Pentecostals from the rapidly growing churches of the southern hemisphere and other "local" theological communities. These have not always learned to play along with the peculiarities of academic vocabulary, political correctness, and Eurocentrism (both "conservative" and "progressive"), but they are a growing share of the actual communities of disciples that academic Christian theology ostensibly serves. Finally, there are theological voices beyond the Church, not just in universities but in synagogues, mosques, film studios, malls, Internet forums, corporate boardrooms, dining rooms, government offices, sports bars, and coffeehouses. Jesus engaged these interlocutors as often as the usual ones, and the remarkable liveliness of his teaching career owes much to those interactions. Here theology looks more wisely to Wesley than to Calvin, more to St. Francis than to St. Dominic.

I have left out until now the most important group of all: worshippers. For far too long theology has ignored its own ancient character as an exposition and norm of prayer, liturgy, and the life of discipleship. It so loves to teach in the streets and the outer courts that it tends to forget to appreciate or even visit the inner courts. As a result the disciplined thinking of theology has often become disconnected from the disciplined life of the Church. That distance brings ruin upon both. Whoever else we listen to, we must listen to the Holy Spirit who inspires our prayers and intercedes in them with sighs both truly ours and truly the Lord's.