Investigation of a Theological Issue

I sometimes get e-mails from students who have been through my course asking me to weigh in on a theological issue: for instance, the salvation of people who have never heard the gospel, or the relationship between divine predestination and human freewill. While I am happy to help (albeit flaky in returning the e-mails), I wish these students could have researched the questions and answered them for themselves. The point of this course is after all to train you to think like Christians — to become disciplined theologians. This exercise is designed to give you practice doing so now, so that you can chase down answers later and teach others as Westmont graduates.

Choose a theological issue that engages you in some way. This may be a classic controversy or a relatively obscure matter; the choice is yours. Then research the issue, learning the major stances that have been taken within the Christian tradition. Assess their strengths and weaknesses. Don't just represent one side of a contested issue; consult advocates and represent multiple sides fairly and clearly. Finally, draw a provisional conclusion on the basis of what you have been learning, and defend that conclusion.

You may do this project individually or with one other student. (You may even wish to find another on a different side of a contested issue.) If you do this assignment with someone else, be sure to mention him or her in your workbook when you note early in the semester which issue you will be investigating.

You will need to consult secondary sources. The Bible is not enough: you need to become familiar with how different readings of the Bible have already shaped the issue. Some of these will need to be print resources.

I highly recommend using a theological dictionary or a 'companion to theology'. While your issue might not be named explicitly as an article, it will probably involve doctrines or movements that are. You will find other very helpful information in the reference section of the library, as well as in the library stacks, but I do not want this to become a full-fledged research paper.

Wikipedia is acceptable as a supplemental source, but not a main source. However, you may find it helpful as a source of leads that points you to relevant topics, figures, and secondary sources. I do not want to see Internet sources as your main references, though a few may be acceptable as supplemental ones.

Include a bibliography. If any of your work has already been done for another class or submitted for credit elsewhere, note it. You may not merely resubmit work you have already submitted for credit in another class.

The strongest answers will display a solid knowledge of the most dependable and relevant sources (biblical and traditional, past and present) on that issue, awareness of what is 'at stake', and sound theological judgment. Happy hunting!

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