This fall I’m teaching Introduction to Theology at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Over the past decade, I’ve taught about a dozen different courses at half-a-dozen different schools. I’ll say that halfway into the semester, this is one of my favorites. I’ve been loving the task of introducing incoming seminary students to the richness of the theological task.
Having queried existing students at UTS about their experiences, I got the sense that they were well versed on contemporary contextual theologies (feminist, black, liberation, queer), but maybe weren’t so informed about the overall landscape of theology. Mine is a hybrid course — meeting half online and half in-person, with three all-day sessions, separated by a month. That meant that the course naturally divided itself into three parts.
Traditionally, those three parts would have been trinitarian in nature, encompassing what seminary profs like to consider the three volumes of the theological encyclopedia. When I took my three required classes in systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary back in the day, they broke down along these very lines:
- The Doctrine of God (plus doctrines of creation, scripture, revelation, and anthropology)
- The Doctrine of Christ (plus all corollary doctrines, like atonement and soteriology)
- The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (plus ecclesiology and eschatology)
While that traditional formation is a bit too traditional and parochial for a place like United, I still felt that the students needed a grounding in this formulation. So I broke the course down with this this in mind.
The first-third of the course focused on theological method.
The second-third of the course is focusing on the traditional theological encyclopedia above.
And the final third of the course will focus on the various contextual theologies that populate the theological landscape today.
You can see the list of assigned texts HERE.
We’re in the middle of the course now, and some of the students are struggling with the Migliore text. United has a broad range of students, some of whom reject the doctrine of the Trinity and/or the divinity of Christ. The inspiration of the Bible is also a contentious topic. Being that I’m on the side of Migliore on all three of those issues, I expect some robust conversation in class next Monday.
In a week’s time, after we’ve gotten through Migliore, we will turn our attention to the array of contextual theologies on today’s theological landscape. This has long been the strength of United, and the students will get lots more of these theologies in their years in seminary. I propose only to give a sketch of what’s out there, hoping that the students will have a sense of the breadth of the field before they begin to narrow their sights on a particular perspective that suits them.
I went two different ways on this part of the course. For an introduction to Black Theology, I chose a classic text: James Cone’s God of the Oppressed. But for Feminist Theology, I instead chose a brand new book that contains no less than 28 voices. New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views is a collection of chapters that represents the very broad and diverse number of theologians working in and shaping the field. The book is made up of five thematic sections:
- Feminist Theological Visions
- Feminist Scriptural Insights
- Feminist Ethical Agendas
- Feminist Liturgical and Artistic Frontiers
- Feminist Ministerial Challenges
I’m usually gun-shy about multi-author books, but this one serves its purpose well, introducing students to the various — and sometimes competing — claims within feminist theology. If you’re looking for a primer on the latest in that field, you can’t do better than this book.