Monday, August 08, 2011

Introduction to Christian Theology

I've gone a little out of order, but eventually I'll put the courses in the order of our curriculum.  What I'm doing is summarizing the courses of Wesley at IWU's MDIV, and sharing a little of my dreams for some of the things pastors would take from the courses.

Pastor, Church, and World
Cultural Contexts of Ministry
Bible as Scripture

Now, our Introduction to Theology course:

I suppose the main thing I would hope students would take from this course is a knowledge and understanding of the key theological issues of Christian thinking, as well as the principle positions Christians throughout the centuries have taken on those issues.  I would hope that any professor would embody someone who has reached Wesleyan-Arminian (in the broader sense) conclusions while being warm hearted toward students from other traditions, presenting other ways of answering questions fairly and in a brainstorming type of way.

Special weight, I personally prefer, would be given to those positions that all Christians have come to hold in common throughout the centuries.  But the ability to think logically and coherently about faith in the light of new paradigms is important too.  For example, the Trinitarian statements of Nicaea were formulated at a time when understandings of the word "substance" were quite different from today (in the same way that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation originally rested on an Aristotelian definition of substance).  Does this fact mean that we might explore other ways of conceptualizing the unity of the Trinity today?

I thus see theology as a dialog between "the faith once delivered to the saints" (as a product of common Christian reflection on Scripture) and contemporary philosophical issues, and thus a dance of consensual and constructive theology with each other. I think the Wesleyan tradition affords a nice balance between catholic and Protestant.  We came through Anglicanism, so we can maintain a strong reverence for the common faith of the ages.  But we are also Protestant and thus consider the majority position subject to correction by the Spirit in reflection on Scripture.  And we are Wesley-an and thus are open to inputs from philosophy and experience.


Robert said...

I like to see ideas like the Trinity in their historical and cultural context. The Jews thought of 'extensions' of God, like the Logos and Wisdom, at work in creation. Theophilus of Alexandria developed the idea of the two of them (interpreted as being the Son and the Spirit) being 'vomited forth at the creation', and being like God's hands at work in it. Greeks then developed it into the Nicene doctrine. What if theology had developed in another culture; wouldn't we have ended up with something different?

Ultimately, we can't put God on the dissecting table and examine his internal structure; all this is human speculation. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn't, but what can we really say about God?

Robert said...

Sorry, Theophilus of Antioch. I wish you could edit posts!

FrGregACCA said...

Robert, by whatever means, including those you mention, God is self-revealed as being Trinitarian, and therefore, multi-personal, and therefore, the One eternal, archetypal community in whose image and likeness humanity is created, both as a species and as persons and is being re-created in a member of that Most Blessed Godhead, Jesus Christ, both God and human.

See John Zizioulas' "Being as Communion" for more.

John C. Gardner said...

What books are used in the Introduction to Christian Theology class?

Ken Schenck said...

John Drury, our resident theologian, chose Migliore's introductory text (Faith Seeking Understanding) and Timothy Tennent's Theology in the Context of World Christianity. Tennent is president of Asbury so all jokes about our curriculum being shallow should end at the cost of self-incrimination ;-)