The UChicago Theology Workshop

You are invited to our last meeting of the fall quarter next Tuesday, December 9, 12:00 – 1:20 pm in Swift 208 , co-sponsored with the Philosophy of Religions workshop.

Evan Kuehn (a Ph.D. candidate in Theology) will present his paper entitledFrom Postulates of Reason to Doctrines of the Faith: on Doing Theology after Kant.” Russell Johnson, a Ph.D. student in Philosophy of Religions, will respond.
Lunch will be served.

The abstract is below:

This paper will attempt to lay out some theses for the task of doing theology after Kant and in the spirit of his philosophical work. In particular, I am interested in the problem that faces any would-be Kantian theologian of how to offer a theological account of things like God, or the immortality of the soul, or human freedom. Kant sees these sorts of ideas as necessary postulates of reason which can, however, never become objects of knowledge for us. Yet in many cases, theologians do not consider ideas like these from such an epistemological remove. Ideas which according to Kant are merely regulatory for theoretical knowledge and at most objects of faith are, for theological inquiry, often treated as objects of knowledge. Can theology engage these objects (systematically, critically, and theoretically) as objects of theological knowledge without thereby abandoning the original Kantian framework of human knowledge limited to the categories of understanding? And what resources are available within Kant’s Critiques for dealing with these theological ideas as objects of theological knowledge?

Paper is available for download below, prior to the workshop.  Please do not cite or share.

Persons with disability who would request assistance, please contact us using the website form  in advance.  

EKuehn Workshop Paper

You are invited to our next meeting co-sponsored with the Animal Studies workshop. Please notice the (unusual) time and location: Monday, November 17, 4:30 – 6:30 pm in the Social Sciences Tea Room (SS201).

Carly Lane (from the Committee on Social Thought) will present her in-progress AAR paper entitled “‘The Starry Heavens Above Me and the Moral Law Within': Transcendentalism’s Claim Against Deep Ecology.”

The abstract:

I open this paper with a brief but sympathetic survey of the instincts and aims of Deep Ecology. I argue that on its own terms Deep Ecology can neither justify its necessity or make coherent progress on its own stated goals: Dismissing the ‘transcendent subject’ as so much metaphysics, and “anthropocentrism” as a moral/ecological threat, Deep Ecology undermines its own conditions of possibility. Turning to the very philosophical sources Deep Ecology understands itself against, I develop an account of the relatively-transcendent (which is to say responsible, undetermined, free) subject and her aesthetic-cum-ethical judgment. I show this form of judgment to be at work—albeit contradictorily—throughout Deep Ecology literature. Borrowing from Arendt, I defend the appropriateness of this form of judgment, not least for community formation and political action. I conclude by tracing the intimate relationship between this form of judgment and poetic thinking: As an exemplary alternative to Deep Ecology I proffer the poetic thought of Henry David Thoreau who sounds out his aesthetic-ethical judgments that we might be recalled to our humanity, in both society and the natural world.

Refreshments will be served.

You may download the preliminary version of the paper as well as Carly’s request for feedback here Carly Lane Workshop Presentation

Are you applying to Ph.D. programs this fall or considering applying in the future? Don’t miss the Applying to Ph.D. Programs in Theology event brought to you by the Theology workshop on Tuesday, November 4, 4:00 – 5:30 in the Common Room.  Our very own professor, Willemien Otten and Dwight Hopkins, seasoned application reviewers and mentors of doctoral students, will share their advice on navigating different aspects and writing effective Ph.D. program applications.  There will be ample time for Q&A.  Bring your questions!    Refreshments will be served.

You are cordially invited to a special meeting of the Theology workshop with Prof. Christine Helmer from Northwestern University on Tuesday, December 2, 4:00 – 5:30 in the Common Room (Swift Hall)  Prof. Helmer will lead a discussion of her brand-new book Theology and the End of Doctrine (Westminster John Knox Press, 2014).  The book uses historical theology (in particular, but not exclusively, the works of Luther and Schleiermacher, and mystical theology) to make a constructive proposal with regard to the future of theological inquiry.

Prof. Helmer is a senior scholar of academic theology.  In addition to her new work to be presented at the workshop, she wrote and edited eleven books, including The Global Luther: A Theologian for Modern Times (Fortress Press, 2009) and Schleiermacher and Whitehead: Open Systems in Dialogue (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2004).

The workshop will follow our regular format: a presentation by Prof. Helmer, followed by a brief response, with significant time reserved for discussion.  There is likely to be an opportunity to go out to dinner with Prof. Helmer after the workshop meeting.

Prof. Helmer asks that, if possible, workshop participants read chapter 2 and chapter 5 in preparation for the workshop to ensure a more stimulating discussion. Copies of Theology and the End of Doctrine are made available for sale at the campus Barnes & Nobles and the Seminary Coop.  Alternatively, the chapters are available for a free download (30-day trial) at You would need to create an account to enable download.

You are invited to the 2014 -2015 inaugural meeting of the Theology and Religious Ethics Workshop next Tuesday, October 7, 12:00 – 1:20 pm in Swift 106.

We will briefly introduce our vision for the workshop this year and highlight some exciting events we will be bringing to the Swift and the University community this quarter and beyond. That will be a great time for students interested in Theology to meet each other, socialize, and meet the relevant faculty. Lunch will be served.

For the feast of the mind, Daniel Owings (MA student in Theology) will present his paper entitled “Warranted Christian Belief? The Noetic Effects of Sin as a Warrant-Defeater for Alvin Plantinga’s Model of Knowledge of God.” David Barr, a Ph.D. student in Ethics will respond.

The abstract is below:

The paper is a critique of Alvin Plantinga’s “Reformed Epistemology,” which construes Christian belief as knowledge in the strict philosophical sense.  Essentially he argues that Christian belief, if true, constitutes warranted true belief; he admits that he cannot prove that the belief itself is true, but instead seeks to dispel the criticism of Christianity that “even if this is true, it’s so contrary to rationality that we have no reason to believe it.” Plantinga argues quite convincingly that we do  have good reason to believe that it is true, and that therefore if it is true, then it should qualify as knowledge insofar as it would be warranted true belief. My critique argues that Plantinga relies on Calvin’s concept of the noetic effects of sin to show that other belief systems do not constitute knowledge, but that these same noetic effects of sin should render his own beliefs so uncertain that they could not possibly be knowledge. Plantinga is correct in saying that his beliefs are not inherently irrational, but he goes too far in arguing that they are knowledge.

Aaron HollanderMonday, April 7, 2014 12:00 noon-1:25 pm Swift Hall, Room 200

Join us for a special joint session of the Theology Workshop and the Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium for Aaron’s Hollander’s paper, “A Heart Like Bright Water: Contemplating and Cultivating Holiness with the Theological Metaphor of Evagrius Ponticus”.

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