The UChicago Theology Workshop

20130926_162824Monday, December 2, 2013 12:00 noon-1:30 pm Swift 106

Join us for Barnabas Pusnur’s paper, “Narsai and the theological articulation of Identity”.

Narsai was a fifth century Syriac Christian theologian who wrote homilies in poetic form.He lived at the cultural and geographical boundaries of the Roman and Persian Empires. The paper attempts to study Narsai’s theological articulation of identity in relation to his historical context.
Evan Kuehn will be responding.

Berhan Selassie (1)

Monday, November 18, 2013 12:00 noon-1:30 pm Swift 106

Join us for Andrew DeCort’s paper, “”Authority, Martyrdom, and the Question of Axiality in Ethiopian Political Theology””

This paper will (i)  briefly converse with Bellah’s description of sacral kingship and the transition to ‘axiality’ in his Religion in Human Evolution; (ii) show how early Ethiopian Axumite civilization was essentially a sacral kingship; (iii) argue that this basic understanding of authority didn’t change substantially with the Christianization of Ethiopia in the fourth century under Ezana and following to the medieval period; and (iv) investigate to what extent Abba Estifanos should or should not be understood as one of the first clear cases of “axiality” in Ethiopian politico-religious history (in short, Estifanos challenged the emperor Zara Yaqob based on a notion of ‘divine law’ that transcended royal law and the king’s claim to represent God). As a final step (v) I will make some remarks about the ongoing relevance of this medieval martyr and his ‘school’ for contemporary Christian theology in Ethiopia confronted by political oppression and the temptation to retreat into political silence. In short, I will be making the claim that Christian theology in Ethiopia, among other things, should – and periodically has – challenge(d) prevailing notions of authority with a constructive vision of ‘martyrdom’ (which doesn’t simply mean dying).


Evan Kuehn will respond. You can find the paper here (UChicago ID and password needed). Please feel free but not obligated to read the paper in preparation. Please email contact if you are not a University of Chicago affiliate but would like to look at the paper in preparation for the workshop meeting.


A light lunch will be served.



Shannon Craigo-Snell, “Performing Epistemologies of Resistance”

Wednesday, November 13, 4:30-6pm, University of Chicago Divinity School, Swift Lecture Hall


The theme of Alternative Epistemologies raises the question: alternative to what? This presentation explores two different accounts of modern epistemology and its discontents. The first, articulated in feminist theory, implicates the drive to singularity in modern thought. It critiques the judgment that there is a single path to an objective, universal truth. The second, articulated in performance theory, analyzes the role of the written word in colonialism, identifying political imperatives and implications of text-based knowledge. Taken together, these distinct accounts offer insights into epistemology as a possible arena for political resistance.


Shannon Craigo-Snell is Professor of Theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the Faculty Director for the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Her published works include Silence, Love, and Death: Saying “Yes” to God in the Theology of Karl Rahner (Marquette, 2008) and Living Christianity: A Pastoral Theology for Today, which is co-authored with Shawnthea Monroe (Fortress, 2009). More of her work on theology and performance will be found in her forthcoming book, The Empty Church: Theatre, Theology, and Hope (Oxford,  2014).


Elsa-Marty (1)
Monday, November 4, 2013 12:00 noon-1:30 pm Swift 106

Join us for Elsa Marty’s paper, “Inculturation or Christian Unity? Competing Visions for the Church among Lutheran Adivasis in Chotanagpur (India)”

The Lutherans in the Chotanagpur region of North India are predominantly adivasi (indigenous) and come from many different tribes. Since 1977, they have been divided into two churches: the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church (GELC) and the North-Western Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church (NWGELC). These two churches emphasize different aspects of Christian community. The GELC focuses on Christian unity and is comprised of members from all of regional tribes. The NWGELC was formed in 1977 by members from the Oraon tribe and stresses the importance of inculturation and contextualization. This paper explores the difficulty of “inculturating” into a multi-cultural community and various visions of Christian unity in such an environment.

Rick Elgendy will respond.

A light lunch will be served.

We recommend that you read the paper in advance of the workshop; you can find it here. If you are planning on attending the workshop and are not affiliated with the University of Chicago, please email to request access to the paper.



Sojung KimMonday, October 21, 2013
12:00 noon-1:30 pm
Swift 106

Join us as Sojung Kim kicks off our workshop this year with her paper, “Theopoetic and Vernacular: The Languages of Suffering People.”

In this paper Sojung will discuss the political and liberation theological movement in the 20th century by dealing with Metz, Moltmann, Soelle, Gutiérrez, and Cone.

She will compare how these theologians distinctly challenged the limitation of modern theological discourse and emphasized the importance of people’s language in Theology

Julius Crump will respond.

A light lunch will be served.


Join us Monday, October 7 (Week 2) for our first meeting of the new academic year!

We’ll be gathering for lunch to introduce the Theology Workshop, and offering a time for students and faculty interested in Theology to socialize and address questions about the coming year.

Lunch is cosponsored by the Theology Club.
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The Theology Workshop is pleased to be co-sponsoring, with the Late Antiquity & Byzantium Workshop, a presentation by Aaron Hollander, PhD student in Theology. The paper is entitled “Paradox and Wonder: The Catastrophic Holiness of Saint Symeon the Fool, and will be submitted as the orals statement for Aaron’s qualifying examination in the Autumn.

Tuesday, May 28th * 4:30 – 6:00 pm * Cochrane-Woods Arts Center, Room 152

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The Theology Workshop warmly invites you to participate in the capstone event of our spring quarter sequence, “Imagining Evil.” Professor Jean-Luc Marion and Professor Paul Mendes-Flohr, distinguished members of the Divinity School faculty, will join us to lead a dialogue on “the logic of evil” in modernity.

Tuesday, May 21st

4:30-6:00 pm (with reception to follow)

Swift Hall Common Room (first floor)

Marion: Evil begins with experiences of injury and injustice, then leads either to revenge or to resentment. So it is more about my own identity than the other. Its logic leads eventually to ideological or physical suicide.

Mendes-Flohr: Jean-Luc Marion’s meditation on “the logic of evil” seems to call into question the prophetic injunction to transcend our personal suffering and identify compassionately with that of the disinherited members of society, and to “Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the cause of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). But what empowers the prophetic ethos? Certainly it is not a mere altruistic consciousness, or a version of the Kantian ethical imperative. Our readiness to heed the prophetic calling, as Marion suggests, is often crippled by personal woe, ressentiment, and the anguish engendered by the witness to the enormity of the evil that surrounds us—captured by reference to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Biafra, and 9/11. Perhaps one may take counsel from the biblical and rabbinic authors who acknowledge that the prophetic ethos alone is insufficient, for it is to be animated by the divine pathos.

This event is free and open to the public. No advance preparation is expected of participants. Persons with a disability who would request assistance, please contact Aaron in advance at


Please join the Theology Workshop for the next in our series of discussions on “Imagining Evil,” on Tuesday, May 14th, 12:00-1:30 pm, in Swift 200. Ekaterina Lomperis, PhD student in Theology, will present her upcoming conference paper, entitled “Faithful Medics, Faithful Patients:  Non-Idolatrous Health Care in Martin Luther’s Theological Writings.” Tim Hiller, PhD candidate in Theology, will respond. Lunch will be served.


Is there a religiously appropriate way for a Christian medical caretaker to conceive of her work of helping others heal?  Does her offering preventative care or human-designed medical intervention to help sick Christians signify the lack of trust on part of both the doctor and the patient in God’s benevolence and healing power?  What are the ultimate ends towards which Christian medical care should be practiced?  The paper examines theological responses to these concerns as found in the works of Martin Luther. Informed by his perpetual worry about idolatry in Christian living and humans’ susceptibility to the deceits of the Devil, Luther’s theology of medical care addresses the proper regard of sickness by both patients and caretakers, affirmative view of medical care, and Christian doctors’ due understanding of their work as a self-sacrificial rather than gainful service.  Yet Luther’s ultimate concern was with the doctor and the patient’s internal dispositions towards the enterprise of healing rather than with external actions of curing.  For Luther, maintaining an attitude of hope in God alone, and withstanding the temptation of alternatively putting one’s trust in the effectiveness of medical science, while offering and receiving medical care, is a matter of greater importance than the material outcome of medical intervention.  Otherwise, both the healer and the healed risk falling into the trap of dangerous idolatries of self-reliance and the foolish lust for wellbeing.  My paper will demonstrate that such spiritual dangers, in a world deadly stricken by sin, are, for Luther, graver threats than the harm of physical sickness.

No preparation is expected of workshop participants. Persons with a disability who would request assistance, please contact Aaron in advance at

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