The UChicago Theology Workshop

Welcome to the Spring 2012 Theology Workshop! The theme around which this quarter’s conversation will orbit is “Theopraxis,” or theology as it bridges the putative theory/practice divide. We will be inquiring into what is gained by describing certain nonverbal or transverbal forms of cultural production as theologically inflected in a particularly intrinsic way, that is, as “theopractical.” More on the theme below, but first, an event to kick us off in style: a performance of one of the greatest and (conveniently enough) most theologically inflected works of music in history, the “Matthäuspassion” of Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

 

Bach’s St. Matthew Passion

Rockefeller Memorial Chapel

Sunday, April 1, 3:00 pm


 

The Rockefeller Chapel Choir and Orchestra and Motet Choir, directed by James Kallembach, will perform Bach’s beloved masterpiece, with Matthew Anderson, Evangelist, and with Hyun Suk Jang, soprano, Lon Ellenberger, alto, Matthew Dean, tenor, and Andrew Schultze, bass.

*Student tickets are available at the door for $5 w/ID.*

For non-student tickets in advance, go to Brown Paper Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/212858 ($23.50). See http://rockefeller.uchicago.edu/ or contact Eden Sabala (unaffiliated with the workshop) at esabala@uchicago.edu for more information.

 

Spring Quarter Theme: Theopraxis 

For much of religious history, the discourses that we might today identify as “theological” were carried out bypractitioners of specific traditions, as practices related to the goals and orientations of religious life. For instance: in several ascetic strains of Christianity, “theology” is named the truest form of prayer and an essentially post-verbal activity; the three primary yogas of the Bhagavad Gita position “god-talk” as precipitation from the practices of individual and collective transformation. However, since the advent of the university, there has been a gradual shift toward theology as an academic or scientific discipline carried out by specialists. It is often presented as a second-order discipline, interpreting and reflecting upon religious belief and practice, or even a third-order discipline—interpreting and reflecting on the history of theological discourse itself!

Inspired by work in 20th century philosophy that presents philosophy not as a purely second-order discipline but as a “way of life,” we are asking how theology also might bridge or circumvent the putative theory/practice divide. The constellation of relevant conversation topics could include: How might the ascetic orientation of earlier theology be usefully recovered? Can the production of theology be liberative or contemplative, and can it be such within the context of a 21st century secular university such as the University of Chicago? How might we fruitfully approach nonverbal or transverbal forms of theological activity—is it possible to understand as “theopraxis,” for example, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the struggle for civil rights, the mapping of the human genome, or the playing of Bach’s music?

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Watch this space for updates on our biweekly series, beginning April 9th with Sam Shonkoff, PhD Student in History of Judaism, presenting on “HalakhahHabitus and Embodied Theology in Judaism.”

For the final workshop of this winter quarter’s “Reckoning with Scriptures” series, we are delighted to welcome Professor Michael Fishbane, Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies in the Divinity School and the College. The event is co-hosted with the Jewish Studies & Hebrew Bible Workshop, and will be held at 12:00, Monday, March 5th, in Swift 106.

Professor Fishbane will present a latest perspective on his highly-acclaimed work of contemporary theology, Sacred Attunement (2008), considering the role of ethics within the text and reflecting, phenomenologically, on the ethical dimension of attunement as he has defined it. As we move to the discussion segment of the workshop, the significance of such an ‘ethics of attunement’ to our broader constructive theological concerns and methods will also be in view.

We will have two respondents, to launch and help guide the conversation:

-Sam Shonkoff, PhD Student in History of Judaism

-Carly Lane, PhD Student in Social Thought

A version of Professor Fishbane’s presentation, which is soon going to publication (and so is not for distribution or citation), will be available for us to read in advance through the Theology Workshop listserve.

Lunch will be provided.

Any persons with a disability who believe they may require assistance, please contact Aaron Hollander in advance at athollander@uchicago.edu

 

As we near the end of our Winter Quarter programming around the theme of “Reckoning with Scriptures,” the Theology Workshop has lined up two special events bringing together faculty, students, and six (6!) disciplines within and beyond the Divinity School. The first of these is a panel discussion on “Scriptures at the Faultlines,” Monday, February 20th, 12:00-1:30 pm, in Swift 106. 

In what ways does the presence of authoritative scriptures linger in supposedly secular spaces? How is scriptural authority negotiated among communities who do not share a common canon? Whose scriptures are they anyway, and who gets to appeal to them, and what are the ethics of doing so? Are debates about scriptural interpretation really about other things? Are debates about other things really about scriptural interpretation?

What these questions have in common is that they deal with the presence of scriptures at the boundaries between spaces with differing religious emphases or levels of authority, such as between religious communities in a common political body or natural watershed, between differing social norms within particular religions, or between exegesis and other forms of reasoning in the academy—all of which may or may not (or may not yet) be sites of conflict.

This panel will engage with how habits of reasoning, narrative motifs, and ethical priorities effervesce from the history of textual interpretation into a broad array of public interactions and spaces. Such patterns of scriptural logic may be explicitly “used” to strengthen the claims or behavior of agents, or they may be invisible and unvoiced—but no less informative.

Our guests for the panel are:

-William Schweiker, Director of the Martin Marty Center and Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School – reflecting on the general hermeneutical method that he has developed and used in order to deploy the “five dimensions” of theological ethics, in relation to scriptural claims and their potential orientation for the responsible life. In contrast to other “methods,” especially the approach of “scriptural reasoning” and the so-called method of correlation, he will contend that the method developed more adequately articulates and analyzes the structures of lived reality and therefore is important in addressing the interface between ethical and theological claims.

-Kristel Clayville, PhD Candidate in Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School – reflecting on the use and suspicion of Scripture in environmental ethics. She will focus particularly on the work of Holmes Rolston III, whose  argument for the preservation of endangered species as presented both philosophically and as an extension of Scriptural logic — thus overriding the typical binary between espousal and eschewal of scripture in this hotly contested field.

-Rachel Watson, PhD Student in Religion & Literature, University of Chicago Divinity School – reflecting on her research into the recent explosion of material (popular cultural, mass media disseminated, and academic) on the Gospel of Judas, part of the Codex Tchacos uncovered in Egypt in the 1970s and recently re-announced to the world in 2004. She will make a case that the introduction of this text as a “lost gospel,” one that was immediately put into conversation — if not competition — with other early Christian texts, sheds significant light on the contemporary discussion of and anxiety about ancient texts.

After presenting their reflections from the vantage of these three contested contemporary faultlines of scriptural application, our panelists will join in discussion with workshop participants in regard to the interpretive bases on which such patterns of use are founded, considering what criteria might be applied to evaluate them.

No preparation is expected of workshop attendees. Lunch will be provided. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance, or anyone with further questions, please contact Aaron Hollander at athollander@uchicago.edu.

The Theology Workshop cordially invites you to our upcoming workshop with Marsaura Shukla, PhD Candidate in Theology, Monday, February 6th at 12:00, in Swift 201.

“Reading and Revelation in Hans Frei and David Tracy”

Most maps of theology in the twentieth century, particularly theology in North America, would include the delineation of revisionist theology and postliberal theology as mutually exclusive, opposed options in theological method. Marsaura’s presentation begins to challenge the contours of this received map through a comparison of David Tracy and Hans Frei, preeminent figures in revisionist and postliberal theology, respectively. She will show that, for all their differences, both Tracy and Frei posit the reader-text relationship as the site and even in some sense the source of revelation, and elevate the activity of reading to the position of definitive religious activity.

This article is forthcoming in the Scottish Journal of Theology, and will be revised for use on the job market. Please come lend your support and insight!

Herbert Lin, 3rd year PhD student in Theology, will respond. The paper will be available through the Theology Workshop listserve, but no advance preparation is expected. Lunch will be provided.

Persons with disabilities who may need assistance, or with any other questions, please contact Kyle Rader at kgr@uchicago.edu.

The Theology Workshop is pleased to be able to co-sponsor an exciting event with the Lumen Christi Institute. This Thursday, February 2 at 7:15 PM, Prof. John Cavadini from the University of Notre Dame will give a lecture entitled “The Grand Design: An Augustinian Reply to Stephen Hawking.” The event will be held in Social Sciences 122.

Stephen Hawking has recently declared that philosophy is dead, and that science is the only reasonable method for securing knowledge. In response, Professor Cavadini will argue that philosophy is rooted in man’s wonder about the universe, and that scientific inquiry is only one aspect of true wisdom and should not be privileged over others.

John Cavadini is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in patristic and early medieval theology, the theology of Augustine, and the history of biblical and patristic exegesis. He has published extensively in these areas, as well as in the theology of miracles, the life and work of Gregory the Great, and the theology of marriage.

This event is free and open to the public. For Directions, visit:  http://maps.uchicago.edu/mainquad/social.html

Persons with disabilities requiring assistance, please call 773-955-5887

The Theology Workshop cordially invites you to participate in the upcoming workshop with Andrew DeCort, 2nd year PhD student in Religious Ethics, on Monday, January 23rd, 12:00-1:30 PM, in Swift 201.

 

“Theology as Freedom: Scripture, Sovereignty, Creationality, and Civilization”

 

In his presentation, Andrew will analyze two competing logics surrounding Evangelical interpretations of biblical authority. On one hand, Evangelicals would agree that (1) God created a good world that quickly rebelled against God, (2) that God covenanted Godself with people that were repeatedly unfaithful to God, and (3) that God’s continued presence and action among us is the clearest sign of God’s own faithful love for the world. Rather than engineering a world or a history that is “infallible” or “inerrant,” we see God giving and affirming creaturely freedom, co-creativity, and co-authority, what he will call a logic of “creationality.” On the other hand, Evangelicals insist that Scripture is an exception from this pattern, in which God works so successfully that Scripture remains spotless from error or internal disagreement, which he interprets as a logic of “sovereignty.” We will interrogate the argument that the Evangelical doctrine of a Scripture that cannot fail betrays the wider biblical commitment to a God who does not work through unmediated, absolute force but through mediated, response-able inter-action, which leaves room for Scripture to be a) authoritative and b) accompanied with error, which c) isolates the continuing demand for genuinely critical-and-committed reading and action.

Julius Crump, 1st year PhD student in Theology, will respond. The paper will be available through the Theology Workshop listserve, but no advance preparation is expected of participants. Lunch will be provided.

Welcome to 2012! Please join the Theology Workshop as we embark on our Winter quarter theme: “Reckoning with Scriptures”, at 12:00 pm, Monday, January 9th — Swift 200.

Our first presentation is that of Evan Kuehn, 2nd year PhD student in Theology. Evan will offer a constructive proposal inspired by Schleiermacher’s  Glaubenslehre that incorporates his account of the threefold office of Christ into a new reading of the cry of dereliction. It will propose an interpretation that revises Schleiermacher’s explicit conclusions about the event of Christ’s abandonment by God while hewing closely to the structure, content, and purpose of Schleiermacher’s doctrine of the person and work of the Redeemer. Instead of following Schleiermacher by interpreting the godforsakenness of Jesus as problematic for His unique and persistent dignity as Redeemer, Christ’s godforsakenness will be explained as the end of the prophetic office of Christ.

Kyle Rader, 4th year PhD student in Theology, will respond.

The paper will be available through the Theology Workshop listserve, but no preparation is expected of attendees of the workshop. Like last quarter, presentations will range 25-30 minutes, with a 5-10 minute response and roughly 45 minutes for discussion. A light lunch will be provided.

Reckoning with Scriptures, Winter 2012

Theologians and their analogues across a huge array of religious traditions consider certain texts to be uniquely authoritative, and themselves to be somehow accountable to them. The extent and manner of their response to sacred texts, however, are highly variable even within single communities. Furthermore, the study of theology and the study of scripture have come to occupy largely separate spheres in most North American and European universities and seminaries. This arrangement has not been fruitless, but there is a growing discomfort with it in many quarters. For instance, the dominance of the historical-critical paradigm has been contested by liberationist, feminist, queer and other reading strategies, including many that would retrieve classical forms (e.g. Patristic or Talmudic) of exegesis as normative. This quarter’s presentations will explore the relation of theology to scripture, in ways that wrestle with the hermeneutical, political, epistemic, ethical, and ecclesiological problems indigenous to scriptural traditions.

“Existence and Extinction: Ecology, Ethics, and Theology Between Individual and Communal Mortality”

Monday, November 14th, 2011

12:00-1:30 pm

Swift Hall 201, University of Chicago

 

 

Please join us for a unique workshop and panel discussion of multidisciplinary approaches to species extinction, co-hosted by the University of Chicago Theology Workshop and the Zygon Center’s Religion and Science Student Society.

What religious or philosophical account is to be taken of an ecological process that eliminates not only individuals, but entire categories of beings? What ethical knots might exist around causing the extinction of a parasite, or preventing the extinction of an organism through genetic modification? How do the practitioners of ecological science engage with and speak to cultural expectations to find meaning in the natural world? Our panelists will begin by presenting reflections on the challenges and possibilities that extinction poses to their disciplines. Then there will be a moderated discussion between the panel and the workshop attendees.

Panelists:

-Dr. Paul G. Heltne — Primatologist, Conservationist, and President Emeritus, Chicago Academy of Sciences

-Willa Lengyel — PhD Student in Theological Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School

-Dr. Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF — Professor of Catholic Theological Ethics, Catholic Theological Union

Moderator:

-Aaron Hollander — PhD Student in Theology, University of Chicago Divinity School

 

This event is free and open to the public.  No registration is necessary. A light lunch will be provided.

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance should contact Kyle Rader at kgr@uchicago.edu in advance.

The Theology Workshop invites you to join us on Monday, October 31, 12:00 – 1:30 PM in Swift 106, for a presentation and discussion of the significance of place for theological anthropology. This workshop will be led by Mary Emily Duba (PhD student in theology); Jeff Fowler will respond, and the workshop will be invited to think constructively and collaboratively around our theme.

“You are here.”  Behind this simplest of sentences lies a significant theological claim: What the human being is, as a creature made in the image of God, and who the human being is, in her dignity and difference, are intimately related to where the human being lives out her “being human.”  Historically, theological anthropology has understood the human person in abstraction from the particularities of place—as rational, for example, or relational. This abstraction distorts our understanding of the human person.

From Eden, through the wilderness, in the upper room, to the New Jerusalem, the Judeo-Christian scriptures tie their theological imagination to place.  From the loss of place in modern societies to the testimonies of climate refugees, ethical anthropological reflection demands attention to human experiences of emplacement and displacement.  In this workshop,  we will explore together the possibilities and implications of “re-grounding” theological anthropology, seeking insight into what it means to be homo geographicus, dwelling under the heavens and on the earth.

This workshop is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided. Costumes optional.

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Aaron Hollander at athollander@uchicago.edu or Kyle Rader at kgr@uchicago.edu in advance.

The Theology Workshop is pleased to invite you to the first of our papers for the year on Monday (10/17) from 12:00-1:30 in Swift 201. Brett Colasacco, a Ph.D. student in History of Christianity, will present remarks based on his paper “A Patron Saint for Post-Humanism?  Francis of Assisi, Deep Ecology, and the Political Order.” Unlike in previous years, the presentation will be approximately 25 minutes and will not presume any preparation on the part of participants. However, the paper is available through the Theology Workshop listserve or by emailing Kyle Rader at kgr@uchicago.edu, and we encourage participants who are able to read it in advance.

Daniel Schultz, Ph.D. student in Philosophy of Religions, will give a prepared response. The floor will then be open to everyone for questions, feedback, and discussion. A light lunch will be provided.

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