The UChicago Theology Workshop

Tuesday, May 15, 4:30-6:00 pm, S200

Our next regular Workshop session will take place with one of a couple experimental formats we are trying this quarter. Adrian Guiu and Aaron Hollander will present material from their own work in progress, in order to launch an open dialogue on spiritual exercises, the contemplation of creation, and natural science. Figures who may be covered include Marcus Aurelius, Plotinus, Abba Anthony & the desert dwellers, Evagrius Ponticus, Boethius, Maximus Confessor, J. S. Eriugena, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, John Polkinghorne, and His All-Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. If you are interested in any of these figures or are outraged that we omitted your favorite, you have a place at the table. There will be snacks and drinks. No preparation is expected.

May 11-12, 2012

Swift Hall 

Co-sponsored by the Religion and Ethics workshop, the Theology workshop, the Divinity Students Association, and the Department of Political Science

Theologians, ethicists, and social and political theorists share a sense today that the scope and consequences of human power are growing at a rate perhaps unmatched in history. The 20th century witnessed the rapid expansion of human capacities, ranging from the atomic bomb to the Fordist and post-Fordist assembly line to exponentially-growing insights into and control over our own biology. New possibilities – from the devastation of our planet to redefinition of the genome that makes us who we are – have emerged that call for an imagining of human agency that will both account for and check the uses to which human power is put in our world. Complicating all of this is the recent upsurge in power that different religious communities wield, which has accompanied rather than been voided by secularizing processes.

At the same time, it is not clear that the various contemporary discussions deploy the term “power” univocally. In some, “power” denotes that quality of all social relationships which creates effects on subjects. In others, the “powers” refer to transpersonal structures of human relation that govern and shape life. Meanwhile, “power” names both that contemporary phenomenon that evokes human responsibility, demanding both acts of empowerment and limitation, as well as that aspect of human agency long recognized as susceptible to human formation. What is shared among these is a sense of the urgency of questions of power for contemporary discourse about our social life. But is the common word a mere equivocation, or are these various discourses, in fact, imbricated in a way that opens avenues for fruitful conversation?

What animates this conference is the attempt to understand power within critical and normative approaches to religion that are sensitive to its multifaceted character and attuned to possibilities for its creative exercise. Thus, this conference invites theologians, ethicists, and social theorists to share their work on power in a way that seeks new approaches to the subject.


J. Kameron Carter (Duke University)

Marion Grau (Church Divinity School of the Pacific)

Vincent Lloyd (Syracuse University)

Robin Lovin (Southern Methodist University)

Kathryn Tanner (Yale University)

Jonathan Tran (Baylor University)

William Schweiker (University of Chicago)

Joshua Daniel (University of Chicago)

Rick Elgendy (University of Chicago)



* All sessions will be in the Lecture Hall, 3rd floor

Afternoon session 1pm-4pm

Robin Lovin: “Religious Authority and the Fragmentation of Power”

Joshua Daniel: “Patient Authority and Enduring Novelty: Pragmatizing Robert W. Jenson on Time and Language”

Vincent Lloyd: “Theology and Real Politics: On Huey P. Newton”

Reception, Common Room 4:30 — 5 pm

Morning session 9am-11:30am

Kathryn Tanner: “The Power of Love”

Rick Elgendy: “Revelation without Authority”

Jonathan Tran: “Ontological Participation, Epistemological Certainty, and Political Legitimation: Conceptualizing Authority”

Afternoon session 1pm-4pm

J. Kameron Carter: “Before (Sovereign) Authority: Towards a Counterhistory of Political Theology”

Marion Grau: “Interpreting Power: Towards an Intercultural Theological Hermeneutics”

William Schweiker: “The Love of Power”


Please join the Theology Workshop for this quarter’s thematic panel presentation and discussion, “Discourse Destabilized: Theopraxis and Ministry,” Tuesday, May 1, 12:00-1:30, in Swift Hall 106 (note the unusual day).

Theology is often conceived of as specialized discourse that occurs primarily in institutions of higher learning or by dedicated commissions of religious organizations (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the doctrinal commissions of Protestant churches, or even the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches). This has led to a perception that it is largely irrelevant to the leadership of religious communities, both on the part of some religious leaders and some professional theologians. But is this view not distorted? Continuing to explore our spring quarter theme of “Theopraxis,” the Theology Workshop will host a panel to test the hypothesis that practices of ministry — from the sanctuary to the town hall, from coffee hour to hospice care — are inherently theological. They destabilize the expectations of theological discourse, while being themselves acts of theological production that create new possibilities for discourse. For this event, we are honored to host three astute professional religious leaders, who also have extensive knowledge of academic theological inquiry, to lead the discussion through the lenses of their experience.


Andrew Packman is a third-year M.Div. student at the Divinity School and will be ordained as a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) this August.  In addition to beginning his PhD in Theology next Fall, Andrew is working with two members of his cohort to plant a church on Chicago’s near north side.

Maurice Charles is a Ph.D. candidate in History of Christianity writing on the English Reformation. Before returning to the Divinity School, from which he received his M.Div. in 1990, he was Associate Dean for Religious Life at Stanford University, and is currently an assisting priest at Church of the Atonement (Episcopal) in Chicago.

Teresa Hord Owens is the Dean of Students in the Divinity School, where she received her M.Div., and Pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Downer’s Grove, IL. Rev. Owens was ordained into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in July 2003.  Prior to being called into ministry, she was an IT specialist with SBC America, Ernst and Young, IBM, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.  She currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

No preparation is necessary. Lunch will be provided. Persons with a disability who would like assistance, please contact Kyle Rader in advance at

Wednesday, April 11, 4:30 PM
Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil

A collaboration of Lumen Christi, the Philosophy Department, and the Theology Workshop, featuring:

Brian Davies, Fordham University
Denys Turner, Yale University
Michael Kremer, University of Chicago
Swift Hall, Third Floor Lecture Hall

Many people find that they cannot reconcile belief in the existence of God with the reality of evil; for if an all powerful and perfectly good God exists, then why is there so much suffering and injustice? Brian Davies, in his most recent book, Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil, argues that Aquinas gives us the proper theoretical framework for dealing with these tensions. Denys Turner and Michael Kremer will join Davies in a panel discussion of his book’s major claims.

Brian Davies is Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. Having received his PhD from King’s College, London, he spent over a decade as a lecturer at the University of Oxford before assuming his current position. He is author of An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religionand Thinking About God.

Denys Turner is the Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology at Yale University. He is the author of Marxism and ChristianityEros and Allegory, and The Darkness of God, as well as many articles and papers on political and social theory in relation to Christian theology, and on medieval thought, especially the traditions of ‘mystical theology.’

Michael Kremer is the Mary R. Morton Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. He has published numerous articles on logic, philosophy of language, and early analytic philosophy. His current research projects include work on the 19th-century mathematician and philosopher Gottlob Frege, and on the early 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Please join us for the first regular event of the Spring 2012 Theology Workshop: a presentation and discussion with Sam B. Shonkoff, PhD Student in History of Judaism; 12:00-1:20 PM, Monday, April 9th, Swift 201.


“We Shall Do and We Shall Understand”: HalakhahHabitus and Embodied Theology in Judaism”

There is widespread disagreement amongst scholars as to whether or not theology plays an integral role in Judaism. This presentation proposes that Judaism does have a strong theological dimension, but that it defies modern categories of theology, which are constrained within the horizons of logia. Jewish theology is not based on words, beliefs or concepts as much as on actions, mannerisms and spatiality. In repudiation of the Durkheimian beliefs-rites dichotomy, Sam will contend that halakhah—the corpus of normative Jewish practice—is the foundation of Jewish theology. Recent scholarship on paradigms of embodiment and the body as a site of subjectivity have contributed immensely to religious studies, but they have not yet sufficiently expanded our definition of theology. The notion of embodied theology opens up new frontiers for the study of religions such as Judaism and Islam, which tend to simultaneously emphasize the ineffability of God and the centrality of divinely mandated practices.

In discussion of this paper, we will explore notions of halakhah in relation to Bourdieu’s conception of habitus. Bourdieu’s work has profoundly influenced religious studies, but it has not yet been adequately applied to the study of normative practice in Judaism. Correlations between them shed much light on halakhah‘s embodied theology. Both habitus and halakhah presuppose that (1) bodily movements and actions manifest a community’s beliefs and principles; (2) subject-object and body-mind dualities are problematic; and (3) practice eludes functionalist explanations. Furthermore, fundamental differences between habitus and halakhah—largely concerning the genesis, cultivation and psychology of embodied practice—highlight the theological core of halakhah.

Josh Connor, PhD Student in Ethics, will respond. The paper will be available for advance reading through the Theology Workshop listserve, but no preparation is required. Lunch will be provided.

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: ($23.50). See or contact Eden Sabala (unaffiliated with the workshop) at 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?


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


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

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

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:

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

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