Why read theology?

I am thinking about the curriculum for a new compulsory module I have to teach entitled ‘Readings in Medieval Theology,’ and doing the usual academic thing with a new module, particularly a new module you didn’t design, of trying to work out some intentionality: why am I teaching this (beyond the fact that I have to)?; what do I want the students to get out of it? There are various levels at which I can answer the question. The module exists in part because we believe that reading primary sources in the tradition should be a part of a theology degree (there are other compulsory modules in patristics, Reformation, and modern theology). This is in part about content: I occasionally apply the ‘graduation test’ to the curricula I teach:...

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The future of (UK) ministerial formation: some musings

I have been involved in a large number of (private) conversations recently around a broad theme of ‘ministerial formation’, where ‘ministry’ is widely defined. It seems to me that we stand at the threshold of a significant change: this is in part necessary, and in part possible and desirable. For a century, or nearly two, we (defined here as ‘British nonconformist churches’) have practiced a model of ministerial formation that centred on attendance at a residential college. This is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive: most candidates for ministry these days are married, potentially with family, and so moving house is a major upheaval; for colleges tied in to mainstream university programmes in England, there is a...

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Theological textbooks

Ben has a teaching job (congratulations, Ben!), and asked on Facebook about textbooks for introductory theology courses. I started writing a comment, which rapidly became an essay; but it seemed a question of more general interest, so I thought I’d move my thoughts here… Which is the best textbook? I can’t answer this without answering several prior questions about the nature of the course, how it fits into the wider curriculum, the identity of the students, &c., &c. I’d start by thinking about these: 1. What do I want to achieve in this course? (Not ‘learning outcomes’, although including those as well): Do I want students to have a basic understanding of the major loci of theology? Do I want them to have a detailed...

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