PROPOSED: A SERIES OF
THEOLOGY SEMINARS
Presenter: Adrian Worsfold


Proposed Paper: Introductory 01
Proposed Paper: Introductory 02
These links are also available further down in the text.


Between 2008 and 2010 I presented 18 theology papers to St. Mary's Parish Church In Depth group in Barton-upon-Humber. The papers were derived from a Contemporary Theology MA course and more, from the 1990s. This time, as well as the strong United States and German representation, there was a bias to the 1960s to 1980s debates that had been influential in shaping and limiting the liberal theology end of English Anglicanism, but the papers covered traditional and competing theologies, and in other denominations. There was Unitarian content too, for comparative reference. The number of papers delivered was shortened because I was moving house, and had effectively changed denomination, and the group wanted a change. Had I stayed there would have been a pause and probably a resumption later on.

The proposal now is for an ecumenical presentation of Christian theology within the Hull Creative Learning Centre, making available revised papers to hopefully a wider field of people. It would cover some of what was missed before, and a little more Unitarian content, and some later theological debates. As at Barton the discussion would be open and not seeking any form of confessional conclusion. It would run on adult education principles of people bringing their own experience and argument to what was heard, with opportunities to contribute papers and thus some flexibility. The Barton papers are available online either as webpages or .PDF files. The content was:


  1. Ethics and Doing Theology Today
  2. Mainly Nineteenth Century Theological Liberalism (Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Harnack, Troeltsch)
  3. What Became Narrative Theology: Karl Barth (1886-1968)
  4. Theological Correlation: Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich (1886-1965)
  5. Towards God and Secular Theology: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
  6. Pragmatism and the Supreme Sacrificial Ethic of Jesus: Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
  7. Demythologising and Keeping a Distinctive Christianity: Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976)
  8. The Place of Theology, Religious Studies and Other Disciplines
  9. Anglican Controversy: Essays and Reviews
  10. Honest to God - John Robinson's biblical theology and his consequent view of God and Jesus - anti Thomist and what of Tillich?
  11. The Myth of God Incarnate - Meanings of Myth
  12. Atheology of Don Cupitt: Phases and Biography
  13. Theology and Events around David Jenkins
  1. Traditionalisms from the past - introducing Reason (Augustine of Hippo, Thomism, Anselm, and a look at Islam doing similar with Aristotle as Aquinas)
  2. Protestant Reformation Background
  3. Evangelicalism Today
  4. Oxford Tractarian Movement and Afterwards
  5. Early Closing: The Broadest of Theologies


The series was described by the then Priest-in-Charge David Rowett as "seminary standard". This apparent standard can be checked subjectively as all the papers from that time are online on the Pluralist WebsiteClick for the linking list of papers. Every paper will, however, be rewritten, and there are new papers proposed.

There is no proposal to handle money. Papers would be available online well in advance: it does not matter if they are read by discussion participants in advance. So printed to paper copies would be limited. Also people can come in and go out as their interest takes them; those catching up can read online. Each session can begin with an unscripted summary of the previous one.

As at Barton, the reading of papers is not uninterrupted, so the potential is for strong discussion.

This is a theology series, that is to say it discusses Christian and related concepts ‘from the inside’, whether the participant believes the concepts or not.

Although this takes place inside the Unitarian Church, and its presenter is an active Unitarian sympathiser, this is not a Unitarian course. The presenter is liberal-postmodern in sympathy, across a humanist/ Radical Christian/ Western Buddhist trajectory, but the course deliberately includes and invites other Christian ecumenical perspectives so long as they are open to critical insight. There remains a bias in the material towards the Anglican, the liberal, and increased Unitarian. Particularly welcome will be insights from different denominations.


Teaching Methods

These are traditional seminar based, and include:

There is no measurement of these objectives, and no formal assessment, in keeping with the ethos of the Creative Learning Centre. These skills of debate and knowledge are acquired over time by everyone, including by the presenter.


Aims in Addition

In line with the ethos of the Creative Learning Centre, we give attention to inter-personal relationships and intra-personal development, that is active toleration across belief divides and expressions of personal response.


Entry Level

Parts of this course may be difficult to understand without some background knowledge of religious and theological issues, but then one aim is to make complexity clearer through discussion.


Assessment

There is no formal assessment. Participants are expected to make contributions, but then contributions include active listening, human relationships and personal responses.

We may negotiate changes in the order and timing of sessions if we decide to write papers/ essays in response to issues and present them for reading and consideration. We may also pause for sessions to give personal responses and evaluate issues so far, as happened at Barton. We’ll evaluate at the end.


Frequency

It could be weekly, fortnightly or even monthly. In Depth at Barton was monthly. So this can be a very long duration series.


Cost

There is no price proposed for this course. Knowledge and skill has value not price.


Reading

Participants are encouraged to do their own reading on each topic. Suggestions will be made at the time. If there are no set books and materials but a variety of reading then the discussion can be more organic. It is quite possible to debate from the papers and other contributions themselves.


Suggested Order of Topics

These are revised from the Barton presentation. The first two papers have already been written and are available by clicking on the Session.


  1. Introduction 1. Introductory; thinking after Darwin, Economics Invisible Hand; Religious Education: breaks down into phenomenological, anthropological, humanist/ secular perspective, experiential, theological (concept-cracking from the inside) and here is theology; can a non-Christian do Christian theology as well? Ethics and rationality challenging theology (Jürgen Habermas).
  2. Introduction 2. Sources: Bible, Church denominations; theology tasks; US, Germany and Britain's place and on to Rowan Williams and Sarah Coakley as examples.
  3. Mainly Nineteenth Century Theological Liberalism: Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Harnack, Troeltsch.
  4. Karl Barth (1886-1968) and What Became Narrative Theology, plus James Martineau (1805-1900) and the Subjective: two routes to the postmodern.
  5. Towards God and Supposed Secular Theology: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).
  6. Systematic Theological Correlation: Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich (1886-1965).
  7. Pragmatism and the Supreme Sacrificial Ethic of Jesus: Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).
  8. Demythologising and Keeping a Distinctive Christianity: Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976).
  9. Is Commitment to Institutional Liberalism Robust Enough? James Luther Adams (1901-1994).
  10. Anglican Controversy: Essays and Reviews (1860).
  11. Honest to God (1962) - John Robinson's biblical personalist theology and his consequent view of God and Jesus.
  12. The Myth of God Incarnate (1976): meanings of myth.
  13. Atheology of Don Cupitt (from 1980): phases and why China?
  14. Theology and Events around David Jenkins (from 1984).
  15. David Tracy (1939-): Classics and the Postmodern, plus Hans Kung’s (1928-) comprehension.
  16. Liberation Theology and its Crossover into Education Theory.
  17. Traditionalisms - introducing revelation and the natural: Augustine of Hippo, Thomism, Anselm, and a look at Islam doing similar with Aristotle as did Aquinas.
  18. Protestant Reformation Background (1500s on): left and right.
  19. Romanticism (1800s on): a disaster in Germany: progressive Judaism in Germany destroyed, plus Jurgen Moltmann (1926-) on suffering.
  20. Some Magical Fantastical Liberal Catholics (early 1900s) (stretching to Hinduism and Buddhism too), plus some Free Catholics.
  21. Evangelicalism Today and its Postmodern Dramatics.
  22. Oxford Tractarian Movement and Afterwards: funeral rites today?
  23. Combining the Catholic and the Modern: Charles Gore’s Lux Mundi (1889) and today, plus the Victorian Gothic.
  24. Radical Orthodoxy: Platonist Fantasies and Related.
  25. History and the Messianic Jews/ Earliest Christians: it all happened faster than we thought, but it is still culturally relative...
  26. Feminism and Environmentalism, plus Animals: getting combined.
  27. Current Roman Catholic Institutional Response to Feminist Theologies.
  28. Christian Definitiveness? the scientific, social scientific, faiths: exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism, theist universalism, humanistic universalism, non-realism.
  29. The Broadest Theologies: what other conclusions?


Durations

This series if weekly is intended to last for a year, or two if fortnightly. How long it lasts (if at all) will depend upon numbers and there is always a possibility of a decision to wind it up if the participants so agree. In Barton, at the In-Depth Group, I was moving over the river, so the format was brought to an earlier close.



Dr. Adrian Worsfold has a Ph.D in Sociology and Social Anthropology (topic of institutional Sociology of Religion), an MA in Theological Interpretation of Contemporary Society and a PGCE (Secondary) in Religious Education.