The aim of this course is to
address a particular, neuralgic point for contemporary Christianity in a world
of religions, namely the logic for diversity in Christian ideas and teaching. It
will explain the key issues and developments in the emergence of Christian
diversity, and poses two significant questions. First, is such diversity the
manifestation of inherent weaknesses in Christianity, weaknesses that Judaism
and Islam do not experience? Second, is such diversity actually a sign of
Christianity’s inclusivity, so that all are called to God by many different
means? The course’s goal is to work out some surprising and challenging
answers to these questions.
By the end of the course, students should be able to
A critical understanding of the historic and
traditional origins of Christianity, and the rationale for diversity in
Christian ideas and teaching;
- The independent judgment
necessary to evaluate arguments about diversity and pluralism;
- The skills necessary to
communicate ideas and arguments about the contemporary Church in relation to
diversity and pluralism, both orally and in writing.
Outline of Course
This course will
combine detailed lectures from the tutor with intensive seminar discussions,
involving full participation from students. There will also be the opportunity
for individual tutorials with the class tutor, after 4pm.
are advised for each day’s work, with students writing a 300-500 words book
review for the reading for Day 3 (see below). This will be the first part of the
course’s formal assessment, and will comprise 20% of the final grade.
The remaining 80% of
formal assessment will comprise one written paper of 2000-3000 words, to be
completed by 3rd September 2003. Please note that students will devise their own
questions for this written paper, in discussion with the course tutor.
course tutor will use the standard Hartford Seminary “Grading Guidelines” to
assess students’ work. These guidelines will be copied and distributed to all
students at the beginning of the course.
will be no sanction against students who miss individual sessions, though the
tutor requests that he be notified in advance of any anticipated absences.
Class Meeting Schedule
Each session – morning and afternoon - will conform to a
similar pattern: a lecture by the tutor, followed after a break by a seminar.
The lecture will introduce and analyze the specified topic. The seminar will
address issues and questions raised by the lecture, as well as considering the
reading set for that session (see below).
The following topics, and suggested questions for reflection,
golden rule for this course is that while I require every student to undertake
appropriate reading for each day’s work, I am only going to recommend
specific texts at this stage. (The exception is Robert Wuthnow’s book; see
below.) This annotated reading schedule will therefore identify specific
areas for specific days – with recommended texts – and for each such area
you should try to read approximately 30-50 pages.
you read the recommended texts, fine! If you discover other books that you
prefer, or find easier to obtain, that is also perfectly acceptable. And if you
wish to email me to discuss possible reading before the course begins, that will
be very welcome.
are two other fundamental considerations when preparing reading for this course.
you must prepare appropriate reading BEFORE the relevant session. If you try to
catch up reading after a session, not only with you limit your time to read
ahead for the next day’s session, but you will also find it difficult to
contribute to the seminar discussions.
this course is about ideas and arguments, and ideas and arguments are
cumulative. The topics examined during this course are all related to each
other, and you will only get the most out of the course if you seek to
understand those relationships. Only in this way will you develop a
sophisticated understanding of the course’s subject matter.
points made, students taking this course should complete the following reading:
Before Monday 23rd June:
make a good start with this course you need a clear understanding of the world
in which early Christianity developed, and also the main beliefs and ideas
inherent to Christianity. You may identify your own reading, but the following
books are recommended (the Tanner reading is concerned with the course’s
D Ehrman, The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early
Christian Writings. Oxford University Press, New York 1999, chapters 1-3
Tanner, The Politics of God: Christian Theologies and Social Justice.
Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1992, chapter 5, ‘Christian belief and respect for
others’, and chapter 6, ‘Christian belief and respect for difference’.
2) Evening of Monday 23rd June:
Day 2 we are going to consider Christianity’s relationships with Judaism and
Islam, specifically around the course’s central themes of diversity, its
strengths and weaknesses. You will therefore need a good sense of those
relationships and their intellectual features. The recommended texts are:
A DiNoia, The Diversity of Religions: A Christian Perspective. Catholic
University Press, Washington 1992, chapter 3, ‘The Providential Diversity of
Evening of Tuesday 24th June:
Day 3 we will turn our attention to the moral implications of Christian
diversity, and also the intellectual constraints that shape or govern our
interpretation of Christian ethics. The recommended texts are:
S Mudge, The Church as Moral Community: Ecclesiology and Ethics in Ecumenical
Debate. Continuum, New York 1998, chapter 1, ‘A Calling to be
Tracy, Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermeneutics, Religion, Hope. Harper
& Row Publishers, San Francisco 1987, chapter 3, ‘Radical Plurality’,
and chapter 4, ‘Radical Ambiguity’.
4) Evening of Wednesday 25th June
considered the origins of Christian diversity and the relative strengths and
weaknesses of its beliefs and ideas, both in itself and in relation to Judaism
and Christianity, the course now considers the contemporary challenges
that Christianity faces. The required text here is:
Wuthnow, Christianity in the 21st Century: Reflections on the
Challenges Ahead. Oxford University Press, New York 1993.
This text is required reading and will form the basis of the first piece of
course assessment, a 300-500 word book review due in at the beginning of the
morning session on Thursday 26th June. You should, therefore, have
read it all before the course begins.
Evening of Thursday 26th June:
the afternoon session will be a reprise and summary of the course as a whole,
the morning session will introduce one last new theme, namely an evaluation –
by the class – of the successes and failures of Christian responses to
contemporary ethical challenges. The recommended text is:
Markham, Plurality and Christian Ethics. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge 1994, chapter 6, ‘Plurality and the American Experience’, and
chapter 10, ‘Plurality and Theology’.
Jones, Feminist Theory and Christian Theology: Cartographies of Grace.
Fortress Press, Minneapolis 2000, chapter 7, ‘Church: Graced Community’.
300-500 word Book Review: 9am Thursday 26th June 2003
2000-3000 word written paper:
Noon, Wednesday 3rd September 2003
NB: each student will devise their own question for the
written paper, in individual discussion with the course tutor.
The book review and written paper
should conform to conventional technical, grammatical and stylistic standards
(please refer to the document, ‘Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a
Robert Wuthnow, Christianity in
the 21st Century: Reflections on the Challenges Ahead. Oxford
University Press, New York 1993.
As indicated in the section,
‘Reading Schedule’ (see above).