Academic Programs 

Eternal Questions: Teaching Adults Basic Christian Beliefs (AM-645-3)
Summer 2003

This is a course for religious educators, pastors, and seekers interested in learning about methods for teaching theology to small groups.  The course is arranged around a cluster of “eternal questions”:  What is the nature of God?  Why are we here?  Who is Jesus Christ and what has he done?  What is evil and why does it exist?  What happens when we die?  Time in the course will be divided between exploring the range of responses offered in the history of Christian theology to these questions and exercises in how to present them as seeds for discussion among adult learners. 

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
June 9 – 13, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Joseph Callahan
Adjunct Professor of the Arts of Ministry and Senior Pastor of Broad Brook Congregational Church

Contact Information:
(860)  509-9500

James Robertson
Adjunct Professor of the Arts of Ministry and former Managing Partner, Carmody and Torrance Law Firm, Waterbury  

Contact Information:
(860)  509-9500


This is really a “course within a course“. We will have lectures, presentations and lively discussions about the church’s historical responses to these and other “eternal questions”. But we will also evaluate and improve the means of promoting such discussions within our own church communities. All (for credit) students will construct and take with them their own six-session user-friendly course in basic introductory theology that they will be able to introduce and facilitate at their own churches.

We will read from three principal texts during the course:

1)  Gray, Tony, and Steve English. The Potted Guide to Theology. Carlisle U.K.: Paternoster Press, 2000.

2)  McGrath, Alister E.  Christian Theology. Cambridge, Massachusetts:  Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1997

3)  Migliore, Daniel L., Faith Seeking Understanding. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eermans  Publishing Company, 1991

All three of these books are available at the Hartford Seminary Book Store. Students will also be provided various handout materials during the course.

It is suggested that students read the following material before the beginning of the course:

McGrath, Chapter 6 (The Sources of Theology) and Chapter 7 (Knowledge of God) and Migliore, Chapter 2 (The Meaning of Revelation) and Chapter 3 (The Authority of Scripture)

Students might also choose to read as much of the following assigned material as possible before the course begins:


Monday, June 9th

How can we possibly respond to the eternal questions about God? What are the sources of our knowledge about God? Revelation, Scripture, Reason, Tradition and Experience

Readings for Tuesday:  McGrath, Chapter 9 (The Doctrine of God); Migliore, Chapter 4 (The Triune God), Chapter 5 (The Good Creation) and Chapter 7 (Humanity in the Image of God)

Tuesday, June 10th

What is the nature of God?  What is the nature of God’s Creation?

Readings for Wednesday:  McGrath, Chapter 10, pp. 319-327 (The Doctrine of the Trinity), Chapter 11, pp. 345-354 (The Doctrine of the Person of Christ) and Chapter 12, pp. 386-396 (The Quest of the Historical Jesus);  handout

Wednesday, June 11th 

Who is Jesus Christ?  What is the nature of his work?

Readings for Thursday:  Migliore, Chapter 6 (The Providence of God and the Mystery of Evil);  McGrath, Chapter 14 (The Doctrines of Human Nature, Sin and Grace),  Migliore, Chapter 12 (Christian Hope);  McGrath, Chapter 18 (Last Things)

Thursday, June 12th

Why do bad things happen to good people?  What does it mean to be “saved”?  What happens to us after we die, and why?

Friday, June 13th

Student presentations.  Open discussion with theologians on knotty issues.



Each student who is taking this course for credit will be expected to produce a personal plan for the presentation of these or similar ideas to an adult study group.  The plan should consist of the materials announcing and describing the program, the outlines for the presentations and a brief essay addressing the mission and challenges of such programs.  Students may collaborate on lesson plans but must write their own essays.

Students will also be expected to complete the reading assignments and participate actively in the course discussions.

Approximately six months after the conclusion of the course, the Seminary will sponsor a luncheon for the students in this course at which we will discuss how everybody got on with their projects and what further we can learn from each other.


The students will:

  • Learn the difference between faith, belief and works;
  • Understand the impact of social dynamics on faith communities;
  • Realize the importance of class, gender, age, etc. on beliefs;
  • Learn how to articulate their beliefs in a public forum;
  • Learn about various faith traditions;
  • Learn how to produce and deliver a class in “theological basics”;
  • Understand that beliefs have changed over time;
  • Realize that the theological experts have traditionally disagreed;
  • Learn that their beliefs are worthy of consideration by others;
  • Learn the basic theological beliefs of historical figures;
  • Realize that they are saved and become more cheerful.

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500