Theological “training” outside the box (way outside)

If you read Fred Putnam’s piece about teaching/learning that I mentioned the other day, then you would probably be interested in looking over his very detailed proposal for The New School of Theology.

Here’s a snippet from the proposal, which gives a a basic overview of the vision (later in the proposal are more details):

This paper proposes the creation of a unique graduate school that will prepare Christians to minister and to live in light of their faith by becoming thoughtful, reflective men and women. Its curriculum and pedagogy reflect the conviction that fundamental to good ministry and leadership is the ability to listen to and understand three voices: (1) the voice of the author in whatever text is at hand, especially the text of Scripture; (2) voices that express the opinions, fears, hopes, and concerns of others, and the ideas of their culture; and (3) the voice of their own hearts.

The program has three primary aspects, any one of which would make this program unique: (1) all courses are required/prescribed conversational seminars without testing, grades, or lectures (lectures are public supplements to the overall curriculum); (2) all class texts are primary texts, not textbooks (except in Hebrew I, Greek I, and Music I); (3) music is integral to the program.

The goal of this program is to foster an ongoing conversation, an intellectual and spiritual community of maturing learners—in other words, a place where students and faculty together read, think, converse, and thus learn to live and minister by pondering the most important ideas—the permanent ideas—as they are found in the great texts of the Western world.

His ideas are very intriguing to me and I wonder what others think of this kind of education (both content and methodology). I do wonder what other texts could be included that are not Western (although that might be difficult unless you work with translations). I understand prioritizing Western texts because we live in the Western world, but I would not want to exclude studying other texts and worldviews and would be careful about privileging Western texts as the primary source of important, permanent ideas.

Anyone know someone with a few million dollars to get it started?

One thought on “Theological “training” outside the box (way outside)

  1. Ben

    I’ve just taken a quick look, and I really like the shift in pedagogical methodology, and the focus on Biblical texts and languages.

    I do wonder how he envisions new methodologies and insights from say anthropology, sociology, and linguistics being integrated into the reading of the biblical texts? Issues such as the dynamics of social identity formation can really help us understand the initial developments of theology and the trajectories it takes. (There is a much stronger socio-emotional element than most of us in the intellectual theological enterprise are willing to admit.)

    I couldn’t help thinking of Bediako’s work in light of the presupposition underlying the focus on Greek philosophy in the Western Christian. Is that necessarily a good thing?

    You’ve already noted the Western orientation of the reading list, but even within the “Western” corpus, the selection betrays a more narrow socio-cultural orientation. Keep in mind too that almost all of the “primary” sources in his reading list (apart from the biblical texts) were the “secondary” sources of their time. What privileges these particular works over more recent theological reflections.

    My other random thought was about the music. I appreciate the importance of the creative arts, but why exclude other forms of artistic expression. Further, my guess is that not everyone would necessarily agree to the to the genre focus of music that he personally prefers.

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