Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fall is here!

It probably isn't the best time for me to write this post, since I have a truly unnerving pile of reading to do (yes...Saturdays, sadly, can't be exempt). But, if I don't do it now, who knows how much longer it will get postponed? And perhaps writing will energize me...

So, you get to hear about the classes I am taking this fall!

My first seminar is, unsurprisingly, on the Early Church. Its topic is "The Mystical Body of Christ." You might recall that in Ephesians, Paul talks about Christians being the body of Christ; and this theme gets taken up by a number of Christian writers after him...including Ignatius of Antioch, Cyprian of Carthage, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, and Cyril of Alexandria, to name just a few. So, we will be tracing that theme through the entire patristic period and discussing how various theologians conceived of the "mystical body" and how it ties into church unity.

I am excited about this class. I think it will pose some special challenges to me as a Protestant, because my doctrine of the Church is necessarily different from my professor's (a Jesuit Catholic priest), and when I talk about union with Christ, I mean something rather different from what Catholics and Orthodox mean by the doctrine of deification. But challenges like these are nothing new to me, and I'm glad they will force me to articulate what I really believe on some important theological matters.

Though I'm majoring in Early Church, my "minor field" is Modern, which basically encompasses everything from the Reformation to now. So my remaining two classes actually fall within the latter period. First, there's my Reformation seminar. It is actually being taught within the History department, so I don't know all the people as well, but the professor seems nice. I have already chosen a topic for my research paper, which is practices surrounding the celebration of the Lord's Supper in 17th century Scotland. That might sound like a really narrow subject, but you'd be surprised how much literature survives on the topic -- I don't know how I'm going to read it all in two months! I hope the project might give me an excuse to peruse the holdings of Covenant Seminary's Puritan Rare Book Room. Anyway, I'll probably post more about this in the future, since I think the material is fascinating and very relevant, especially to Presbyterians.

Finally, I'm taking a seminar called "The History and Method of Historical Theology." Essentially, we're looking at how the field of historical theology has evolved in the past couple of centuries, and different ways it's been practiced. To do that, we're reading a bunch of historical theology textbooks (dating back to the 19th century) side-by-side and comparing the ways the writers handled the topic. I'll also be doing a research project on Jonathan Edwards, surveying the ways historians have appraised his ideas and legacy over the past 200 years. So, I won't be doing an analysis of his thought per se, but analyzing the changing ways he's been received by past scholars, if that makes sense. I hope this class will help me to become more reflective about what I do as a historian of theology.

In effect, I actually have a 4th class, because my fellow second-year students and I are meeting every week or so to discuss the books we will be examined on next May. We decided to do this to help hold each other accountable in our reading; we drew up a syllabus and everything...which I fear I'm already falling behind on. I'm also meeting weekly with a small group to practice our Greek (reading one of Basil of Caesarea's sermons on Genesis), and Kevin and I are attempting to review Latin together. Does it surprise you that my weekdays feel like barely controlled chaos?

And sometimes, the weekends are not a whole lot better, so I must close this and get back to my job! Do keep me in your thoughts and prayers...namely that I will figure out how to get adequate sleep. :)

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