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Christian Theology MPhil Pathway

Christian Theology MPhil Pathway

Course Coordinator: Professor Janet Soskice for Michaelmas Term; Dr David Elliott for Lent Term

Description of Course

Each module of the Christian Theology course is taught through four fortnightly two hour seminars and is assessed through a 5,000 word essay due at the end of each term.

Students who wish to write a thesis in the area of Christian Theology are required to attend the seminars during Michaelmas Term and complete The Christian God assessed essay. It is recommended that students continue on to the Lent Term module but it may be possible in certain cases for students to audit this module to allow them to undertake a module in another subject in the Lent Term. Students wishing to do this must consult with the Course Coordinator as early as possible.

Michaelmas Term – The Christian God

The seminars in this module study key texts in the Christian doctrine of God. Texts studied in 2013 include writings by Augustine, Julian of Norwich and Karl Barth.

The module aims to study the Christian doctrine of God in different periods, through the close study of theological texts.

The module objectives are to enable students to develop their understanding of the doctrine of God by analysing and discussing theological texts in their contexts, by thinking through ways in which these texts contribute to the discussion of major issues in the Christian doctrine of God, and by writing a substantial essay demonstration such understanding and skills.

Lent Term – The Beatitudes

The Sermon on the Mount is widely seen as the single most bracing summary of a fully Christian life.  This module will closely examine the beatitudes, which in many respects condense and summarise the sermon.  The focus will be on the theological and ethical resources which the beatitudes offer and the questions they have raised.  The module will progress from the great historical commentaries on the beatitudes to contemporary approaches while drawing on biblical scholarship.  At the conclusion of term students should be able to explain the exegetical meaning of beatitudes, how they have been interpreted throughout the history of the tradition, and make a plausible case for their contemporary moral and theological meaning.

Michaelmas Term – The Christian God – Assessment

This module is assessed through a 5,000 word essay.  Students may select an essay subject from the list below, in consultation with the course co-ordinator.  Alternatively, students may formulate their own title on a suitable topic, within the area of Christian Theology, subject to the approval of the course co-ordinator and the Degree Committee.  In either case the choice of essay subject will be dependent on the availability of appropriate supervision.  Students planning to go on to the Lent Term module should be aware that they may not choose in the Lent Term an essay subject which substantially overlaps with the subject pursued in the Michaelmas Term.

Suggested Essay Subjects

Discuss, one major issue relating to the Christian God with special reference to the theology of one of the follow: Augustine, Julian of Norwich or Karl Barth.

Naming God

‘Male and female created he them’ (Genesis 1:27)

Feminist Theology

Mystical Theology

Apophaticism

Doctrine and Literature

Cross Currents in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Theology, Literature and Thought

Religious Language

Time, eternity and revelation

Political Thought and Christian Theology

Pentecostalism

‘Universalism’ in Modern Theology

Contemporary Non-Western Christianity

Nouvelle Théologie

Imago Dei

Creation and Aesthetics

The Theotokos as Christological Statement

Christ and the Church

Christology and the Eucharist

Church, Liturgy and Sacramental theology

Thomas Aquinas

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sergius Bulgakov

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Henri de Lubac

F.D. Maurice

Gregory of Nyssa

Simone Weil

Lent Term – The Beatitudes – Assessment

This module is assessed through a 5,000 word essay.  Students may select an essay subject from the list below, in consultation with the course co-ordinator.  Alternatively, students may formulate their own title on a suitable topic, within the area of Christian Theology, subject to the approval of the course co-ordinator and the Degree Committee.  In either case the choice of essay subject will be dependent on the availability of appropriate supervision.  Students will not be permitted to write on a subject which substantially overlaps with that pursued in the Michaelmas Term.

Suggested Essay Subjects

The genre of the beatitudes (eg ascetical-moral ascent? Social-political programme?)

The audience and normativity of the beatitudes (eg are they addressed to all Christians of just an elite few?)

The relationship between the beatitudes and beatitude

Why and in what sense the beatitudes are practicable or impracticable (or “possible or impossible”, “ideal or practical”, “burdensome or empowering” etc)

The social implications of the beatitudes

The meaning of two particular beatitudes

The different interpretation of the beatitudes in two of the primary figures studied

The relationship between morality and spirituality in the beatitudes

The beatitudes and political ethics

The seven stage model

The number and order of the beatitudes as a set

A beatitude and an application (eg “blessed are those who mourn” and comforting the bereaved, “poverty of spirit” and the option for the poor, “hunger for righteousness” and social justice etc)

The relationship between the beatitude traits and the rewards promised

The relationship between happiness in the beatitudes and more “worldly” happiness or well-being


 

Theological Method Exercise

Set texts:

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Seeing the Form, vol. 1 of The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics; Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse; Wolfhart Pannenberg,  Systematic Theology, vol. 1; Dmitru Staniloae, The Experience of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1.

Purpose

This exercise will give students a range of assessment components designed to train them in succinct, distilled prose writing in order to do critical reviewing, analysis of key disciplinary relationships (theology and philosophy, theology and biblical interpretation), and overall appraisal of approaches to theological method.

Teaching

There will be 4 2-hour classes in the Lent Term.  The schedule for the classes is listed below:

1   Balthasar, Seeing the Form, pp. 17-127

2   Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1, pp. 1-61, 119-136, 151-171, 189-257

3   Johnson, She Who Is, pp. 3-103, 191-245

4   Staniloae, The Experience of God, chs. 1-4

Assessment

Candidates will be assessed on the following:

1   A critical review of 1,500 words on one of the set texts due at the end of Lent Term.

2   A class presentation of 1,000 words on the character and role of philosophy in the two set texts

3   A class presentation of 1,000 words on the character and role of biblical interpretation in the two set texts.

4   A class presentation of 1,500 words identifying the main comparisons and contrasts between the two set texts.

The three presentations (which will be given in the Lent Term) are to be submitted as a portfolio at the end of the Lent Term.