Theological Notebook: Introduction to Theology Complications and Second Thoughts
I'm not entirely enthused about how my lesson went today, but I knew up front – planned, really – that this would be an "overkill," "too much" lesson for them, part of pushing them into the deep end up front and getting them acclimated. I won't really be able to assess whether it worked as intended until toward the end of the semester. But being in the midst of something you know isn't entirely being comprehended is no more fun for the instructor than the student. I've now got them reading another slightly too-hard (I think) assignment, but which is the sort of thing they should be able to do by the end of the course: an educated lay reader's article. This was the "Theology as Knowledge: A Symposium" piece that I enthused about back in May from First Things, and a passage from which now graces my User Info page. I think our discussion over this on Friday will help with starting us out oriented to the "problem" Theology has become for our culture. I want them aware of and oriented to that problem as we begin – able to recognize it and to deal with it – rather than just suffering from it. I need them to be ready to question presuppositions from the beginning. For their written work, I just wanted them to summarize each of the four writers' positions in a few sentences, which should help them both focus on understanding the discussion and be ready with "talking points" when I initiate discussion about the article.
As I was talking to them today, though, after having opened with some definitions of key terms that we would have to use in Theology, if we hadn't already begun using them (words like "Scripture," "Inspiration," "Revelation," "Old Testament/Hebrew Scripture," "New Testament/Christian Scripture"), it occurred to me that there was another word I was using that might demand such treatment, or even more. That was the word "God." I didn't express this thought out loud at the moment, because I didn't want to complicate any further what was already an overwhelming presentation on my part. As it turned out, when I was at Raynor Library this evening, re-reading the First Things article, I got to talking with Shawnee about her similar class that she's currently teaching at Mount Saint Mary's College and found her already on top of that same problem, and she was very strong in her opinion that such an exercise was necessary to sweep out all the ill-informed ideals cobwebbing student brains. So I'm digging into Karl Rahner's Foundations of Christian Faith, pp. 45-51, which does both a "God" and Christian anthropology treatment that she is using. Rahner's tough going, of course, but can be read by Intro students with guidance.