Understanding the Christian Tradition

Course descriptions and scheduling are subject to change by administrative decision. See course offerings booklet for current offerings. Some courses will be offered on a two- or three-year rotation.

Theology (CTT)

John Howard Yoder articulated a compelling vision, attracting many around the globe to “the politics of Jesus.” Yoder demonstrated that the Anabaptist movement was fundamentally a new way of viewing Christian faith and life—including the centrality of Jesus, a re-imagining of church and world and a commitment to love both enemies and neighbors. This course focuses on the contemporary challenges of Anabaptism as mediated through Yoder and his most influential convert— Stanley Hauerwas.

This new course, co-taught by faculty from the seminary and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, will explore the questions that arise as we engage in and reflect upon justice and peacebuilding activities in the world. More specifically, we will engage philosophical, theological and ethical questions that arise for Christians in relation to such activities.

Systematic theology attempts to articulate in a coherent way the church’s claims regarding the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will examine the contexts, tasks, sources and norms of theology. We will also engage classic and contemporary teachings about the Triune God, the wondrous creation of a glorious Creator, the doctrines of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and eschatology. Always we will try to remember that the critical and constructive task of theological reflection is related to the life and practices of Christians living within the context of a world loved by God. Prerequisite: CTH 501, CTH 502

This course is a descriptive and analytical study of sixteenth-century Anabaptist history and theology. We will look at a variety of issues such as peacemaking, discipleship, the church, and spirituality. The central purpose of the course is to help us better understand the relevance of the Anabaptist heritage for Christians today.

Theology is the essential and ongoing task of faithful reflection on our life lived with deliberation in the presence of God. Theology involves and engages all we are and all we do, and demands our attentiveness to everything around us. The theological integrity of the Christian community is grounded in this task of disciplined, discerning examination of the meaning of daily life in Christ. When we do this task well, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it illuminates everything we do. Through an engagement with a variety of texts, written and otherwise, this course will help us know what it means to embrace “living theology."

Amid the rapid changes of religiously pluralist landscapes, Christians need special grace and skills to engage with many others whose religious truth claims, practices and goals for a spiritual life may differ dramatically from our own. We must develop guidance for mapping and evaluating such traditions (new or ancient, small or global) in light of biblical revelation across a wide spectrum that even ordinary members of local congregations may expect to encounter. By engaging in direct dialogue with persons from other world faiths and some new religious movements, students learn skills of confident witness in a framework of gentleness, respect and compassion.

Forty years ago John Howard Yoder wrote The Politics of Jesus. The central task of this book is to bring to the surface the social-political dimensions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—as displayed throughout the New Testament (which includes showing the pacifist implications of its message). The Politics of Jesus was deliberately intended to be a broadly evangelical book with clear ecumenical sensibilities—speaking to a wide range of scholars and other interested Christians. It was a book calling for a paradigm shift. This course will engage the following question: Taking cues from Yoder’s creative work, what might it look like to articulate afresh a call to embody the good news of Jesus Christ, within the body of Christ, for the sake of our present world? Put differently, what does The Politics of Jesus look like when remixed for the second decade in this new century?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life stands as an extraordinary witness against the backdrop of that long, dark night known as Nazi Germany. He is rightly well known for his popular and influential books, Discipleship and Life Together. However, this pastor, theologian and director of a seminary also penned numerous other writings in biblical studies, ethics, systematic and practical theology—as well as unforgettable letters from prison—that have etched his influence in large letters into the face of contemporary theology. This course reflects on Bonhoeffer’s life, theology and ongoing witness.

This course is a study of the themes, assumptions, methods, movements and/or debates within the broad and complex field of contemporary theology. This course will change each time it is offered, pursuing different themes and trajectories ( e.g. narrative, feminist, black, womanist, or postmodern theologies). Thus it may be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: CTT 634 or by permission of the instructor.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) This means that Jesus is always our contemporary. But how do we think about this in relation to theological claims about Jesus? How do we explore the varied questions connected to theological claims and a commitment to peacemaking when our lives—and our reflections—are located in a global context where we are much more conscious of a plurality of cultures and religions? And how do the theological claims relate to being the people Jesus says we are to be? Engaging such contexts and exploring such questions are what this course is about.

Historical (CTH)

An overview of ways in which the Christian church has attempted to live and express its faith in various cultures from the second century to the Reformation. Special attention is given to developments in worship and in theological reflection and to the significance of these in particular social and historical contexts. Additional resourcing in writing and research is provided for students at the beginning of their seminary studies.

A continuation of Christian Tradition I, covering from the Reformation to the present. Attention is given to current social and cultural contexts and to ways in which worship and theological reflection might be carried on today. Prerequisite: CTH 500.

Offerings of this course examine the development of the church in particular places and times around significant historical themes. Such offerings blend historical study with pastoral and ecclesial application.

A study of the emergence and growth of Anabaptist-Mennonites from their origin in the 16th-century Reformation in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands to Russia, North and South America, and the third world. Attention is given to modern renewal movements in the tradition.

Ethics (CTE)

Christian ethics attempts to reflect in a clear, consistent and accountable way on the moral significance of the church’s claims regarding the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Theological ethics thus requires attentiveness to basic Christian convictions regarding God, the Church, and the world. Moreover, with the power of the Holy Spirit and in the midst of a worshiping people of God, it requires the cultivation of wisdom and discernment to form lives capable of embodying the holiness, righteousness, justice, compassion and truth to which we are called in Christ. Therefore Christian ethics requires a commitment to the life of the Church, a life that is joined to a love for the world for which Jesus died.

The teachings of Jesus have reached across many centuries with a strong witness against violence: “Love your enemies.” People in many cultures have found the Sermon on the Mount foundational for understanding the core of Jesus’ ethical teaching and practice. The earliest Christians placed this instruction at the forefront of their witness on what it means to be Christian. Are we willing to be instructed in this way of Christ today, as the movement takes form in the third millennium? This course builds on the Old Testament Jewish backgrounds for Jesus’ teaching. Two further horizons are surveyed: the resonance with this core (Matthew 5-7) in other ethical instruction of the New Testament, and the strong echoes down through Christian history where this teaching has been translated into lived practices.

We live in a time of substantial confusion regarding sexual beliefs and behaviors. Such a context calls for theological clarity about sexuality for those providing church leadership. This course will engage students in theological reflection about the meaning and purpose of human sexuality from a Christian perspective. In conversation with biblical, historical and contemporary writings, this course will challenge participants to articulate the sexual theology that informs their ministry and practice.

Biblical Foundations for Justice and Peacemaking (3 SH)

Churches and Social Transformation (3 SH)

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