1 April–Bach’s St. Matthew Passion

Welcome to the Spring 2012 Theology Workshop! The theme around which this quarter’s conversation will orbit is “Theopraxis,” or theology as it bridges the putative theory/practice divide. We will be inquiring into what is gained by describing certain nonverbal or transverbal forms of cultural production as theologically inflected in a particularly intrinsic way, that is, as “theopractical.” More on the theme below, but first, an event to kick us off in style: a performance of one of the greatest and (conveniently enough) most theologically inflected works of music in history, the “Matthäuspassion” of Johann Sebastian Bach.




Bach’s St. Matthew Passion

Rockefeller Memorial Chapel

Sunday, April 1, 3:00 pm


The Rockefeller Chapel Choir and Orchestra and Motet Choir, directed by James Kallembach, will perform Bach’s beloved masterpiece, with Matthew Anderson, Evangelist, and with Hyun Suk Jang, soprano, Lon Ellenberger, alto, Matthew Dean, tenor, and Andrew Schultze, bass.

*Student tickets are available at the door for $5 w/ID.*

For non-student tickets in advance, go to Brown Paper Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/212858 ($23.50). See http://rockefeller.uchicago.edu/ or contact Eden Sabala (unaffiliated with the workshop) at esabala@uchicago.edu for more information.


Spring Quarter Theme: Theopraxis 

For much of religious history, the discourses that we might today identify as “theological” were carried out bypractitioners of specific traditions, as practices related to the goals and orientations of religious life. For instance: in several ascetic strains of Christianity, “theology” is named the truest form of prayer and an essentially post-verbal activity; the three primary yogas of the Bhagavad Gita position “god-talk” as precipitation from the practices of individual and collective transformation. However, since the advent of the university, there has been a gradual shift toward theology as an academic or scientific discipline carried out by specialists. It is often presented as a second-order discipline, interpreting and reflecting upon religious belief and practice, or even a third-order discipline—interpreting and reflecting on the history of theological discourse itself!

Inspired by work in 20th century philosophy that presents philosophy not as a purely second-order discipline but as a “way of life,” we are asking how theology also might bridge or circumvent the putative theory/practice divide. The constellation of relevant conversation topics could include: How might the ascetic orientation of earlier theology be usefully recovered? Can the production of theology be liberative or contemplative, and can it be such within the context of a 21st century secular university such as the University of Chicago? How might we fruitfully approach nonverbal or transverbal forms of theological activity—is it possible to understand as “theopraxis,” for example, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the struggle for civil rights, the mapping of the human genome, or the playing of Bach’s music?


Watch this space for updates on our biweekly series, beginning April 9th with Sam Shonkoff, PhD Student in History of Judaism, presenting on “HalakhahHabitus and Embodied Theology in Judaism.”