1 May–Discourse Destabilized: Theopraxis and Ministry

Please join the Theology Workshop for this quarter’s thematic panel presentation and discussion, “Discourse Destabilized: Theopraxis and Ministry,” Tuesday, May 1, 12:00-1:30, in Swift Hall 106 (note the unusual day).

Theology is often conceived of as specialized discourse that occurs primarily in institutions of higher learning or by dedicated commissions of religious organizations (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the doctrinal commissions of Protestant churches, or even the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches). This has led to a perception that it is largely irrelevant to the leadership of religious communities, both on the part of some religious leaders and some professional theologians. But is this view not distorted? Continuing to explore our spring quarter theme of “Theopraxis,” the Theology Workshop will host a panel to test the hypothesis that practices of ministry — from the sanctuary to the town hall, from coffee hour to hospice care — are inherently theological. They destabilize the expectations of theological discourse, while being themselves acts of theological production that create new possibilities for discourse. For this event, we are honored to host three astute professional religious leaders, who also have extensive knowledge of academic theological inquiry, to lead the discussion through the lenses of their experience.


Andrew Packman is a third-year M.Div. student at the Divinity School and will be ordained as a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) this August.  In addition to beginning his PhD in Theology next Fall, Andrew is working with two members of his cohort to plant a church on Chicago’s near north side.

Maurice Charles is a Ph.D. candidate in History of Christianity writing on the English Reformation. Before returning to the Divinity School, from which he received his M.Div. in 1990, he was Associate Dean for Religious Life at Stanford University, and is currently an assisting priest at Church of the Atonement (Episcopal) in Chicago.

Teresa Hord Owens is the Dean of Students in the Divinity School, where she received her M.Div., and Pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Downer’s Grove, IL. Rev. Owens was ordained into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in July 2003.  Prior to being called into ministry, she was an IT specialist with SBC America, Ernst and Young, IBM, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.  She currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

No preparation is necessary. Lunch will be provided. Persons with a disability who would like assistance, please contact Kyle Rader in advance at kgr@uchicago.edu.

11 April–Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil

Wednesday, April 11, 4:30 PM
Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil

A collaboration of Lumen Christi, the Philosophy Department, and the Theology Workshop, featuring:

Brian Davies, Fordham University
Denys Turner, Yale University
Michael Kremer, University of Chicago
Swift Hall, Third Floor Lecture Hall

Many people find that they cannot reconcile belief in the existence of God with the reality of evil; for if an all powerful and perfectly good God exists, then why is there so much suffering and injustice? Brian Davies, in his most recent book, Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil, argues that Aquinas gives us the proper theoretical framework for dealing with these tensions. Denys Turner and Michael Kremer will join Davies in a panel discussion of his book’s major claims.

Brian Davies is Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. Having received his PhD from King’s College, London, he spent over a decade as a lecturer at the University of Oxford before assuming his current position. He is author of An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religionand Thinking About God.

Denys Turner is the Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology at Yale University. He is the author of Marxism and ChristianityEros and Allegory, and The Darkness of God, as well as many articles and papers on political and social theory in relation to Christian theology, and on medieval thought, especially the traditions of ‘mystical theology.’

Michael Kremer is the Mary R. Morton Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. He has published numerous articles on logic, philosophy of language, and early analytic philosophy. His current research projects include work on the 19th-century mathematician and philosopher Gottlob Frege, and on the early 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

9 April–Sam Shonkoff

Please join us for the first regular event of the Spring 2012 Theology Workshop: a presentation and discussion with Sam B. Shonkoff, PhD Student in History of Judaism; 12:00-1:20 PM, Monday, April 9th, Swift 201.


“We Shall Do and We Shall Understand”: HalakhahHabitus and Embodied Theology in Judaism”

There is widespread disagreement amongst scholars as to whether or not theology plays an integral role in Judaism. This presentation proposes that Judaism does have a strong theological dimension, but that it defies modern categories of theology, which are constrained within the horizons of logia. Jewish theology is not based on words, beliefs or concepts as much as on actions, mannerisms and spatiality. In repudiation of the Durkheimian beliefs-rites dichotomy, Sam will contend that halakhah—the corpus of normative Jewish practice—is the foundation of Jewish theology. Recent scholarship on paradigms of embodiment and the body as a site of subjectivity have contributed immensely to religious studies, but they have not yet sufficiently expanded our definition of theology. The notion of embodied theology opens up new frontiers for the study of religions such as Judaism and Islam, which tend to simultaneously emphasize the ineffability of God and the centrality of divinely mandated practices.

In discussion of this paper, we will explore notions of halakhah in relation to Bourdieu’s conception of habitus. Bourdieu’s work has profoundly influenced religious studies, but it has not yet been adequately applied to the study of normative practice in Judaism. Correlations between them shed much light on halakhah‘s embodied theology. Both habitus and halakhah presuppose that (1) bodily movements and actions manifest a community’s beliefs and principles; (2) subject-object and body-mind dualities are problematic; and (3) practice eludes functionalist explanations. Furthermore, fundamental differences between habitus and halakhah—largely concerning the genesis, cultivation and psychology of embodied practice—highlight the theological core of halakhah.

Josh Connor, PhD Student in Ethics, will respond. The paper will be available for advance reading through the Theology Workshop listserve, but no preparation is required. Lunch will be provided.