October 7 – inaugural meeting 2014-15. Daniel Owings: Warranted Christian Belief? The Noetic Effects of Sin as a Warrant-Defeater for Alvin Plantinga’s Model of Knowledge of God.

You are invited to the 2014 -2015 inaugural meeting of the Theology and Religious Ethics Workshop next Tuesday, October 7, 12:00 – 1:20 pm in Swift 106.

We will briefly introduce our vision for the workshop this year and highlight some exciting events we will be bringing to the Swift and the University community this quarter and beyond. That will be a great time for students interested in Theology to meet each other, socialize, and meet the relevant faculty. Lunch will be served.

For the feast of the mind, Daniel Owings (MA student in Theology) will present his paper entitled “Warranted Christian Belief? The Noetic Effects of Sin as a Warrant-Defeater for Alvin Plantinga’s Model of Knowledge of God.” David Barr, a Ph.D. student in Ethics will respond.

The abstract is below:

The paper is a critique of Alvin Plantinga’s “Reformed Epistemology,” which construes Christian belief as knowledge in the strict philosophical sense.  Essentially he argues that Christian belief, if true, constitutes warranted true belief; he admits that he cannot prove that the belief itself is true, but instead seeks to dispel the criticism of Christianity that “even if this is true, it’s so contrary to rationality that we have no reason to believe it.” Plantinga argues quite convincingly that we do  have good reason to believe that it is true, and that therefore if it is true, then it should qualify as knowledge insofar as it would be warranted true belief. My critique argues that Plantinga relies on Calvin’s concept of the noetic effects of sin to show that other belief systems do not constitute knowledge, but that these same noetic effects of sin should render his own beliefs so uncertain that they could not possibly be knowledge. Plantinga is correct in saying that his beliefs are not inherently irrational, but he goes too far in arguing that they are knowledge.

Apr 7-Aaron Hollander: A Heart Like Bright Water: Contemplating and Cultivating Holiness with the Theological Metaphor of Evagrius Ponticus

Aaron HollanderMonday, April 7, 2014 12:00 noon-1:25 pm Swift Hall, Room 200

Join us for a special joint session of the Theology Workshop and the Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium for Aaron’s Hollander’s paper, “A Heart Like Bright Water: Contemplating and Cultivating Holiness with the Theological Metaphor of Evagrius Ponticus”.

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Jan 13-Olivia Bustion: Counterpublic Theology & Pacifist Ways of Knowing (w/ Virginia Woolf & John Howard Yoder)

Olivia BustionMonday, January 13, 2014 12:00 noon-1:30 pm Swift Hall, Room 200

What do queer culture, Star Trek fandom, and the Quiverfull movement have in common?  Come find out at the next Theology Workshop, where Olivia Bustion will present her work-in-progress, “Counterpublic Theology and Pacifist Ways of Knowing (with John Howard Yoder and Virginia Woolf).”  The essay maps out a new way for theology to travel publicly, namely, ‘counterpublic theology.’

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December 2- Barnabas Pusnur: “Narsai and the theological articulation of Identity”

Monday, December 2, 2013 12:00 noon-1:30 pm Swift 106

Join us for Barnabas Pusnur’s paper, “Narsai and the theological articulation of Identity”.

Narsai was a fifth century Syriac Christian theologian who wrote homilies in poetic form.He lived at the cultural and geographical boundaries of the Roman and Persian Empires. The paper attempts to study Narsai’s theological articulation of identity in relation to his historical context.
Evan Kuehn will be responding.

November 18- Andrew DeCort: “Authority, Martyrdom, and the Question of Axiality in Ethiopian Political Theology”

Monday, November 18, 2013 12:00 noon-1:30 pm Swift 106

Join us for Andrew DeCort’s paper, “”Authority, Martyrdom, and the Question of Axiality in Ethiopian Political Theology””

This paper will (i)  briefly converse with Bellah’s description of sacral kingship and the transition to ‘axiality’ in his Religion in Human Evolution; (ii) show how early Ethiopian Axumite civilization was essentially a sacral kingship; (iii) argue that this basic understanding of authority didn’t change substantially with the Christianization of Ethiopia in the fourth century under Ezana and following to the medieval period; and (iv) investigate to what extent Abba Estifanos should or should not be understood as one of the first clear cases of “axiality” in Ethiopian politico-religious history (in short, Estifanos challenged the emperor Zara Yaqob based on a notion of ‘divine law’ that transcended royal law and the king’s claim to represent God). As a final step (v) I will make some remarks about the ongoing relevance of this medieval martyr and his ‘school’ for contemporary Christian theology in Ethiopia confronted by political oppression and the temptation to retreat into political silence. In short, I will be making the claim that Christian theology in Ethiopia, among other things, should – and periodically has – challenge(d) prevailing notions of authority with a constructive vision of ‘martyrdom’ (which doesn’t simply mean dying).


Evan Kuehn will respond. You can find the paper here (UChicago ID and password needed). Please feel free but not obligated to read the paper in preparation. Please email contact contact-theology@lists.uchicago.edu if you are not a University of Chicago affiliate but would like to look at the paper in preparation for the workshop meeting.


A light lunch will be served.


Reminder: Alternative Epistemologies Event TODAY!

Shannon Craigo-Snell, “Performing Epistemologies of Resistance”

Wednesday, November 13, 4:30-6pm, University of Chicago Divinity School, Swift Lecture Hall


The theme of Alternative Epistemologies raises the question: alternative to what? This presentation explores two different accounts of modern epistemology and its discontents. The first, articulated in feminist theory, implicates the drive to singularity in modern thought. It critiques the judgment that there is a single path to an objective, universal truth. The second, articulated in performance theory, analyzes the role of the written word in colonialism, identifying political imperatives and implications of text-based knowledge. Taken together, these distinct accounts offer insights into epistemology as a possible arena for political resistance.


Shannon Craigo-Snell is Professor of Theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the Faculty Director for the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Her published works include Silence, Love, and Death: Saying “Yes” to God in the Theology of Karl Rahner (Marquette, 2008) and Living Christianity: A Pastoral Theology for Today, which is co-authored with Shawnthea Monroe (Fortress, 2009). More of her work on theology and performance will be found in her forthcoming book, The Empty Church: Theatre, Theology, and Hope (Oxford,  2014).