15 October–Jacob Swenson

Monday, October 15, 12:00-1:20 pm. Swift 201.

“Two Traditions in Virtue Ethics: Christian Virtue and the Depoliticization of Aristotle”

The Theology Workshop will welcome Jacob Swenson, PhD Student in Philosophy, for a presentation and discussion on the de-politicization of Aristotle’s practical philosophy. He will contend that modern Aristotelians have fundamentally misunderstood Aristotle’s concept of human excellence, reducing his concept of the political to the level of the social. By sketching the rise of a distinctly Christian form of virtue ethics in the early middle ages, Swenson will frame two distinct, and often conflicting, traditions of thought about the virtues, giving a genealogy of the features particularly pertinent to the subsequent rediscovery of Aristotle in the 13th century: (1) the Latin re-conceptualization of certain Greek virtues in a Christian mold, (2) the re-envisioning of the end of virtue such that it entails a comprehensive Christian worldview, and (3) the emphasis on virtue as a feature of personal piety that is best exemplified in close-knit social relationships. We will consider and discuss Swenson’s argument that the project of the Latin fathers, while substantial in its own right, has perpetuated a mistaken interpretation of Aristotle’s practical philosophy — which has continued into the rise of contemporary neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics and its relation to the political order.

Brian Herlocker, PhD Student in Philosophy of Religions, will respond. No advance preparation is expected of workshop participants, but the paper will be made available through the Workshop listserve for those who would like to prepare.

This workshop is free and open to the public. A light lunch will be served.

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Aaron in advance at athollander@uchicago.edu.

3 October–The Influence of Augustine in Political Discourse and Public Theology

Welcome back to all participants and friends of the Theology Workshop! You are cordially invited to our first event of the year, a panel discussion co-sponsored with the Religion & Ethics Workshop:

The Influence of Augustine in Political Discourse and Public Theology 

Wednesday, October 3rd. 5:00pm-6:30pm. 

Divinity School Common Room.

A reception will follow the event (6:45pm-8:30 pm), which will double as a meet & greet reception for the two Workshops. Even if you are unable to attend the discussion, please do join us for this reception — especially if you have not yet participated in the Workshops!

Augustine of Hippo has had a veritable renaissance in modern scholarship, yet in a variety of different ways and disciplines. Together, the Religion & Ethics Workshop and the Theology Workshop are launching their programming this year by bringing together three scholars whose own work has been deeply touched by this figure. Eric Gregory (Princeton), Charles Mathewes (UVA) and Willemien Otten (University of Chicago) have recently produced influential but very different books on Augustine in the last few years. Prof. Gregory has written “Politics and the Order of Love: An Augustinian Ethic of Democratic Citizenship” and Prof. Mathewes has written “A Theology of Public Life” and “The Republic of Grace: Augustinian Thoughts for Dark Times.” Each will speak to the influence of Augustine on his political vision. Prof. Otten, who has recently edited The Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (OGHRA), will provide context for this Augustinian renaissance, speaking to the problems of Augustine and reception.

This event precedes the third installment of the Engaged Mind Conference series: Theological Reflection and the Limits of Politics (Oct 4-5th), in which Profs. Mathewes and Gregory are participating.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Michael Le Chevallier in advance at LeChevallier@UChicago.edu

This event is the opening session of the Theology Workshop’s Autumn 2012 theme, “Theology in Public.” 

Continuing on from last year’s explorations of the textures and limits of “theology” in discourse and practice, we now turn to questions of the reciprocal influences between theologies and the forms of public space and community within which they are constituted. This is by no means a new conversation—entire journals and research centers are dedicated to public theology, and our own Divinity School history is thick with considerations of religious self-understanding and its public entanglements. It is a conversation that cuts across many degree programs and areas of study in the university.

The problems of theologies being produced and exercised in public are only becoming more prominent, however, as global, digital civil society renders ever more vivid the demands placed by societies on their religious institutions, and vice versa. It is in this context that we are soliciting presentations on topics related to the relationships between forms of religious meaning-making and the social world they inhabit. These might include but by no means are limited to questions of: (a) political theology or the convergence and divergence of political and theological commitments; (b) theology and democracy, or the intersections of religious imagination and civic rituals (e.g., this autumn, presidential candidate selection and election) (c) processes of (de)institutionalization in religious understanding and practice; (d) the position of theology in the contemporary academy; (e) secularism and the situation of religion(s) within a secular state; (f) shifting demographic trends (whether local or global) occurring within religions or eliciting religious responses; (g) theological issues around homiletics, liturgy, and prophecy (or analogues from a variety of religious traditions).

There is still room in our schedule for student presentations, and we encourage you to consider what work you have or are in the process of preparing that would contribute to this quarter’s conversation. 

We welcome papers concerned with any theological perspective or religious tradition on the above or related questions. We are particularly interested in dissertation chapters or articles being prepared for publication, but we are happy to consider other work from graduate students and faculty of the University or other institutions. Our usual procedure is to make the paper or chapter to be presented available to our participants in advance for those who would like to prepare. We will hear a 20-30 minute presentation from the author, followed by a prepared response from a fellow workshop participant and group discussion. If you would be interested in presenting, please email Aaron Hollander (athollander@uchicago.edu) or Mary Emily Duba (maryemilyduba@uchicago.edu) with a brief description of the paper.

29 May–Dwight Hopkins

Friends and colleagues of the Theology Workshop, please join us for our final event of the year and the capstone presentation of our spring quarter “Theopraxis” series: a conversation with Dwight N. Hopkins, Professor of Theology & Director of MA Studies in the Divinity School, on civil disobedience and civil rights as theological production. This event is co-hosted with the Race & Religion Workshop.

Tuesday, May 29th

12:00 – 1:30 pm

Swift 106

What do we gain by describing ways of life that are in opposition to category-based social inequities as extra-verbal forms of theological activity? What is the relationship between the discursive motivations and tactics involved in civil rights struggles and the deployment of the body as a physical, kinesthetic confrontation of “the powers”? How do such practices both destabilize existing theological expectations/forms and simultaneously create new forms and pathways for religious reflection and inquiry? What salient parallels and distinctions between American civil rights struggles / black theology and the theological movements from the underside of history in many other parts of the world are brought to light in such a discussion of theopraxis?

Such questions and more will be on the table at Tuesday’s workshop. Responding to Prof. Hopkins will be Barnabas Pusnur, PhD Student in Theology. No preparation is expected from workshop attendees. A celebratory, year-end lunch will be provided, along with much delicious coffee.

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Julius in advance at jrcrump@uchicago.edu.

23 May–Gianluigi Gugliermetto

Talking Queer—Sexual Theology for the Whole Church
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

6:00 – 8:00 PM
Brent House

This week we will be joining forces with the LGBTQ Divinity Studies Reading Group and Brent House for a special presentation by visiting scholar Gianluigi Gugliermetto, exploring the disconnect between the Church and the Academy in the debate on human sexuality. Dinner and drinks will be served!

Conflicts about the meaning of human sexuality, its relevance, and its regulation within the scope of a faithful religious life have been common in Western Christian churches for the last few decades.

Academic theology has also taken up the subject in earnest, both reflecting and fueling the conflicts present and alive ‘on the ground.’ It could be argued indeed that this is one of the areas in which academic theology shows its desire to provoke “real change” and to be challenged by it. Yet the debate within churches is polarized by the conservative vs. liberal frame, is dominated by issues of sexual identity, and is stuck on specific questions of biblical interpretation, all of which are quite far from the concerns of those professional theologians who deal with sexuality and gender as theological topics today. Is it possible today to build a bridge between the academy and the Church on this particular subject?

Feel free to RSVP for the event on facebook if you’d like to help us plan the quantities of food and drink:  https://www.facebook.com/events/252869478144830/

Persons with a disability who would like assistance, please contact Kyle in advance at kgr@uchicago.edu.



15 May–Adrian Guiu & Aaron Hollander

Tuesday, May 15, 4:30-6:00 pm, S200

Our next regular Workshop session will take place with one of a couple experimental formats we are trying this quarter. Adrian Guiu and Aaron Hollander will present material from their own work in progress, in order to launch an open dialogue on spiritual exercises, the contemplation of creation, and natural science. Figures who may be covered include Marcus Aurelius, Plotinus, Abba Anthony & the desert dwellers, Evagrius Ponticus, Boethius, Maximus Confessor, J. S. Eriugena, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, John Polkinghorne, and His All-Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. If you are interested in any of these figures or are outraged that we omitted your favorite, you have a place at the table. There will be snacks and drinks. No preparation is expected.

11/12 May–Before Authority: Renegotiating Power and Religion

May 11-12, 2012

Swift Hall 

Co-sponsored by the Religion and Ethics workshop, the Theology workshop, the Divinity Students Association, and the Department of Political Science

Theologians, ethicists, and social and political theorists share a sense today that the scope and consequences of human power are growing at a rate perhaps unmatched in history. The 20th century witnessed the rapid expansion of human capacities, ranging from the atomic bomb to the Fordist and post-Fordist assembly line to exponentially-growing insights into and control over our own biology. New possibilities – from the devastation of our planet to redefinition of the genome that makes us who we are – have emerged that call for an imagining of human agency that will both account for and check the uses to which human power is put in our world. Complicating all of this is the recent upsurge in power that different religious communities wield, which has accompanied rather than been voided by secularizing processes.

At the same time, it is not clear that the various contemporary discussions deploy the term “power” univocally. In some, “power” denotes that quality of all social relationships which creates effects on subjects. In others, the “powers” refer to transpersonal structures of human relation that govern and shape life. Meanwhile, “power” names both that contemporary phenomenon that evokes human responsibility, demanding both acts of empowerment and limitation, as well as that aspect of human agency long recognized as susceptible to human formation. What is shared among these is a sense of the urgency of questions of power for contemporary discourse about our social life. But is the common word a mere equivocation, or are these various discourses, in fact, imbricated in a way that opens avenues for fruitful conversation?

What animates this conference is the attempt to understand power within critical and normative approaches to religion that are sensitive to its multifaceted character and attuned to possibilities for its creative exercise. Thus, this conference invites theologians, ethicists, and social theorists to share their work on power in a way that seeks new approaches to the subject.


J. Kameron Carter (Duke University)

Marion Grau (Church Divinity School of the Pacific)

Vincent Lloyd (Syracuse University)

Robin Lovin (Southern Methodist University)

Kathryn Tanner (Yale University)

Jonathan Tran (Baylor University)

William Schweiker (University of Chicago)

Joshua Daniel (University of Chicago)

Rick Elgendy (University of Chicago)



* All sessions will be in the Lecture Hall, 3rd floor

Afternoon session 1pm-4pm

Robin Lovin: “Religious Authority and the Fragmentation of Power”

Joshua Daniel: “Patient Authority and Enduring Novelty: Pragmatizing Robert W. Jenson on Time and Language”

Vincent Lloyd: “Theology and Real Politics: On Huey P. Newton”

Reception, Common Room 4:30 — 5 pm

Morning session 9am-11:30am

Kathryn Tanner: “The Power of Love”

Rick Elgendy: “Revelation without Authority”

Jonathan Tran: “Ontological Participation, Epistemological Certainty, and Political Legitimation: Conceptualizing Authority”

Afternoon session 1pm-4pm

J. Kameron Carter: “Before (Sovereign) Authority: Towards a Counterhistory of Political Theology”

Marion Grau: “Interpreting Power: Towards an Intercultural Theological Hermeneutics”

William Schweiker: “The Love of Power”


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.

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.”