5 March–Michael Fishbane

For the final workshop of this winter quarter’s “Reckoning with Scriptures” series, we are delighted to welcome Professor Michael Fishbane, Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies in the Divinity School and the College. The event is co-hosted with the Jewish Studies & Hebrew Bible Workshop, and will be held at 12:00, Monday, March 5th, in Swift 106.

Professor Fishbane will present a latest perspective on his highly-acclaimed work of contemporary theology, Sacred Attunement (2008), considering the role of ethics within the text and reflecting, phenomenologically, on the ethical dimension of attunement as he has defined it. As we move to the discussion segment of the workshop, the significance of such an ‘ethics of attunement’ to our broader constructive theological concerns and methods will also be in view.

We will have two respondents, to launch and help guide the conversation:

Sam Shonkoff, PhD Student in History of Judaism

Carly Lane, PhD Student in Social Thought

A version of Professor Fishbane’s presentation, which is soon going to publication (and so is not for distribution or citation), will be available for us to read in advance through the Theology Workshop listserve.

Lunch will be provided.

Any persons with a disability who believe they may require assistance, please contact Aaron Hollander in advance at athollander@uchicago.edu


20 February–Scriptures at the Faultlines

As we near the end of our Winter Quarter programming around the theme of “Reckoning with Scriptures,” the Theology Workshop has lined up two special events bringing together faculty, students, and six (6!) disciplines within and beyond the Divinity School. The first of these is a panel discussion on “Scriptures at the Faultlines,” Monday, February 20th, 12:00-1:30 pm, in Swift 106. 

In what ways does the presence of authoritative scriptures linger in supposedly secular spaces? How is scriptural authority negotiated among communities who do not share a common canon? Whose scriptures are they anyway, and who gets to appeal to them, and what are the ethics of doing so? Are debates about scriptural interpretation really about other things? Are debates about other things really about scriptural interpretation?

What these questions have in common is that they deal with the presence of scriptures at the boundaries between spaces with differing religious emphases or levels of authority, such as between religious communities in a common political body or natural watershed, between differing social norms within particular religions, or between exegesis and other forms of reasoning in the academy—all of which may or may not (or may not yet) be sites of conflict.

This panel will engage with how habits of reasoning, narrative motifs, and ethical priorities effervesce from the history of textual interpretation into a broad array of public interactions and spaces. Such patterns of scriptural logic may be explicitly “used” to strengthen the claims or behavior of agents, or they may be invisible and unvoiced—but no less informative.

Our guests for the panel are:

-William Schweiker, Director of the Martin Marty Center and Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School — reflecting on the general hermeneutical method that he has developed and used in order to deploy the “five dimensions” of theological ethics, in relation to scriptural claims and their potential orientation for the responsible life. In contrast to other “methods,” especially the approach of “scriptural reasoning” and the so-called method of correlation, he will contend that the method developed more adequately articulates and analyzes the structures of lived reality and therefore is important in addressing the interface between ethical and theological claims.

-Kristel Clayville, PhD Candidate in Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School — reflecting on the use and suspicion of Scripture in environmental ethics. She will focus particularly on the work of Holmes Rolston III, whose  argument for the preservation of endangered species as presented both philosophically and as an extension of Scriptural logic — thus overriding the typical binary between espousal and eschewal of scripture in this hotly contested field.

-Rachel Watson, PhD Student in Religion & Literature, University of Chicago Divinity School — reflecting on her research into the recent explosion of material (popular cultural, mass media disseminated, and academic) on the Gospel of Judas, part of the Codex Tchacos uncovered in Egypt in the 1970s and recently re-announced to the world in 2004. She will make a case that the introduction of this text as a “lost gospel,” one that was immediately put into conversation — if not competition — with other early Christian texts, sheds significant light on the contemporary discussion of and anxiety about ancient texts.

After presenting their reflections from the vantage of these three contested contemporary faultlines of scriptural application, our panelists will join in discussion with workshop participants in regard to the interpretive bases on which such patterns of use are founded, considering what criteria might be applied to evaluate them.

No preparation is expected of workshop attendees. Lunch will be provided. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance, or anyone with further questions, please contact Aaron Hollander at athollander@uchicago.edu.

6 February–Marsaura Shukla

The Theology Workshop cordially invites you to our upcoming workshop with Marsaura Shukla, PhD Candidate in Theology, Monday, February 6th at 12:00, in Swift 201.

“Reading and Revelation in Hans Frei and David Tracy”

Most maps of theology in the twentieth century, particularly theology in North America, would include the delineation of revisionist theology and postliberal theology as mutually exclusive, opposed options in theological method. Marsaura’s presentation begins to challenge the contours of this received map through a comparison of David Tracy and Hans Frei, preeminent figures in revisionist and postliberal theology, respectively. She will show that, for all their differences, both Tracy and Frei posit the reader-text relationship as the site and even in some sense the source of revelation, and elevate the activity of reading to the position of definitive religious activity.

This article is forthcoming in the Scottish Journal of Theology, and will be revised for use on the job market. Please come lend your support and insight!

Herbert Lin, 3rd year PhD student in Theology, will respond. The paper will be available through the Theology Workshop listserve, but no advance preparation is expected. Lunch will be provided.

Persons with disabilities who may need assistance, or with any other questions, please contact Kyle Rader at kgr@uchicago.edu.

2 February–John Cavadini

The Theology Workshop is pleased to be able to co-sponsor an exciting event with the Lumen Christi Institute. This Thursday, February 2 at 7:15 PM, Prof. John Cavadini from the University of Notre Dame will give a lecture entitled “The Grand Design: An Augustinian Reply to Stephen Hawking.” The event will be held in Social Sciences 122.


Stephen Hawking has recently declared that philosophy is dead, and that science is the only reasonable method for securing knowledge. In response, Professor Cavadini will argue that philosophy is rooted in man’s wonder about the universe, and that scientific inquiry is only one aspect of true wisdom and should not be privileged over others.

John Cavadini is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in patristic and early medieval theology, the theology of Augustine, and the history of biblical and patristic exegesis. He has published extensively in these areas, as well as in the theology of miracles, the life and work of Gregory the Great, and the theology of marriage.

This event is free and open to the public. For Directions, visit:  http://maps.uchicago.edu/mainquad/social.html

Persons with disabilities requiring assistance, please call 773-955-5887

23 January–Andrew DeCort

The Theology Workshop cordially invites you to participate in the upcoming workshop with Andrew DeCort, 2nd year PhD student in Religious Ethics, on Monday, January 23rd, 12:00-1:30 PM, in Swift 201.


“Theology as Freedom: Scripture, Sovereignty, Creationality, and Civilization”


In his presentation, Andrew will analyze two competing logics surrounding Evangelical interpretations of biblical authority. On one hand, Evangelicals would agree that (1) God created a good world that quickly rebelled against God, (2) that God covenanted Godself with people that were repeatedly unfaithful to God, and (3) that God’s continued presence and action among us is the clearest sign of God’s own faithful love for the world. Rather than engineering a world or a history that is “infallible” or “inerrant,” we see God giving and affirming creaturely freedom, co-creativity, and co-authority, what he will call a logic of “creationality.” On the other hand, Evangelicals insist that Scripture is an exception from this pattern, in which God works so successfully that Scripture remains spotless from error or internal disagreement, which he interprets as a logic of “sovereignty.” We will interrogate the argument that the Evangelical doctrine of a Scripture that cannot fail betrays the wider biblical commitment to a God who does not work through unmediated, absolute force but through mediated, response-able inter-action, which leaves room for Scripture to be a) authoritative and b) accompanied with error, which c) isolates the continuing demand for genuinely critical-and-committed reading and action.

Julius Crump, 1st year PhD student in Theology, will respond. The paper will be available through the Theology Workshop listserve, but no advance preparation is expected of participants. Lunch will be provided.

9 January–Evan Kuehn

Welcome to 2012! Please join the Theology Workshop as we embark on our Winter quarter theme: “Reckoning with Scriptures”, at 12:00 pm, Monday, January 9th — Swift 200.

Our first presentation is that of Evan Kuehn, 2nd year PhD student in Theology. Evan will offer a constructive proposal inspired by Schleiermacher’s  Glaubenslehre that incorporates his account of the threefold office of Christ into a new reading of the cry of dereliction. It will propose an interpretation that revises Schleiermacher’s explicit conclusions about the event of Christ’s abandonment by God while hewing closely to the structure, content, and purpose of Schleiermacher’s doctrine of the person and work of the Redeemer. Instead of following Schleiermacher by interpreting the godforsakenness of Jesus as problematic for His unique and persistent dignity as Redeemer, Christ’s godforsakenness will be explained as the end of the prophetic office of Christ.

Kyle Rader, 4th year PhD student in Theology, will respond.

The paper will be available through the Theology Workshop listserve, but no preparation is expected of attendees of the workshop. Like last quarter, presentations will range 25-30 minutes, with a 5-10 minute response and roughly 45 minutes for discussion. A light lunch will be provided.

Reckoning with Scriptures, Winter 2012

Theologians and their analogues across a huge array of religious traditions consider certain texts to be uniquely authoritative, and themselves to be somehow accountable to them. The extent and manner of their response to sacred texts, however, are highly variable even within single communities. Furthermore, the study of theology and the study of scripture have come to occupy largely separate spheres in most North American and European universities and seminaries. This arrangement has not been fruitless, but there is a growing discomfort with it in many quarters. For instance, the dominance of the historical-critical paradigm has been contested by liberationist, feminist, queer and other reading strategies, including many that would retrieve classical forms (e.g. Patristic or Talmudic) of exegesis as normative. This quarter’s presentations will explore the relation of theology to scripture, in ways that wrestle with the hermeneutical, political, epistemic, ethical, and ecclesiological problems indigenous to scriptural traditions.

14 November–Zygon Center for Religion & Science

“Existence and Extinction: Ecology, Ethics, and Theology Between Individual and Communal Mortality”

Monday, November 14th, 2011

12:00-1:30 pm

Swift Hall 201, University of Chicago



Please join us for a unique workshop and panel discussion of multidisciplinary approaches to species extinction, co-hosted by the University of Chicago Theology Workshop and the Zygon Center’s Religion and Science Student Society.

What religious or philosophical account is to be taken of an ecological process that eliminates not only individuals, but entire categories of beings? What ethical knots might exist around causing the extinction of a parasite, or preventing the extinction of an organism through genetic modification? How do the practitioners of ecological science engage with and speak to cultural expectations to find meaning in the natural world? Our panelists will begin by presenting reflections on the challenges and possibilities that extinction poses to their disciplines. Then there will be a moderated discussion between the panel and the workshop attendees.


Dr. Paul G. Heltne — Primatologist, Conservationist, and President Emeritus, Chicago Academy of Sciences

Willa Lengyel — PhD Student in Theological Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School

Dr. Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF — Professor of Catholic Theological Ethics, Catholic Theological Union


-Aaron Hollander — PhD Student in Theology, University of Chicago Divinity School


This event is free and open to the public.  No registration is necessary. A light lunch will be provided.

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance should contact Kyle Rader at kgr@uchicago.edu in advance.

31 October–Mary Emily Duba

The Theology Workshop invites you to join us on Monday, October 31, 12:00 – 1:30 PM in Swift 106, for a presentation and discussion of the significance of place for theological anthropology. This workshop will be led by Mary Emily Duba (PhD student in theology); Jeff Fowler will respond, and the workshop will be invited to think constructively and collaboratively around our theme.


“You are here.”  Behind this simplest of sentences lies a significant theological claim: What the human being is, as a creature made in the image of God, and who the human being is, in her dignity and difference, are intimately related to where the human being lives out her “being human.”  Historically, theological anthropology has understood the human person in abstraction from the particularities of place—as rational, for example, or relational. This abstraction distorts our understanding of the human person.

From Eden, through the wilderness, in the upper room, to the New Jerusalem, the Judeo-Christian scriptures tie their theological imagination to place.  From the loss of place in modern societies to the testimonies of climate refugees, ethical anthropological reflection demands attention to human experiences of emplacement and displacement.  In this workshop,  we will explore together the possibilities and implications of “re-grounding” theological anthropology, seeking insight into what it means to be homo geographicus, dwelling under the heavens and on the earth.

This workshop is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided. Costumes optional.

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

17 October–Brett Colasacco

The Theology Workshop is pleased to invite you to the first of our papers for the year on Monday (10/17) from 12:00-1:30 in Swift 201. Brett Colasacco, a Ph.D. student in History of Christianity, will present remarks based on his paper “A Patron Saint for Post-Humanism?  Francis of Assisi, Deep Ecology, and the Political Order.” Unlike in previous years, the presentation will be approximately 25 minutes and will not presume any preparation on the part of participants. However, the paper is available through the Theology Workshop listserve or by emailing Kyle Rader at kgr@uchicago.edu, and we encourage participants who are able to read it in advance.

Daniel Schultz, Ph.D. student in Philosophy of Religions, will give a prepared response. The floor will then be open to everyone for questions, feedback, and discussion. A light lunch will be provided.

4 October–John Chryssavgis

On Tuesday, October 4th, the Theology Workshop is honored to host, in collaboration with the Martin Marty Center, a special event at the Divinity School. Fr. John Chryssavgis, advisor to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on ecological issues, will join us for a public lecture and discussion: “Creation, Iconography, and Spirituality: Insights into an Eco-Theological Worldview.”

Through an Orthodox Christian lens, perceiving, respecting, and responding to the world around us are disciplines for sustained and sustainable religious commitment. This presentation will illuminate the art, song, and spiritual practice of the Christian East as they attend to the natural environment, the human role in an Earth community, and our responsibility in caring for all creation.

Please join us at 4:30 pm, in Swift 106, for this unique and exciting contribution, which doubles as a Keynote address for this Autumn’s workshop theme, “Theology and the Earth.” This event is free and open to the public.



John Chryssavgis is a deacon of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and currently serves as theological advisor to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on ecological issues. He completed his doctoral studies in Patristics at the University of Oxford (1983), and his teaching since has covered wide-ranging theological, political, socio-cultural, liturgical, and ecological topics. His research has specialized in the ascetic thought and practice of early Christianity, especially from the desert tradition of Egypt (4th century) through the regions of Palestine (5th-6th centuries) and Sinai (7th century). Fr. Chryssavgis was appointed Professor of Theology at Holy Cross School of Theology in 1995 and directed the Religious Studies Program at Hellenic College until 2002. He established the Environment Office at the same School in 2001. Among his numerous publications are included: Beyond the Shattered Image (1999); The Body of Christ (2002); In the Heart of the Desert (2003); Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer (2003); The Reflections of Abba Zosimas (2004); and Remembering and Reclaiming Diakonia (2009). He has also edited three volumes of the official statements by the Ecumenical Patriarch, published with Fordham University Press (2010-2012), the last of which focuses exclusively on environmental issues.