|SFTS History of Religion seminar will focus on poverty|
The Muilenburg-Koenig History of Religion Seminar at San Francisco Theological Seminary will explore “Poverty: Religious Ideals and Social Problems” during the 2011 Spring Semester.
Established by a group of SFTS faculty last year, the Muilenburg-Koenig History of Religion Seminar is funded by a gift from Rev. Dr. Robert Koenig (MDiv ’69) in memory of James Muilenburg, SFTS Gray Professor of Hebrew Exegesis and Old Testament from 1963-69 and scholar in residence at the GTU until 1972.
This semester, the seminar will survey the comparative historical and cross-cultural study of poverty. The focus will be on the relationship of religiously imagined states of material deprivation to social and economic realities in vastly different contexts. Historical periods and places of particular significance to the history of religion will include: Ancient Near East; Mediterranean World of Early Late Antiquity; Medieval and Early Modern Europe; Judaism; Christianity; Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa; African Diasporas; theology; ethics today.
“It goes without saying that this issue is of tremendous importance today, on a global scale,” said the seminar convener, Dr. Christopher Ocker, SFTS Professor of Church History. “For those who wish to work against poverty, the scale of economic interdependence in our world renders broadly cross-cultural and comparative aptitudes more important than ever before, insofar as such aptitudes allow one to analyze the causes and potential remedies of poverty within, or over against, or in critical interaction with, the religious imaginaries that affect and interpret social stratification and deprivation in different communities.”
Presentations and discussions will be conducted in workshop fashion by SFTS faculty, five distinguished visitors, and, at the very end of the semester, by students of the seminar.
Guests are welcome to sit in on sessions of particular interest. Please contact the coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) for access to the readings, and do the readings for the session(s).
Here’s a looks at each session:
Comparative Frameworks: historical, cultural, social, theological
Dr. Christopher Ocker, SFTS Professor of Church History.
Political Economy and the Poverty of Theological Imagination during and after the Enlightenment
Rev. Dr. Noel is the H. Eugene Farlough, Jr. California Professor of African American Christianity at SFTS and a member of the GTU’s Core Doctoral Faculty. His book Black Religion & the Imagination of Matter in the Atlantic World (2009) builds on Charles Long’s philosophy of religion to place black religion in the context of its historical diasporas. With Matthew Johnson, Noel has edited The Passion of the Lord: African-American Reflections (2005), a collection of essays on aesthetics and black religious experience, and he has published numerous essays on black art, religious cultures, and biblical interpretation.
Poverty in the New Testament
Dr. Eugene Park is the Dana and Dave Dornsife Professor of New Testament at SFTS, and he is a member of the Core Doctoral Faculty of the GTU. Park has had a particular interest in missionary discourse in the New Testament, and in early Christian “universalism,” which he has explored in three books, The Mission Discourse in Matthew’s Interpretation, Gospel for the World: Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (in Korean), and Either Jew or Gentile: Paul’s Unfolding Theology of Inclusivity. He has, as you can see, covered three of the four basic genres of literature in the New Testament, but no book on apocalyptic is on the horizon, yet. He is currently working on Matthew again, and the first gospel’s distinctive (non-Pauline) soteriology.
Roman slavery and Christianity
Susanna Elm is professor of history and classics at the University of California at Berkeley. A specialist in late antiquity, her book Virgins of God. The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity shows the connection of the fourth-century Christological controversy among bishops to their competing views of the human body and the development of asceticism. Elm, who is currently working on a study of Hellenism and bishops in late antiquity, has also written on body marking in late antiquity, slavery, pilgrimage, patriarchal authority, ancient medicine, masculinity, etc. She has previously been a guest lecturer in History 1 at SFTS. And she has collaborated with Ocker as co-director of the GTU’s Center for the Study of Religion and Culture.
The Poor in Post-Reformation Europe, especially Germany
Dr. Joel Harrington, Professor of History and Associate Provost for Global Strategy at Vanderbilt University, is a social historian of early modern Germany. His first book, Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany (1995) showed how limited the impact of the Reformation on the practice of marriage was, when studied on the backdrop of theological, legal, and social traditions of the late Middle Ages. His most recent book, The Unwanted Child (2009), recently won the Bainton Prize for History and Theology of the Sixteenth-Century Studies Conference. It meticulously reconstructs the history of orphans in a German city after the Reformation, in the contexts of local history and economy and European patterns of child-rearing and parenting, while calling attention to the importance of informal foster parents. Harrington is a master of both extremely persistent archival research and broad comparison and synthesis. He is currently studying infanticide, witchcraft, and an executioner.
Poverty and Calvinist theology
Dr. Gregory Love is Associate Professor of Theology at SFTS and a member of the GTU’s Core Doctoral Faculty. Trained as a Barthian theologian, and having written a compelling study of Barth’s doctrine of providence, his interests have included the problem of evil, theology and natural science, and Christology. In his book, Love, Violence, and the Cross, he adapts arguments from liberation and feminist theologies to criticize traditional Christian views of violent atonement.
Poverty, global ordering and culture
Dr. Maia Green is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Manchester. Her book Priests, Witches and Power: Popular Christianity after Mission in Southern Tanzania (2004) stresses the effects of political and social change on the position of providers of traditional healing and divination and on the position of churches in East Africa. She has also published extensively on chronic poverty and international development, relating poverty to social reordering on a global scale. Green raises important questions about privileging culture (and religion as culture) at the expense of studying specific religious organizations and practices. Her work corrects the notion that Africa is uniquely dominated by spiritual hegemonies, by throwing light on the material aspects of post-colonial missionary churches and relatively new religious movements, like Pentecostalism.
The Hidden Rules of Wealth and Poverty
Rev. Laurie Garrett-Cobina holds the Shaw Family Chair for Clinical Pastoral Education at SFTS. An expert practitioner and organizer, she has directed and coordinated chaplaincy programs in the Carolina’s before coming to SFTS in 2006 to head its new program in Clinical Pastoral Education.