Philosophy & Theology

Faith & Reason Newsletter, Spring 2013

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Faith & Reason THE TEXAS LUTHERAN UNIVERSITY THEOLOGY & PHILOSOPHY NEWSLETTER • SPRING 2013 • VOLUME 16, ISSUE 2 WHY A THEOLOGY DEPARTMENT? TIMOTHY K. SNYDER, Doctoral candidate in practical theology, Boston University; TLU Graduate, 2008 "A theological faculty has a reason to be in the academy only when it is charged with the task of expressing that which others dare not say under the circumstances, or say it in a way that is not heard, or when it at least signals that such things must be said. It cautions that chaos, though wonderful, is not a cosmos, and it stands as a question mark and an explanation point on the outer edge of what philosophy does — no, in contrast to it, precisely beyond the scientific possibilities. A religious studies faculty, on the contrary, really makes no sense at all." Karl Barth in The Word of God and Theology. Translation by Amy Marga Five years ago I learned a critical theological insight during my time at Texas Lutheran University. Strangely enough, this insight came after I had turned in my final paper but before I had walked across the stage. Perhaps even stranger is that it came not from one of our distinguished theology professors, but from my father to one of our professors. I was with my family in the bookstore when we ran into one of my professors and I was delighted to introduce them to each other. But what happened next surprised me: Theology Professor: So, I hear you work in healthcare administration? My Father: Yes, and you teach theology here? Theology Professor: Yes, I teach church history with an emphasis on Martin Luther. My Father: Well, good. In my work we need more people like you. We could use a few more theologians. Theology Professor: [with startled but overjoyed expression] Oh really?!?! Far beyond my father's encouraging words that everyday Christians—those who work in the so called "real world"— need theologians was this profound theological insight: that the ultimate end of theology is contemporary lived faith. My father's insistence that his work needed to become more theological was not a mere exchange of pleasantries. Instead, my father needed new ways of thinking about critical issues of life, death and socially responsible healthcare provision in the board room, offices and halls of the major Catholic hospital in which he worked. The Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University is almost entirely unique among its peer institutions in offering a bachelor's degree in theology. In the vast majority of colleges affiliated with Mainline Protestant traditions, departments have organized as religion/religious studies programs. What difference does it make if the department offers a program in theology versus religious studies? Though admittedly simplistic, I think it is useful to think of theology and religious studies as having two interrelated tasks. Religious studies seeks to understand how "religion" as a cultural force has shaped the past and informs the present. In an ever-increasingly pluralistic world such as ours, more than ever we need global citizens who are religiously literate and able to appreciate the diversity of religious traditions. But that alone was not what my father was asking for. My father, a lifelong person of faith who

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