Monday, November 23, 2009

Teaching theological students to think critically

Geoff Thompson sent me a helpful and stimulating article, "What 'Great Cloud of Witnesses'? Isn't My Own Religious Experience Enough?'' by Robert J. Sherman from Bangor Theological Seminary.

The article is mostly about how to engage seminary students with "a critical and constructive examination of their views and hinders their understanding of theology as an undertaking of and for the Church." The biggest obstacle to this is suggested to be "Acculturation in American Religious Privatism and Individualism". (Wow! I love that Section title):
Because so many students have come to their beliefs privately and experientially, they can construe the "catechetical" and/or the "critical/constructive" examination of those beliefs as a personal affront, even attack..... They are unaccustomed to any sort of detached probing of their beliefs, unaware that those beliefs may have diverse historic antecedents and unwilling often to recognize that their eclectic mix may have internal tensions and incoherencies.
The article is not just critical and negative though and discusses pedagogical strategies Sherman has used to address these issues.

I wonder if indirectly the article is also providing an argument for faculty at theological colleges to be engaged in original research and publication. This engages them in the process that Sherman strives to engage his students in.

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