To Understand God Truly by David Kelsey
David Kelsey is Luther A. Weigle Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity
School in New Haven, Connecticut. His article is based on his convocation address
in 1996 inaugurating a new academic year in which YDS, under the leadership
of its new dean, Richard Wood, set out to develop new curriculum and programs
recommended by a review committee, which was chaired by Kelsey. To Know God Truly: What's Theological About a Theological School?
was published in 1992 by Westminster /John Knox Press. This book was prepared for Religion Online by Herb and June Lowe.
1. Orientation: Or, After the Fall
The author addresses the question; what is theological about theological education? His audience for the book is students in the early stages of theological. His objective is that the book be accessible, in plain English, and to engage the reader in an ongoing conversation. In addition, he wishes to sugge3st the ways to think about the issues, and to sketch a particular theological view as to the nature and functioin of the theological school.
2. Crossroads Hamlets
In this chapter the author looks at the proximate and distant
origins of North American theological schools and the variety of factors - subject matter,
understandings, communities - that, woven together yield a concretely particular school.
Chapter 3: Excellence as Paideia
In this chapter the author names two quite different models of excellent schooling. He describes the origins and evolution of the first, "paideia," which has its roots in the ancient Greco-Roman world.
Chapter 4: Excellence as Wissenschaft and Professionalism
In this chapter, which concludes Part One, the author traces the effect Schleiermacher's concept of a "research university"
In this chapter the author invites the reader to join in a thought experiment about what some
theological school known to them is and ought to be. He identifies three central issues which
need to be resolved in this experiment. He suggests that the Christian "thing" is present in
concrete reality "in and as various Christian congregations or worshiping communities in all
their radical pluralism." Finally, he lays out the nature and purpose of the remaining chapters.
6. Borrowed Language
In this chapter the author prepares the reader to deal better with the rest of the book by carefully
defining the concepts of "pluralism," "understand," "action," and "practice." In ordinary usage
these concepts are remarkably vague, but as applied to the book's proposal they are to be used only by the analysis given here.
In this chapter, the author refines the thesis that a theological school is a community of persons trying to understand God more truly by focusing its study within the horizon of questions about Christian congregations. He explores, in detail, what constitutes a congregation and why it is the appropriate arena.
8. A Theological School
In this chapter the author makes a proposal about what constitutes a theological school and what
the implications are for its excellence as a school from the fact that it is specifically a theological
9. A Theological Schools' Course of Study
In this chapter the author proposes courses of study unified by designing every course to address the
overarching interest of a theological school and pluralistically adequate by designing every course
to focus on questions about congregations.
10. Between Athens and Berlin
In this chapter the author lays out his utopian proposal for a theological school in "dialectical
tension" with the Athens and Berlin models.
In his epilogue the author suggests that discussions of theological schooling and proposals to
reform it might get further if some of the assumptions and many of the terms conventionally used
were changed. He then presents the beginning of "a budget of questions" for critical reflection
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