Week 2: 9-15 August
Can We Read the Incarnation in the Old Testament?
The Old Testament is no mere preparation for the New; it is revelation in its own right. Its portrayals of the human condition are as valid now as ever, set against its great sweep of salvation history. Old Testament stories and experiences introduce themes that will become central to Christianity; the nature of God as love, the Word of God in the formation of community; how hope comes out of condemnation and faith from persecution. The doctrine of the Incarnation, of God’s humanity in Christ, did not come from nowhere: God’s engagement with his human creation pervades the whole of the Hebrew Bible. The course will be demanding, but not technical, assuming a familiarity with the broad outline of Old Testament history, and willingness to appreciate the literature of the Hebrew Bible.
Tutor: Canon Nicholas Turner, former lecturer in Old Testament studies at Oxford University, recently retired.
Early Christian Perspectives on Human Being
This seminar will engage with some early Christian texts so as to discover how the first Christian theologians thought about being human. We will consider the various ways in which they shared, yet also challenged, contemporary assumptions, especially those of the science of their day, medical philosophy, alongside other characteristic ideas drawn from scripture, such as creatureliness and being made in God’s image, Debates about bodiliness, attitudes towards disability, ill-health and death, as well as understandings of sin and salvation will figure large in discussion. Extracts from Irenaeus, Athanasius, the Cappadocians and Augustine will be shared with other lesser known but significant texts.
Tutor: The Revd Professor Frances Young, Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Birmingham.
Flourishing Well: Sex, Gender and Sexuality
In this course we shall consider the ways in which sex, gender and sexuality have been understood throughout Christian history. We explore how biblical accounts of creation and human origins have informed various patterns of community and personhood, and consider how contemporary understandings might engage with them. We will debate Christian betrothal and marriage, together with changing understandings of marriage and how these have affected the Church. We will consider understandings of sexuality and gender as defined characteristics, as well as recent explorations of a more fluid approach, including transgender experience. Sharing of stories and experiences will be encouraged.
Tutor: The Revd Dr Keith Riglin, Chaplain and Assistant Dean at King’s College, London and visiting lecturer in King’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies.
Female Disciples and Their Experience of God
The dominant language of Christian theology and spirituality down the ages is patriarchal. The human norm is assumed to be male. But there have always been female disciples and there are challenges within the Gospel to the idea that women are any less than fully human. This course sets out to discover how women, and some men of medieval times renewed the language of the Christian faith through their own reading of the tradition and their own experience of God. We consider the contributions of Anselm, Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Mechtilde of Magdeburg, Julian of Norwich and others who show the significance of women’s response to God and perception of God.
Tutor: The Revd Canon Dr Jo Spreadbury is the Precentor of Portsmouth Cathedral and is a researcher, writer and teacher in the field of medieval women’s literature and gender studies.
'School of the Lord's Service': Monastic Wisdom as a Guide to Being Human
This course explores the Christian monastic tradition as a spiritual way not only for monastics but for anyone who seriously wants to engage in living an integrated Christian life. In this seminar we shall explore the best known Monastic Rule, that of St Benedict of Nursia, though strong links will be made with other Rules, such as that of Basil, Augustine and Francis. In general we shall use the Rule of St Benedict (RSB) to examine the themes of Person and Community, Seeking God alone, Prayer and Work, Human Growth and Conversio Morum and Radical Openness to the World and to God.
Tutor: The Revd Canon Dr Robin Gibbons, Director of Studies for Theology and Religion at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education and Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church, Oxford.
Thinking 'Human': Image, Experience, God
Three quandaries underlie contemporary Christian debate about ‘being human’. First, What is it to be ‘in the image and likeness of God’? Then there is the more personal, existential question, Who am I, who are we? Western people often reply in terms of some feature of their experience, which sometimes excludes those who I am unlike, which limits who is human to those who have experience like mine. Christians will also want to engage with a third quandary, to consider that being human means in terms of our createdness, what God has done for us in Christ and our end in God after death. These themes raise another issue, which should come first in our thinking about being human: creation, redemption or eschatology? This seminar will aim to help us think clearly about these issues and to develop our own views about them.
Tutor: The Revd Dr Andrew Moore is a research fellow of Regents Park College, Oxford.