Syllabus: New Testament Spirituality

Describing his recent revision of this syllabus, David Rensberger of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, writes “I did update the structure at a number of points this time around. ‘What to do about Jesus’ is a question in any course that surveys the NT; this time I reformulated that session in light of how Jesus shows up in the spiritual-vs.-religious debate.  I also added a new segment on discipleship and revamped the selection of materials from Paul.” Here is the course description:

The spirituality of the biblical writings has not been the subject of much study in modern times, at least not in critical biblical scholarship. The methodology for such study is thus still in a relatively early stage, and the results that ought to be expected are still an open question. Are we just looking to add one more item, “spirituality,” to the repertoire of critical scholarship, alongside the historical, literary, sociological, and ideological characteristics of the biblical writers? Or are we seeking something more, something that goes beyond the supposed objectivity of critical study to let the subject matter of the text actually impinge on our lives?

This course will work toward the latter of these two possible aims; but we cannot get there without attending to the former. Students will be encouraged to be creative and innovative; to bring all of themselves to the endeavor; to raise questions that are true to the New Testament texts and their writers, but also break through into our lives as readers of the texts today. However, this will not be an inquiry without form or limits, or an exercise in pure subjectivity, simply asking how a text “speaks to my heart.” Critical study of the texts will be presupposed. We will be asking what there is in the texts, as critically analyzed, that raises and addresses issues of spirituality. This course can only provide an introduction to some of the themes of New Testament spirituality in its major writings. Yet we hope to gain a grasp of the spiritual values and transformative potential of the texts, as one possible outcome of studying them critically.

Thus the aims of the course will be (1) to perform adequate exegesis of the texts so as to understand their spirituality; but also (2) to open ourselves to the transformative possibilities of the texts—not just to grasp the spirituality of the New Testament writings, but to be grasped by it.

A copy of the syllabus is available to SSCS members by contacting the blog moderator.

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