The Pastor-Theologian Program
From 2004 through 2007, I was involved in the Pastor-Theologian Program, sponsored by the Center of Theological Inquiry located in Princeton, New Jersey.
The Pastor-Theologian Program was initiated in 1999 by the Centerís president Wallace Alston to test his hypothesis that the moribund mainline churches will be revived, not by programs and demographic studies, but by strengthening the theological foundations of congregations with preachers and teachers who are well-supported to do theology with one another and for the church. Two major outcomes for participating pastor-theologians were to write a twenty page academic paper in each year of the program and to develop networks of pastor-theologians in participantsí hometowns, to spread the seed in good soil.
I was one of about seventy-five clergy gathered from across the nation in five regional groups for the Programís third (and final) three-year colloquium. Dr. Alston collaborated with prominent theologians to establish a syllabus for our work. Accompanied at each meeting by two or more of the theologians, our regional groups met four times annually to discuss the groundbreaking volumes in the syllabus and develop our academic papers.
The organizing question throughout our three yearsí work was about Christian salvation. In the first year, our papers grappled with the question, how we interpret salvation to the church. In the second-year, we asked what role the church plays in Godís work of salvation. In the final year, we explored the relationship of salvation to the good of the world.
Links to my three papers may be found below, next to brief summaries of their arguments.
Year One: What is salvation?
Year Two: What is the work of the church in salvation?
Year Three: How is Christian salvation good for the world?
This paper responds to the bitter criticisms of Christianity from
so-called "new atheists" such as Sam Harris and Richard
Dawkins. Showing first how a Christian can agree with much of their
critique, the paper also reveals fatal weaknesses in their reasoning,
and seeks to show an open-minded skeptic the reasonableness of Christian
© Stephen H. Phelps 2008
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