April 24, 2009

Div school hosts theology conference

Academics from a variety of fields explored the changing nature of theology in a two-day conference hosted by the Divinity School Wednesday and Thursday. In the closing general lecture to the conference, William Schweiker, professor of theological ethics at the U of C, described the historical background for current trends and proposed new directions for future exploration of the intersection of theology and culture.

He said the conference was designed to examine questions rather than answer them.

“The purpose of this conference is to open reflection and not to package it in nice rhetorical boxes,” he said. “We are embarking on a journey rather than arriving at a destination.”

According to the conference website, the lectures were a response to recent movement in theology towards interdisciplinary conversation regarding the intersection and interaction of theology and culture.

Schweiker discussed problems with past approaches to theology and culture. Saying that “the work has only begun,” Schweiker suggested guidelines for study, including warning against theology being “collapsed into any first-order religious discourse, even when examining them.”

According to the website, the D.R. Sharpe Lectures on Social Ethics are intended to “provide the opportunity for the best and most creative minds to explore society’s social needs and present an ethical standard of modern life.”

To Robin Shoaps, assistant professor of anthropology and a speaker at the event, the conference was “very successful” in advancing the dialogue between theology and anthropology.

“I don’t know that these sorts of projects so far have produced an agreement between theologians and anthropologists on answers or even what the questions are,” she said, but she called the conference a “big step” towards reaching that agreement.