Teaching ecclesiology: topics and readings

This fall I am teaching a course on ecclesiology for upper-level undergraduate Bible and ministry majors. It's a long-standing course I took over from a recently retired professor of New Testament, who was kind enough to share his syllabus with me as a foundation on which to build my own. Here's the final breakdown of weeks, topics, and readings. It's basically set, so I won't be changing or adding anything at this point—and I'm already demanding a lot from my students—but since this is a course I'll be teaching repeatedly in the coming years (as the Lord wills), all manner of feedback, recommendations, and shared wisdom from similar courses is welcome.

The two required texts are Gerhard Lohfink's Jesus and Community and Alexander Schmemann's For the Life of the World; the two suggested texts are Rowan Williams's Why Study the Past? and Everett Ferguson's The Church of Christ.

Week 1: Introduction: Theology and Ecclesiology

Aug 29: Robert Jenson, “What Systematic Theology Is About”

Aug 31: Gary Badcock, “Theology & Ecclesiology”; Ellen Charry, “The Art of Christian Excellence”

            Recommended: Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ, Introduction; Rowan Williams, Why
Study the Past?, ch. 1; Nicholas Healy, Church, World, and the Christian Life, chs. 1-
2; John Webster, “Evangelical Ecclesiology”; Kathryn Tanner, “The Nature and
Tasks of Theology”; Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Places of Redemption, ch. 1

Week 2: Election and Covenant

Sep 5: Bryan Stone, “Israel and the Calling Forth of a People”

Sep 7: Michael Wyschogrod, “Divine Election & Commandments,” “Israel, Church, & Election”

            Recommended: Gerhard Lohfink, “Why God Needs a Special People”; Leslie Newbigin, “The
Logic of Election”; Sang Hoon Lee, “God in the Jewish Flesh: Michael
Wyschogrod’s Theology of Israel”; Katherine Sonderegger, “Election”

Week 3: Israel and the Nations

Sep 12: Lohfink, “The Characteristic Signs of Israel” (selections)

Sep 14: Lohfink, Jesus and Community, ch. 1
            Recommended: Bruce Birch et al, A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, chs. 9-10;
Wyschogrod, “A Theology of Jewish Unity,” “Judaism and the Land,” “Faith and the
Holocaust”; Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, 72-81

Week 4: Jesus and the Twelve

Sep 19: NO CLASS

Sep 21: Lohfink, Jesus and Community, ch. 2

Recommended: Ferguson, Church of Christ, ch. 1; Stanley Hauerwas, “Jesus: The Presence of
the Peaceable Kingdom”

Week 5: Pentecost and Ekklesia

Sep 26: Lohfink, Jesus and Community, ch. 3; Francesca Aran Murphy et al, “Ecclesial Faith”

Sep 28: Amos Yong, “The Acts of the Apostles and of the Holy Spirit”; Willie Jennings, Acts, 27-40

Recommended: Ferguson, Church of Christ, ch. 2; John Howard Yoder, “The Original
Revolution”; Hauerwas, “The Church as God’s New Language”

Week 6: Paul and the Gentiles

Oct 3: N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, ch. 3

Oct 5: Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, ch. 5

            Recommended: Ferguson, Church of Christ, ch. 3; Lamin Sanneh, “The Birth of Mission: The
Jewish-Gentile Frontier”; Hauerwas, Resident Aliens, ch. 4

Week 7: Church Fathers and Councils

Oct 10: Williams, Why Study the Past?, ch. 2

Oct 12: Creeds; Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, chs. 4-5

            Recommended: Jenson, Canon and Creed, chs. 1-5; Jeffrey Cary, Free Churches and the Body of
Christ, ch. 6; Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea, ch. 1

Week 8: Middle Ages and Christendom

Oct 17: Oliver O’Donovan, “The Obedience of Rulers”

Oct 19: O’Donovan, “The Obedience of Rulers”; Thomas Aquinas, commentary on the creed

            Recommended: H. Richard Niebuhr, “Christ Above Culture”; Peter Leithart, “Rome
Baptized”; Tanner, “Christian Culture and Society”; Hauerwas, “A Christian
Critique of Christian America”

Week 9: Reformation and Scripture

Oct 24: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.6; IV.1; Decrees of Trent

Oct 26: Kevin Vanhoozer, “Scripture Alone”; Jenson, “Sola Scriptura”

            Recommended: Williams, Why Study the Past?, ch. 3; Jenson, “The Norms of Theological
Judgment”; Webster, Holy Scripture, chs. 1-2; Fulkerson, Places of Redemption, ch. 6;
Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible, chs. 1-2

Week 10: Baptism and Sacraments

Oct 31: Schmemann, For the Life of the World, ch. 1; appendix 2; Calvin, Institutes, IV.14.1-6;
Charry, “Sacraments for the Christian Life”

Nov 2: Schmemann, Life of the World, ch. 4; Yoder, “Baptism and the New Humanity”

Recommended: Calvin, Institutes, IV.15; Keith Stanglin, “Concerning Rebaptism”; Jennings,
“Being Baptized: Race”; James McClendon Jr., Ethics: Systematic Theology: Volume 1,
265-269; Augustine, Confessions, Book IX (selections)

Week 11: Eucharist and Communion

Nov 7: Schmemann, Life of the World, ch. 2

Nov 9: Calvin, Institutes, IV.17 (selections)

            Recommended: Gustavo Gutiérrez, “The Church: Sacrament of History”; William
Cavanaugh, “The True Body of Christ”

Week 12: Ordination and Polity

Nov 14: Calvin, Institutes, IV.3; John Howard Yoder, “The Fullness of Christ”

Nov 16: Jenson, “The Office of Communion”; Frances Young, “From the Church to Mary: towards
a critical ecumenism,” 313-342

            Recommended: Ferguson, Church of Christ, ch. 5; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, ch. 4;
R. Alan Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination”
Week 13: Unity and Ecumenism

Nov 21: Yoder, “Imperative of Christian Unity”; Young, “From the Church to Mary,” 342-357


            Recommended: Gunther Gressman, “The Unity We Seek”; Robert Cardinal Sarah, “In Search
of the Church”; Unitatis redintegratio; Peter Leithart, “The End of Protestantism”;
Gerald Schlabach, Unlearning Protestantism, ch. 1

Week 14: Mission and Witness

Nov 28: Bryan Stone, “Evangelism and Ecclesia”; Emmanuel Katongole, “The Sacrifice of Africa:
Ecclesial Radiances of ‘A Different World Right Here’”

Nov 30: Schmemann, Life of the World, ch. 3; Marva Dawn, “Worship to Form a Missional

            Recommended: Ferguson, Church of Christ, ch. 6; Stone, “Martyrdom and Virtue”; Brad East,
“An Undefensive Presence: The Mission and Identity of the Church in Kathryn
Tanner and John Howard Yoder”; Katongale, The Sacrifice of Africa, ch. 7; Lumen
Gentium; Yong, “Christian Mission Theology: Toward a Pneumato-Missiological
Praxis for the Third Millennium”; Michael Goheen, “The Missional Church in the
Biblical Story—A Summary”

Week 15: Worship and Prayer

Dec 5: Dawn, “God as the Center of Worship: Who is Worship For?”

Dec 7: Schmemann, Life of the World, ch. 7, appendix 1; Jenson, “How the World Lost Its Story”

Recommended: Ferguson, Church of Christ, ch. 4; Williams, Why Study the Past?, ch. 4;
Bonhoeffer, Life Together, ch. 2; John Webster, “‘In the Society of God’: Some
Principles of Ecclesiology”; James K. A. Smith, “Practicing (for) the Kingdom”;
Tanner, “Commonalities in Christian Practices”; Ernst Troeltsch, “Conclusion,” The
Social Teaching of the Christian Churches; Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, 141-148


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