Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

10/8 2019

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Exploring Christian Worship

The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professors’ bio.

This week’s course is “Exploring Christian Worship.”

exploring christian worshipAbout Exploring Christian Worship

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about the study of the practices of Christian worship with the Rev. Dr. Angela Hancock in the class “Exploring Christian Worship.” This course is open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree, or Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.

“Exploring Christian Worship” provides an introduction to the study of the practices of Christian worship with attention to the ways the Bible, theology, tradition, and context shape what Christian communities do when they gather to worship God. Led by faculty representing a variety of theological disciplines and perspectives, each section of WS110 considers particular dimensions of Christian worship, promoting theological reflection, historical and socio-cultural awareness, intellectual curiosity, and participation in the worship life of the seminary community and the wider church. The course is also designed to introduce the resources, tools, and skills that contribute to effective written communication at the master’s level. When Dr. Hancock teaches “Exploring Christian Worship,” she focuses on how Christian communities worship God in relation to the experience of ongoing suffering, evil, and death.

By the completion of this course, students will be able to articulate a theology of worship, with attention to its formative power, informed by one’s “home” liturgical tradition while also describing and discussing the liturgical traditions of others with critical generosity. Students will offer evidence of participation in and theological reflection on the practices of Christian worship while using basic participant-observer skills in exploring a local worship practice. They’ll draw on biblical, theological, and historical resources when assessing a liturgical activity, text, or object, with attention to the role of social and cultural context. During the class, students will exhibit intellectual curiosity, as demonstrated through close readings of texts, raising relevant critical questions, and identifying areas for future exploration while also effectively drawing on library resources (catalog, media and print databases, and other online sources) for the completion of writing assignments and presentations, and skillfully communicating findings in both written and oral form. Students will successfully research, develop, and write a short paper on a practice, text, or object related to Christian worship, demonstrating the ability to identify an appropriate thesis statement or research question, offer supporting evidence, make effective use of resources, sustain an argument, and synthesize course materials.

Assignments include writing reflections and visits to the Seminary’s Center for Writing and Learning Support, a paper on a lament psalm and a hymn, plus a worship journal and final paper on an artifact. As to required texts, student will read You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (James K. A. Smith, Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil (John Swinton), the Bible, and other handouts.

About the Instructor

The Rev. Dr. Angela Dienhart Hancock serves as associate professor of homiletics and worship. She is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and has served as pastor to churches in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Hancock is the author of Karl Barth’s Emergency Homiletic, 1932-33: A Summons to Prophetic Witness at the Dawn of the Third Reich, a contextual interpretation of Swiss theologian Karl Barth’s lectures on preaching in the early 1930s, based on unpublished archival material. Her current research explores Karl Barth’s contribution to the ethics of deliberation in Christian communities and the relationship between political and theological rhetoric. Hancock continues to preach, teach, and lead worship in a variety of settings.

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10/4 2019

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Introduction to Urban Ministry

The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professors’ bio.

This week’s course is “Introduction to Urban Ministry.”

Drew Smith, Professor Urban Ministry

About Introduction to Urban Ministry

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about urban ministry with the Rev. Dr. R. Drew Smith in the class “Introduction to Urban Ministry.” This is a required course for the Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry and is also open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree, or Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.

This course . Attention is given to helping students discern their vocational call in the context of city life and Christian witness in this arena. Further, this course explores social factors and theological premises impacting and influencing ministry approaches to urban contexts, circumstances, and populations. Students also learn about analytical tools (both theological and sociological) that are helpful in critiquing ministry approaches to ever-evolving demographic, cultural, psycho-social, and sociostructural complexities of 21st century urban life.

As to required texts, student will read Urban Ministry Reconsidered: Contexts and Approaches, edited by Dr. Smith, Stephanie C. Boddie, and Ronald E. Peters. Students will also complete three two-page discussion papers plus a final paper and presentation.

About the Instructor

Both a political scientist and a clergyman, the Rev. Dr. R. Drew Smith has initiated and directed a number of projects related to religion and public life which have collected research data on political involvements, community development activities, and outreach ministries of churches, especially African-American churches. He has also conducted similar research in South Africa, including while serving in 2005 as a Fulbright professor at the University of Pretoria. His overseas involvements additionally include serving in 2009 as a Fulbright senior specialist at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Cameroon and lecturing in many international venues including as part of the U.S. State Department’s Speakers Bureau. He has served since 2010 as co-convener of the Transatlantic Roundtable on Religion and Race, an initiative that convenes scholars, religious leaders, and community activists from across the transatlantic region for purposes of advancing progressive approaches to persistent racial problems in various contexts. An ordained a Baptist clergyman, Professor Smith is a graduate of Indiana University and Yale University.

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10/3 2019

The “Gospel” is Bigger than What Billy Graham Bellowed

gospel views social justice and evangelism

Recent Seminary graduate Brandon Shaw muses about how the Gospel story is one of social justice and evangelism. 

Let’s call him “Tommy.” Tommy and I sat in proximity to each other in Dr. Dan Treier’s undergraduate, systematic theology course at Wheaton College (Ill.) during the fall of 2006. Tommy was arguably the course’s most progressive theological student, while I was likely the most conservative and boldly evangelistic.

We often bantered back and forth. Tommy kept suggesting that the gospel was primarily about overarching, creation renewal, while I articulated that the gospel concerned itself primarily with individual salvation.

It never occurred to me that Tommy and I needed to morph our views together!

Fast forward almost 13 years. A recent ThM alumnus of Pittsburgh Seminary, I am currently pursuing doctoral studies in Illinois, along with a master’s in strategic communication because I “heart” contemplating how to best package the gospel for a mass audience.

The Gospel Stands Taller

 While on a visit to Chicagoland in June 2019 for doctoral studies, I came to realize that the gospel stands taller than I assessed over these last 16 years as a Christian.[1]

Merely telling someone “The Four Spiritual Laws” or the five points of Calvinism with an evangelistic impetus that summons someone to faith in Christ for even the glory of the Triune God is not the entire gospel—but merely a part of the whole  good news message.

If we are to truly impact the world for Christ, we must pursue a more holistic gospel that emphasizes not merely soteriological tidbits coupled with a “Just As I Am,” Billy-Graham-like, altar call. Instead, we need a gospel that tells the tale of a Jewish Christ as the consummating King in a world that needs his reign to overcome it via his Spirit and church for perfect renewal unto the fame of the Triune God.

The Gospel is More

The gospel is more than salvation pronouncements, such as the death and resurrection of Christ, and a summons to repent and believe in his person and work for the renown of God. Though it is all that, it is more, too.

The gospel is also a story about God restoring a fallen universe to glory through the nation of Israel, something Scot McKnight, of Northern Seminary, especially highlights, which ultimately culminates with Christ declaring that his kingdom is at hand (Mark 1:15). There is a cosmic-story component to the gospel that many neglect. The compelling and saving truths of Christ’s perfect life, propitious death, resurrection, ascension, reigning, return, and his restoration of all things are crucial points to the gospel.

Israel’s story is important as well because without Israel, we have no Messiah! McKnight suggests that many stop at merely proclaiming Christ’s death, and some go on to preach his resurrection; however, few see the gospel as a narrative which begins with the creation-fall and traces itself through Israel and leads to Christ and him gloriously perfecting the cosmos to himself. And this has grand implications since we are called to participate in this redemptive tale. This is certainly good news.

Teammates of Jesus

 What’s a takeaway from a more comprehensive gospel articulation? If I merely see the gospel as a $0.50 flyer that tells me how to get to heaven, I do not have a ton of motivation to pursue much beyond this. However, if I see the gospel (which includes the traditional aforementioned evangelical components) as narrative as well as how God is restoring the fallen world through Israel, Christ, and his Spirit-led church, then this excites me to get on board! It prompts me to pray and to seek Christ’s kingdom through both word and deed. No-mere-bit-players, you and I are teammates of Jesus as we work in his Holy Spirit-empowered church to marry the whole creation to God in everlasting peace for the exaltation of God.

In sum, I think the gospel is bigger than what many have asserted. I do not deny justification by faith alone or penal substitutionary atonement or a call to repent and believe in Jesus for the glory of God. These traditional elements are essential to the gospel. There is no gospel without these truths. Personal salvation is necessary to have a church that partners with Christ in his cosmic creation renewal.

Still, I think the church as a whole does a great disservice at defining the gospel as only propositions followed by a plea to believe in Christ. Seeing and declaring the overarching story, too, and how we participate in this grand tale will undoubtedly change our puny perspectives by helping us comprehend that we are a part of the scheme of how Christ wins the world back from sin and eternal death for the everlasting praise of God. This is good news! This is the gospel!

[1] This past June, I took a course with Dr. David Fitch, a prolific Christian author and communicator. He suggested I read a fellow colleague’s work. Northern Seminary’s Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel inspired me to write this brief piece. I give credit to both Fitch and McKnight for a lot of my newer thinking, though I do not quote them verbatim but seek to explain such gospel doctrine in my own lingo.

 

Brandon Shaw earned his master of sacred theology degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2019. He’s currently enrolled at Northern Seminary, where he’s pursuing a Doctor of Ministry as well as master’s in strategic communication.

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