Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

2/2 2012

“Who is on your Balcony?” Reflections from a D.Min. student

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In a recent sermon, the Rev. Dr. J. Thomas Kort of Charlotte, NC, challenged me with Carlyle Marney’s famous homiletical inquiry: “Who is on your Balcony?” The folks in the balcony of our lives are the people who have mentored us, encouraged us, and whose faithful witness of a life lived in Jesus Christ have inspired us to this day. The author of the book of Hebrews calls it the “great cloud of witnesses.” Perhaps your church celebrates these men and women of faith on All Saints Day.

As a student in the Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry degree program, I have discovered that my personal balcony is quickly expanding. Along with the names of family, friends and pastoral mentors seated there, I now have the privilege of adding the names and faces of the members of my D.Min. co-hort group. A group of wise men and women in their own right, their commitment to a life lived in Christ inspires me as we ask questions, learn and laugh together. Along with this group of saints I must also add the names of my professors, who make learning a joyful spiritual discipline itself, and who do not hesitate to share with us their own stories of life lived in Christ. Finally, the newest members of my balcony just took their seats within the last month, as a result of the assigned readings for my Reformed Christian Spirituality focus; Julian of Norwich, Miester Eckhart, and the Beguines. Things are getting crowded in the balcony, and I still have many books to read, questions to ask, and professors to meet.  I may have to put out more chairs….

Catherine, Master of Divinity graduate and D.Min. student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


11/17 2011

Transhumanism and Transcendence

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The high level of scholarship on the part of the faculty at PTS never ceases to amaze and interest me. This month the Rev. Dr. Ron Cole-Turner demonstrates yet again why I make that observation—his latest book, Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Advancement, becomes available. Even a quick review of the back-cover summary makes me eager to read the book in depth. Here is what it says:

The timeless human desire to be more beautiful, intelligent, healthy, athletic, or young has given rise in our time to technologies of human enhancement. Athletes use drugs to increase their strength or stamina and cosmetic surgery is widely used to improve physical appearance. And today researchers are exploring technologies such as cell regeneration and implantable devices that interact directly with the brain. Some condemn these developments as a new kind of cheating—not just in sports but in life itself—promising rewards without effort and depriving us most of all of what it means to be authentic human beings. Transhumanists, on the other hand, reject what they see as a rationalizing of human limits, as if being human means being content forever with underachieving bodies and brains. To be human, they insist, is to be restless with possibilities, always eager to transcend biological limits.

As the debate grows in urgency, how should theology respond? Christian theologians recognize truth on both sides of the argument, pointing out how the yearnings of the transhumanists—if not their technological methods—find deep affinities in Christian belief. In this volume, Ronald Cole-Turner has joined seasoned scholars and younger, emerging voices together to bring fresh insight into the technologies that are already reshaping the future of Christian life and hope.

Wow. What a timely, culturally relevant work of scholarship—one that Ron’s colleagues are already calling “the most important debate on Christian transhumanism that I have ever read” and “mandatory reading” on the topic. And it’s not his first such book—it’s his seventh.

Installed 15 years ago in the H. Parker Sharp Chair of Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Seminary, Ron Cole-Turner has for many years been a leading voice in important national and international debates at the intersection of theology and science. How privileged our students are to be preparing for Christian ministries under professors such as Dr. Cole-Turner.

Here’s to good reading,

The Rev. Dr. William J. Carl III, President


10/20 2011

No One is an Island

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Coming to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary was a huge adjustment for me. It wasn’t just an issue about being away from home. In all honesty, it was an issue about how I was outside of my comfort zone. I had my own personal circle of friends. We would spend a lot of time together. Togetherness was a part of that plan.

When my wife and I moved to Pittsburgh (in the middle of the second term of my first year), I was losing close-knit relationships with my friends from home. It quickly became apparent to me that no one truly was an island unto themselves. I needed to reach out and make new friends.

Of course there was apprehension at first. After all, I was worried about looking like a fool or saying something stupid. What if I could not find anyone that shared my interests? It was then, at that point, that I decided that I was going about this the wrong way. I was not here just because I wanted to be here. I felt the call of God in my life. I was sure that God had called me to this place at this time. Why, then, was I worried about being happy here?

The good news came when I finally let go and trusted God to fulfill God’s promises. God opened up to me some of the best friends I have ever had the honor of knowing. The idea of community is talked about often here on campus. People worry about this idea and want community to be this important idea. The good news is that it really is! The love of Christ abounds here. God has formed this place to be a community of believers and friends and we can be thankful for that.

Sam, senior MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

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