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: “Christian Political Resistance.”
About Christian Political Resistance
During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about Christian political resistance with the Rev. Dr. John Burgess. This course is available for students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree program, and open to students in the Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.
This course will entail a study of different forms of Christian resistance to unjust political orders, focusing on ordinary virtues of truth-telling, caring, and dignity. Attention will be given to biblical perspectives on justice and on resistance to oppressive state regimes. Students will explore historical examples of Christian political resistance and engage in theological reflection on different forms of resistance and how they express or violate the gospel. They will study philosophical and ethical analysis of the grounds for, and effectiveness of, different forms of political resistance.
By the end of the course, students will be able to examine and explain three primary aspects of Christian political resistance. First, the way in which “ordinary” Christian virtues (especially of truth-telling, caring, and dignity) are grounded in Scripture and particular theological traditions. Next, how these virtues have served in specific historical contexts as forms of resistance to oppressive political regimes (e.g., Nazi Germany¸ the Soviet Union, and Jim Crow America). Finally, possibilities for exercising these virtues in political resistance to structural social injustices in contemporary America.
In addition to classroom participation, assignments include reading responses and a final paper. Required reading includes Wallace Daniel, Women of the Catacombs: Memoirs of the Underground Orthodox Church in Stalin’s Russia; Philip Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed; and Colson Whitehead, The Nickle Boys; and John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus.
About the Instructor
The Rev. Dr. John P. Burgess has taught at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary since 1998. He holds an M.Div. from McCormick Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago. An ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of numerous books, Burgess’s professional memberships include the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Christian Ethics, and the American Theological Society. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Russia in 2011 and again in 2018-2019, a Luce Fellow in Theology for 2011-2012, and a research fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry in 2014-2015. These awards have supported his current research on the Russian Orthodox Church in post-communist Russia. Burgess is married and has three grown daughters, who are also his theological teachers.