Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

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


11/10 2011

Bridging the Classroom and the Community

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The academic demands of seminary have their necessary counterpart in the call of community. Ideas gleaned from books, lectures, and seminars find their outward projection in the formation of pastor-theologians in local and international mission. Often these projections find form in student organizations.

The Peace and Justice Fellowship, a student organization dedicated to raising awareness of social justice issues, has brought one such idea to the forefront of community discourse for November and December: fair trade.

What is fair trade? Fair trade is an organized social awareness movement that promotes equitable market-based solutions for goods produced in developing countries. Fair trade certifiers ensure that goods like coffee, chocolate, and crafts sell at fair market value, giving the producers of these goods an adequate, living wage. While millions of Americans purchase billions of dollars of goods in November and December, fair trade allows us to promote a changing face of the world marketplace, one that includes economic justice.

The Peace and Justice Fellowship will sponsor lectures, discussion, and opportunities for action on fair trade at its weekly meetings, Mondays at noon. Remember to look for opportunities to buy fair trade goods around campus and in your communities in the coming months. We’re always mindful that our call in the classroom leads us to enact justice in the world.

Will, Senior MDiv student


11/3 2011

Shots for Salvation

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One of the biggest complaints I have heard among seminary students throughout the country is that there aren’t enough practical applications between what they learn in class and what they will be doing in their careers. We spend a lot of time talking about our call as though it will take place months or even years from now. Yet, could there be a call and a claim on the daily life we lead now?

When I first arrived at PTS, I was happy to lather a fresh coat of rosy paint on my glasses and immerse myself into the seminary experience. This was my home, my community, and my family. Whether it was because I had spent enough time outside of school or because God had placed some irksome itch into my life, I found I could not be content simply sitting in class. I wanted to be engaged in ministry right now. I wanted a place to practice the things my brain was being filled with all day long.

One of the really great things about Pittsburgh is that there are literally hundreds of church within a 20-30 minute driving distance from the Seminary that represent a wide variety of beliefs, cultures, and missions; yet, all of these churches are a part of the kaleidoscope that is God’s vision for the church. When you’re exposed to such a wide variety of church experiences, you tend to believe that God can work in any situation. A friend of mine and I decided to begin a Bible study that takes place in a bar. The Bible study started out with a few old friends from high school who happened to be living close by and getting together over a brew to discuss Scripture. Over time, word of the Bible study began to reach folks in our own community of East Liberty and especially the community on the South Side of Pittsburgh who had yet to find a church community.

As time went on, I was blessed to come into contact with Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community – a new church development that opens its doors to everyone, from the bar-dwellers to the homeless. It was through this church that Shots of Salvation, as our Bible Study is called, came into contact with the owner of a small tavern on the South Side of Pittsburgh. This man was looking for a way to offer up space in his bar for the church’s use; we were looking for a location for our Bible study that would be open and available to the myriad of twenty-something single people who live in Pittsburgh and gather naturally in the area of town where every other store-front is a bar. Shots of Salvation and the Birmingham Bridge Tavern have begun to serve as a safe space for a wide variety of people to feel at home, to find commonality in spite of differences, and to praise God openly, honestly, and with humility. I thank God for this opportunity to bridge what I learn in the classroom with the reality of people’s daily lives. Every Tuesday night, I get the opportunity to see a piece of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and that is what is going to stick with me after I graduate.


Middler, M.Div/M.S.W.

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