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 professor’s bio.
This week’s course is: “Rethinking Church.”
About Rethinking Church
In the fall semester of 2019, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students learned about the nature of the Church with the Rev. Dr. Edwin Chr. van Driel in the class “Rethinking Church.” This course was open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv), Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theology (MTS) degree programs.
This course was premised on the notion that American Protestantism is facing a perfect storm. Growing insecurity about the place of the church in a secularized, Western society; ongoing internal conflicts and debates; and a heritage of individualism and voluntarism are tearing the fabric of denominations and local congregations. In this course, students considered contemporary ecclesiological proposals intended to help pastors and congregations imagine new possibilities for the life of the church in this context.
By the end of the course, students were able to think theologically about the church and the challenges that it faces, imagining new possibilities for the life of the church and their ministry. They not only read and analyzed theological texts on ecclesiology, but they also placed these within wider theological conversations. The learnings were both abstract and practical, linking directly to the students’ own churches, denominations, and ministry contexts.
The students’ assignments reflected the unique structure and format of the course. Each week, students submitted two discussion questions based on the assigned readings, and these questions formed the basis of the classroom dialogues. In addition, students were assigned to write two papers reflecting on the themes of the course materials. Required readings included many articles provided to the students, along with four books: N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church; Bryan Stone’s Evangelism after Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness; Lauren F. Winner’s The Dangers of Christian Practice: On Wayward Gifts, Characteristic Damage, and Sin; and, finally, Stefan Paas’s Church Planting in the Christian West.
About the Instructor
The Rev. Dr. Edwin Chr. van Driel occupies the Directors’ Bicentennial Chair in Theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Having studied at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, he went on to earn three master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from Yale University. Dr. Van Driel teaches mainly in Christology, ecclesiology, and the interaction between biblical studies and theology. He invests deeply in rethinking church and the church’s calling within an increasingly post-Christian world. He has written a book (Incarnation Anyway: Arguments for Supralapsarian Christology) and published articles in many academic journals and popular magazines. He recently edited What Is Jesus Doing? Divine Agency in the Life of the Church and the Work of the Pastor. Dr. Van Driel is also involved with the PC(USA)’s 1001 New Worshiping Communities and serves as an advisor to the Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative.