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: “Theology through Novels—Howatch.”
About Theology through Novels—Howatch
During the fall term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about theological themes in the novels of Susan Howatch with the Rev. Dr. Edwin Chr. van Driel in the class “Theology through Novels—Howatch.” This course is open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv), Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), and Master of Theology (MTS) degree programs.
This course will engage theological themes like sin and deception, pride and lust, call and confession, and salvation and redemption through the work of novelist Susan Howatch. In six closely related novels about Anglican clergy, Howatch weaves together human relationships, theological concepts, and large societal issues in a fictional narrative that unfolds within the real-life context of 20th-century Anglican spirituality. While thus offering both insiders and outsiders a unique encounter with the Church of England, the course invites students to explore the universal Christian themes of these books spiritually, pastorally, and theologically.
During the course, students will grow in their ability to engage in personal spiritual reflection, including explorations of their spirituality and sense of call. They will grow in interpersonal skills through classroom discussions. They will develop group leadership skills by taking turns to guide the weekly class sessions. Finally, they will develop in their writing and analysis of literature and theological themes.
Assignments include personal journaling, development of class discussion questions, class session leadership, and a final paper. Reading assignments will be drawn from six of Susan Howatch’s novels: Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Ultimate Prizes, Scandalous Risks, Mystical Paths, and Absolute Truths (please use Mass Market paperback editions for the sake of page number uniformity).
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 the areas of Christology, ecclesiology, and the interaction between biblical studies and theology. He is deeply invested in helping the church think about its existence and calling as it moves into an increasingly post-Christian world. He has published articles in many academic journals and popular magazines, and his most recent book is Rethinking Paul: Protestant Theology and Pauline Exegesis (Cambridge 2021), an interdisciplinary project that explores the theological implications of recent exegetical work on Paul’s letters.