Friday, April 01, 2016

Understanding and Engaging a Post-Christian World, October 24-28, 2016: Join Us or Audit?

In North American contexts, observers may ascribe a decline in religiosity to the rise of what is sometimes called "secularism." But what is secularism exactly? And this decline in religiosity, is it really a decline, or is it a shift? And how would we know? Because many faith leaders remain in the dark about these cultural transitions, both advocates or detractors of secularization misunderstand the phenomenon and are ill-prepared to engage the "post-Christian" context in which they actually find themselves. As just one example, more and more people are interested in theology but not in church. Others are spiritual but not religious, or are even developing the secular as its own spirituality. A variety of cultural observers, both secular and religious, are attempting to chart the new landscape that the multiplication of these secularities and spiritualities creates.

Even beyond the important intellectual context, average believers and seculars of all types are affected by the mixture of secular and religious that has ensued in the wake of modernity, globalization, and pluralism. This makes Christian mission exceedingly more complex than in the premodern era, and more exciting. It is one thing as evangelists to try and attract Millenials and Nones to the church. More effective, and perhaps essential in a post-modern context, is to develop facility with the language and discourse of those making a transition to a post-Christian worldview, to comprehend the history of this development, and to receive training in ethnographic practices that will equip them for mission in this emerging context. Faith leaders are called, in our era, not simply to think about these transitions in theology, but also to observe and write about them in winsome ways that open the church to the post-Christian world in which it finds itself.

“Whether we "spiritualize" our life or "secularize" our religion, whether we invite [humanity] to a spiritual banquet or simply join them at the secular one, the real life of the world, for which we are told God gave his only begotten Son, remains hopelessly beyond our religious grasp.” (Alexander Schmemann)

·      Developing theological foundations for understanding and engaging secular, post-Christian contexts.
·      Understanding the inter-relationship between the shift to the post-Christian and the rise of radicalization and polarization in religion and politics.
·      Gain a greater level of self-understanding, so that as clergy we might better understand how the rise of the secular influences the religious communities we lead and the religious habits we cultivate. 
·      The ability to create innovative contexts for the engagement of post-Christian, interfaith, and secular communities in order to accompany them in deepening gospel-centered conversations.
·      Gain skill in taking notes and recording experiences in conversations in the field in order to better engage evangelical conversations

This course considers the rise of multiple secularities in the post-modern era, and the implications of this new situation for mission and ministry. In particular, it looks at phenomena most pastors experience on a daily basis. Why does secularity have such deep influence even on those of us who lead the church and teach the faith? Why does it keep impacting our congregations more and more? Second, why does it seem like polarization and radicalization are natural by-products of secularization? What are we to make of the rise of radical religious extremists? Why does it seem like the culture wars are getting worse? How can we overcome such strong culture divisions in our congregations and communities? How can we be missionaries to atheists, and religious pluralists?

This course is a one-week intensive that will meet daily: Monday –Thursday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Friday 8:00 a.m. – noon. The course will employ lectures, conversations around the texts assigned for the course, discussion of films, and field trips to various communities near Fuller Seminary that represent interfaith or various secularities. Students will be expected to engage in dialogue based on the class readings and their own ministry experience.
Class Introductions
Mapping of Current Practices (discuss pre-class papers and reading)
Lecture #1: Defining Secularity and Post-Christianity
Lecture #2: Post-Christianity and Public Faith
Field Trip: Worker justice direct action and/or open-mic experience

Technology and Post-Christianity: Discussion of Transhumanism and view Ex Machina
Lecture #3: Post-Christianity and Private Religion
Book discussion: The Spiritual Practices of Secular People (Ammerman, Mercadante,   
Discussion: Multiple Religious Belonging (Rajkumar)

Discussion: The practice of ethnography (Emerson)
Lecture #4: Ethnography as Christian theology (Vigen, Scharen)
Examples of Christian ethnography and cultural analysis: Luhrmann, Eagleton
Field Trip: Henry Jenkins, currently researching youth activism and media strategies  

An historical overview of the rise of secularity (Gregory, Asad)
In-depth discussion: How (Not) To Be secular
View and discuss Xavier Beauvois Of Gods and Men (2011)

Engaging a Post-Christian World
Group strategic planning, implementing new insights and practices

The Reverend Doctor Clint Schnekloth hosts a gathering of post-Christian thinkers at Flying Burrito, a local burrito joint. The group, Flying Theologians, is unique, because the majority of participants are interested in theology but not in church. Of particular interest to the group have been works of philosophy or philosophical theology. Schnekloth also organizes in his Lutheran congregation in Arkansas an annual catechumenal process that regularly welcomes adult inquirers preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil. He analyzes this faith formation process in light of post-secular media contexts in his recent book, Mediating Faith: Faith Formation in a Trans-Media Era. As a pastor of a minority mainline Protestant church in the south, he is especially mindful of the intersection of secularism, radicalism, atheism, and evangelicalism.

This is an 8-unit course, which is reflected in the assignment expectations below. Contact Julia Speck at for information on how to submit a petition if you hope to take the course for 4 or 12 units and modify assignments accordingly.

Pre-seminar (Due by October 24, 2016)
1.     Reading:
Credit students are required to read a total of 3,000 pages in advance of the seminar. Students are to read all of the required reading (minus two of their choosing) and then select additional essays from the recommended reading list to equal a total of 3,000 pages.

NOTE: It is against academic policy to claim credit for the same book in different Doctor of Ministry seminars. If you have previously read any book on the required reading list for credit, substitute another for it from the recommended reading list.

2.     Reading Report:
Submit a Pre-Seminar Reading Report in which you list the books you have read and write a three paragraph comment on each.

3.     Reflection Papers:
Prepare the following four, 2-page brief reflection papers:
·      Your own current practices for engaging non-Christians and post-Christians. How do you prepare yourself intellectually and spiritually? What do you do on a practical level to open space for connections?
·      Write a verbatim of a conversation you have had recently with someone of another faith or religious tradition. You can read about the purpose of verbatims here: and an outline of how to write one here:
·       Theological reflection on how you see current theology and church practice relating to the rise of multiple secularities.
·      Meet with 5 different leaders in your church and ask them how they think about the relationship between their faith and either the secular world, or other religions they encounter. Record their responses in an interview format.

Participation in all seminar sessions, group activities, discussion, and field trips is mandatory. Attendance at all group discussion meetings is mandatory.

Post-seminar Assignments (Due by March 1, 2017)
1.     Final Paper:
Write a thirty page essay that contributes to a current conversation happening in your community or denomination around the topic of emerging secularities. This could include one of the following as a special focus:
·      An essay that would make sense to and intrigue post-Christians interested in theology but not the church, perhaps structured as a series of blog posts engaging the authors ministry context and area of influence;
·      Use insights gained from the course to work to overcome partisanship;
·      Contribute to an ongoing interfaith discussion, bringing insights from the course to bear;
·      Write in memoir form, analyzing how your practice as a pastor has been growing in awareness of the influence of the rise of secularities on your faith and religious practice;
·      An ethnographic research paper that engages deeply a community quite different from your own.

Failure to submit papers by the deadline will result in a late fee of $200.00 and a two-month extension will be automatically granted. Projects not turned in by the extension deadline will result in a failing grade (F).

Students may not attend another Doctor of Ministry seminar unless all previous coursework is completed and submitted prior to the first day of that seminar.

Do not send your assignment directly to the professor.

Coursework should be submitted online through the Moodle website by 11:59 pm of the evening of the due date.

Keep in mind that any assignment that involves interaction with human subjects (i.e. the people you encounter in ministry) that will be printed and made available in a public form needs to abide by Fuller Theological Seminary’s Human Subjects Research Guidelines. Please take a look at the Human Subjects Informed Consent Form on Moodle to understand the issues that you need to be cognizant of.

In order to prepare for the requirements of your Doctoral Project, all papers must employ Turabian style formatting.

2.     Looking Toward the Doctoral Project Assignment: We want you to be thinking about your doctoral project throughout your DMin coursework. Whether you already have a clear goal and plan for the project, or even if you have no idea what you want to write about, it’s important to pause at the end of each course to look ahead to the doctoral project. To guide your thought process, know that doctoral projects follow a three-part outline: (1) identifying a ministry challenge in your context, (2) reflecting theologically on that challenge, and (3) constructing, implementing, and assessing a new ministry initiative to address that challenge.

With this in mind, please submit the following two-part assignment to Moodle by the end of the course:
1)    In a short paragraph, describe the topic you are leaning toward for your doctoral project. Why does this topic interest you? (If you are far enough along, feel free to include a sample thesis statement as well).
2)    In a second short paragraph, reflect on how the content of this course might contribute to or otherwise impact your doctoral project.

Fuller Theological Seminary abides by strict guidelines for research involving human subjects (i.e. the people you encounter in ministry) that will be printed and made available in a public form. As you continue to plan, please take a look at Human Subjects Informed Consent Form on Moodle to understand some of the issues you need to be cognizant of and planning for.

Audit students are required to read 2,000 pages of required reading. A log listing books with number of pages read must be turned in to the director before attending the seminar. Please use the reading log attached at the end of this syllabus and submit it before the beginning of the course at

At the beginning of this course we, as faculty and students, reaffirm our commitment to be beyond reproach in our academic work as a reflection of Christian character. We commit to honesty in all aspects of our work. We seek to establish a community which values serious intellectual engagement and personal faithfulness more highly than grades, degrees, or publications.

Each student is required to complete the online tutorial, You Quote It, You Note It, found here: Completing this tutorial one time meets this requirement for all courses. Students are also expected to review and understand the commitments to academic integrity as printed in the Student Handbook and the Seminary catalogue. Some infractions can be addressed by personal confrontation and corrective counsel. The following violations of these commitments will be firmly addressed formally:

  • Submitting the same work in whole or in part in more than one course without the permission of the professor(s);
  • Submitting as one’s own work material (s) obtained from another source;
  • Plagiarism: unattributed quotations or paraphrases of ideas from published, unpublished or electronic sources;
  • Unauthorized collaboration in preparing assignments;
  • Cheating on exams by any means;
  • Aiding another student on papers and tests in violation of these commitments.

Any of these violations will result in a failing grade on the assignment and possibly in the course, and will be reported to the Academic Integrity Committee which may impose further sanctions in accordance with the Academic Integrity Policy. Evidence of repeated violations will result in a formal disciplinary process. (For the full statement on Academic Integrity see The Student Handbook under Official Statements.) You may contact the Academic Integrity Committee Chair at

Required Reading:

Ammerman, Nancy. Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes: Finding Meaning in Everyday Life. Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-0199917365, Pub. Price $31.95 [400 pages].
Barbieri, William. At the Limits of the Secular: Reflections on Faith and Public Life. Eerdmans, 2014. ISBN: 978-0802868770, Pub. Price $35.00 [384 pages].
Eagleton, Terry. Culture and the Death of God. Yale University Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-0300212334, Pub. Price $16.00 [248 pages].
Emerson, Robert. Writing Ethnographic Field Notes, Second Edition. University of Chicago, 2011. ISBN: 978-0226206837, Pub. Price $19.00 [320 pages].
Gregory, Brad. The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. Belknap, 2012. ISBN: 978-0674088054, Pub. Price $21.95 [389 pages].
Luhrmann, Tonya M. When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. Vintage, 2013. ISBN: 978-0307277275, Pub. Price $15.95 [329 pages].
Mercadante, Linda. Belief Without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual But Not Religious. Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN: 978-0199931002, Pub. Price $31.95 [352 pages].
Rajkumar, Peniel and Joseph Dayam. Many Yet One?: Multiple Religious Belonging. World Council of Churches, 2016. ISBN: 978-2825416693, Pub. Price $24.00 [212 pages].
Schnekloth, Clint. “Good News Verbatim: Why We Need Clinical Evangelistic Education.” The Christian Century, June 24, 2014.
Smith, James K.A. How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. Eerdmans, 2014. ISBN: 978-0802867612, Pub. Price $19.99 [152 pages].

Recommended Reading:
(read freely from the following, to complete page requirements)
Asad, Talal. Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford University Press,  2003. ISBN:
Butler, Judith. The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere. Columbia, 2011. ISBN: 978-0231156462, Pub. Price $25.00 [128 pages].
Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Vintage, 2013. ISBN: 978-0307455772, Pub. Price $16.95 [377 pages].
Warner, Michael. Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age. Belknap, 2007. ISBN: 978-0674072411, Pub. Price $24.00 [352 pages].
Vigen, Aana Marie. Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics. Bloomsbury, 2011. ISBN: 978-1441155450, Pub. Price $34.95 [304 pages].
Zuckerman, Phil. Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions. Penguin, 2014. ISBN: 978-0143127932, Pub. Price $17.00 [288 pages].

READING LOG (for auditors only)

Course ______________________________________________________________________

Student ___________________________________ ID#____________________________

Date ____________________

(Please list Author, Title, Publisher, and number of pages read for each book read. If you skimmed part of the book, distinguish between the pages you read and those that you skimmed.)

AUTHOR                   TITLE                                                                                     #PAGES

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