August 15, 2012 | 12:50 p.m.
By the Office of Communications and Marketing
Christian Collins Winn plans to apply instruction from a summer theology seminar to his Bethel theology classes.
Christian Collins Winn, associate professor of biblical studies, attended the American Academy of Religion/Luce Foundation Summer Seminar in Theology of Religious Pluralism and Comparative Theology this summer, completing the first session of a two-summer program. Winn joined 17 other scholars studying at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Ga., including practicing Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Christians. The goal of the summer seminars is to address both the curricular and scholarly needs of those who will be training future religious leaders.
According to Winn, the seminar model allowed each scholar to think from his or her own theological traditions about the significance of “religious others,” inviting conversation without presuming that all religions are the same or compromising one’s beliefs. “As one who believes that the resurrection of Jesus Christ marks the turning point of the ages, I found this especially refreshing because it meant that I could bring my own convictions to the table,” says Winn. “I could bring my whole self, so to speak.”
Winn’s primary interest in attending the seminar involved his growing research and teaching emphasis in Jewish and Christian relations and theological engagement, including his development of a senior level course on Jews and Christians during the 20th century. He also plans to apply the comparative method that the seminar encouraged as a new way of doing inter-religious learning. Instead of forming a meta-theory of religion and placing religions in a hierarchy or on the same level, the comparative method involves the practice of carefully reading the texts of other traditions and then re-reading one’s own sacred texts with “new eyes.” Winn plans to use the comparative method to dissect the formation of Christian theology in Asia prior to the 15th century, expanding the subject matter in his history of Christian thought class.
Winn also notes how he was challenged spiritually. “The scholars and practitioners I was privileged to learn from and converse with were all deeply committed, had an extraordinary sense of integrity, and were immersed in the practices of their traditions,” comments Winn. “Their integrity and commitment compelled me to examine my own commitments and reaffirm my faith in Jesus Christ as well as the need to grow more deeply in devotion to the way of Jesus.”
Winn’s cohort will meet again on November 16 at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Chicago and will gather for another week-long seminar in summer 2013 to complete the program.