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Theology Professor Publishes Article, Plans Presentations

Public Relations
Posted: Tuesday Feb 12, 2013

Feb. 12, 2013

Dr. Jason King, associate professor and chair of the Saint Vincent College theology department, published an article in 2012 entitled, “Philip Pullman” in Don’t Stop Believing: Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies. Edited by Craig Detweiler, Robert Johnston and Barry Taylor for Westminster John Knox Press, the essay is an encyclopedia entry on the work of Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, and its relevance for religion.

Dr. King is also preparing two upcoming presentations. The first, entitled, “Trying not to ‘shove religion down their throats’ ” will be given at the 59th Annual Convention of the College Theology Society in May.

“Many teachers of theology are wary of teaching and handing on the faith,” Dr. King noted. “Whether the backdrop is Kant’s modernist cry to think for one’s self against tradition, Nietzsche’s post-modern suspicion of religion as a cover for power, the religious voluntarism of the cultural, or the way the internet flattens all things into items of consumption, we worry that we are inflicting a kind of intellectual violence upon our students by ‘shoving religion down their throats’.”

“How might we distinguish genuine docere and tradere from this kind of coercion?” Dr. King asks. “In this paper I attend to three key aspects of teaching and learning that have emerged in recent research to make this differentiation. First, teachers need to communicate a framework upon which students can ‘hang’ and ‘build upon’ ideas and data and reinforce this framework in various ways. Second, students need to respond by applying this way of thinking to new situations and developing a feedback mechanism that allows them to clarify, refine or change this understanding. Finally, good teachers will not only perform their tasks well but also set up the classroom and assignments to aid students in theirs. The implications for teaching theology seem clear. Teaching the faith (docere) in a coherent manner is not a problem. In fact it seems to be part of sound pedagogy that is necessary for the learning process to begin and continue. Teaching theology also entails an aspect of tradere. Just as the faith must be given and received, teaching theology entails not just communicating the faith but fostering a context that enables students to evaluate and, perhaps, appropriate the faith through application and feedback. Lacking this aspect of tradere however, the class becomes the kind of coercion we rightly fear and students rightly resist.”

The second presentation, entitled, “‘Benedictine Obedience, Authority and Conversatio morum”, will be given at the 68th Annual Convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America in June.

“While moral theologians are rightly wary of obedience and authority, both seem needed as the moral life is learned from others,” Dr. King said. “This paper explores three ways that Benedictines embed authority and obedience in community life and how this approach provides a model that fosters conversatio morum. First, obedience and authority are primarily carried out through persuasion and reason more than force of will (RB 2). Second, obedience and authority are ‘movements’ within the community and so are transparent to all (RB 5). Third, authority and obedience entail ‘listening’ to God, community members, and outsiders (RB 3).”

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