We’ve added exciting new speakers and sessions to Karam Forum 2021, a half-day digital event – and more! – coming on Tuesday, January 5. The event will run 10:00-2:00 central time (11-3 eastern, 8-12 Pacific).
Mark your calendar today for this inspiring, equipping and connecting event as we “rise to the challenge with hope, vision and wisdom”!
Peter Cha on Fresh Ways of Stewarding Theological Knowledge
Peter Cha of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is now scheduled to speak at Karam Forum. Cha joins Mark Labberton of Fuller Theological Seminary, John Nunes of Concordia College New York and Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary and more on our roster of speakers.
Last month, we announced that in the context of today’s major challenges to our schools, our two main sessions at Karam Forum will focus on a new vision for Christian higher education, and wisdom to steward the theological knowledge tradition well. In the first session, school presidents Labberton and Nunes will describe how schools are discovering a vision for theological education to thrive in the coming century.
Cha joins our second session, where we will continue rethinking how academic theology organizes and passes on theological knowledge. Our schools have inherited a model of knowledge described by Paul Williams as “clerical and scholastic,” assuming both a relatively static, abstract body of knowledge and a relatively static, established role in society for the church. As Williams puts it, the 21st century calls for a transition to theological stewardship that is “ecclesial and missional,” learning and growing together in community in order to equip ourselves and others to bring God’s holy love to a lost and dying world.
Cha is a professor of church, culture and society at Trinity, where he has taught and written for 23 years. He helps lead the Mosaic Initiative on and off campus at Trinity, a community that models the integration of theological knowledge and practice. Cha has also served on the Committee on Race and Ethnicity (CORE) of the Association of Theological Schools as well as on the board of InterVarsity.
This session carries forward a conversation we have been having for some time in the Oikonomia Network. At Karam Forum, this academic mission has been explored by Richard Mouw, Miroslav Volf (twice), Kevin Vanhoozer, Greg Jones (twice), Amy Sherman, Charlie Self and Greg Forster. Before Karam Forum’s first meeting in 2017, we heard from Dallas Willard, Paul Williams, Dan Aleshire, Bob Cooley and more.
However, we are reaching an important new moment for this conversation. The fragmentation and polarization of advanced modern culture has strained our traditional academic models of theological stewardship to a crisis point. And just at this moment when a deep restructuring is most needed, a pandemic is pushing us to rework everything we do.
We can see this juxtaposition as a double threat. Or we can see it as a major opportunity to renew theology for the coming century. Karam Forum 2021 will explore the latter option!
Darrell Bock will set the stage with thoughts about how the theological academy can take advantage of the present moment to reform the way we relate theological knowledge to practical life. Then, because one great way to make discoveries in this area is interdisciplinary collaboration, we’ll bring in an interdisciplinary panel: Cha in pastoral theology, Charlie Self in history, Lynn Cohick in biblical studies and Gerry Breshears in systematics. We’re upending the traditional privileging of systematics by having our pastoral theologian speak first – but if you like, you can also think of our team managers putting Breshears in the fourth slot as systematics “batting cleanup.”
R&D Lab: Scholarly Paper Discussions
Maybe you’ve noticed that we’ve been referring to our two “main” sessions. What else is in store, you might be asking? (Nothing gets past you!)
Karam Forum is adding a new experience this year: scholarly paper discussions. Think of it as our academic “R&D lab.” It’s an opportunity to explore new ideas for research and development in your field.
A key theme in Richard Mouw’s address to our last meeting was the importance of bringing change in theological education to the disciplinary communities (systematics, Old Testament, New Testament, history, missiology, etc.) that define what counts as scholarly excellence. “We take our direction on what to tech in seminaries from the academic guilds,” Mouw pointed out. The transformation we seek in theological education won’t be sustainable unless it transforms the guilds: “Theologians should respond to questions posed to them by people living out the patterns of discipleship beyond the world of the church.”
As a first step in that direction, Karam Forum will be hosting discussions of academic papers in five disciplines. Participants will be asked to select a session to join for a robust conversation. Each of these sessions centers on a provocative paper that asks us to rethink basic assumptions:
- Systematic Theology: What does it mean to flourish as material beings, and how does the Incarnation shed light on real flourishing? Brent Waters challenges us to rethink our assumptions about flourishing in his paper, “Animated Soil: Flourishing as Creatures.” Discussion facilitated by Brent Waters.
- Theological Ethics: Is our anthropology missing a core element that’s needed for robust application of theology to real-life ethics in the home and the workplace? Darrell Bock makes the case in his paper, “Stewardship Is Fundamental: Creation, Marriage and Money.” Discussion facilitated by Darrell Bock.
- Biblical Studies: How do we make sense of God’s surprising choice to put the word “subdue” at the center of the cultural mandate? J. Michael Thigpen shows us the big implications of a little word in his paper, “Flourishing, Justice and the Gospel as ‘Subduing’ the Earth.” Discussion facilitated by David Baker.
- Biblical Theology: How can we see “the gospel going out to the nations” as a new lens for debates about the church and culture? Greg Forster explores a neglected biblical theme in his paper, “Nations in the Metanarrative of Redemption: A Gospel for Public Life.” Discussion facilitated by Greg Forster.
- History: How can Christians transcend the seemingly binary choice between reductive capitalist rhetoric and reductive socialist rhetoric? Kimlyn Bender looks to Karl Barth for inspiration in his paper, “Capitalism, Socialism and Karl Barth’s Pragmatism: Lessons from a Disillusioned Socialist for Christian Economic Engagement.” Discussion facilitated by Nathan Hitchcock.
Some of these papers are from the new volume Human Flourishing, published by Wipf & Stock as part of the Oikonomia Network’s ongoing work to push the boundaries in scholarship. Others are adapted from the authors’ contributions to conversations about theology for human flourishing at this month’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. (Which we also highly recommend checking out!)
Attendees will have the opportunity to register in advance and get a copy of their selected paper before Karam Forum happens. Look for registration information in next month’s newsletter.
Karam Forum Global Session
We’ve been honored and humbled over the years by international participation in Karam Forum. Foremost have been our Australian friends! Each year since our first meeting, Reventure has generously funded travel for Australian theological educators to be part of Karam Forum. Over 20 educators have joined us through this program.
And this year? Travel isn’t a problem, but unfortunately, time zones are. Alas, if we start the event at a time that would be sane for the Australians to get up for, the Americans will be heading off to bed before the event is over.
We cannae change the laws of physics, captain!
So we’re working around the problem by using inverse tachyon pulses to create a static warp shell, which will enable us to hold a special Global Session of Karam Forum!
This will be an opportunity for people in all regions to compare notes on the future of theological education. We’re all facing similar challenges, from the pandemic to the fragmenting of advanced modern culture. But we’re facing them in different contexts, with different inherited structures and assumptions. The best learning comes from crossing boundaries to find out how the kingdom of God is growing and changing in a variety of circumstances.
So as long as you’re marking your calendars for Karam Forum 2021 on Tuesday, January 5, add another reservation for the Karam Forum Global Session! The event will be on different dates depending on where you are. In Australia, the global session will take place on Thursday, January 21 from 12:00 noon to 2:00pm Sydney time. If you’re in the U.S., it will be on Wednesday, January 20, from 7:00-9:00pm central time (8-10pm eastern, 5-7pm Pacific). Look for more announcements about this special event, coming soon.
In the meantime, tell your peers and friends about Karam Forum 2021 on January 5. It will be a unique opportunity to come together and rise to the challenge of these times with hope, vision and wisdom.