My Systematic Theology Syllabus with some cool stuff in it! Check it out.

TH 2100: Introduction to Systematic Theology

Spring 2015

Monday & Wednesday 8:30-9:20 plus preceptorial sessions

Lectures in Stuart 6

Please bring a copy of this syllabus to our opening session, Wednesday January 28.

Course Description: TH 2100 is the basic introductory course in systematic theology at PTS. It presents the major doctrines and practices of the classical Christian tradition as these developed over many centuries and in numerous forms. It introduces students to the basic questions, claims, and rites of the Christian faith in both broadly ecumenical terms as well as in the narrower terms of the Protestant Reformed tradition represented by John Calvin.

Caveat: The rationale for this classic approach is that in order to appreciate recent criticisms of the classical tradition it is essential to understand the main trunk of the tradition to which they object. Appreciating the classical tradition is essential for engaging those criticisms knowledgeably.

Staff: The instructor for this course is Dr. Ellen Charry

For more info on the instructor see:

David Bruner david.bruner@ptsem,edu and Jeff Skaff, preceptors. Office hours by individual appointment. We invite conversation with you. Contact any of us for an appointment. Remember: our getting to know you depends on you. Class Bag Lunch is most Wednesdays at noon, Mackay SGA room (upstairs). All are welcome at any time. See schedule p. 24.

Nota Bene: The course is complex. Please read the syllabus carefully, perhaps more than once. Should you identify glitches, or can suggest improvements, please notify us as soon as possible so that we can address problems in a timely manner. We retain the prerogative to make improvements to the syllabus as we judge needful during the semester. Flexibility is a virtue.

Instructional Objectives: In this course students will

  1. approach systematic theology as an exegesis of the Nicene Creed.
  2. learn classic Christian doctrines and practices, including the doctrines of God, creation,

salvation, sanctification, the church, the sacraments and eschatology.

  1. master some conventional theological vocabulary.
  2. improve reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.
  3. practice applying Christian theology to Christian living and ministry.


Learning Tip: Read Mark 4:3–9.


Required Reading:

Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry, World Council of Churches. BEM

Book of Common Worship PCUSA (BCW)

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (McNeill edition) On-line in Intelex Past Masters through library databases (Calvin). Recommended for purchase.

John Chrysostom, Six Books on the Priesthood

Heine, Ronald E. 2013. Classical Christian Doctrine: Introducing the Essentials of the Ancient Faith. Baker Academic. It is a relatively easy and genuinely introductory read (Heine)

McGrath, Alister E. 2011. The Christian Theology Reader. 4th ed. Chichester, West Sussex Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. A massive collection of snippets from primary theological texts across history. Selected materials will be assigned. Especially peruse the “Details of Theologians” and “Glossary of Theological Terms” at the back of the book. (McGrath)

E-Reserves: Additional items for this course are on e-reserve in Blackboard (BB) for your convenience. Some items for this course are under course documents in BB as noted herein.

Course Documents (CD) are located in BB under that tab. It includes required readings not in E-reserves and additional helpful documents including a brief introduction to Calvin’s Institutes, writing aids, grading standards, background on and links to various Creeds and Confessions, electronic research instruction and academic support resources. Do explore it.

Strongly Recommended:

Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2011 (ATR) available on-line. See below.

Hart, D. B. (2005). The doors of the sea: where was God in the tsunami? Grand Rapids, Mich.:

W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

Commended References:

Emery, G., & Levering, M. (2011). The Oxford handbook of the trinity. Oxford: New York: Oxford University Press.

González, J. L. (2005). Essential theological terms (1st ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Gunton, C. E. (1997). The Cambridge companion to Christian doctrine. Cambridge [England] ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

McKim, D. K. (1996). Westminster dictionary of theological terms (1st ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Muller, R. A. (1985). Dictionary of Latin and Greek theological terms: drawn principally from Protestant scholastic theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Webster, J. B., Tanner, K., & Torrance, I. R. (2007). The Oxford handbook of systematic theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Additional Selected Resources:

Barth, K. (1959). Dogmatics in Outline (G. T. Thomson, Trans.). New York: Harper & Row.

Barth, K. (1963). Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Blount, D. K., & Wooddell, J. D. (2007). The Baptist faith and message 2000: critical issues in America’s largest Protestant denomination. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Charry, E. T. (1997). By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine. New York: Oxford University Press.

Coakley, S. (2013). God, sexuality, and the self: an essay “on the Trinity”. New York: Cambridge University Pr.

Evans, G. R. (2006). Christian belief: a short history for today. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Evans, J. H. (2012). We have been believers: an African American systematic theology (2nd ed.). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Fiorenza, F. S., & Galvin, J. P. (2011). Systematic theology: Roman Catholic perspectives (2nd ed.). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

González, J. L. (1990). Mañana: Christian theology from a Hispanic perspective. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Grenz, S. J. (1994). Theology for the Community of God. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishing.

Jenson, R. W. (1997). Systematic theology. New York: Oxford University Press. (Lutheran/General Dogmatic).

McGrath, A. E. (2011). Christian theology: an introduction (5th ed.). Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

McIntosh, M. A. (2008). Divine teaching: an introduction to Christian doctrine. Malden, MA: Blackwell

Ralph McMichael ed, (2014) Vocation of Anglican Theology, SCM Press. (Anglican).

McDougall, J. A. (2007). “Feminist theology” in Oxford handbook of systematic theology (pp. 670-687). Oxford; New York: Oxford Univ Pr.

Williams, D. H. (1999). Retrieving the tradition and renewing evangelicalism : a primer for suspicious Protestants. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans

Williams, R. (1979//90). The Wound of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cowley. (Anglican)

__________. (2000). On Christian theology. Oxford, UK; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.

TH2100 Class Lunch Schedule

Wednesdays at noon, SGA Room (upstairs Mackay)


28 January

4 February

11 February

18 February

25 February

4 March

No Lunch 11 or 18 March

25 March

1 April

8 April

15 April

22 April

Assessment formats and grade structure:

  1. There will be two 5-page academic papers. The first paper, due 25 February, will count as 15% of final grade. The second, due 25 March, will count as 25 % of final grade. Detailed descriptions of the assignments are available under “Course Documents” in BB. Papers are to be emailed to your preceptor by 5:00pm on the due date.
  2. A final in class, “blue book” examination on the date set by the registrar will count as 40% of the final grade. The exam will be a theological assessment and analysis of a full-length feature film selected by the instructors.
    3. Attendance and class participation are 20% of final grade (attendance policy follows below).

Attendance: Attendance is required at lectures and preceptorial sessions. Unexcused absences that exceed 20% of all class sessions will be subject to a failing grade.

Extensions and late submissions see Seminary Handbook 6.9

Persons with special needs see Seminary Handbook 10.1

Inclusive language: There are no inclusive language rules in this course because the questions involved require thoughtful and thorough consideration. Externally imposed rules deprive students of that opportunity. The primary instructor invites students who have not yet considered these matters into conversation even if they generally follow some rules commended to them. This would be a good lunch topic.

Pastoral Care: This course’s goal is to introduce you to theology not only as an academic discipline but as a way of life centered in prayer and spiritual formation. It is sometimes the case, however, that the study of theology can be spiritually disorienting: familiar ideas and pieties can be challenged as part of the educational process. If you find yourself in need of spiritual support or pastoral care during this course, please know that the teaching team is happy to meet, talk, and pray with you. If for any reason you find it difficult to speak to any of us, please do seek out help from someone else—a friend, pastor, mentor, dean, or chaplain.


Preparing for class: Lectures: Meditate on scripture passages. Prepare required readings; Preceptorials: come to class prepared to discuss required readers.

Grading Scale:

A+       97-100

A         94-6

A-        90-3

B+       87-9

B         84-6

B-        80-3

C+       77-9

C         74-6

C-        70-3

D+       67-9

D         64-6

D-        60-3

F          0-59

Prayers when Sitting Down to Study


Before Studying the Work of a Theologian and Teacher of the Church:

Holy Father, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant N., and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Mighty Father, you gave to your servant N. special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Before Studying the Work of a Monastic:

Father of all, by whose grace your servant N. kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For Guidance in Study:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who are the truth incarnate and the teacher of the faithful; let your spirit overshadow us in the study of your ways, and conform our thoughts to your truth, that learning of you with honest hearts, we may be rooted and built up in you; who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

O holy God, who has taught us that your Word is a lantern to our feet and a light to our path; grant that we, with all devoutly study teaching offered in your name, may realize our fellowship one with another in you; and may learn thereby to know you more fully, to love you more truly, and to follow more faithfully in the steps of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may in wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessing and hope of life eternal, which you have given us in our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

For Guidance:

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through the holy and blessed Trinity, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

PTS theo-lingo (in case you were a business, dance, physics, or other non-related major)

an addition to McGrath’s glossary of terms, p. 579ff.

Analytic / synthetic: Two forms of argument. Analysis is to take ideas apart and analyze their constituent parts to better understand the whole. Synthesis is to bring together to develop something fresh from various distinct ideas.

Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Radical / Left-wing: these are the five communions that emerged from the ecclesial crisis of the sixteenth century in the west. The last three sub-divided and the Anglican Communion is currently dividing. Eastern and western Christianity had formally separated in the eleventh century. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is deeply divided.

Christian east/west: The Christian East refers to Greek-speaking Christianity that took shape in late antiquity. The Christian West refers to Latin-speaking Christianity in late antiquity. Neither term applies to what we now call the Far East (Asia that was evangelized by western Christianity in the nineteenth century), but it does apply to what we call the Near/Middle East where Christianity was born. Over time these designations came to refer to theological communions with different theological emphases and worship style rather than linguistic differences.

Confessional theology: The systems of Lutheran and Reformed theology that developed in the late sixteenth century well into the seventeenth; also referred to as Protestant scholasticism (see below). The theological system of Karl Barth, for example, is Reformed neo-scholasticism.

Dogma: refers to the only two core teachings agreed upon by most Christian bishops at the first four ecumenical councils in the Patristic age: the Trinity and the Incarnation.

Ecumenical / interfaith: Ecumenical applies to conversation among Christian denominations (Catholic-Orthodox, Catholic-Anglican; Reformed-Lutheran, Catholic-Evangelical, etc.).

Ecclesia / church: Ecclesia is a Greek word for community. Church is a broader and so more confusing term as it can also refer to buildings. “Church” is an exclusively Christian term for the worshiping community.

Evangelical / evangelical: In continental Europe “evangelisch” means Protestant. Evangelicalism in an American context now implies a distinctive style of worship, promoting a personal relationship with Jesus and a penchant for seeking to draw others into this style of being Christian.

Fight/argument: Fights take place in the street. Arguments take place in the university.

Fundamentalism: A movement sponsored by Christian businessmen in early twentieth century America through a series of popular pamphlets that insisted on traditional doctrinal standards in response to the Social Gospel Movement inaugurated by Walter Rauschenbusch.

“High” & “low”: indicates degree of faithfulness to or departure from classical formulation of a doctrine or practice —high or low liturgy, high or low Christology, high or low doctrine of providence, etc.. A fresh usage—‘high’, ‘middle’, and ‘low’ theology to distinguish technical [school or scholastic] theology for the academy (theorists) from theology for religious leaders (clinicians), and that for people in the pews respectively. These terms are not hierarchically value-laden.

Interfaith applies to conversation between different religions Buddhism, Judaism, Islam Christianity, and so on.

Liberation theology: Christian doctrine interpreted through Marxist categories. In the US those categories have been filtered through issues relating to sex and race.

Monastic / spiritual; academic / scholastic: In the medieval west, monasteries preserved literacy and education after the fall of Mediterranean civilization. Universities developed from monastery schools in the Middle Ages. The modern research university (not under the control of the church) was born at the end of the eighteenth century in Germany.

“My theology”: Technically a non-sequitor. Theology is not to individual oneself but undertaken by for and in the eyes of the church politic in response to challenges and pressures that the tradition faces.

Old-line liberal, contemporary progressive: Old-line liberal churches accepted modern biblical and theological scholarship in the nineteenth century and attempted to adapt to changing cultural circumstances. Contemporary progressive elements within those denominations (liberationist, feminist, etc.) carry forward the Social Gospel movement of early twentieth century America by analyzing Christian claims through Marxist or other ideological categories.

‘ology’: Greek from logos, means study of, teaching of, or doctrine of. In doctrinal vocabulary it is added to basic Greek words to specify themes of Christian interest. So, soteriology means doctrine of salvation. It is therefore redundant to say “doctrine of soteriology”. The correct translation of soteriology is “doctrine of salvation.”

Ordo Salutis: Latin phrase identifying the steps scholastic theology proposes to logically order the events of salvation (=spiritual health) as elaborated in extensive presentations of Christian doctrine beginning in the Middle Ages.

Orthodox / orthodox: Orthodox refers to the Eastern Orthodox churches that developed from the Greek-speaking world. The terms “orthodox” or “orthodoxy” refer to adherence to the decisions of the first four Ecumenical Councils in 325, 381, 431, 451 that established normative positions on the Trinity and the Incarnation. There were seven such councils all told, the last of which was in 787.

Question / issue / problem: often signifying objections to a generally accepted or currently offered theological position.

Scholasticism: A highly formalized style of theology practiced in the high Middle Ages, in seventeenth century theology and in that of Karl Barth and his followers that pursues fine points of doctrine either synthetically or polemically in order to present a comprehensive picture of Christian beliefs and practices.

Starting point / foundational principle: The basic assumptions and presuppositions of modern theological “systems” that attempt to account for all Christian claims coherently.

Theology: the written attempt to help the church help people know, love, and enjoy God better, often undertaken in response to intellectual challenges to the tradition. Theologians are the attorneys and physicians of the tradition.

Classical theology: Refers to theological positions formulated by the first four Ecumenical Councils.

Contextual theology: Thinks theologically from and sometimes to particular cultural contexts and circumstances as opposed to a broader approach often assumed to be objective or appropriate for all cultural contexts.

Dogmatic theology: Argues for specific interpretations of the ordo salutis, the conceptual structure outlining the dogmatic structure of what the author takes to be the correct Christian teaching on salvation. The terms “systematic”, “dogmatic”, and “doctrina”l theology are often used synonymously although they are technically distinguishable.

Doctrinal theology: Refers to Christian teachings that have not necessarily been officially

adopted by a church council or deliberative body but are put forward by professional theologians for such consideration. Doctrine transliterates the Latin word for teaching.

Progressive theology: Theology with liberal social commitments. May refer to the totality of liberation theological perspectives as a package.

Public theology: Theology whose foundational principle is intellectually accessible to non-Christians. Sometimes contrasted with fideism that rests on revelation alone without appeal to generally agreed upon standards of meaning and evidence.

Systematic theology: A modern single-authored western presentation of Christian doctrine organized around a single principle. It began in the nineteenth century, with roots back in the tenth century, but is mostly a twentieth century phenomenon.

Academic Integrity: Handbook 7.1 Plagiarism will result in a failing grade.

Plagiarism (from the Latin word for “kidnapper”) is theft. It means submitting work that is not your own without acknowledging the source or submitting your own work multiple times to different instructors without their permission and guidance. This is a breach of academic integrity (see handbook 4.4). It is an extremely serious offense toward the scholarly community, one that can result in a formal academic saction as explained in the Handbook §4.6. Copying and pasting from the internet or a book or journal without a formal citation and quotation marks is plagiarism, even if it is only one sentence. Copying and pasting and then changing a few words is plagiarism. Paraphrasing someone else’s idea, without naming them is plagiarism. Using a paper written or “improved” by another student, family member or friend is plagiarism.

Ordinarily, instances of plagiarism are discovered by the faculty person who has the authority to confront a student, assess the gravity of the instance, and determine the academic consequences within the course in question, up to and including the assignment of a failing grade.  In addition, the faculty person reports all instances of plagiarism to the Director of Professional Studies, acting as secretary of the Student and Academic Affairs Committee, providing the documentation of the alleged plagiarism, and a description of the measures taken by the faculty person, including grade implications.  The matter is then referred to the Student and Academic Affairs Committee, providing the documentation of the alleged plagiarism, and a description of the measures taken by the faculty person, including grade implications.  The matter is then referred to the Student and Academic Affairs Committee for review, following Handbook 7.1 “Procedures for Disciplinary Hearings.”

To avoid plagiarizing, understand the difference between paraphrases, notes and direct quotations. You must know how to attribute information using signal phrases and formal citations (CMS, APA, MLA etc. ). Humanities generally follows CMS The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Read your sources carefully and take notes in your own words. Notes should use brief phrases and important facts (names, dates, places), not full sentences. When you finish taking notes, put the original sources away and study your notes. Then put your notes away and see if you can express your ideas in your own words in a casual conversation with a friend. If you can, then you may be ready to write while you consult your notes. If you can’t express your ideas to a friend without looking at notes, then you have not studied enough. Direct quotes should be rare. The vast majority of the writing you submit for this course must be your own words. For proper acknowledgement of sources in academic work see Handbook 6.6.


Tips on Excellent Studenthood & Classroom Manners


I may be of an older generation but others I consult agree—reading in hard copy is better than reading on-line. To absorb more print I prefer to read in hard copy with pens, pencils and highlighters in hand as well as a scheme for note-taking. Remember: what you get from your education depends more on what you put into I than what your teachers put into it. Prepare for every session as carefully as your teachers do.

You matter in this class even when you do not speak. Do attend to how your body and carriage affect others at all times. This class is your current ministry. It will prepare you for your next and every following ministry.

Carry yourself professionally by covering your body from shoulders to knees.

Cover your mouth when you yawn (apparently especially difficult to remember these days) so that I don’t feel that I am as boring as I actually am; also when you sneeze. (You will be grateful to those who do so when you preach or teach.)

Off-on-off: Turn your cell phone off or to vibrate (if you expect an urgent call), keep your shoes on your feet and off the seats.

Please eat before you come to class.

Please refrain from baseball caps and chewing gum during class.

Do not surf the net, write/read/check e-mail, play e-games, text or tweet, write a paper, prepare for another class or exam, or otherwise abuse the privilege of using an electronic device to take notes on the class. Electronic devices are being banned from classrooms for these rude behaviors. Do not tempt us do it here. If we do, others will be penalized.

Stuart 6 has doors in front of the hall. Latecomers distract other students. Please try to arrive by 8:30. If you must enter the hall late, please wait outside until prayer has concluded. When exiting please use the door on your right.

Above all: Keep your sense of humor in tip-top shape. You will need it if you take up pastoral ministry (or any ministry for that matter).


Theology should be fun.


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