About the Seminar

Welcome to the Theology Senior Seminar Blog! This is a multi-authored blog created for and by the participants in the 2009 Theology Senior Seminar at Saint Louis University (Saint Louis, Missouri). It is designed to provide a virtual hub for sharing resources and conversation as the seminar proceeds.

The theme of this year’s Senior Seminar is “God and the ‘New Atheism’.” Over the course of the semester, students will develop lines of research on the phenomenon now widely known as the New Atheism. Associated especially with figures like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, and characterized by a more aggressive form of criticism of religious beliefs and practices, the New Atheism has created a public stir and incited a number of sympathetic and defensive reponses as part of a large-scale public discussion and debate (e.g., books, popular news articles, blogs, television appearances, movies, formal debates available on YouTube, etc.).

The selection of this topic includes within it two working assumptions: first, that Christian theology cannot simply ignore such public criticism; and second, that Christian theology must be willing to learn from such criticism, even if, in the end, it defends theistic-christological belief. The Senior Seminar invites its participants to engage in a public form of theology that is at once apologetic and self-critical: that is, while defending the legitimacy and articulating the vital significance of theistic belief and religious practice (this is its “apologetic” moment), participants are encouraged to appreciate and learn from the New Atheism as a stimulus for the ongoing task of self-criticism in Christian faith and theology. The goal of the seminar is to provide an exploratory space for students of theology to ask tough questions and risk responses that are nuanced, rigorous and constructive—all under the assumption that often the best kind of theological reflection is done when its most basic commitments are made thematic, more cogent and vital through criticism.

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