For eleven years I’ve been called the “director” of the Toronto School of Theology. I can hardly use that word without chuckling, because I don’t direct much. Most often I’m the directee.
After all, TST is a consortium which exists to serve its seven member colleges, and to administer various policies and procedures required by the University of Toronto. TST has no other reason to exist.
So, as the so-called “director,” my job has been to follow the direction of others.
But one management theory says that that’s true... Read More
Just as medieval English Christians liked to “go on pilgrimages” in April, as Chaucer put it in his Canterbury Tales, Canadian Christian scholars in the twenty-first century like to head for “the learneds” in May.
The “learneds” that I’m talking about are the seventy-plus academic societies that meet every year over the space of about a week under the umbrella of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Only a few of these represent the theological and cognate disciplines. These include the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, the Canadian Catholic... Read More
Many church leaders find that continuing education strengthens their ministry. The kind of continuing education that I have in mind is a formally structured program where students address important issues in theology and ministry, engage current academic research, and have their work evaluated and commented on by senior educators.
The Toronto School of Theology offers two degree programs that are geared to professional enrichment. And in the future I hope we can expand our offerings.
Now, more casual educational experiences are also vital. These include public lectures and... Read More
"As societies modernize, they become less religious." This is the "secularization thesis." Its roots go back to the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. It was developed by the first sociologists in the nineteenth century. It has been hotly debated by sociologists, historians, theologians, philosophers, and other scholars for several decades. It probably passed its peak about fifteen years ago, but it still has its champions.
The discussions can be complicated. But let me reduce the thesis to three forms.
The retreat of Christendom
The first form... Read More
To be at the Toronto School of Theology is to be at one of the best centres in the entire world for studying theology and religious studies.
That was the word a few days ago from QS World University Rankings, one of the five most respected surveys of global higher education. It’s the only one that ranks subject areas as well as institutions.
One of our priorities at the Toronto School of Theology is to develop closer connections with Indigenous communities and individuals. Currently, the Indigenous presence at TST is small.
Some modest progress
Our member TST colleges have made some progress in recent years. Indigenous adjunct faculty members have taught excellent courses. Indigenous guests have resourced multi-day conferences, lectures, and alumni events. Teachers and students have taken orientation trips to the Six Nations on the Grand River. At... Read More
I was an undergraduate in 1966 when Time published its famous cover emblazoned with the single question, "Is God Dead?" By then I was already on what people today might call a spiritual journey, wondering about the things that this issue of Time was raising. Does God exist? Who is God? How can we know? Why is it important to know?
My undergraduate journey
My spiritual journey didn’t take me into churches, or at least not much. I had grown up in a 1950s church that was networked into the cultural and social establishment, not just... Read More
What are the biggest changes in higher education in North America over the past twenty-five years? Almost every list would include the development of an intensive "culture of assessment".
TST’s quality assurance processes and accrediting standards require us to do assessment in two areas in particular: What did our students learn in each course? How effective are our programs?
For courses, assessment requires us to identify the learning outcomes that students will achieve, and the ways in which achievement will be measured. For programs, assessment requires us to define... Read More
The widely recognized QS survey of world universities ranks schools as a whole, but it also ranks them in forty-six subject areas. One of these subject areas is called “theology, divinity, and religious studies.”
But, wait! Aren’t theology and religious studies two different subject areas? They certainly are at the University of Toronto. But the universities that QS ranks highest in this area — Harvard, Oxford, Durham, Cambridge, Boston, Yale — join theology and religious studies in... Read More
Throughout the history of humanity, it seems, people’s sense of God has flowed into their works of arts, and their works of arts have led them to a sense of God.
-- Some of the oldest cave paintings, at places like Altamira and Chauvet, which our ancestors drew from 15,000 to 30,000 years ago, appear to express religious commitments connected to animism, shamanism, ancestor veneration, and ritual observance.
-- “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him with the ten-stringed lyre,” says the Psalmist.
-- Ancient Greek theatre evolved from religious ritual drama,... Read More