Divinity in the 21st century

Thursday 18 September 2003

One of the World’s most ancient subjects is to be given the 21st century treatment by Professors of Divinity at the University of St Andrews.

The University’s School of Divinity will launch a new internet-based course this semester, which will relate the Bible directly to issues of contemporary concern.

With the exception of residential courses at the beginning of each term, the postgraduate programme will be taught entirely via the web – including live on-line tutorials and seminars.

The programme will juxtapose issues of contemporary social and political concern (including globalisation, consumerism, feminism, freedom and green issues) with the ancient text which has served for two thousand years as the primary authority for Christian faith and practice. It will explore ways in which Christian theology has been and is related to wider currents of human culture. In particular, it will include a consideration of the place of the arts in reflecting and shaping religious faith, and seek ways of engaging with theological issues through the arts.

The new masters programme by Distance Learning, “Bible and the Contemporary World” is a part-time degree, developed to meet a real demand for flexible courses of this nature. The programme will lead to either the M.Litt. or the Postgraduate Diploma. Original both in its chosen focus and its mode of delivery, the programme seems bound to be a leader in the field worldwide.

The University appointed a Distance Learning Officer, Dr Steve Guthrie, to facilitate the programme.

He said: “The “Bible and the Contemporary World” programme considers what a very ancient, near Eastern text might have to say to postmodern, Western culture. It seems appropriate then that this programme should be offered by an institution with a 600 year history, using 21st century technology, to a student population in several different nations.”

The first cohort of students on the degree are in St Andrews this week (September 15th – 19th) for an intensive week of lectures, seminars and tutorials. The seventeen students who are participating are a diverse group and include: a parish minister from rural Scotland, a Secondary School teacher, a lecturer in English at a Korean university, a chaplain with the Royal Marines, a forensic psychologist, a missionary working with University students in Portugal, a homemaker and mother of three, and a pastor of a large North American church.

After the residential week concludes, the students will return to their various employments all over the world, and from there, via cyberspace, will continue to ‘meet’ weekly to pursue further the discussions initiated in the St Andrews seminar rooms.

The two modules to be undertaken this year are ‘The Bible and Contemporary Issues’ and ‘Theology, Art and Politics’. ‘The Bible and Contemporary Issues’ module will deal with the interpretation of the Bible (both testaments, but with emphasis on the New Testament) in a variety of contexts in the contemporary World.

‘Theology, Art and Politics’ will consider ways in which Christian faith and practice have shaped and in turn been shaped by artistic and political aspects of the contexts in which they have arisen. It will ponder political and religious dimensions of art, ask what a theological perspective on human artistry might look like, and approach questions of a theologico-political sort (e.g. forgiveness and reconciliation) through engagement with works of film, literature and drama.

The new programme was developed by Professors Richard Bauckham and Trevor Hart, who will teach ‘The Bible and Contemporary Issues’ and ‘Theology, Art and Politics’ modules respectively.

Professor Hart, Head of the School of Divinity, said: “Not all great universities are situated in metropolitan centres. The University of St Andrews has a considerable international reputation, while situated in a location that isn’t all that easy to reach. In particular, its School of Divinity attracts postgraduates from all over the world to the East Coast of Fife. But we have also attracted the attention of many prospective students who, because of career or family or other concerns, are simply unable to relocate for full time study.

“Over the last few years we have received an increasing number of inquiries from very highly qualified prospective postgraduates, asking whether there is any way for them to enrol for study at St Andrews while continuing in their jobs, ministries and other responsibilities. We are very pleased that through the University’s Virtual Learning Environment we are now able to accommodate such students, and thereby combine the benefits of a high quality postgraduate education with the University’s commitment to widening access to its programmes.”

The demand for places on the new course was so high that within the first month of announcing it, the School had almost 80 enquiries from all over the World. By holding initial residential courses and setting up chat rooms and bulletin boards, tutors will ensure that students do not miss out on the classroom experience by encouraging online interaction between students and between students and lecturers.



DR STEVE GUTHRIE IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON 01334 462841 / 462850 OR EMAIL [email protected]

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected] Ref: Divinity 21st Century pr 170903 View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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