How to envision theological education in this time between the times
The dominant model of theological education is coming to an end—but Ted A. Smith looks to its ultimate ends as sources of hope and renewal.
Smith locates the crisis facing theological education today in a sweeping history of religion in the United States, from the standing orders of the colonial period to the voluntary associations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He then connects today’s challenges to shifts in contemporary society, including declining religious affiliation, individualization, rising desires for authenticity, and the unraveling of professions.
Smith refuses to tell the story as one of progress or decline. Instead, he puts theological education in eschatological perspective, understanding it in relation to its ultimate purpose: “knowledge of God, knowledge so deep, so intimate, that it requires and accomplishes our transformation.” This knowledge is not restricted to a professional clerical class but is given for the salvation of all. Seeing by the light of this hope, Smith calls readers to reimagine church, ministry, and theological education for this time between the times.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Consolidation 2. Individualization 3. Unraveling The End 4. Renunciations 5. Affordances For Further Thought Notes
Ted A. Smith is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Divinity and associate dean of faculty at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. He serves as director of the Theological Education between the Times project.
“In this exciting work, Ted Smith boldly envisions the telos of theological education. The end lies in a future beyond equipping the Christian leader as the professional charged with assembling, organizing, and leading the church as an amalgam of voluntary societies. What, where, who is that end? Every student of theological study needs to explore Smith’s exploration of that critical question. If the future of theological inquiry and thus the future of the church is on your mind, this book must be on your desk.” —Brian K. Blount President and Professor of New Testament, Union Presbyterian Seminary
“The crisis in theological education is not just within individual institutions. It is symptomatic of profound societal shifts happening today. Ted Smith’s historically saturated analysis offers a fresh approach to the challenges of the American seminary. Telling an absorbing story, The End of Theological Education is a distinct contribution that will resource the new conversations desperately needed among theological educators and those who lead their institutions.” —Gerardo Martí William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at Davidson College
“Smith captures our current moment persuasively and truthfully. He testifies to God’s way of doing a new thing at this particular end for theological education, while providing a way of thinking through the new structures and modes that theological schools must inhabit. This is a must read for those interested in the multiple futures of theological education and what those futures mean for communities of faith.” —Frank Yamada Executive Director, The Association of Theological Schools
“The End of Theological Education is a clarion call to hear what the Spirit is saying between the times; it is fluid and characterized always by the manner in which God’s work thrives in the midst of change. Through a social-theological-religious interrogation of a professional model and a system that centers whiteness, Ted A. Smith invites readers to imagine what the not yet but possible.
This insightful, historically grounded account of the evolution, function, and purpose of theological education should be required reading for all seminary presidents, faculty, governing trustees, accreditors, and denominational leaders.” —Angela D. Sims President, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School
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