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Sed Contra, Ergo, Responsio: Honoring the Legacy of Christopher Morse as a Teacher of Christian Theology

Spencer, Daniel; Walsh, Mary Beth

In the fall of 1991, with two years of course work toward our doctoral studies completed, we began two years of work as UTS Tutors for Professors Christopher Morse and James Cone in the introductory theology sequence of ST103 and ST104. To say this experience was formative would be an understatement. A central component of Christopher’s ST104 course, Foundations of Christian Theology, was gaining skills in theological argumentation in order to demonstrate how Christian doctrines can be applied to contemporary issues. Generations of Union students developed this skill through writing Utrum essays. In this exercise Christopher adapted the steps of "theological dialectic" set forth by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae. We were lucky to be working with Christopher as he was completing his seminal work, Not Every Spirit: A Dogmatics of Christian Disbelief, and enjoyed applying the Utrum form to the foundational theological claims. In Not Every Spirit Christopher states, "The purpose of this exercise is to develop the complementary skills in addition to doing scriptural exegesis and historical exposition required for what is called "dialectic," meaning here the pros and cons of argument involved in adjudicating disputed issues, a task of dogmatic theology as a "testing of the spirits." Reading dozens of Utrum essays and watching Christopher demonstrate this skill in many classes over two semesters of tutoring ST104 shaped our own theological method profoundly. Learning to examine contemporary theological and ethical issues through the Utrum format remains one of the most important intellectual and academic skills we gained in our doctoral programs at Union.

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Published In
Union Seminary Quarterly Review
Volume
65
Issue
1-2
Pages
26 - 41
Academic Units
Union Theological Seminary
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