A new graduate level great books program offers students the opportunity to study Holy Scripture and Christian doctrine primarily through classic Christian texts. Based on one of Biola University’s most popular programs — Torrey Honors College — Talbot School of Theology’s new Master of Arts, Classical Theology, will employ a Socratic pedagogy.
“This program is designed to cultivate biblical and theological wisdom in its students from beginning to end. The faculty, course content, readings, thesis, and classroom pedagogy are jointly aimed at reaching deeper understanding of the Bible and the theological texts that have shaped classical Christian theology in such a way that students are led into Christian wisdom and love,” said Ryan Peterson, professor of theology.
The 36-credit, residential program can be completed in 12 months, making it a more affordable degree program and ideal stepping stone for students interested in pursuing a doctorate. The degree is designed to flow easily into Talbot’s other master’s degree programs.
The program will offer courses directly related to specific areas of faculty expertise, such as professor Fred Sanders will teach on the Trinity, professor Kyle Strobel will teach on Jonathan Edwards, and professor Adam Johnson will teach on the atonement. Students will read and discuss classic expositions of Scripture, from many cultures and from across the patristic, medieval, Reformation and modern eras, such as Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther.
“We will see Christians from across history sharing our evangelical love for the Bible, the cross, salvation, and heaven, and also setting these loves in the broader framework of the whole counsel of God,” said professor of theology Rob Price. “We think the classical model of theology is one of the best ways to train future evangelical leaders, and as faculty we are eager to equip students for their vocations in the church, the academy, and the world.”
A growing interest in classical theology within evangelicalism is apparent with classical theological texts and books about classical theologians and their writings increasingly more prominent in evangelical publishers’ catalogs. Intervarsity Press, for example, has two entire commentary series based on patristic and Reformation theologians alongside two volumes published by Baker in 2018 focused on how classic models of interpreting Scripture can inform evangelical biblical interpretation today. In addition, the Center for Pastor Theologians was founded in 2006 on the conviction that some of the best training pastors can receive would come from church history’s greatest pastor-theologians such as Augustine, Calvin, Wesley and others, according to their website.
“Modern biblical scholarship has made amazing contributions to our understanding of Scripture,” said Price. “But the insights of classical theology have often been neglected. There’s a real sense of excitement and discovery among evangelicals right now as we try to recapture these classical insights.”
Following the classic Christianity embodied in the texts, every course will integrate theology, history and exegesis together with personal spirituality for the sake of the church. Class time will be largely devoted to faculty-led discussion of classic Christian texts. Each student will also be assigned a faculty mentor to help guide their studies and to apprentice them in the discipline of Christian theology.
Students can apply now to be accepted for an inaugural class for Fall 2019.