Being Human in the Modern World

Instructor: David N. Scott, MTS, Ph.D.

Introduction to the Course

Course Details

Course Overview
What does it mean to be human? This course examines a variety of Christian theological responses to that question. After a brief survey of the history of theological anthropology, we engage contemporary proposals for reconstructing this doctrine with regard to social location and the ethical dimensions of theological imagination. Special attention will be given to how notions of embodiment, agency, and relationality have become fundamental to current perspectives on being human, producing both liberative and problematic results.

Course Objectives

  1. Introduce students to recent historical developments and academic trends that have fundamentally shaped the field of theological anthropology.
  2. Further the process of developing student fluency in the vocabulary and concepts distinctive to Christian theological discourse.

  3. Explore themes and notions that are prominent within present-day discussions of what it means to be human (especially relationality, expressivism, embodiment, agency, and flourishing) and consider how constructive theologians from a variety of perspectives and social locations address those common loci.
  4. Equip students to articulate their own informed and carefully considered positions on issues that are central to theological anthropology, such human nature, the image of God, the relationship between self and community, and the place of human beings within the rest of creation.
  5. Facilitate the continued development of skills in reading, writing, and critical thinking.


Course Requirements (At a Glance)

Attendance/Participation                25%
Critical Analysis Presentation         15%
Theological Anthropology Profile   10%
Final Paper                                        50%

Course Requirements (Detailed Descriptions)

Class Participation and Attendance (25% of grade): The discipline of theology is not merely a study of the history of certain ideas.  More importantly, it is an ongoing conversation among persons who are commonly committed to addressing theological problems and questions about what it means to live faithfully in the context of day-to-day life.  For that reason, active engagement in online discussions and full attendance during Gathering Days are two essential components of this course. Both the quality and depth of theological conversation depend heavily on the voices involved.  Students should enter into online discussions and come to in-class sessions having read all the assigned readings for that day and having thoughtfully considered the key ideas and arguments presented in those readings. For more on what makes a proper contribution to class discussion, see "Policies on Academic and Collegial Integrity."

            The evaluation of a student’s weekly contributions to online discussion forums includes a quantitative requirement. In a typical week, a student ought to contribute at least 3 posts to the current forum, the first reacting to a classmate’s Critical Analysis Presentation and discussion questions (see the section below for details) and the others simply being organic and engaged comments or questions. Students are encouraged to post more than this if they would like. The quantitative requirement is just a minimal threshold meant to keep all students active in the course on a weekly basis. Each first post is worth 5 points, and both subsequent posts are worth 2.5 points. In most instances, a post that is on topic and on time will receive full points. The “Course Rhythm” section of the syllabus provides further instructions concerning the basic mechanics of online conversations.

Critical Analysis Presentation (15% of grade): Beginning in Week 2, each student will take a turn helping the instructor lead class discussion. In a typical week, the students who have signed up for that week will make a parent post in the discussion forum consisting of 750-1000 words. This contribution will critically engage a portion of a required text in a way that helps shape the substance and direction of class discussion. In this parent post, the student must:

As part of the process of organizing these contributions, students should use the electronic sign-up sheet on Canvas at their earliest convenience. Further instructions about when these papers must be submitted and how other students ought to engage them may be found in the “Course Rhythm” section of the syllabus.

NOTE: There will be no Critical Analysis Presentations in Weeks 1, 5, or 6.


Theological Anthropology Profile (10% of grade): There is only so much time in a 10-week seminar to explore the recent history of Christian theological anthropology. For this reason, students may find themselves wanting to know more about a modern theologian's understanding of what it means to be human than the assigned readings cover. This short assignment is an opportunity to dig deeper into the relevant thought of a 20th-to-21st-century Christian thinker. This is intended to be a more fun, low-stakes assignment. Each student must submit a written document of 650-750 words that provides information about the following:

During our on-campus sessions at Gathering Days, each student will present the results of their research to the rest of the class and field questions about the material. The instructor will evaluate a profile based on: a) the clarity and internal coherence of the written report, b) the effective use of research materials and, c) the general quality of the in-class presentation. 

Students are free to choose which primary and secondary sources to consult when composing this profile.  Whatever resources one chooses, a Works Cited/Bibliography page needs to included. Any well-known citation format is acceptable (Chicago, MLA, APA, etc.), as long as its use is accurate and consistent. As part of the process of organizing these presentations, students should make their contribution to the sign-up sheet on Canvas at their earliest convenience. This page includes necessary information for selecting both the content of the profile and the day of its presentation.

The written document must be submitted by 11:59 pm MT (1:59 am ET) on Wednesday, February 13th.


Final Paper (50% of grade): As in many topical seminars, the last and most heavily-weighted assignment will be a research paper. This paper may take the form of the constructive proposal of a theological anthropology, a close reading and critique of an assigned text, or any other topic for which the student receives instructor approval. This project will be completed in two stages:

  1. Prospectus (10%). In Week 8, each student must submit a preliminary statement detailing tentative plans for the final paper. This document must name the student's chosen topic, provisional thesis statement, motivations and goals for engaging this material, and a brief list of key books, articles, and other resources that may be used. 

    This statement must be submitted by 11:59 pm MT (1:59 am ET) on Monday, February 25th.

  2. Final Draft (40%). The final draft of the paper will need to consist of 2500-3000 words. Students may select their own citation style as long as they employ it consistently and accurately. Papers must feature a clear, strong thesis statement, demonstrate an appropriate level of research beyond the assigned course material, and exhibit a level of thoughtfulness and critical thinking befitting a depth seminar.

    This paper must be submitted by 11:59 pm MT (1:59 am ET) on Monday, March 18th.


Grading Scale 

A 93-100%
A- 90-92%
B+ 87-89%
B 83-86%
B- 80-82%
C+ 77-79%
C 73-76%
C- 70-72%


In addition to the information provided under "Policies & Services" (see Canvas menu to the left), students should be aware of the following policies, which are specific to my courses.

Policy on Late Assignments
Written Documents: An assignment submitted after its stated deadline will incur a penalty of 5% the assignment’s total value for each 24-hour period it is late. If the instructor does not receive the assignment within 72 hours of its deadline, it will receive no points.

Forum Posts: A Critical Analysis Presentation posted after the Monday deadline will incur a penalty of 10% the assignment’s total value. If a Critical Analysis Presentation still has not been posted within 24 hours of its deadline, it will receive no points.
If a student does not make the first discussion post by the Thursday night deadline, one point will be deducted from the student’s weekly discussion grade for each day the post is late.


Policies on Academic and Collegial Integrity

All students are expected to abide by Iliff’s statement on Academic Integrity, as published in the Masters Student Handbook. Any detected plagiarism or cheating on an assignment will result in an automatic penalty of an "F" for that assignment. All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Core Values.

Proper online and in-class participation consists of contributions that facilitate the stated objectives for this course.  The purpose of our learning community is to equip each student to articulate a theological perspective and to demonstrate understanding and generosity toward each of our peers, not in the absence of disagreement and passion, but in the midst of them.  Accomplishing this purpose demands that all students do their best to discipline themselves concerning the content, frequency, and spirit of what they say:


Required Course Texts

M. Shawn Copeland. Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Grace, and Being. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009.

Serene Jones. Feminist Theory and Christian Theology: Cartographies of Grace.
Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000.

Ian A. McFarland. The Divine Image: Envisioning the Invisible God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress
Press. 2005. 

Hans S. Reinders. Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological
Anthropology and Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,

F. LeRon Shults. Reforming Theological Anthropology: After the Philosophical Turn to
Relationality. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003.


"Recommended" Course Texts

[NOTE: Most or all of the content of these books will be assigned reading in the course. However, they can be accessed for free as ebooks through the Ira J. Taylor Library. (Use the links below.) They are "recommended" in the sense that purchasing them is optional; securing access to them remains necessary.]

Isaiah Berlin. The Roots of Romanticism. Edited by Henry Hardy. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1999. [The ebook is the 2nd edition.]

Patrick Cheng. Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality, and Spirit. New York: Seabury Books, 2013

*All other assigned readings will be made available through Canvas.*


Recommended Additional Resources

These texts are part of the Ira J. Taylor Library reference collection

Patrick W. Carey and Joseph T. Leinhard, eds. Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Justo L. González. Essential Theological Terms. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.

Donald K. McKim. Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, 2nd Edition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.

Ian A. McFarland, et al., eds. The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Donald W. Musser and Joseph L. Price, eds. New and Enlarged Handbook of Christian Theology. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2003.


These texts belong to the the combined Iliff/DU library collection

Rebecca S. Chopp and Mark Lewis Taylor, eds. Reconstructing Christian Theology. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994.

Marc Cortez. Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York:
Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2010.

David Ford and Rachel Muers, eds. The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology Since 1918, 3rd edition. Madden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2005.

Peter C. Hodgson and Robert H. King, eds. Christian Theology: An Introduction to Its Traditions and Tasks. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

Serene Jones and Paul Lakeland, eds. Constructive Theology: A Contemporary Approach to Classical Themes. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005.

Ed. L. Miller and Stanley Grenz. Fortress Introduction to Contemporary Theologies. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998.

Donald W. Musser and Joseph L. Price, eds. A New Handbook of Christian Theologians. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996.

Laurel C. Schneider and Stephen G. Ray, Jr., eds. Awake to the Moment: An Introduction to Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016.



NOTE: The contents of this schedule are subject to change

Part I: Establishing a Historical and Conceptual Framework for Theological Construction

Week 1 – Introduction: Relationality, Romanticism, and the Expressivist Turn 

Week 2 – Bringing Theology into the Conversation

Week 3 – Considerations for Theological Reconstruction

Week 4 – Complicating the Framework: Gender and Disability 

Week 5 – Gathering Days – Complicating the Framework: Sexuality and Race

Room: Iliff Hall 202
February 8th

February 9th


Part II: Engaging Constructive Proposals in Theological Anthropology

Week 6 - Brief Considerations of Humanity in Ecological Context

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9 

Week 10
NOTE: Discussion forum closes Friday, March 15th, the official end of winter classes

Finals Week
FINAL PAPER DUE by 11:59 pm MT (1:59 am ET) on Monday, March 18th.




Syllabus as a Word Document
Near Final Draft

Sign-Up Sheets

Instructions: Once you have chosen a reading for your Critical Analysis Presentation, enter your name in the appropriate field (assuming that field is still open).  For each week of the course, I have singled out individual chapters from the required texts that I want to make sure we examine closely during class discussion. Dividing up the readings in this way should also alleviate student concern that a presentation needs to address the entirety of that week's material.  NOTE: There are no Critical Analysis Presentations in Weeks 1, 5, and 6.  

Since I have set this page up in a Wiki format, students may edit their entries as needed.  That having been said, please edit this page only as much as is necessary and, although it should go without saying, do not alter other persons' entries. All students should sign up for their respective readings by Friday, January 11th. The instructor will assign a reading to any student who hasn't signed up before that deadline passes.

NOTE: Because the deadline for this page has passed, I have turned off the "Edit" function. I have selected a reading for anyone who had not signed up before the deadline.


Week Assigned Reading Student Presenter
2 Shults, Ch. 5 Georgia Metz
Shults, Ch. 6 Deb Metcalf
3 Shults, Ch. 8 Paul Michalec
Shults, Ch. 9 Brad Palmer
Shults, Ch. 10 Trevor Vaughn
4 Jones, Ch. 2 Sara Lattimore
Reinders, Ch. 2 Zach Bechtold
7 Jones, Ch. 3 Stephanie Hanslow
Jones, Ch. 7 Dante J. Baca
8 Copeland, Ch. 2 Andrea Kennedy
Copeland, Ch. 4 Sarah Atamian
9 McFarland, Ch. 3
McFarland, Ch. 4 Kevin Garman
10 Reinders, Ch. 6
Reinders, Ch. 7 Beth Menhusen


Instructions: Once you have selected a theologian to present on, as well as your preferred date, enter your name and the name of your theologian in the appropriate field below (assuming the field has not already been filled).  A specific theologian can only be the subject of one presentation, i.e. two students cannot choose the same figure for independent profiles.  So be sure to "call dibs" on your preferred options at your earliest convenience.  Follow the example of the sample row when entering your information. Students must sign up by Friday, January 11th. The instructor will assign a theologian to any student who misses this deadline.

Since I have set this page up in a Wiki format, students may edit their entries as needed.  That having been said, please edit this page only as much as is necessary and, although it should go without saying, do not alter other persons' entries.

NOTE: Because the deadline for this page has passed, I have turned off the "Edit" function.


Date Student Presenter - Theologian Name
Sample Carol Danvers - J. Kameron Carter
February 8th Paul Michalec-Raimon Panikkar
Stephanie Hanslow - James Cone
Brad Palmer- George Lindbeck
Deb Metcalf- Delores Williams
Sara Lattimore- Rosemary Radford Ruether
Kevin Garman- Charles Hartshorne
February 9th Sarah Atamian - Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz
Georgia Metz- Karl Barth
Dante J. Baca - Mary Daly
Andrea Kennedy - Paul Tillich
Zach Bechtold- Jurgen Moltmann
Trevor Vaughn - Carl F.H. Henry
ST Mulder - Gustavo Gutierrez (YES!!!!!!)
Beth Menhusen- John B. Cobb, Jr. 


Options for Choosing a Theologian
Gordon Kaufman
Hans Kung
John Meyendorff
Anselm Min
Reinhold Niebuhr
Wolfhart Pannenberg
Karl Rahner

Instructions: During our first on-campus session of Gathering Days (Friday, February 8th), we will discuss the Part I of Patrick Cheng's Rainbow Theology. While every student is required to read Cheng's introduction, we will divvy up the work of engaging Chapters 1 through 5. Once you have chosen your chapter, enter your name in the appropriate field (assuming that field is still open). Students must sign up for their respective chapters by Friday, January 11th.

Because the deadline for this page has passed, I have turned off the "Edit" function. The instructor has assigned a chapter to anyone who had not signed up before the deadline.


Chapter from Rainbow Theology, Part I Student Reader
Ch. 1: "Queer of Color Theologies" Deb Metcalf
Brad Palmer
Beth Menhusen
Ch. 2: "Queer Black Theologies" Sara Lattimore
Zach Bechtold
Kevin Garman
Ch. 3: "Queer Asian American Theologies" Georgia Metz
Andrea Kennedy
Ch. 4: "Queer Latino/a Theologies"

Dante J. Baca

ST Mulder
Stephanie Hanslow
Ch. 5: "Two-Spirit Indigenous Scholarship" Sarah Atamian
Paul Michalec
Trevor Vaughn


Course Rhythm

In my experience, providing students a clear rhythm for a typical class week helps them plan their time in the course more easily. Keep yourself to a regular rhythm as suits your schedule to avoid getting lost. Let me know if you have questions.

Monday Night : The module for the current week becomes fully available at 6 pm MT (8 pm ET). The module will include an introductory video by the instructor. The remarks in this video are intended to help frame and inform class discussion.
Discussion forums also open at this time. Starting in Week 2, Critical Analysis Presentations are due by 11:59 pm MT (1:59 am ET) . (See the Critical Analysis Presentation assignment description and sign-up sheet on Canvas.) While all students will have access to the discussion forum at this time, only students providing a Critical Analysis Presentations should post before Tuesday. Conversation will benefit from waiting until all that week’s Critical Analysis Presentations have been posted.
The deadline for all other written assignments in the course will be 11:59 pm MT (1:59 am ET) on a Monday night. (See Course Calendar for details.)

Tuesday Morning : The week's discussion forum is officially open to all students. There will be only one discussion forum in a typical week (Weeks 1 and 5 being the exceptions). Students should watch the instructor’s video introduction to the module and read all Critical Analysis Presentations before making their first posts.

Thursday Night : Each student’s first discussion post is due by 11:59 pm MT (1:59 am ET) . This should be a 150-to-250-word response to one of that week’s Critical Analysis Presentations. Strong posts will directly address the content of a Critical Analysis Presentation, responding to its exposition of an assigned reading and/or attempting to answer the question(s) it poses. Students should not feel the pressure to make these posts mini-essays in their own right; they should simply be relevant and meaningful statements in an academic conversation. Also, posts may exceed the upper limit stated here. However, keep in mind that the longer a post runs, the more likely it is to put off classmates.

Friday : Having given students ample opportunity to engage one another first, the instructor will read all posts made up to that point and contribute as necessary.

Sunday Night : All other discussion posts are due by 11:59 pm MT (1:59 am ET) , when that week’s forum closes. Each student must provide at least two additional responses per forum (three total) - no length limits. This is a bare minimum requirement; even more posts across any or all of the forum’s threads are encouraged. The only posts that will be marked down are those that are late (see Late Policy) or stray too far afield in their content (also see Policies on Academic and Collegial Integrity).

Monday Afternoon: Weekly round-up. After reading over the weekend’s posts, the instructor will post a response video in that week’s module. This response will summarize key points raised during discussion and revisit ideas from the readings that may deserve further attention. Students should watch this video before moving on to the next week’s module or forum. The course rhythm starts over later that evening.

Week 5 Exception (Gathering Days)
There will be no online discussion forums during the week of February 4 th . There will still be assigned readings, but the work we do with that material will take place in on-campus sessions on February 8 th and 9 th . Our assigned room is Iliff Hall 202.

Jan 11, 2019FriWeek 1 First Post Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Jan 11, 2019FriWeek 1: Self-Introductiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 12, 2019SatSign-Up Sheetsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 14, 2019MonWeek 1: Historical Considerationsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 18, 2019FriWeek 2 First Post Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Jan 21, 2019MonWeek 2: Bringing Theology into the Conversationdue by 06:59AM
Jan 25, 2019FriWeek 3 First Post Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Jan 28, 2019MonWeek 3: Considerations for Theological Reconstructiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 01, 2019FriWeek 4 First Post Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Feb 04, 2019MonWeek 4: Complicating the Framework - Gender and Disabilitydue by 06:59AM
Feb 09, 2019SatWeek 5 Gathering Days Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Feb 14, 2019ThuTheological Anthropology Profiledue by 06:59AM
Feb 15, 2019FriWeek 6 First Post Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Feb 18, 2019MonWeek 6: Humanity in Ecological Contextdue by 06:59AM
Feb 22, 2019FriWeek 7 First Post Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Feb 25, 2019MonWeek 7: Serene Jonesdue by 06:59AM
Feb 26, 2019TueFinal Paper - Prospectusdue by 06:59AM
Mar 01, 2019FriWeek 8 First Post Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Mar 04, 2019MonWeek 8: M. Shawn Copelanddue by 06:59AM
Mar 08, 2019FriWeek 9 First Post Reminderdue by 06:59AM
Mar 11, 2019MonWeek 9: Ian McFarlanddue by 05:59AM
Mar 15, 2019FriWeek 10 First Post Reminderdue by 05:59AM
Mar 16, 2019SatWeek 10: Hans Reindersdue by 05:59AM
Mar 19, 2019TueFinal Paper - Final Draftdue by 05:59AM