Theol.& Rise/Histor.Consciousness

Note: I am still tinkering with the syllabus. A couple of things will shift, so please don't sign up for anything until January 1! I will send an announcement when the course is ready to go.

Dr. Vial Office:  Iliff 109
Summer 2019 Phone: 303-765-3166
Office Hours:  by appointment E-mail:

Instructor: Ted Vial

Course Description

Theological work today is done in the context of the rise of the historical consciousness, a phenomenon with its roots in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. We inherit a fundamentally different worldview from the worldviews of the ancient and medieval worlds that gave rise to many of the classical Christian practices and beliefs, and different from contemporary non-western worldviews. The historical consciousness leads to a particular set of assumptions about Biblical authority, identity and subjectivity, epistemology, the relationship of individuals to communities, etc. It also leads to a particular set of assumptions about race and gender, among other categories. This class examines important texts in the development of the historical consciousness, analyzes issues raised for Christian theology and social thought, and points to some of the theological resources developed in its wake.

Required Texts

Sheila Greeve Davaney, Pragmatic Historicism:  A Theology for the Twenty-First Century (SUNY 2000)

Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers (Cambridge 1996)

For Ph.D. Students (we will meet separately to discuss the additional reading):

Jonathan Sheehan, The Enlightenment Bible:  Translation, Scholarship, Culture (Princeton 2007)

Additional required readings will be available on the course Canvas page.

Course Overview


Course Objectives


What follows are my general guidelines for posts. In terms of length, the should be a couple of sentences to a paragraph long. We want substance, but we all also need to be able to read all the posts twice a week and still have a life. I am OK with questions--I'd rather have you articulate something that is confusing or ask what something means rather than BS your way through a post, as long as it is clear that your question comes out of engagement with the text. If something is baffling or unclear to you, it is likely so for many in the class. A good question can really move the conversation forward.

One thing I am working on this quarter--I am good, in residential classes, at keeping a coherent discussion moving forward that answers most questions and covers the content that I and others find important. Discussions in my online courses tend to fragment into different short series of posts that are not necessarily related to each other. 

Here's what I'd like: for your first post, due Wednesday night, please pick the prompt I give for ONE of the papers (not all of them), and engage robustly with that prompt about that paper. You may post as often as you want, but your official second posts should come after Wednesday midnight, and should engage with one person in each o the paper threads. (There will actually be one big thread, but you will easily be able to see, or use the search function to find quickly, which paper folks are talking about). So, one robust post by Wednesday, and then 2 or more (however many papers there are) posts by Friday midnight. Theses second posts can be shorter--please just engage all the conversations!  

Throughout the quarter, we will have several discussions which will compose a large part of our engagement with each other in this online learning space. For these discussions to be meaningful conversation spaces, we all need to take responsibility for consistent and substantial participation. Over the course of a conversation, substantial engagement means:

  1. Extend the conversation - creatively and critically push the conversation forward, do not just regurgitate what has already been said. If 1 or 2 other students have already responded directly to a point raised in a student paper, do not simply write another response to that point unless it adds something new to the conversation. You need to extend the conversation by adding an additional or different insight from the course materials, by asking a new question that stems from one of the posts already offered, by offering a related and contextualized example of the issue being discussed from your own experience, or by creatively integrating your own perspective with what has already been posted. 
  2. Ask contextualized questions - situate your questions within the discussion by referencing the course materials and other parts of the conversation thread that inform your inquiry. Give us a little background as to why this question matters to you and how it relates to the course.
  3. Engage others in the course - thoughtful engagement with other students in the course and with the instructional team. 
  4. Engage the course materials - thoughtful engagement with readings, lectures, student presentations, and any other materials related to the course. Referencing and citing course materials in your posts where appropriate is encouraged. 
  5. Participate Respectfully - discussions in this course are likely to raise sensitive topics. Please strive for respect in all your comments, and charity in reading the comments of others.

Each post need not do all of these things, but your overall participation in each conversation should demonstrate all of these components. You might have several short posts and a handful of longer posts in a week or you might have only a few strategic substantial posts (minimum of 2 posts per discussion). Either way, your overall participation in each conversation will be evaluated for substantial engagement. The goal of this discussion design is to encourage and reward interchange, so post often and engage each other with meaningful questions that open to other questions.

Each student will prepare 3 papers of 3 pages each.  You will choose which three readings you will write about in the Paper Sign up assignment.  Papers will be posted by Monday at midnight.  All students will post a one-paragraph response to the paper and/or reading by Wednesday at midnight.  All students will read all postings and post an additional one paragraph reflection or comment by Friday at midnight.  Each paper is worth 25% of your grade, and the quality of your postings over the quarter is worth 10% of your grade, and your background posting is worth 15% of your grade. Late postings will not be accepted.  Students presenting on the readings that are on the syllabus for our gathering days sessions should bring 2 copies of their papers to class and be prepared to read them as a way of initiating discussion.

Papers will be graded according to the following 4 criteria:

  1. A clearly stated claim;
  2. Textual evidence to support the claim;
  3. Quality of writing (organization, proper use of sentences and paragraphs, grammar, spelling, and all other mechanics);
  4. Depth and seriousness of analysis. 

In a short paper the claim typically appears as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph (if it is not there the writer needs clearly to mark where it is, since otherwise readers will assume that sentence is the claim).  A claim states the conclusion of the argument put forward in the paper.  You have a great deal of freedom here.  A claim might state what is the most important idea in the reading, or what the author must assume to make his or her argument, or what the logical extension of that argument might be, or how that argument relates to other readings on our syllabus, or what the author gets right or wrong, etc.   In a short paper you will likely not be able to summarize the all the points the author makes, nor should you try.  Part of your task of analysis is to prioritize what is most important to lift up for discussion for our class.  Your paper will likely not follow the same organization as the reading under analysis, since the logic of your argument will not be the same as the logic of the argument of the reading.  If your paragraphs tend to begin “And then . . .;  Next . . .” then it is probably time to go back and do at least one more draft and re-think what you are presenting and how.  Papers for this class are a little closer to the summary end of the spectrum than a term paper might be, since they are the basis for our discussion.  But they are still papers that make engage the text by making a point about the text.

The purpose of the papers is three-fold: the first is to encourage deep engagement with the texts; the second is to encourage a habit of discussion that is open, respectful, and rigorous.  This is best accomplished when the analytical essays take a charitable stance towards the readings.  Some of them will seem old-fashioned, and the writers may have different concerns than do we.  As in any good conversation, it is important first to try to see where the writer is coming from, rather than to be dismissive of his or her ideas.  There will be plenty of time later to decide what is useful to you and what is not.   We must begin with an accurate understanding of what is actually going on in the essay.  Third, these section papers will help develop your skills as readers and writers.  A great number of studies show that “peer-review” is a very effective way to teach writing.  The feedback you get on these papers during discussion will be quite valuable.

Papers will be graded on the following scale:

4 = A
3 = B
2 = C
1 = D
0 = F


Writing Conventions.docx

Jan 09, 2020ThuIntroductionsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 09, 2020ThuWeek 1 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 13, 2020MonWeek 1 Backgroundsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 13, 2020MonWeek 2 Backgroundsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 14, 2020TueWeek 2 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 14, 2020TueWeek 3 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 16, 2020ThuWeek 2 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 16, 2020ThuWeek 3 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 18, 2020SatWeek 2 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 18, 2020SatWeek 3 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 20, 2020MonWeek 3 Backgroundsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 20, 2020MonWeek 4 Backgroundsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 21, 2020TueWeek 4 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 23, 2020ThuWeek 4 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Jan 25, 2020SatWeek 4 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Jan 27, 2020MonWeek 5 Backgrounds due by 06:59AM
Jan 28, 2020TueWeek 5 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 30, 2020ThuWeek 5 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 03, 2020MonWeek 6 Backgroundsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 04, 2020TueWeek 6 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 06, 2020ThuWeek 6 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 11, 2020TueWeek 7 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 13, 2020ThuWeek 7 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 15, 2020SatWeek 7 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 18, 2020TueWeek 8 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 20, 2020ThuWeek 8 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 22, 2020SatWeek 8 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Feb 25, 2020TueWeek 9 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 27, 2020ThuWeek 9 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Feb 29, 2020SatWeek 9 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 03, 2020TueWeek 10 Papersdue by 06:59AM
Mar 05, 2020ThuWeek 10 Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Mar 07, 2020SatWeek 10 Continueddue by 06:59AM
Mar 14, 2020SatGrade for terms/dates/namesdue by 05:59AM
Mar 14, 2020SatParticipationdue by 05:59AM
Mar 21, 2020SatBackgroundsdue by 05:59AM