The Gamble of Faith

September 30, 2009

The Gamble of Faith
The Third Schubert M. Ogden Seminar on Systematic Theology
10/24/2009( 8:30:00 AM – 1:45:00 PM )
Northway Christian Church, Dallas

Kathryn E. Tanner, Dorothy Grant Maclear Professor of Theology, University of Chicago Divinity SchoolChristians in the modern period have often talked about faith as a kind of gamble: in the pursuit of salvation one is likely to incur costs for the sake of an uncertain gain. When trying to lead a Christian life, one risks the loss of the pleasures this world can offer, in hopes of a more ultimate and lasting happiness to come. What might such a conception of faith as a gamble imply about actual gambling? The seminar uses the current financial crisis–the result of gambling or financial speculation on a massive scale–to draw out a number of similarities and contrasts with the gamble of Christian faith and thereby provide a Christian perspective on recent failures in banking and financial markets. The contrasts include short-term versus long-term thinking, immediate versus delayed gratification, and inclusive benefit versus winner-take-all betting. In both financial speculation and the gamble of faith might one be hoping for something for nothing?
Kathryn E. Tanner, Dorothy Grant Maclear Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, relates past thought from the history of Western theological traditions to areas of contemporary theological concern using critical, social, and feminist theory. She holds her doctorate in theology from Yale’s Religious Studies Department, where she taught for ten years before joining the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1994. Professor Tanner has lectured at educational institutions and churches in many countries, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, and Belgium. She serves on the Theology Committee of the Episcopal House of Bishops. Her first book, God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? (1988), recovered from pre-modern theology the concept of a radically transcendent God. She discussed the practical force of Christian beliefs about God’s relation to the world in her second book, The Politics of God: Christian Theologies and Social Justice (1992). She explored the relevance of cultural studies for rethinking theological method in Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology (1997), and in Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity (2001) she sketched a systematic theology that focuses on the Incarnation as the culminating expression of divine love. Her most recent book, The Economy of Grace (Fortress Press, 2005) marshals a theological argument for replacing the current capitalist economic system with a noncompetitive one that better reflects God’s own giving.

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