Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Russell R. Reno's top ten places for postgraduate theological studies

The Professor of Theological Ethics at Creighton University's Department of Theology came out with this list at First Things website:

1: Duke Divinity School or Notre Dame University
2: Notre Dame University or Duke Divinity School
3: Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University
4: Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology
5: Catholic University of America
6: Marquette University
7: Boston College
8: Yale University
9: Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
10: Wheaton College

Reno reveals the dictation of his choices:
"I hope my prejudices are clear. The people under whom and with whom we study do far more to shape our theological vocations than systems such as Barthianism or Thomism and certainly more than the grand reputations of places such as Harvard, Yale, or Berkeley. Good theological formation requires peers and professors who encourage our trust in the essential truth of the Christian tradition. A big library, generous graduate-student stipends, the name recognition of a school—all are empty without this spirit of confidence and commitment."
One cannot miss the fact that Reno's list is influenced by good scholarship, as seen in his highlights of each theologian's celebrated status (for eg.: "Duke features some of the bright lights of Protestant theology: Stanley Hauerwas, Geoffrey Wainwright, Jeremy Begbie, Amy Laura Hall, and J. Cameron Carter," and "John Cavadini, the longtime chair, is one of the best contemporary interpreters of St. Augustine and another professor who cares about students," and "John Betz, a fine young scholar of modern theology, joins the faculty this year, along with Francesca Murphy, one of the most creative and forceful theological writers of her generation," and "George Hunsinger and Bruce McCormick are world-renowned interpreters of Karl Barth.") working in their institution. Yet his advise to potential postgraduates on how to evaluate postgraduate programs does not hinge merely on that:
"So, when looking for a graduate program in theology, don’t get starry-eyed over big-name schools or celebrity professors. A unified, committed group of professors at any university is far, far superior to famous professors who are rarely around. Graduate programs flourish when professors give more time and attention to graduate students than to their own careers.

In other words, assess the moral character of any graduate program you consider. An uneven academic climate can be overcome by the special chemistry that often develops between a few superb professors and their graduate students. A culture of selfishness or conflict among faculty almost always leads to the neglect or mistreatment of graduate students." (Italic original)

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