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LPTS is a partner in The Program of Theology and Practice

Jan 25, 2012
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary welcomed Sean Hayden as a teaching fellow in the area of theology for the 2011-12 academic year. Hayden is part of a new program, called The Program in Theology and Practice, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and Vanderbilt and seeks to prepare doctoral students for vocations as teachers and scholars in theological education.

“We are pleased to serve as a partner in this important project that is forming a new generation of theological educators who are outstanding teachers and innovative scholars and who teach and conduct their scholarship with their eyes always on the horizon of the practices of faith in congregations and in communities,” said Seminary President Michael Jinkins.

The program pairs fellows, who are near the end of their PhD study, with senior professors at seminaries around the country. In the fall, Hayden co-taught the Christology class with LPTS faculty member Amy Plantinga Pauw, Henry P. Mobley Jr. Professor of Doctrinal Theology.

“We’re hoping that this relationship between Vanderbilt and LPTS will continue, with more students from this program joining us in the coming years,” said Pauw, who is co-mentoring Hayden’s externship with Scott Williamson, Robert H. Walkup Professor of Theological Ethics.

Hayden’s field is systematic theology, with an emphasis on nineteenth and twentieth century continental (German) theology and philosophy, which he identifies as the “last serious attempts in western culture to provide an integrative theological picture of the world.”

Hayden said he applied to teach at LPTS because he was “impressed with the ethos of the institution—its commitment to both high academic standards and training for ministry. One often comes at the expense of the other, and my sense is that LPTS works hard to hold them together,” he said.

Hayden will receive his PhD from Vanderbilt in May. But before he departs from the Bluegrass, some LPTS students are buzzing about the spring semester course he will teach on the importance of an integrated life, influenced by Kentucky poet, farmer, and intellectual Wendell Berry.

“Wendell Berry refuses to compartmentalize, to separate religion and reason, theory and practice. As any good humanist knows, a disintegrated life is likely to be an unpleasant one. Berry wisely sees our cultural pathology as resulting from a mistaken view of nature (among other things). We lead incoherent, destructive lives because we refuse to live within the limits of nature, and we can’t see those limits because we’ve imposed a layer of scientific and technological control upon the world before we ever try to live with it. The story of how we end up trapped in that layer is, to my mind, more complicated than Berry lets on. So is getting out,” he said.

As a way of exploring a deeper “inwardness that we call the image of God,” Hayden’s course will include two technological sabbaticals, and everything will be handwritten.

“Unfortunately, I can’t teach you how to plow with a team of mules instead of a tractor, but we are going to work at cracking the technological glaze that comes with passing all thought and communication through mechanically ‘efficient’ devices, like computers,” he explained.

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