Willie James Jennings on the Future of Theology

September 15, 2016

Since last October, the Yale Center for Faith and Culture has been inviting scholars from across the theological academy for consultations on The Future of Theology. As Miroslav Volf and Matt Croasmun have been drafting a “manifesto” on the subject, distinguished scholars in a range of academic backgrounds and specialties have been invited to weigh in: What are the crises theology is facing today? What are the reasons for hope in theology’s future? How should Christian theology take part in the pluralistic conversations of the academy and society? And what, at bottom, is theology really for? The conversations on these topics have been deep and fruitful. 

Starting today, and every following Tuesday this fall, YCFC will be publishing interviews filmed during these consultations. This week, we begin with an interview with Willie James Jennings, Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School, and winner of the 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. One of the crises Dr. Jennings identifies for theology today is the formation of its own scholars:


We have lost the imaginative capacity for how to form theological interest and thinkers… We just don’t know how to invite people, in the complexity of their lives, into a new way of life that is theology.


This challenge and others, however, have not prevented people from across society and the academy from pursuing theological questions; in fact, says Dr. Jennings, the crises of theology have provided it with an opportunity for change.


I think the big question is whether people can see the opportunity in the midst of the crisis realities of theology… I always think you find people asking questions about God in really interesting places, and you just have to open your ear to hear the questions about God and life that are being asked.


How can theology recover its pedagogical imagination, and help orient the church and the academy toward the pressure points of suffering in the present? Listen to the full conversation here, and be sure to like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up to date as we release more thought-provoking conversations every Tuesday this fall.

JTF Logo The Theology of Joy & the Good Life project is made possible by the John Templeton Foundation with additional support from the McDonald Agape Foundation.