Dr. Kathryn Tanner, Frederick Marquand Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School, is the speaker for this year’s Woodall Lecture, Thursday, November 8 at 7:00 p.m. , All Saints' Church, 634 West Peachtree. The lecture is free and open to the public. Dr. Tanner is the author of several books and scores of scholarly articles and chapters in books. The books she recommends as most pertinent to her lecture are Economy of Grace, Spirit in the Cities, and Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity. There will be a book sale and signing at a dessert reception in the church library following the lecture.
Dr. Tanner has been with the Yale Divinity School since 2010. Previously she taught for 16 years at the University of Chicago Divinity School and in Yale’s Department of Religious Studies for ten. In addition to numerous writings, she is a past president of the American Theological Society, the oldest theological society in the United States. For eight years she has been a member of the Theology Committee that advises the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. In the academic year 2010-2011, she had a Luce Fellowship to research financial markets and the critical perspectives that Christian theology can bring to bear on them. In 2015-16, she will deliver the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Dr. Tanner’s lecture topic will be “Finance and Faith”. Knowing that there will be questions, both about her area of expertise and the topic of her speech, I asked her for further information.
You are Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School. Could you explain what that means?
It means I teach courses that try to show how the various things that Christians believe hang together in ways that help Christians address concerns of the present day. It means that in my academic writing I do contemporary theory (rather than historical theology) and that I formulate my own theological viewpoints, on the basis of my knowledge of Christian thought, rather than simply investigate what other theologians have thought.
The title of your talk is “Finance and Faith”. How do you connect the two?
I try to look for overlaps in the preoccupations of the two, which become apparent when Christian belief and practice are viewed in broadly economic terms. For example, finance is about risk management, and if one interprets ‘risk management’ in a broad enough way, Christianity is also about that—about how to cope with the uncertainties and vicissitudes of human existence.
What would you like your listeners to know about you?
I’m a theologian who thinks there isn’t much point to doing Christian theology unless it gives you some unexpected outlook on life. No point to being a Christian theologian if your theology simply confirms what you think you already know. Theology should be about expanding the horizons of human imagination, in short.
Your entry on the Yale website states: “Her research relates the history of Christian thought to contemporary issues of theological concern using social, cultural, and feminist theory.” Would you give some examples of those issues?
In my writings to date, I have treated issues of economic justice, social discrimination, and gender inequality (among others). Besides a knowledge of Christian thought, addressing such issues in an intellectually responsible way requires knowledge of other fields such as economics and social theory.
The Woodall Lecture series was established in 2004 in gratitude to Ann Woodall for her extraordinary service to All Saints’ as longtime member, first lay associate of Parish Life and volunteer chair of the parish Centennial Committee in 2002-2003. Each autumn, All Saints’ hosts an innovative and influential theologian who offers, in Ann’s words, “a banquet for our souls”.
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