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A Thought And A Question


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A while back I was talking with my friend about many of the same issues that are discussed here on the forum. I would often throw out quotes or paraphrases from our favorite authors to make a point. During one conversation, I realized that I was saying “Marcus Borg says...”, or “Michael Morwood says...” more and more often. I stopped myself and told my friend, “Sometimes I doubt I have an original thought in my head!”. My friend gently lead me to the realization that, although I borrowed ideas from some great teachers, that I was, indeed, processing what I learned and making the knowledge mine.

 

I seldom post on here, and when I do, I know I am not as informed or as expressive as most. Still, the knowledge I have received here is priceless, so thanks for that.

 

Does anyone know of any accredited distance learning programs where I can obtain a Master's degree in theology, divinity, or a similar discipline?

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A master degree will train you to site from others even more. Yvonne to me you are a master go inside and you will see what I mean. Your insights have enlightened my mind. I feel you site those authors because you are sharing the same experience, You have confidence in their expression so writing a paper for a class, expressing to a friend or posting your ideas on line will develop the art of expressing your inner Reality. Please don't be shy, if you hold back a concept, we are the ones who suffer.

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I think citing others is very appropriate much of the time, both as giving credit to the source, but also helping us bnring an idea across as one that isn't just coming off the top of our own head. For me, sometimes the WAY someone else said something, their voice, the metaphors they used. etc, just brings the point across so well. Sometimes, especially if we are into something some may think is a little off into left field, supporting it with a quote from some well-known and well-respected source lends credibility.

 

But then, yes, there is definitely a point when we want, and need to, make something we say stand on it's own, as this is what I think, I believe, how it seems to me, not just what some other source thinks. And it is easy for the timid part of us, the humble part,the part afraid to stand up for our own competence, to sometimes cause us to tend to give credit to someone else instead of taking credit for ours.

 

I remember an incident during my senior year in college, I had gone heavy in both my upper glass terms on honors level seminar type courses, and the grading in those courses is almost always heavily, even entirely, weighted on your term paper. And of course, there were plenty ofthe usual dire warnings about plagarism. One day in the dept head's office, I had just handed in my termpaper for a course, to his TA, who is generally charged with most of the task of reading and grading papers in manyof these courses. Somehow she got on a bit of a rant about some of the outrageous plagarism encountered in so many papers, and I got a little uneasy.

 

I was uneasy because as I write, so much of the time what Im writing about my topic is just kinda falling out of my head from some storage locker in there somewhere....without much thought at times as to just where this and that came from, where was the source from which i'd learned it, etc. I expressed my concern, and she looked startled, laughed, and said, No, Jenell, that not plagarism, that's LEARNING!

 

We do have the right to take credit for what we have LEARNED!

 

Jenell

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Yvonne,

 

I've wrestled with similar questions to the one you started this thread with. Beyond the fact that I'm a dirt poor graduate student who couldn't afford another degree (either financially or in terms of time), I've also come to the conclusion that I do not need to go for a degree for what I want out of formal religious study.

 

My personal experience in grad school has helped with this, as I now have tons of experience running down authors and figuring out what "the literature" says. I've just changed the definition of "the literature" from sociology to theology. My experience finding, reading, and synthesizing academic text is quite portable, I've found. The trick is to mine bibliographies like nobody's business. The added benefit here is you don't just learn a single author, but you start reconstructing a discourse, a conversation regarding a certain topic, and you start seeing how different positions fit together. Grad school has also been great for teaching me how to read quickly and effectively with non-fiction text. I'm mentioning all this because you said you have a masters - you already have these skills!

 

Also, I don't need a degree program to tell me what to read. The power of the internet lets me find tons of blogs and course syllabi that get me a list of names & works, why they are important, who they are important to, and what I could get out of them if I read them. Google Scholar, wikipedia, and a ton of other places are useful for getting those first couple of references, and the you can just go and mine bibliographies and find out what gets cited where, and you go from there.

 

Now, this is obviously different if you want to, say, learn a biblical language like Ancient Greek or Hebrew, or you wanted a career change. However if you're a person with one advanced degree, and you just want to learn something... you have the ability to do that without enrolling somewhere. And don't get me wrong, college education is a valuable thing (I'm a sociology doctoral student who studies higher education!), but reifying the meaning of a college degree is problematic (insert rants about unaccredited Bible Colleges and shady for-profit colleges here).

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Thank you so much for that. My degree is an MSEd, which is - uhm - 99% references LOL. I'm just not used to citing others in something as intimate & personal as theology, if that makes any sense.

 

It makes sense, and IMHO the best solution to that is practice. Something like, "Yes, I really struggled with that for a long time until ai read X by Y, and now I have an answer that works for me because of Z." That sort of informal citation happens a lot around here, and that's a good thing.

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Yvonne, I absolutely agree with Nick about any formal degree here. There is so much available to us now through the Internet that wasn't there for us just a few years ado.

 

I don't have much respect or regard for "online" study/degrees.....However possible option you may have, depending on location, is if there is a pulbic university with a good Religious Studies dept that offers an option for those already with a degree to take courses on an "audit" basis only....no credit hours earned, but you are allowed to sit in on all the class lectures.

 

Not knowing your location, or from which college you got your degree, most public universities offer their own allumni even lower cost access to auditing courses. At some, such as where I earned my BS, the cost for an allumni to sit in on a class on audit basis is only $50 for the entire semester, or if over 55 or someother specified 'senior' age, even free! I am wanting so badly to get back into classes at UH on that basis, so many things I saw and wanted to take that just didn't fit into my degree plan, but my present health and very limited income, as well as the old vehicle that took all the wear and tear of getting that degree, just aren't up to what is a 100 mile round trip for me right now.

 

Jenell

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Btw, don't overlook such sources as amazon and other sources for used textbooks, even EBay, you know the "system' has a way of issuing and requiring "updated" versions every couple years so that the textbook you paid $300 for 3 semesters ago is only worth $10 on the used book market now, lol. and the "updates" are usually minor and trivial.

Jenell.

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I appreciate all your thoughts, but I think I must have missed making my point.

I have been trying to learn theology in a vacuum. What I have learned so far, I have learned more or less by accident and I have a library full of books I don't understand. I use the internet quite a lot actually, but my learning has no structure. Therefore, I get more lost than enlightened. I need some good basic theology (beyond Religion 101), some good basic biblical studies (beyond OT 101). The problem is, without structure and guidance, I'm getting information way beyond in terms of knowledge or deeply rooted in fundamental Christianity. Finally, I really, really love to learn and and I have a true passion for theology/progressive religion.

 

This forum has definitely opened doors. But its sort of like being in a graduate physics class when I should be taking chemistry 101, “ya know?” ;)

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I think I see what you mean. You are just kinda findiing pieces of stuff laying around here and there and while they seem maybe interesting or of some use you really don't know what to do with them, they are just odd bits and peices.

 

One of the problems as I see it is that when we do feel that way, because when it comes to theology and doctrines there's stuff out there thats just all over the place, and we tend to want to put it into some form similar to how we've learned in other fields, other disciplines. Problem is, mathmatics is mathmatics, chemistry is chemistry, pretty much the same anywhere....not so at all religion or theology.

 

I'd suggest maybe you try as Nick suggested, go online, find schools, whether religious studies programs, of theology programs, pull up their course descriptions, degree plan requirements, then the syllabi so you can see what the reading assignments are, and use that to structure something of your own 'degree plan'. If there's a denominational affiliation you are comfortable with, check out divinity schools/affiliated universities to do that.

 

I feel maybe you are trying to think of going "deep" before taking the time to "cast wide"...by that I mean before you start delving deeply into one school of theological thought, cast wide to get a broad overview of what is out there first. I was amazed at how many different formsof theologies and Christianity there were I'd heard nothing about.

 

Jenell

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I appreciate all your thoughts, but I think I must have missed making my point.

I have been trying to learn theology in a vacuum. What I have learned so far, I have learned more or less by accident and I have a library full of books I don't understand. I use the internet quite a lot actually, but my learning has no structure. Therefore, I get more lost than enlightened. I need some good basic theology (beyond Religion 101), some good basic biblical studies (beyond OT 101). The problem is, without structure and guidance, I'm getting information way beyond in terms of knowledge or deeply rooted in fundamental Christianity. Finally, I really, really love to learn and and I have a true passion for theology/progressive religion.

 

This forum has definitely opened doors. But its sort of like being in a graduate physics class when I should be taking chemistry 101, “ya know?” ;)

 

 

It sounds like you're swimming in information overload, which is a bit understandable. I think that the internet rewards you for having a very specific focus, giving you what you are looking for (usually, after some effort & time), and also giving you a million tangents. It's important to remember the tangents that look interesting to you, and when you're done with one topic, move on to the next.

 

This is very much what I've done, and partly why I've done it. I had to pick something, so I stumbled into Calvinist/Reformed studies (historical & theological). I started with Barth, read 2 of his books, figured out (via blogs) what some of the key complaints are against him, and then I started in on Calvin. Now I'm reading a book on Zwingli (another Reformer), then a history book on the Reformation in general, and then I have to look around a bit. I could add detail about how I chose what and why, but I wanted to highlight that research must be highly active and specific, as your search results will always be broader than your original search.

 

So, this boils down to a question: what are you most interested in? What's the single thing that you want to understand better? "Progressive Christianity" is too broad.

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Also... I hesitate to say this, but one can worry too much about reading authors who are progressive rather than conservative.

 

The biggest caveat here is that the above statement is true to the degree one is reading for a specific topic, and to the degree one is reading academic work. Calvin's Ideas is an excellent introduction to Calvin. The fact that Paul Helm is likely more to be at home on the puritanboard than here is completely immaterial to the previous statement. He writes a well constructed, solid argument, and when I disagree with it, I can be very specific in knowing what bothers me. I've enjoyed reading Kevin Vanhoozer and NT Wright for similar reasons: there's at least something to push against, and very often, large parts of their arguments are fascinating regardless of one's political commitments.

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Yvonne, as I was reading some of the articles accessable through links on the PC.org home page, I thought about you, and this thread. I am finding them very interesting and informative of the PC perspective toward theology and interpeting elements of faith and scripture in our understandings and daily lives. If you haven't done so yet, I really reccomend them as a source of insight into PC thought and theology.

 

Jenell

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