Course Syllabus


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Dr. Vial Office:  Iliff 109
Winter 2022
Office Hours:  by appointment E-mail:


Willie James Jennings, After Whiteness

Katie Geneva Cannon, Katie's Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community; 25th Anniversary edition 

John Calvin, Calvin's Institutes, edited by Donald Kim, abridged edition Westminster John Knox Press

Michelle Chaplin Sanchez, Calvin and the Resignification of the World Cambridge University Press


Paper Guidelines

Writing Conventions

Signup for Fragments

Signup for Annotation

Course Description:

This introduction to Christian theology will focus on systematic theology, that is, what are the traditional loci (topics or rubrics) that form a complete theological system, how do they fit together, and how does thinking them as a system influence theological thinking? We will look at how the Christian theological tradition provides resources for contemporary theology. As examples we will take a close look at the locus of theological anthropology.

This class will provide an introduction to artificial intelligence, and get at what it means to be human by asking some of the questions AI raises about the nature of humans: what is the relationship of humans to technology? What is intelligence? Must intelligence be embodied? Must it be social? Must it have a culture? What is the place of humans in the cosmos? Etc.

Professional Degree Learning Goals for Constructive Theology Area:

Constructive Theology (TH): critically engage historical and contemporary theological expressions of religious traditions and articulate one's own constructive theological position in relation to contemporary events and/or situations.

Learning Outcomes:

After taking this class, students will be able to:

  1. Say, with authenticity, “Wow. I read, engaged, and analyzed some really interesting authors. Some were fun, some were a slog, but they pushed me to think and respond in ways I hadn’t yet.
  2. Connect theological arguments to things they find important in their world and in their lives.
  3. Articulate what systematic theology is.
  4. Speak knowledgeably about some of the touchstones in the history of Christian thought.
  5. Demonstrate awareness of what the traditional theological loci are (and say what a theological locus is), and see how the loci hang together.
  6. Write academic papers with increased ability to formulate a claim and support it with apt textual evidence.

Course Requirements

  1. Introduction. Introduce yourself to your colleagues. Due Wednesday, January 12. 5% of final grade.
  2. Theological autobiography. Share with your group by Wednesday, January 19. Meet on Zoom (or whatever) with your group for about an hour to discuss. As a group, record and discuss a 5-minute video of what you learned, or what surprised you, due Wednesday, January 26. This video is 10% of final grade.
  3. Fragments. Sign up for 2 readings on the Fragments sign up sheet. On the week that reading is assigned, use a powerpoint/keynote/presentation to structure your work and record the presentation, with voiceover, using Zoom. The presentation should be no longer than 5 minutes. If more than one chapter from an author is assigned, you will likely want to focus on just one of them. Please remember to include the following five topics:

    • Context: Give a brief description of the author and context (historical, cultural, theological) of the piece
    • Summary: A summary of the main or central argument of the piece. Please note, this is NOT a summary of the whole reading. That would be impossible. Prioritize what you take to be the main point, and analyze that.
    • Fragments: As Jennings writes, “we always and only work in the fragments.” Please share 1-3 key fragments (typed out on the slide or slides)
    • Takeaways: Put these fragment(s) to work to solve a problem in your life. {What resonates in your context? How did this challenge your thinking? What surprised you or moved you, and why? What questions do you have for this author?}

    Post your video to the Resource page for the week the reading is assigned by Wednesday so other students can watch it. On the days your presentation is not due, please watch the videos and then provide feedback (written or video) on the videos posted for that day. I'd love to have these by Thursday, but Friday at the latest. Each Fragment is worth 15% of your final grade.

  4. Group Annotation. Sign up for one week--on the week for which you have signed up, by Monday, email to me a short excerpt from one of the readings that week. It can be as short as a sentence, no longer than a paragraph. Choose a passage that you find especially difficult, either because it simply does not make sense to you, or because you can't quite believe that it is saying what you think it is saying. Very briefly, include in your email to me why you have chosen this passage. By Tuesday I will post this passage in, a group annotation tool. Together we will figure out what is going on. Please return to the site twice, once by Wednesday night and once by Friday night, to read your colleagues' comments, and to post at least one of your own. Your active participation commenting on these passages is worth 15% of your final grade.
  5. Paper. A draft of a 5-page paper on questions posed by the instructor will be due on Friday February 18. 10% of your final grade. I will schedule Zoom conversations with the same small groups of 3 during the week of February 21 to give each student feedback on their papers in a group setting. A revision will be due Friday March 4, and the revision is 30% of your final grade. Please read the Paper Guidelines carefully before turning in your draft.

Special Needs

Iliff engages in a collaborative effort with students with disabilities to reasonably accommodate student needs.  Students are encouraged to contact their assigned adviser to initiate the process of requesting accommodations.  The advising center can be contacted at or by phone at 303.765.1146.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due