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Teaching Theology and Religion, ISSN 1368-4868, 1999, vol. 2 no. 1, pp 26^39.

On Seeing to the Horses:

Issues in Teaching and Learning in Theology
and Religious Studies After Bonino and

Eileen Bellett and Clive Marsh

University College of Ripon and York St. John

We do theology ``beginning from concreteness,'' from team and on this writing project has, however,
``particular realities.'' demonstrated a need to examine current practice and
Jose Miguez Bonino the assumptions behind their use. We also recognized
the need to clarify our own purposes in using
Abstract. This article re-examines so-called experiential methods, and to review our approaches
``experiential approaches'' to theology and religious in the light of recent developments in Christian
studies. In affirming the need of the educator to attend theology. In particular, we have seen the necessity to
to both cognitive and affective aspects within teaching reconsider the place of ``theologies from experience''
and learning, and in using many concrete examples (and critique of such theologies) alongside our
from classroom practice, the article critically engages advocacy of experiential approaches to teaching and
with Latin American liberation theology and post- learning.
liberalism in an attempt to clarify what ``experience'' is Who are ``we''? It is important for our subject-
being referenced when ``experiential methods'' are matter that we write ourselves into our article. Eileen
used. The importance of the concrete worlds of Bellett qualified as a teacher and spent 15 years
individual students, the responsibility of educators to teaching in schools in mainly inner-city areas in
be conscious of their own power in shaping the Cleveland, North-East England, from 1969 through
educational experience, and the desirability of to the early 1980s. After a period of further study in
attending to issues surrounding economic disadvantage which (as an educationalist) she engaged with the work
within theology and religious studies feature of Paulo Freire and theologies of liberation, she moved
prominently in the study. We conclude that, though from her position as Deputy Head-teacher of a large
no experience is neutral, educational contexts in North Yorkshire Primary School to become Senior
theology and religious studies can offer exemplary Lecturer in Theology & Religious Studies at University
settings for profound self-discovery, exploration, and College of Ripon and York St. John, specializing in
personal development through the ``hermeneutical religious education. In 1991 she became Head of
friction'' created by critical examination of the Department, with responsibility for curriculum
narrative worlds within which we live. development across programs in theology, religious
studies, and religious education. The development of
postgraduate and continuing education work has been
Our purpose in this article is to offer a contribution to a feature of her time as Head. Clive Marsh studied
discussion about ``experiential approaches'' to teaching German, biblical studies and theology in Britain,
and learning in theology and religious studies.1 We are Germany, and the U.S.A. over a seven-year period in
both equally committed to exploring the value of, and the late 1970s and early 1980s before embarking on a
ourselves practicing, experiential methods in teaching career in theological education. He has been in full-
and learning. Our collaboration within the same staff time university teaching only since 1995. Most of his
Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1999
Published by Blackwell Publishers Ltd, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
On Seeing to the Horses 27

experience of theological education as a facilitator of theological discussion will, we trust, gain further
learning has therefore been in a seminary context, or in insight for reflection about their teaching and
informal church settings. More importantly, he has theological method.
spent most of his life in urban settings, including those
described as ``Urban Priority Areas'' which are defined In the first main section, we present a number of
as ``districts in and around British conurbations and features of theological education which result from
cities where both quantity and quality of life are in being informed by experiential approaches, especially
decline (ACCUPA 1985, 4. See also: ACAGUPA 1990, when those approaches are also informed by liberation
Sedgwick 1995, Northcott 1998). He has a particular theologies. In the second section we draw on critical
interest in the history and theology of liberal examinations of liberation theology's approach to
Protestantism, and remains puzzled by the differences theology and education, as these apply to the
between German and American liberalisms, and thus experiential approaches we employ. In the next section
the nature of post-liberalisms. It was in the midst of his we look at the recent ``turn'' from liberalism to post-
puzzlement that he was introduced to the work of liberalism in Christian theology. Though not a form of
George Lindbeck. opposition to liberation theologies as such, and though
``We'' are, therefore, endeavoring to respect both liberalism and liberation are often poles apart, post-
disciplines: theology & religious studies, and liberal critiques of so-called ``experiential-
education. We accept that treating theology & expressivism'' prove themselves to be a form of
religious studies as a single discipline is fraught with opposition to attempts to facilitate learning in theology
difficulty. But we must do so for the purposes of this which begins from, or at least focuses upon, ``the
article. We must also acknowledge that greater concrete.'' In this section we also note the crucial way,
emphasis is placed upon examples drawn from especially in the present politically-charged, academic
teaching and learning in modules in theology rather context, of the necessity for tutors in the respective
than religious studies (simply by virtue of our fields of education and theology & religions to be
combined teaching experience).2 But we accept that engaging in interdisciplinary endeavors. In a final
our emphases and starting-points differ; hence the section, we draw out some conclusions from our
value of our collaborative exchange. In writing this inquiry for the continuing usefulness, even necessity, of
article, alongside our shared, passionate commitment experiential approaches in theology and religious
to the importance of the study of theology and religion studies.
and the similarity of our personal journeys from A further point about the article's structure is,
independent evangelical church backgrounds to however, worth making. The depth at which the long
participation in more mainstream Christian groups, first section will be received by readers will depend on
we have also noted significant differences, given our a number of factors: first, the extent to which readers
diverse disciplinary perspectives. For Bellett, two have appropriate experience to draw on in order to
features were paramount: first, the failure of engage with the real-life material presented; second,
theologians adequately to respect the significance of the extent to which readers actually use such
teaching and learning within the discipline of theology; experience as part of the reading process; third,
second, theologians' easy assumption that teaching whether readers prefer initially to read this section
about theology (and above all its history) could be lightly, revisiting it in the light of the reflection sections
equated with learning about it. For Marsh, the value of offered later. As the article is structured according to
knowledge about the history of Christian theology for an action-reflection-action cycle, readers can pitch in at
reading the way in which ``theology'' was being whichever point they find helpful, allowing for the fact
understood in our discussions seemed obvious. Mutual that it is written with the assumption that it is likely to
challenge and critique has enabled us to reach be read sequentially.
conclusions which, we believe, will be of use to
theological educators of many styles, and in a variety
Our Practice (ACTION)
of ways:
Words from Jose Bonino stand at the head of this
those equally committed to experiential article. These words reflect two aspects of teaching and
approaches, we hope to persuade to ask fresh learning which have informed our educational practice:
questions; an experiential approach and the impact of liberation
those reluctant to accept too widespread a use of theologies upon First World theology. In the
experiential approaches, we wish to persuade to experience of the Discipline (formerly Department) of
reconsider; Theology, Religious, and Cultural Studies at the
those caught up in debates between liberalism University College of Ripon & York St. John, these
and post-liberalism in current Christian two aspects have proved mutually interactive. In
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28 Bellett and Marsh

examining the precise interplay, we have been able to This being so, it is surprising that concreteness-
conclude six features which reflect the actual impact of centered (experiential) approaches receive such
this interaction upon our teaching and learning criticism.
strategies. These are: Criticism, however, can be taken in one of two
directions. Either, if students are not ``religious,'' it is
1) the maximizing of the use of experience brought assumed they have nothing or little to bring and they
by students, can only learn ``about'' someone else's experience. Or,
2) the expansion of out-of-lecture-room activity if it be acknowledged that life (questions, experiences
within modules, of the numinous, or whatever)is the stuff of theology
3) emphasis upon the development of generic and and religious studies, then the approach is open to the
theological skills through the learning process, critiques of post-liberalism, that is, an assumption
4) close attention to, and clarity in, the formulation lurks that there are such things as vaguely-defined
of learning outcomes regarding the knowledge, ``religious experiences'' into which all human beings
skills, or understanding to be developed through tap.3 We shall say more about the latter critique in a
a particular module, later section. But it is clear that more needs saying
5) a radical reappraisal of the means of assessment about this feature even at this stage. How are
used throughout the teaching and learning facilitators of learning to enable course-participants
program, to use their experience? What experience(s) are we
6) the equal valuing of student and facilitator talking about? And can ``experience'' be isolated in the
perspectives within the learning process. way it appears to be assumed is possible, especially as
the cognitive and the affective belong together?
Clearly, a number of these changes can be related to On the educator's side, it is clear that s/he must be
developments in educational theory and practice more as clear as possible about each participant's ``thematic
widely, especially with regard to developments in universe'' (Freire 1972, ch. 3, esp. 6981). Most
critical thinking as it impacts upon education at all educators can tell stories against themselves about
levels (Penaskovic 1997). It is, however, through the their own experience in this field. Here is one from
impact of liberation theologies, and the reappraisal of Marsh:
experiential educational methods which that impact
produced, that these six features have come sharply In an early personal tutorial I was chatting to a student
into focus for us. Furthermore, it is through our critical about her developing work-patterns, how she was
reflection on our own process drawing on liberation settling in to college life, whether she was missing
theology's own wrestling with the question of home, etc. In the course of the discussion she
appropriate educational method, and on recent mentioned that she went home most weekends. I
developments in Western theology's own critical suggested light-heartedly that this was obviously to get
reflection on its own history that we have insights her laundry done. Her response was: ``Oh no, to go
and see my horses.''
to offer. In this section we provide an elaboration of
the features listed above.
The first feature, ``the maximizing of the use of It was Marsh's first direct encounter with what may be
experience brought by students,'' is so self-evident that called ``North Yorkshire Horse Culture,'' as it impacts
it is surprising that it is not adhered to more directly upon (as he was later to discover) a considerable
and consistently in theology and religious studies. By number of students. This culture is not always
``experience'' here we do not simply mean the affective associated with wealth, though often is. But it upended
aspects of human life. Theology and religious studies the majority of his own experience as an educator, for
as disciplines (perhaps surprisingly) do, it seems to us, he had previously worked largely with people who
have to work harder at allowing the affective to impact were not materially well-off or were unconfident about
upon the educational process. But we acknowledge at returning to learning. But it also forced him to
the outset that though the affective and cognitive acknowledge that many of his own experiences as a
dimensions of human life may need to be distinguished, learner, which he had brought to his role as an
they cannot be separated. Our point is that precisely educator, had been in formal contexts where he had
because the affective and the cognitive interrelate, no felt uncomfortable as a product of the aspiring British
cognitive work can be undertaken which does not take working-class in a largely middle-class environment.
into account the fact that people are whole people. Furthermore, he would have to overcome assumptions
Even academic work cannot only be undertaken in of a correlation between wealth and the student's
relation to people's brains and cognitive capacities. confidence in the learning environment because the
People bring their bodies, their life-stories and their case of the individual student before him gave him
emotions along with their ideas into the classroom. evidence to sever that inevitable link.
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On Seeing to the Horses 29

But we are still in the realm of the educator here: that a student had no breakfast, or is to go for a
educators' own past experiences, their emotional and doctor's appointment shortly). Though it must be
class baggage, their capacity to empathize, their ability possible to reflect theologically on all life-experience, it
to ``read'' their students or not, as the case may be. does not follow that all theological learning should
As Freire expresses it so appositely: ``One of our become a form of theological therapy group or be
greatest mistakes as educators and politicians is not concerned only with the trivial or banal (as one of our
perceiving that our `here' is the student's and the students so tellingly put it, ``a theology of running for
people's `there''' (Escobar 1994, 55). In addressing this the bus''). However, who defines what is deemed
important aspect of this first feature we have barely ``trivial'' or ``banal'' is admittedly worth close, critical
begun to address what the students as learners actually (theological) scrutiny.
bring, and what experience might count as useful for But there is, if theology and religious studies are to
theology and religious studies. proceed via some form of experiential method, no side-
It must first be acknowledged that an experiential stepping the process of encouraging participants to
approach to theology and religious studies must not clarify in some form and at some stage, perhaps first
begin with ``religious experience.'' Two reasons are off, their personal preoccupations. Whether this is
especially important: (1) educationally, such an quite the same as Bonino's ``starting from reality'' must
approach would exclude members who do not deem yet be further explored. It is certainly not starting from
that they have any experience to draw on which may ideas. But we may anticipate that ``concreteness'' (a
be so defined; (2) the very starting-point would necessary starting-point) and ``reality'' (that with
presuppose that which would have to be examined. which theology and religious studies, the former
Even if it were presupposed that the whole of life may especially, claim to deal) are not to be seen as
be regarded as ``religious experience,'' this is of little necessarily identical.
practical help, as students who have no sense that this ``Concreteness'' as it pertains to the individual
is so gain little from the ascription. learner does, however, need respecting in theology
Starting from experience, from within the student's and religious studies in many different ways, especially
``thematic universe'' must, then, mean something if liberation theology's insights are to be seen reflected
rather different. In Bonino's words, this is ``beginning in teaching and learning. There can be no side-stepping
from concreteness'' or from ``particular realities.'' But the socio-economic aspects of the learning process
what does this mean in practice? It can clearly only (``What social class am I?'' ``Who pays my fees?''
mean beginning from the concreteness of students' ``Where have my political views come from?'' ``Which
own worlds, from the things that most preoccupy staff are on long-term contracts, and which are visiting
them; those which cause the greatest expenditure of lecturers?''). Equally, there can be no escaping the
their time, effort or wealth; those things to which they range of ``thematic universes,'' all of which will
devote most attention, whether by choice or necessity. interweave with the students' socio-economic
In the combination of cultures so complex and diverse backgrounds represented in the classroom.
as that which constitutes the contemporary North- An example of how to ``get at'' the thematic
West, it is dangerous to assume too much as common universes of participants, without implying that a
across student experience. Some features nevertheless module is therefore ideas-centered or unrelated to past
regularly appear, the most dominant of which is the and present life-experience, is Marsh's ``Dolphin
individualism to which students ascribe (``if that's what Questionnaire.'' Marsh begins his introductory (British
someone wants to believe, then that's okay''). Against Level 2) Christian Theology module with a simple
such a background, it is understandable if there are questionnaire devised to enable participants to become
also immediate concerns about sheer narcissism and clear, and to declare, the set of attitudes to human
self-absorption here. If theology and religious studies living that they bring into the module. Via recording of
merely promote greater self-examination, they may not agreement and disagreement with a series of statements
necessarily promote attention to God/the Divine or the (rather than being asked what ``theology'' or
traditions which reflect such attention. A crucial ``philosophy'' they live by), participants are enabled
difference between the call for a starting-point from to clarify and present some of the convictions that
experience, when sounded in Latin America, and a make up their value system. The questionnaire
similar call issued from York, England, may therefore contains such statements as: ``People are more
be that the latter needs even more explicit attention to important than dolphins,'' ``People are of equal
the socio-political and socio-economic context within importance to dolphins,'' ``Actions are evil, people
which learners' personal preoccupations take shape are not,'' ``People are basically good,'' ``People are
than may at first glance be thought necessary. intrinsically evil.'' Importantly, participants are then
``Beginning from the concrete'' needs closer definition required further (in an additional column on the
lest it refer to the immediately pressing (e.g., the fact questionnaire) to clarify, if they know, where this
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30 Bellett and Marsh

conviction has come from (religion? education system? shown, and as tutor and students agreed in this
media? family tradition? book? a particular experience? particular case, this is not the best model to use. A
political stance?). On this basis, participants become better model is to send students in smaller groups,
aware that they have material to work with which does paired with workers in urban areas, shadowing them in
relate to the module, even if they feel they have no their work. On a spectrum from (costly, and in non-
``theology'' as such, or have entered the module vocational theology and religious studies courses, often
assuming that its subject-matter would be wholly impractical) placements to bus-trips, small group visits
distant from them. and shadowing is perhaps the best option. People meet
The second feature of our approach to teaching and people, and individuals have a chance for dialogue.
learning in theology and religious studies is that The encounters are embodied and more personal, even
classroom experience in theology and religious studies if they are relatively brief. There is, however, no
is never enough. Drawing on a wide range of escaping the educational impact of such encounters.
experience and principles from school teaching, field Often, though by no means always, this impact is a
education/placements, and teacher training, the value direct result of the emotional aspect of the encounter.
of observational visits and hands-on experience can be
used to the maximum in a number of modules (e.g., Ned had been a squadron leader in the Royal Air
Christianity in the Contemporary World, Doing Force. He was over 60 when he visited a run-down
Theology, Islam, Urban Theology). For example, on estate in Bradford, North England, spending a day
the principle that it would be more than a missed workshadowing a Church Army Officer. He was silent
opportunity (it would be a travesty of the subject- for most of the return journey to college. ``Enjoy the
matter) to undertake a module on urban theology day, Ned?'' ``I've lived all these years and I never knew
without part of that module taking place in a variety of ... I always thought it was their fault.''
urban settings within which theology was being done,
visits are arranged to a number of urban projects. The assumption that ``having experienced equals
Such out-of-classroom components have their having learned'' must, however, be guarded against.
drawbacks. Resources are inevitably limited. Though This principle even applies (in the case of Urban
it would be preferable for students to be offered a Theology) to people from urban areas who possess a
number of overnight stays in urban areas (and, even vast resource of experience of urban living, yet are at
better, lengthy placements) these cannot be offered to times strangely uncritical of their own context and the
all, especially under a modular system. Day-long mental world they inhabit as a result. If there is a
observational visits barely offer much of an urban single, dominant objection to those of us who promote
experience to people who have never lived in cities, or the value of experiential methods of teaching and
in urban priority areas. Much of the experience drawn learning in theology and religious studies, then it can
upon within the module may thus remain at be found here: in the objection to visits and placements
secondhand (via the experience of those met on the which are insufficiently processed, as if the experience
day). But as those who have organized such visits know itself will somehow automatically weave its magical
well, sometimes even day visits can have a telling spell upon the learner. Such an objection is, however,
impact. They are better than nothing when resources ultimately not to the method itself, only to its poor
are tight. But the limitations are real, as Bellett testifies. execution. A poorly managed visit or placement is
simply a bad visit or placement. Without adequate
In the ``Doing Theology'' module, a bus-trip had been preparation, accompaniment/supervision and ensuing
arranged to inner-city Sheffield to visit certain areas of reflection, a visit or placement will either fail to meet
deprivation, in order to examine ways in which the set learning outcomes or be misdirected in its
churches and religious groups were responding to aspirations. There is no automatic learning from such a
such urban realities. One or two students commented visit or placement. Out-of-classroom experience must
that they thought this was inappropriate. A whole bus-
feature as part of the whole learning experience of a
load of students should not be going to ``observe the
poor.'' They were not comfortable with the idea of
module within a clear learning outcomes framework. It
doing that. My immediate response was: ``But it's is within such a context that the learning from the
better than doing nothing. And if we don't have any experience of the visit or the placement will be gained.
experience of, or insights into, what it means to be And such a procedure is merely a worked example of
poor in urban Britain, then could we legitimately even the action-reflection-action cycle embodied within
begin to raise the issues which surround urban both liberation theology and in good educational
poverty?'' practice.
The third feature begins to move towards the
As so much reflection undertaken on educational learning outcomes approach to teaching and learning
practice vis-a-vis urban placements and visits has which has become so prevalent across education, and
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On Seeing to the Horses 31

which we fully support. We accept that it is better to It is understandable if a (postmodern) unease about
teach people to fish than to provide them with a fish. modern preoccupations with ``method'' should lead to
(See also Stephen Brookfield's version in Boud and suspicion of a learning outcomes approach to theology
Miller 1996, 39: ``We came here expecting a Walleye and religious studies. For will not skills inevitably be
dinner and you taught us how to fish.'') We support emphasized over content? Will not such an approach,
attention to skills development both in terms of the despite its good intent, perpetuate the modern/ist
transferable skills and the discipline-specific skills preoccupation with method? It will, of course,
which may be learned through modules in theology wherever the two aspects of the expression ``doing
and religious studies. It is better that people learn, for theology'' are given insufficient weight, and where it is
example, how to do theology than learn about what assumed that the acquisition of skills should not be
theologians have done. Granted, by seeing what accompanied by (rather than controlled by) the
theologians have done, people can learn how to do a cq ui si t i on of a pp ro p ri a t e k no w l ed g e a n d
theology for themselves. But again, the problem is that understanding.
of whether the learning can be assumed to be ``Doing'' means actively engaging in. It means the
automatic (it can't!). To ``do a course on Barth (or learners themselves (staff and students) doing the
Bonhoeffer, or Tillich)'' may not inevitably lead to an doing. ``Doing'' also means more than thinking.
understanding of any of those thinkers. Nor may an Precisely because learning is always embodied, it
understanding necessarily lead to the building of means reminding and being reminded that thinkers
confidence on the part of the learner to emulate Barth are embodied. Risking Protestant accusations of
(or Bonhoeffer or Tillich) for herself, in some ``works righteousness,'' it means attending to the close
particular, concrete, local context. Indeed, despite a link between right thinking (orthodoxy) and right
keenness and interest to do theology, a student might action (orthopraxis), as well as being suspicious of
actually feel disabled in the face of the vast learning of notions of ``rightness,'' without theology being reduced
Barth, or even of the teacher/module director before to ethics. And it is theology that is being done, not
her (however misplaced her assumptions about that anthropology, ecclesiology, or even Christology alone.
vast learning in the latter case might be!). A learning If notions of God are not examined and reformulated,
outcomes approach to theology and religious studies then it is not theology that is being engaged in. And if it
thus sits neatly with an experiential approach when a all does not really seem to matter to the learners (again:
module makes explicit what its objectives are for the students and tutors), then it cannot be theology that is
students in terms of the knowledge, understanding, being done. Furthermore, in the same way that
and skills they are intended to acquire, and not merely learning how to fish can be enhanced by knowing
as a range of experiences they may be expected to have from what kinds of material fishing-rods are best made
had. Students of theology must do some theology for (balsa-wood will not be good), so also there is
themselves, and not simply critique the theology of knowledge and understanding that can be acquired
others. They must suggest some part of a (e.g., sources, resources, and their use) which can
contemporary aspect of God which it may be possible enhance the skill of doing theology.
for a believer to hold (and know how and why it can be A learning outcomes approach to teaching and
considered sensible for a person to hold such a belief, learning in theology and religious studies that focuses
even if they do not happen to share such a belief on what students should learn, then, does not have to
themselves). And in the light of the first two features feed a modern preoccupation of salvation by method
already highlighted, it will not be possible for such an alone. It does, though, need to be aware of how easily
exercise to be disconnected from contemporary living it could tend in this direction. Such an approach does,
as a disembodied thought-exercise of no evident however, necessitate careful formulation of learning
current relevance. outcomes. This constitutes the fourth feature of our
Some objections to this feature are, however, worth presentation of important aspects of an experiential
anticipating at this point. As Hauerwas notes, in approach to teaching and learning. The learning
speaking affirmatively of James McClendon: outcomes of a module must reflect directly a concern
to relate skills development to the acquisition of
McClendon simply does not seem to have learned the knowledge and understanding. To continue the
lesson that most of us learned in graduate school, example from Christian theology we are working
namely, that modern theology should primarily deal with, it is necessary that students be able to
with how to do theology (i.e., ``method'') in case one ``demonstrate a critical use of the theology of
ever gets around to doing any. Thus, much of modern
Bonhoeffer in the contemporary formulation of an
theology consists more in theologians writing books on
other theologians than in theologians doing any
aspect of Christian doctrine'' rather than ``show an
theology. (Hauerwas 1997, 176) awareness of Bonhoeffer's theology'' or even
``demonstrate a profound knowledge of the theology
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32 Bellett and Marsh

of Bonhoeffer in its historical setting.'' This is not a experiences effectively and her reflections were spot
quest for relevance. Nor is it mere functionalism. It is a on. It was only then that I realized I'd failed Dee. I'd
call for specificity in learning outcomes, and for a use given her the wrong kind of assessment.
of appropriate verbs in clarifying those outcomes. That
both the contemporary significance of learning and its It has long been recognized that examinations are not
practical use are indeed stressed should not be played everything. They have their uses but are not
down. Implicit throughout is the question of what the necessarily the best way of assessing whether or not
learning could possibly be for. But it would be wrong someone has successfully achieved a particular
to suppose that the theology of Bonhoeffer is being learning outcome. Even essays do not fulfill all
studied in a crass pragmatic way. Those who have purposes. There is, though, often a reluctance in
offered courses on particular theologians in the past (in theology and religious studies to make maximum use
a whole variety of institutions of higher learning) have of the wide range of possible means of assessing the
never offered them, even despite what may have been development of learning (book review, newspaper
said, in a disinterested way. The very fact that one article, audio-visual presentation, scripted dialogue,
offers a course implies that a particular subject is critical report). However, the means by which a
worth studying: it is always for something, even if student attains a new level of awareness, grasps hold
what it proves to be valuable for may not always of a new insight, or acquires a new piece of
command the agreement of teacher and student. knowledge may well provide clues as to what form
Again, casting learning outcomes in terms of of assessment may be most apposite in a given
assessable skills has its drawbacks. It could be implied, module. An essay will rarely be the best means of
for example, that Bonhoeffer is worth studying purely assessing learning gained through a placement or
for the purpose of constructing a contemporary observational visit. Learning which happens through
ecclesiology (if that happens to be the assessable work reflection on a particular task, or by way of reaction
set). But for such a conclusion to be reached by a to an unexpected event, may be best recorded and
module-participant, it would be necessary to structure assessed through a structured report (e.g., a critical
such a module too tightly and be an example of bad incident form, practical theology report, or learning
module-planning (and also bad teaching). Rather than journal) or an oral interview. In short, attention to
opening up the world of Bonhoeffer to creative the role of experience invites the greatest possible use
exploration (and diverse use), such a module would of imaginative approaches to means of assessment, in
have succeeded only in restricting Bonhoeffer's order to maximize the opportunities for students to
contemporary significance. For that very reason, an demonstrate the extent of their learning. Such
educator's own skill in matching appropriate means of imaginative use of assessment methods itself
assessment to the subject-matter of a module is an facilitates learning. It also enables the assessment of
important consideration. This constitutes a fifth key learning to occur in more accurate and apposite
feature. ways.
Bellett tells this story of her own teaching A sixth feature of teaching and learning highlighted
experience: by attention to experiential approaches is the equal
valuing of student and facilitator perspectives within
Dee took the module Doing Theology in a the learning process. This is much misunderstood. It
Revolutionary Age (a module examining how does not mean an educator pretending to know the
theology is done, directly influenced by Latin same as their students. Students may well know more
American liberation theology) and the assessable about some, or all, aspects of a module's content.
work required was two essays, each of c.2,000 Realistically, this is unlikely. But even so, relative
words, and a 3-hour examination. I marked her quantities of knowledge already acquired is not what is
work in the summer vacation after she left the at issue here. Rather, the equality of the contributions
college. She only just passed. On the sheet on which
of all participants in a module group, from the
I recorded comments for my own use I'd written ``poor
answer ... doesn't understand the question ... lacks
perspective of group process, must be presupposed.
depth.'' One day in July, I found a card under my One cannot, in other words, predict in advance whose
office door. It said: ``Thanks for everything contribution will inevitably stimulate the learning of
especially the course on liberation theology. I another at a particular point. All learners may learn as
understand so much more now, not just about a result of the contribution of any participant; all
theology. Dee.'' (Poor answer ... doesn't understand learners may thus become teachers at any point. This
... lacks depth.) Could this be the same student? does not mean an equality of explicit role: the
There's something wrong here. I asked Dee's Special ``teacher'' (as director of a module) remains the
Study tutor about her work in Education. She'd ``teacher.'' But her role gives her neither the inevitable
produced a very good piece of work, used her school role as source of all knowledge, nor the right to assume

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On Seeing to the Horses 33

that her own contributions will automatically or and Kee 1990, despite Kee 1977; for a more positive
primarily stimulate the learning she expects to be appraisal, see Forrester 1988). Much of the concern has
developed. centered upon the explicitly political approach which it
The fifth and sixth features can be linked through adopts, and especially its engagement with Marxism.
the following incident: With the so-called collapse of Marxism in Eastern
Europe in the late 1980s, the ground seems prepared
A student handed in an essay and received a receipt for the rejection of liberation theology as something
from the departmental office as confirmation that the belonging to a distinct and short-lived phase in
essay had indeed been submitted. The essay was lost. Christian theology's history. That this would be a
Neither module tutor nor student could do anything wrong and dangerous assumption is evidenced by its
about this. Unfortunately, no copy had been kept. A practical impact, by the evident links which have been
grade would therefore need to be projected (based on made between practical/pastoral theology and
the other two of the three pieces of work required for liberation theology, and by those prepared to see that
that particular module). The student was disappointed
the lecture and the seminar need not be the only forms
because of the quantity of work she had undertaken
and methods of theological education. (Even Marx is
for that particular piece of work (worth a higher
percentage of the total grade than the other two not wholly out of the picture; see e.g., Newlands 1998.)
pieces). She thought it was quite good. The module It was the methodology of Latin American
tutor asked, ``How are we going to decide if your liberation theology, reflected theologically in the work
perception of `quite good' is the same as mine?'' The of Bonino, Gutierrez, and Segundo, and educationally
student proposed, remembering roughly what she had in Freire, that proved decisive for Bellett's own
written, that she be allowed to examine three pieces of professional development (Bellett 1998). Our critique
work, an A, a B and a C mark, in order to negotiate a of the summary drawn from our own experience and
grade. ``OK, then,'' said the module tutor, ``let's do reflection begins with a reference back to Bonino's
that. We've got to learn to trust each other.'' words at the beginning of this article. If we [Bellett and
Marsh] do theology ``beginning from concreteness,''
This incident highlights that opportunities for self- and and do such theology in companionship with others (as
peer-assessment need to be valued alongside module directors, but also as co-learners), then what
experiential approaches to teaching and learning. The constitutes this ``concreteness''? Is it the experience
extent of trust implicit within a commitment to peer- (e.g., of North Yorkshire Horse Culture) which
assessment must also be emphasized. Were such an students bring with them and which has contributed
incident received outside of a context within which to the shaping of their thematic universe? Is it the
clear criteria for assessment existed, and without a physical, political, and socio-economic context within
context of learning within which tutor-participant which they actually undertake their learning? Is it the
relationships could be developed to such a degree, then material with which they engage, as directed within the
such trust could arguably not emerge or be legitimate. undertaking of a module? However, the simple and
These, then, are six key features of teaching and undoubtedly correct answer ``all three'' easily veils
learning in theology and religious studies which, we some important tensions between the features we have
claim, are directly influenced by, and reflect the value presented. And in what ways has liberation theology
of, explicit attention to experiential approaches in taught us to be multiply suspicious of our own theory
education, especially where that attention converges and practice?
with concerns drawn from the impact of liberation It is possible for a student's thematic universe to
theology. It is now necessary to examine more militate against addressing the physical, political, and
critically what lies within and between these features socio-economic contexts within which a person's
to determine ways in which liberation theology is, or is learning is being developed. Beginning with
not, playing a role, and to analyze possible tensions concreteness would then entail respect for the
between the features introduced. educationally inevitable (you can only begin where
people are), but would fit uneasily with one of the
main points of liberation theology, that is, in dealing
with the concrete, you must address all aspects of
Our approach to teaching and learning is an example contemporary reality, including the economic and the
of theological education ``after Bonino.'' Bonino is a political. Though supportive of an experiential
representative figure. We mean ``British theological starting-point, then, it soon becomes clear that
education in the light of insights drawn from Latin liberation theology directs people towards particular
American liberation theology.'' The history of the learning experiences. ``Conscientization,'' the
reception of liberation theology in Britain has development of critical consciousness as a means of
admittedly been a rocky one (see e.g. Norman 1979 learning, clearly requires attention to the widest range
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34 Bellett and Marsh

of aspects of ``concreteness'' for it to be fully realized. 3) experience(s) of those actually met via
In this sense, as a process, it invites students to be self- placements or observational visits (which are
critical with respect to their thematic universe. It must always mediated, and reflected upon by being
not, from an educational perspective, be allowed to in turn shaped by a learner's thematic universe
devalue the thematic universe brought (people really but are particularly valuable by virtue of their
can only begin where they are). And it must not, as a being embodied);
process, be permitted to control where people 4) experience(s) implicit or explicit in any written/
eventually arrive (not everyone may end up agreeing: viewed texts/resources being used as
ethically, theologically, politically, or whatever). But conversation-partners (in this case, the
liberation theology's attention to conscientization, as experience of liberation theologians).
reflected in Northern Hemisphere methods of
theological education, will not allow thematic To these may be added a fifth form of experience at
universes brought to the task of doing theology and work in the educational processes being described:
religious studies to prevent attention being paid to all experience(s) created in the classroom. At this point
the ramifications of ``concreteness.'' the third to sixth features described in the previous
What does this mean in practice? It entails out-of- section become especially significant. The ways in
classroom experience highlighting the need for the which all of the four types of experience become part
experience brought by learners to include full of the material examined and critiqued within theology
attention to social, political, and economic factors and religious studies are themselves significant for
as part of what is being studied in theology and what theology and religious studies are about, and for
religious studies. It may mean more, if liberation the learning which takes place under these discipline
theology's concerns are to be properly respected. It headings. How experience is made use of within the
may mean ensuring that out-of-classroom experience classroom context (via guided exercises, structured
include attention to what a ``view from the poor'' in discussions, lectures) constitutes a variety of forms of
British (or U.S.) society looks like, so that the fullest practice which in turn requires highlighting and
attention to social, political, and economic factors critiquing as part of the learning process. If any
can be paid. Arguably, without such a view, neither particular form of experience, of any of the first four
theology nor religious studies can be undertaken types listed above, is consistently emphasized over and
satisfactorily. How such a view is to be built into a above any other, then this very aspect of the learning
theology and religious studies course naturally needs process will be worthy of critical examination.4
careful thought, as the examples given in the previous Further examination is required, however, even of
section indicate. Should it emerge in each module? the first four types of experience just listed. For within
Should there be a separate liberation theology the first, the educator's own thematic universe (as
module? Such questions have been around for shaped by their particular experience) is implicit. And
decades and surface in relation to many similar this in turn has helped to shape the very educational
concerns (e.g., how are interfaith, sex and gender, experience which the learners will have on a module,
black, and feminist perspectives to be reflected across via the power invested in the educator. Though the
theology and religious studies courses?). We are educator (as teacher/module director) cannot wholly
currently in transition in our own context: we do control the experiences which people will have (and
offer modules in liberation theology, feminist certainly not what people bring), the structuring of a
theology, and urban theology. We also seek to ensure module is a powerful act. The choice of what subject-
that such perspectives suffuse other modules (e.g., matter to introduce via formal input (e.g., lecture),
Christianity in the Contemporary World, Christian what encounters to facilitate (e.g., via observational
Theology, The Bible in Contemporary Perspective). visits, incoming speakers), and what discussions to
Instantly, however, we are confronted with varieties stimulate (as well as who leads these discussions) is
of experience as they impinge upon approaches to crucial to the shaping of the educational experience
teaching and learning in theology and religious studies. which a module becomes. The in-class and out-of-class
We have been dealing, at the very least, with four types experiences provided within a module are thus
of experience: profoundly influenced by one particular participant.
No matter how many awkward participants there may
1) experience(s) brought by participants to an then prove to be in a group (who effectively try to
educational encounter (which shapes a learner's wrest power from a module director) there is no
thematic universe); escaping the fact that the tutor directs a module. Even
2) experience(s) created outside the classroom, via if content and form are negotiated, it is s/he who
placements or observational visits (which adds to invites the negotiation. On any form of an experiential
a learner's fund of experience); approach, however, full respect for the action-
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On Seeing to the Horses 35

reflection-action cycle requires that critical reflection experiential-expressivist approach is that the various
by all those involved in the learning process (students religions are diverse symbolizations of one and the
and tutor) be used in future versions of any module. same core experience of the Ultimate. . .'' (1984, 23).
The question of the appropriateness of experiential Those who hold to such a unifying view of human
approaches to teaching and learning in theology and experience(s) may well respond most favorably to our
religious studies is becoming sharpened. It can now be proposals. But our article is about theological
expressed in this way: to whose experience are we education after Lindbeck, as well as after Bonino. We
referring when we speak of ``experiential teaching and must, in other words, show full cognizance of the fact
learning'' in theological education? Strictly speaking, that such an appeal to experience has been not only
we are only speaking of experiential method when we challenged but discredited (certainly if the ultimate
refer to in-class and out-of-class experiences. Yet the unification of such experience(s) is claimed as religious
other three forms of experience are equally crucial to experience).
the educational process: hence our use of ``experiential In presenting our discussion we acknowledge that
approaches,'' for all its inadequacies, throughout this Lindbeck, like Bonino, is a representative. He functions
article. To express the matter more sharply still: the for us as a focal point of a post-liberal critique of
recent spate of ``adjectival'' theologies (black, feminist, liberalism, according to which the former highlights
liberation, Hispanic, urban, Asian, queer) merely the attention needed to particular discourses within the
discloses the crucial importance of the degree of study of religion and theology, with the result that
experience which has inevitably been, and must theology as a discipline is akin to learning a language.
inevitably be, part of the content of theology, and Accepting that forms of Christian liberalism too often
intrinsic to theology and religious studies as assumed a capacity to rise above, or dig beneath,
disciplines.5 So how are theology's past (in terms of particularity to relatively easily-identifiable universals,
its content, and its history as a discipline) and the and that an experiential approach to teaching and
adjectival present to be made sense of educationally? learning in theology and religious studies may too
In the next section, we take our inquiry a stage readily ally itself to the misguided quest for such
further by examining the features of teaching and universals, it is important that Lindbeck's challenge be
learning we have identified, and the types of experience heard and respected. On the British scene, Lindbeck
we have uncovered, in the light of one important recent may not be widely known by name. Nor, indeed, may
development in Christian theological thinking: the turn post-liberalism be quite as clearly identifiable as a
from the liberal to the post-liberal. If theological theological school in the way that the Yale school is
education in the present can only be ``after Bonino,'' it often referred to in the USA. The critique of liberalism
can also only be ``after Lindbeck.'' Our stance (even if liberalism is often left ill-defined) is, however,
throughout this article has implied that theology and widespread. We are either ``all liberals now'' (in the
religious studies are inevitably, in some sense, sense that implicitly or explicitly critical approaches to
experiential disciplines. But does this presuppose a Christianity and religions are more acceptable these
particular theological stance which is itself open to days), or we know that liberalism belongs to a
severe challenge? Does not George Lindbeck's critique totalitarian, ideas-centered past which is being steadily
of experiential-expressivism in theology subvert the overcome.
entire approach we are seeking to commend? This section was, however, a tough one to write.
Post-liberalism's impact upon theological education is
arguably at its earliest stages (in Britain at least). We
thus found ourselves reflecting recognition that a
The position we are developing here, which commends movement in theology, the importance of which
experiential approaches to theology and religious seemed self-evident in that discipline, did not seem so
studies, may be resting on a mistake. Perhaps we are significant in another. Here, in other words, we
assuming that people ``have'' raw experiences, and that encountered an aspect of the sheer difficulty and
these experiences are somehow ultimately reducible to complexity of interdisciplinary work. We also saw that
a single, common denominator. On this basis, we may such interdisciplinary work, whether intended or not,
be supposing, across the disciplines of theology and is a direct result of the present political climate in
religious studies, that ``experiential approaches'' are British higher education. Greater attention to teaching
possible because people who have different experiences quality is requiring all higher education institutions
can nevertheless find common ground by locating an (even theology and religious studies departments) to
ultimately unifying feature, element, or ground within listen to those in their midst who have been formally
those experiences. This is not, however, what our trained in teaching and learning. Equally,
position requires. Lindbeck himself notes that, ``The educationalists within the field of theology and
rationale suggested, though not necessitated, by an religious studies are being compelled to consider
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36 Bellett and Marsh

developments in theology and religious studies in ways issue, therefore, is how such aspects of human
which have seemed less pressing in the past. What, experience are to be accessed and examined within
then, does attention to Lindbeck mean for teaching and theology and religious studies in a manner which is not
learning? prone to Lindbeck's critique.
In his highly influential work of 1984, The Nature Lindbeck's identification of a main strand of
of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Christian thought which, he claims, espoused
Age, Lindbeck identifies and argues against what he experiential-expressivism is instructive here:
calls experiential-expressivism, a view of doctrines
which interprets them as ``noninformative and This approach [experiential-expressivism] highlights
nondiscursive symbols of inner feelings, attitudes, the resemblances of religions to aesthetic enterprises
or existential orientations'' (Lindbeck 1984, 16). and is particularly congenial to the liberal theologies
Though related to a particularly Christian, influenced by the Continental developments that began
with Schleiermacher. (1984, 16)
theological discussion about the status and function
of doctrines, Lindbeck's argument has wider
Experiential-expressivism, in other words, reflects a
significance as a challenge to all approaches to
liberal agenda, Schleiermacher being the father of
theology and religious studies, and educational
modern liberal theology. In the final chapter of his
method and practice within these disciplines, which
seminal work, ``Toward a Postliberal Theology,''
appear to be operating from ``inner feelings,
attitudes, or existential orientations'' and working Lindbeck develops his own line of thinking in direct
contrast to liberalism's tendencies. The chapter is rich
towards the subject-matter of religion and theology.
with pungent critique and constructive proposals. The
If Lindbeck is right in his critique, then experiential
suggestion, however, that ``religious communities are
approaches may simply not be possible. Or, more
likely to be practically relevant in the long run to the
accurately, they are unwise, because they distort the
degree that they do not first ask what is either practical
way that theology and religion actually work:
or relevant, but instead concentrate on their own
autobiography has become theology, and religions
intratextual outlooks and forms of life'' (1984, 128),
as such are undervalued in their particularity.
Our attempt to commend an experiential approach does not sound promising if applied also to the settings
in the academy within which the practices and ideas of
must therefore take Lindbeck's critique seriously in
those religious communities are to be expounded and
clarifying how people's ``feelings, attitudes, or
examined. One wonders, then, where the place of
existential orientations'' are being engaged in the
experience has gone in Lindbeck's keenness to clarify
educational process. Our thesis is simple: education
the primacy of narrative and tradition, and the learning
only happens when ``inner feelings, attitudes, or
of the grammar of those narratives and traditions, as
existential orientations'' are engaged and affected in
the focal point of theology.
some way. But these cannot, after Lindbeck, be seen as
raw, uninterpreted starting-points for theology or Lindbeck is, of course, far from suggesting that
experience has no place in theology (1984, 36). Nor is
religious studies.6 In this sense we fully accept that
theology and religious studies are primarily he simply reasserting a propositional approach to
hermeneutical disciplines, which require people to theology, according to which theology is about the
bring their thematic universes alongside a range of learning of a tradition in the sense that it entails a
theological or religious traditions in order critically to ``banking concept'' of education (to use Freire's term),
examine them. Our claim, however, is that the way we in which religious believers are expected to store up a
have adopted experiential approaches in our own stock of knowledge. His approach is more tradition-
teaching and learning strategies (i.e., with reference to centered than the liberals he critiques, but it is about
liberation theology) has enabled us to avoid some of learning how to live within a tradition and use it. In
the criticisms Lindbeck makes of experiential- order to press his point, however, Lindbeck must
expressivism. Indeed, where Lindbeck takes us is, effectively play down the affective dimensions of
perhaps strangely, close to where Freire also wants us human living. He must also starkly polarize the social
to be. His critique of experiential-expressivism, dimension of religion, over against the individualizing
however, requires the stark separation of the cognitive tendencies of the academy:
from the affective in ways which, post-Bonino, are
Religions are seen as multiple suppliers of different
forms of a single commodity needed for transcendent
Both our teaching experience and insights drawn self-expression and self-realization. Theologians,
from Freire indicate quite clearly that the affective ministers and perhaps above all teachers of religion
aspects of human living must be taken into account in in colleges and universities whose job is to meet the
theological education because they are part of the demand are under great pressure in these
political dimensions of the learning experience. The circumstances to emphasize the experiential-
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On Seeing to the Horses 37

expressive aspects of religion. It is thus they that can One of the main responsibilities of an educator in
most easily market it. (1984, 22) theology and religious studies who adopts an
experiential approach, then, is to enable all
But what if a notion of ``beginning from concreteness'' participants to become clear about the ``textual''
entails respect for the socially-constructed thematic traditions within which their own thematic universes
universes of course-participants? Admittedly, Lindbeck are located, however diverse those ``traditions'' may
may respond that we are not experiential-expressivists be. The approach suggested for the exposure of what
at all; we are, in fact, simply taking his position as read a student brings to theological education is relevant
and applying it more widely, beyond the particularity here. The ``Dolphin questionnaire'' could be read as
of identifiable religions to the particularity, for an implicit form of ``starting with ideas'' (though
example, of political, familial, and class discourses. these are, at least, students' ideas!). In fact it begins
This may be so. But our experience(!) suggests that the with experience in the only form in which experience
way in which we begin from concreteness is perceived can be handled: as experience shaped into a thematic
as beginning from experience by those who participate universe, which needs drawing out, and its roots
in our courses. Therefore, even if there are distinctions identified, in order to be examined. Only by such or
to be drawn along the lines that Lindbeck suggests, similar means can conscientizing occur, can theology
there is yet a further conceptuality to be devised which happen, can the experiential dimension of the study
does justice to the pre-reflective, yet already of theology and religion be explored. And only by
``thematized,'' material which people bring to courses such, or similar, means can the experiential
in theology and religious studies, which is close to dimensions of the theology of others (and thus also
experience, yet culturally-shaped. the theological dimensions of the experience of
Lindbeck has a clear place for concreteness in his others) be disclosed, in order to be living resources
approach: the concreteness of the believing for participants. In all this, perhaps we discover that
community. The particularity of the religious discourse Freire was something of a postmodernist before
within which a religious believer is located relates to postmodernism. His work stands, however, as a
concrete communities. In the case of the concreteness sharp political challenge to some of the apparent
with which we must work in our contexts of teaching ethical indifferentism of postmodern trends.7
and learning, the participants' thematic universes relate A consequence can be drawn from our discussion
to a whole variety of discrete discourses, located in for Lindbeck's reading of experiential-expressivism.
many and diverse concrete communities, not Perhaps experiential-expressivism never was quite
necessarily religious. It is thus hardly surprising that what it seemed. The lazy pluralism which would
Lindbeck suspects teachers of being prone to want to unify too much too quickly must certainly be
experiential-expressivism: it is easier to dodge the firmly dismissed. But the persistence of the
social components of our thoughts and beliefs and to immediate, the pressing, the preoccupying, the
seek a lowest common denominator. But Freire the stubbornly deep conviction, even if not the raw
educationalist will not let us do this, and it is precisely experience, with which experiential approaches to
because of the edge which his political, socio-economic teaching and learning in theology and religious
concerns provide that we cannot dodge the culturally- studies can begin are suggestive not just of particular
constructed nature of our thematic universes. narratives, cultural constructs, or intratextual
In our approach to teaching and learning in an language-games. There may be no common human
academic context and in Lindbeck's approach to experience, but there are certainly some strikingly
workings of doctrine in an ecclesial setting, then, similar things that happen inside and outside of
experience, concreteness, and narrative (``text'') all religions and across the most diverse of cultures. And
find a place. Our experiential approach advocates there are whole people with feelings, attitudes,
beginning from the concreteness of participants' orientations, convictions and bodies, as well as ideas
thematic universes. It does not strive to reach a single and beliefs to be dealt with here. To recognize this,
point, on the basis of an assumption of any underlying and to do this insight justice, is not to argue for a
unity. It accepts the culturally-conditioned nature of single theology, or a single religion. Nor may it
those thematic universes. But it resists being dismissive necessarily entail holding to a unified ontology.
of the apparent immediacy of what is readily called Realists and non-realists can, and must, still both
``experience'' by participants who bring important eat at the same table. But it does suggest that
material with them to our sessions. As an educational Lindbeck's account of what doctrine is fails to do full
process, conscientization cannot prescribe an end- justice to the experience of how theological education
result. It presses people critically to examine the actually works. Here, at least, is a case where
interpreted world they inhabit. (An excellent example theology, religious studies, and education would all
of this is the Monte Mario story in Freire 1981, 30.) benefit from a longer conversation with each other.
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38 Bellett and Marsh

In Conclusion? (ACTION) Notes

We have argued for the persistence of experiential 1. We use the term ``experiential approaches'' with caution.
approaches to teaching and learning in theology and Bellett notes its possible equation with so-called
religious studies. Such approaches should prosper in ``discovery methods'' of education in Primary Schools
the light of both Bonino and Lindbeck. Reading in the 1960s. As will be clear from our critical interaction
with post-liberalism, we wish to affirm the place of
Bonino in the light of Lindbeck, we acknowledge that
experience in theology and religious studies, without
particular experiences are to be encouraged, and that
implying that the mere use of self-expression (the way in
the particularity of these experiences veils a particular which ``discovery methods'' have become discredited) is
narrative (God's bias is to the poor). Such enough. Throughout this article we use liberation
``experiences'' are to be facilitated in a variety of theology to stand for Latin American theologies of
forms inside and outside of the classroom. People will liberation.
not ``have'' new, raw experiences. But efforts must be 2. We do, however, wish to draw attention to, and affirm,
expended to ensure that participants know that they the comments made by Linda Woodhead 1998, 44, which
are dealing with more than ideas when tackling suggest that theology and religious studies, though
theology and religion. distinct, are not t o be seen a s necessarily
Reading Lindbeck in the light of Bonino, we wish to methodologically separate.
3. And in this respect, theology & religious studies at
stress that ``experience'' in all its complex and
Higher Education levels is repeating the mistakes of those
multifaceted nature must not be lost sight of within who deployed ``discovery methods'' badly.
an emphasis upon narrative and tradition, lest 4. This is very likely to happen in some form via an
narrative and tradition become but a different way of emphasis upon the fourth form of experience (when not
evading concreteness. The point of theology and necessarily constituted by the experience of Liberation
religious studies must be to enable participants to Theologians), that is, wherever a particular theologian,
examine how rituals and traditions live in relation to theological movement, or school of religious studies is
people's experience. granted authoritative status then their experience is
Reading both Bonino and Lindbeck in the light of effectively being prioritized.
our own practice, we are conscious of the range of 5. One does not have to go far to stress the significance of
experiences embodied within the thematic universes experience in all theologies, even those from theologians
not often regarded as the champions of theologians of
presented to us by particular people (and often
experience (see, e.g., the brilliant intellectual biography
relatively unreflected upon) which find a place within of the early Barth: McCormack 1995).
our classes. We are conscious, too, of our responsibility 6. This is where Bellett's resistance to the equation of
to foster the juxtaposing of ``texts'' (in the widest ``discovery methods'' of education with ``experiential
sense, and as embodied in people). Our role is to rub approaches'' is again significant: how is the whole person
one ``text'' alongside another, to create hermeneutical to be engaged in theology and religious studies (as we
friction (and accept that heat the warmth of insight both believe must be) without ``inner feelings'' alone
and the power of passion is caused). Be it the ``literal controlling all that is studied and concluded in the name
text'' of words on a page, the ``text'' of an experienced of religion?
life brought by a participant, or the narrative presented 7. ``Freire is at the same time a traditional, a modernist and
by a visiting speaker or supervisor, the point of a postmodernist intellectual, and he cannot be easily
classified as a romantic or a pragmatic intellectual . . .''
experiential teaching and learning is to make such
Torres, in Escobar 1994, 22.
interaction count as personal, social, and political
development. The extent to which such development
explicitly entails theology in the case of individual
participants cannot be prejudged. Theological and References
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Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1999