The “Introduction to Systematic Theology” Course

As a course for students in an institution that educates, primarily, those from predominantly Protestant “Reformed” religious traditions, this course begins with instruction on the content of early Christian founders’ creeds, doctrines, and then turns to the Reformation thinker, John Calvin, primarily his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

This is only background, though, for introducing the more fully “systematic” move that thinks within the world’s variegated and  multilayered contextuality and then also for facing the challenging encounter with other contextual theologies. Just as essential, therefore, as the North Atlantic theologies of figures like Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, and Karl Rahner, are thinkers at work in U.S. Latino/a and Latin American theologies, feminist and womanist traditions, Asian-American, American Indian and Black theologies of liberation. Regarding the latter see the book by James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree.


The sense of antagonism is highlighted throughout the course as the content of the creeds and Calvin texts is placed into continuous question, challenge and critique, in light of biblical notions, of theologies from under-represented “minoritized” groups in the history of the church. The course also treats as equal theological partners theologies of Arab-American, U.S. Hispanic,  Asian-American, African-American, indigenous, and feminist theologians. Here liberating spirit is encountered in continual interplay with Western, predominantly European theological doctrines.

The arts as a theological genre of discourse, along with doctrine (in creeds and regnant theological systems) occur especially in the liberation theologians. They impact and shape Christian belief, affect and practice, issuing from legacies of icons and music, as well as traditions of the blues and spirituals, the corridos and arpilleras, the p’ansori singing and a multitude of songs, poems and other imagery.

Social movements are highlighted as both the source of many of the intellectual currents in the history of theology’s intellectual traditions, and as the means of contemporary theological expression, as churches are challenged to relate to those movements.