Theology After Christendom

Theology After Christendom

In 1850, nearing the end of his writing career, Soren Kierkegaard published the book that he regarded as his most personal and his most important. Training in Christianity was his summation of “what it meant to be a Christian.” It culminated his ongoing feud with an established church that, he believed, had betrayed Christianity by aligning its teachings with the values and institutions of European culture. “Christendom has done away with Christianity, without being quite aware of it,” he charged. This group will meet to discuss Kierkegaard’s ideas about Christian life in a post-Christian culture, asking what relevance his ideas might have for students today.  It will also consider his proposals for “introducing Christianity into Christendom.” Our short readings will include selections from his Attack on Christendom.

Dates: Friday afternoons on 4/5, 4/12, 4/26, 5/3

Time: 12:00-1:30pm

Discussion and Reading Schedule:

4/5: Christianity and Secular History: pp. 5-10, 18-23.
4/12: Christianity and Secular Knowledge: pp. 26-31, 57-62.
4/26: Christianity and Paganism: pp. 92-103.
5/3: Christianity and the Church Militant: pp. 180-195.

Location: Berkeley Institute, 2134 Allston Way

**This seminar is free and open to all Cal, GTU, and St. Mary’s students.

Saved By Poetry

Saved By Poetry: The Message of T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot’s poetry possesses exquisite music , formal experiment, and indelible images: “Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table.” He is arguably the most important poet in the English language of the 20th century, and his work influenced the development of modernist literature, music, and art. But he’s no radical: American-born, he took up British citizenship and converted to Christianity later in life, declaring himself classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and catholic in religion. These choices make him “unconventional” by Modernist standards. We’re going to look at short selections from the poems concerning guilt, other people, time, and love. And we’ll talk about what Eliot’s work offers us about those topics from a Christian perspective. Is a “conservative” message within the poems actually a maverick solution to the spiritual crisis of modernity and postmodernity?

Dates: Mondays on 4/8, 4/15, 4/22, 4/29
Time: 5:30-7:00 PM

Discussion Schedule:

4/8: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
4/15: “Tradition & The Individual Talent” (section 1) and The Waste Land (sections 1 & 5)
4/22: “Tradition & The Individual Talent” (section 2) and “Ash Wednesday” (section 1)
4/29: “Tradition & The Individual Talent” (section 3) and “Little Gidding” (sections 2 & 5)

Location: 2134 Allston Way

**This seminar is free and open to all Cal, GTU, and St. Mary’s students.

Can We Be Moral Without God

Although their view of reality does not seem to invite it, atheists often claim that they can be just as good and moral people as religious believers. Theists, on the other hand, will frequently claim the opposite. For them, it is not so much that we need the threat of a final judgment to behave properly, but the very validity of the moral law seems to depend on the existence of God, either as a lawgiver or in other ways. This seminar will explain that the actual arguments might turn out to be a bit different than people would expect on either side. We will begin by reading some contemporary theists and their opponents. Then we will go a bit deeper into history: first to Newman and Kant, then to Thomas Aquinas. Short texts will be provided, no previous study of philosophy is required.

Dates: Wednesdays on 3.6, 3.13, 3.20, 4.3
Time: 5:30-7:00pm

Readings and Discussion Schedule:

3/6: Atheists: Morality without a Lawmaker? 
3/13: The Problems of the Theist
3/20: Natural Law with and without a Lawmaker
4/3: A Lawmaker Need Not be a Tyrant

Location:  2134 Allston Way

**This seminar is free and open to all Cal, GTU, and St. Mary’s students.

Women and the Intellectual Life

Is the twenty-first-century woman different from her male counterparts in any unique or substantial way? The feminist movement began with a radical claim: women are suited for every profession. Against this claim, opponents argued that women were capable of only one crucially important vocation – the making and care of home and family. Almost two centuries later, these two categories continue to narrowly define the “successful woman.” But is this dichotomy the only choice? This seminar will examine a third and less traveled road. It will call into question both assumptions by exploring the writings of philosopher Edith Stein, who, following a religious conversion, offered an alternative path to feminine fulfillment. For copies of the short readings, please contact

Dates: Tuesdays on 2.19, 2.26, 3.5, 3.12
Time: 5:30-7:00pm

Discussion Schedule:

2/19: “No Happy Harmony” and “Womanhood
2/26: “The Ethos of Women’s Professions”
3/5: “The Significance of Women’s Intrinsic Value”
3/12: “Women’s Life in Light of Eternity” and Josef Pieper, “Concupiscence of the Eyes

All Edith Stein are readings are from her collection, Essays on Woman.

Location: 2134 Allston Way

**This seminar is free and open to all Cal, GTU, and St. Mary’s students.

Issues in Medical Ethics

New medical developments conjoined with legal and cultural changes raise moral questions. Genetic engineering, cloning, physician-assisted suicide, body identity integrity disorder, and patient autonomy are a few of the controverted issues of our day. In this seminar, we will discuss a few prominent questions in contemporary medical ethics, asking how they can be understood in light of different views about the nature of medicine. Does the practice of medicine have moral principles internal to it or is medicine entirely a technique in need of external direction from law, society, and patients? Through brief readings and class discussions, we will consider such questions with a view to finding the most reasonable answers.

Dates: Wednesdays on 1.30, 2.6, 2.13, 2.20
Time: 5:30-7:00 PM

Discussion Schedule and Readings:

  • 1/30: The Hippocratic Oath and the Principles of Medical Ethics. Reading: Tom Cavanaugh, Hippocrates’ Oath” and “Principles of Medical Ethics”
  • 2/6: Genetic Engineering and Cloning. Reading: Leon Kass, “Cloning of Human Beings” and Dan Brock, “Genetic Engineering”.
  • 2/13: Physician-Assisted Suicide. Readings: James Rachel, “Active and Pass Euthanasia” and Tom Cavanaugh, “Currently Accepted Practices that Lead to Death”
  • 2/20: Patient and Professional Autonomy. Readings: Julian Savulescu, “Conscientious Objection”; Tom Cavanaugh, “Professional Autonomy”; Andrea Chu, “My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy”

Location: 2134 Allston Way

**This seminar is free and open to all Cal, GTU, and St Mary’s students.

Image: Hippocrates refusing the gifts of Artaxerxes by Anne-Louis Girodet (1792).

Has Liberalism Failed?

Has Liberalism Failed?

Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains. This has created a peculiar situation in which liberalism’s proponents, on both the left and right, sometimes forget that it is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution. In his new book, Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen argues that liberalism is built on a foundation of contradictions: it trumpets equal rights while fostering incomparable material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent, yet it discourages civic commitments in favor of privatism; and in its pursuit of individual autonomy, it has given rise to the most far-reaching, comprehensive state system in human history. In this reading group, we will examine Deneen’s argument that political liberalism is a system whose success is generating its own failure. We will also look at critical reviews of the book from a variety of perspectives. For copies of the short weekly readings, please contact

Dates: Wednesday evenings on 5.30, 6.6, 6.13, 6.20.
Time: 6:00-7:15 PM
Location: 2134 Allston Way

Reading schedule:

5/30: Chapter One: “Unsustainable Liberalism”
6/6: Chapter Two: “Uniting Individualism and Statism”
6/13: Chapter Three: “Liberalism as Anticulture”
6/20: TBD

To receive the short readings, please contact

**This seminar is free and open to all Cal, St. Mary’s, and GTU students.**