Interreligious Learning and Teaching

Interreligious Learning and Teaching: A Christian Rationale for a Transformative Praxis

Kristin Johnston Largen
Mary E. Hess
Christy Lohr Sapp
Copyright Date: 2014
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Interreligious Learning and Teaching
    Book Description:

    There is still resistance in Christian institutions to interreligious dialogue. Many feel that such a practice weakens Christian faith, and promotes the idea that Christianity is merely one among many different religious options. When it comes to higher education, there is the fear that both college and seminary students will “lose their faith” if they are invited to study other religious traditions from a positive perspective. Unfortunately, this attitude belies the current culture in which we live, which constantly exposes us to the beliefs and practices of others. Kristin Johnston Largen sees this setting as an opportunity and seeks to provide not only the theological grounding for such a position but also some practical advice on how both to teach and live out this conviction in a way that promotes greater understanding and respect for others and engenders a deeper appreciation of one’s own faith tradition. Largen’s synopsis of interreligious education and suggested action includes contributions by Mary E. Hess and Christy Lohr Sapp. Hess and Sapp provide practical commentary regarding the successful implementation of Largen’s proposed approach. As a group, Largen, Hess, and Sapp create a text that extends pedagogical innovation in inspiring but practical ways.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8969-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Our Interreligious Life in the Twenty-First-Century North American Context
    (pp. 1-36)
    Kristin Johnston Largen

    What’s your experience with interreligious dialogue? That’s the question I first thought I wanted to address in the opening pages of this book, but as I contemplated it more, I realized that there is an even more fundamental question that conveys much more clearly and directly the reality in which we live today: “How interreligious is your life?” That is the first question we need to be asking—both of ourselves and of the people in our churches, and, of course, of people in theological education. The main reason for beginning with this particular question is that when you ask...

  5. Chapter 1 Response: What Are Students’ Questions?
    (pp. 37-42)
    Mary Hess

    Kristin Johnston Largen does a wonderful job of laying out several of the pressing issues in this context. I want to dig into her chapters and think about some of the underlying pedagogical issues that arise.

    Jane Vella, adult educator extraordinaire, has a useful list of principles to keep in mind when working with adults on learning tasks. It may not be possible to embody all twelve of her list, all the time, but they are a great framework with which to troubleshoot learning. Here’s her list:

    1. Needs assessment

    2. Safety

    3. Sound relationship

    4. Sequence and reinforcement

    5. Action with reflection, or praxis...

  6. Chapter 2 A Christian Rationale for Interreligious Teaching and Learning
    (pp. 43-66)
    Kristin Johnston Largen

    In the previous chapter, I attempted to describe some features of the religiously pluralistic context in which we live today, a context in which I now want to begin thinking about interfaith teaching and learning. More specifically, I want to narrow the focus, describing more concretely what it might mean to teach interfaith engagement in either a Christian college or seminary setting, and why this actually needs to be a central component of religious/theological education today. First, I suggest some of the contemporary issues facing colleges in particular as they think about interfaith education, lifting up three specific dangers that...

  7. Chapter 2 Response: How Do We Understand Student Learning as Adult Learning?
    (pp. 67-70)
    Mary Hess

    Robert Kegan chronicles a model of transformative adult learning that takes seriously the cyclical nature of learning.¹ He describes this as a spiral-shaped path of learning, a process of “confirmation, contradiction, and continuity” that can be endless, but nevertheless spirals forward. “Confirmation” is a process that involves the kind of deep empathy which I have been describing; it involves honoring and respecting where students are when they enter our learning environments. If, for instance, you have learned over your lifetime that to be Christian is to understand Christ’s saving power in narrowly exclusive terms, then faith formation can be a...

  8. Chapter 3 Outcomes, Strategies, and Assessment for Interreligious Teaching and Learning
    (pp. 71-98)
    Kristin Johnston Largen

    In this third and final chapter of the book, I want to turn to more practical matters, addressing some concrete issues and challenges around the actual implementation of—and engagement with—interreligious education. As a way to get into this, I want to introduce what has become an essential tool for our curricular learning here at Gettysburg Seminary: the ROSA statement. For those of you who are working in theological education, it comes as no surprise that “assessment” is the new watchword for accreditation, and that schools are being nudged/pushed/dragged kicking and screaming into the implementation of more constructive and...

  9. Chapter 3 Response: How Do Theologies of the Pluralism of Faith Help?
    (pp. 99-106)
    Mary Hess

    Kristin Largen notes, early in her chapter 3, that even basic familiarity with other religions can be a challenging outcome for students, particularly those whose identities feel threatened by engagement with different faiths. While I agree with the rich examples and suggestions she makes there—particularly about the utility of work with a ROSA for a course—I want to dig more deeply into this issue of students feeling threatened or challenged. Having “set the stage” with a discussion of “confirmation, contradiction, and continuity,” I can now use that framework to help us work with even those students who feel...

  10. Epilogue Returning to the Questions with Which We Began
    (pp. 107-112)
    Mary Hess

    So, now, what might we say by way of response to the seminary students; questions that I shared in my response to chapter 1? Let me begin by reiterating the three points: (1) meet students where they are; (2) recognize that transformative adult learning is a process of confirmation, contradiction, and continuity; and, (3) give students frames into which they can place their experience while also giving them experience to enlarge their frames.

    Perhaps we can group the various questions into three rough clusters. First:

    How do we engage one another when there is nuance, contradiction, or some other form...

  11. Endings and Beginnings
    (pp. 113-114)
    Kristin Johnston Largen
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 115-120)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 121-121)