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The Laing Lectures


FEBRUARY 19-20, 2014

Dr. Ellen T. Charry

As theology began to lose its grip on the modern mind in the wake of the Enlightenment, Christian theologians embarked on a mission to persuade their secularizing audience that Christianity was intellectually defensible—it could be presented as rational. Works like John Locke’s The Reasonableness of Christianity and Immanuel Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone illustrate this strong appeal to reason. The idea was that even though Christianity could not appeal to hard evidence to support its strange and paradoxical claims, it could at least argue that its ideas were internally consistent.

The appeal to reason meant that scant attention was paid to the emotions. Clarifying the ideas was presented as an end in itself. What appeared to be a clear-cut distinction between reason and faith led to rationalist and pietist factions that divided a church already in retreat. Further, the heavy Stoic overlay on Christian theology inherited from classical culture caused the emotions to be considered suspect and pushed thinking about them off the table, although Pietism encouraged feelings—for example, John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience of a “heart strangely warmed” and Friedrich Schleiermacher’s description of Christian theology as a feeling of “absolute dependence.” The division pitted heart religion against head religion.

Christian doctrine, however, cannot finally separate ideas from the emotions they intend to arouse or control. Theologians throughout history have sought to use and shape specific emotions toward pious ends in order to support well-functioning societies. Perhaps the most notorious example is the use of hell to promote fear that would encourage good behaviour. Similarly, teaching salvation as a free gift has been used to arouse gratitude and so shape the personality for virtuous living; the resurrection of Christ has been used to create hope that sustains energy through hardship; and teaching on sin has been used to create guilt to promote self-restraint. That is, believing Christian doctrines to be true, in whatever sense of “true” is intended, usually has effects on the emotions of those who believe them, and such doctrines and emotions are inculcated in order to form people in certain ways for socially salutary purposes. These lectures will explore the interface between Christian doctrine and emotional formation.

2013-2014 Laing Lecturer


Dr. Ellen T. Charry 

Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

MA, PhD Religion (Temple), MSW (Yeshiva University), BA Sociology (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Ellen T. Charry is the Margaret W. Harmon Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned an MA and PhD in Religion from Temple University following an MSW from Yeshiva University and BA from Barnard College. Her interest is in human flourishing from a Christian perspective. Her monographs are Franz Rosensweig on the Freedom of God (1987), By the Renewing of your Minds (1997), and God and the Art of Happiness (2010). Her edited works are Inquiring after God (2000), Same-Sex Relationships and the Nature of Marriage: A Theological Colloquy (Anglican Theological Review, 2011), and Austin Dogmatics of Paul M. van Buren (2012). She is past editor of Theology Today (1997–2004), and was a member of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (1998–2010), and a member of the Pursuit of Happiness Project at the Center for Law and Religion at Emory University sponsored by the Templeton Foundation (2007–2010). Charry has served on the editorial boards of the Scottish Journal of Theology and Pro Ecclesia. She currently serves as an editor-at-large for The Christian Century



Dr. D. Bruce Hindmarsh

James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College 

MA, DPhil (Oxford), BRE (Briercrest Bible College), MCS (Regent College)


Dr. W. Ross Hastings

Associate Professor, Pastoral Theology at Regent College

BSc (Hons) (Witwatersrand, South Africa), PhD (Queen’s, Kingston), MCS (Regent College), PhD (St. Andrew’s, Scotland)



Patricia Towler

Vice President of External Relations

BA (University of King's College), JD (Dalhousie), LLM (University of San Diego), DipCS (Regent College)

Wednesday, February 19, 7:30pm 

Lecture 1: Beliefs and Emotions 

Although Christian theologians never developed a distinctive theory of the emotions, they drank deeply from cognitive theories of emotion prevalent in ancient philosophy, some of which are currently being retrieved. Guiding the emotions well is key to structuring and maintaining civil society, a chief interest of theology.

Thursday, February 20, 11:30am

Lecture 2: Augustine on Love

Augustine heralded love as the quintessential Christian emotion-virtue. His ten homilies on 1 John seek to guide the emotions for the unity of the church and the well-being of society.

Thursday, February 20, 7:30pm

Lecture 3: Luther on Anxiety

In his early treatise, “Two Types of Righteousness” and later in his preface to his 1534 commentary on Galatians, Luther presents the gospel as treatment for potentially paralyzing anxiety.


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Lecture Details