The Use and Abuse of History for Theology and Ethics

The Use and Abuse of History for Theology and Ethics: Mining the Past for Present Norms

University of Notre Dame and University of Chicago Fifth Annual Joint Graduate Student Conference

March 29-30, 2019, Swift Lecture Hall (3rd floor)

In grounding normative statements, we often – some would say, we must – refer to the past. The ethical question, What should we do? is never far removed the historical question, What happened?

This conference seeks to address the necessity and fragility of historical grounds for theological and ethical norms. How can we responsibly engage historical texts or voices without allowing our ethical commitments to distort that history? How can we at the same time ensure that our historical research meets our ethical standards and is conscientious of the uses and abuses to which it might be put? To what extent does or ought our own historical context determine our norms?

These will be the guiding questions of our conference.

With speakers Willi Goetschel of the University of Chicago, Tisha Rajendra of Loyola University, Chicago, and Susan Schreiner, the University of Chicago Divinity School.


Friday 3/29

9:30 – Introductory Comments by Dean Nirenberg


09:45 – Panel 1: “Only Relative Victories”: Perspectives on Ernst Troeltsch

Daniel Owings, moderator

  • To Seize Hold of a Memory as it Flashes Up at a Moment of Danger: Two Competing Views of “Critical History” (Joel Harrison, Northwestern University)
  • Troeltsch and/or/against Gadamer (David Kretz, University of Chicago)
  • History and Normativity in Rickert, Troeltsch, and Heidegger (Oscar Tovar-Argueta, University of Virginia)

11:30 – Panel 2: Historical theory: the Stories We Tell.

Sam Baudinette, moderator

  • Hayden White and the possibility of Faith in History (Yiftach Ofek, University of Chicago)
  • Description, Prescription, and the Conundrum of Construction (Daniel Owings, University of Chicago)

2pm:  Pedagogy Panel: Ethics and History in the Classroom

Prof. Willi Goetschel, Prof. Tara Rajendra, Prof. William Schweiker

Caroline Anglim, Moderator


4pm Keynote 1

When is History? 

Prof. Willi Goetschel, University of Toronto


Saturday 3/30

09:30am Keynote 2 -

Migration, Justice, and the Past: The Ethics of Migration and The Ethics of History.

Prof. Tisha Rajendra, Loyola University Chicago


11:00 – Panel 3 : “In situ”: Case studies in theology and ethics

  • Sundown Towns, the Doctrine of Discovery, and an Implicit Political Theology (Jon Kara Shields, University of Notre Dame)
  • Conversion and Repentance: American Converts to Eastern Orthodoxy and the Evangelical Presentation of History (Christopher Poore, University of Chicago)
  • The Specter of History in Nikephoros’ Iconophile Apologetic: A Case Study in Theological Method (Rob de la Noval, University of Notre Dame)

2pm – Panel 4   “Render unto Caesar”? Theology and/as Critique

  • The Normative Status of the Preferential Option for the Poor: An Affirmative Genealogy (Raul Zegarra, University of Chicago)
  • Decolonizing Theology: Warrants-from-Below (Hector Varela-Rios, University of Chicago)
  • Foucault and Lonergan on Power, Normativity, and History (Taylor Nutter, University of Notre Dame)

4:00pm – Keynote 3

There is Truth that Lives and Truth that Dies

Prof. Susan Schreiner

Cosponsored by the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion, the Divinity Students Association, the Craft of Teaching in the Academic Study of Religion, and the Lumen Christi Institute.

Persons with a disability who need an accomodation to attend this event, please call Suzanne Riggle in advance at 773-702-8219.