Professor of History Richard Gamble will be hosting two reading groups throughout the year to discuss Christian theological texts in association with The Paideia Center for Theological Discipleship. The two groups began meeting Sept. 12 and 13, one on campus and another in the community.
The Paideia Center is a national organization which organizes regional reading groups as well as an annual conference for pastors and lay leaders to introduce classic Christian theological texts.
“The response to it has been very strong nationally,” Gamble said. “They had more requests than they knew what to do with. People wanted to host groups in their churches and their communities.”
The center was started by the Reformed Theological seminary in Orlando, Florida, and is now conducting its test run for the discussions.
The fall portion of the discussion group will read “On God and Christ” by St. Gregory of Nazianzus, which consists of five theological orations and two letters to Cledonius. The groups will meet only three times this semester for an hour and a half each time. The discussion is open to people of all faiths.
Gamble expresses his
very specific idea of what the discussion environment must be like in order to generate positive results.
“I have a lot of experience in running this type of discussion group in a way that keeps it focused on the text and
the participants themselves,” Gamble said.
Capping the group at 15 to 20 people, Gamble’s experience in running discussions is amenable to the purpose of the forum.
“It’s pure discussion,” Gamble said. “One of the keys in a discussion like that is that it not have a set objective.”
According to Gamble this method has worked countless times.
“I’ve seen it work again, and again, and again,” Gamble said. “I’ve been involved in 50 groups like this. You turn curious, intelligent people loose with an enduring text and you just watch it happen.” According to sophomore Bryce Asberg, this method worked its magic another time.
“It was very interactive,” Asberg said. “Dr. Gamble did a great job of moderating it in a way that involved everyone who wanted to be involved. I saw a lot of things that I had missed in the text.”
Asberg signed up for the group in hopes of furthering his understanding of God.
“Theology is more than just an academic discipline, it’s studying the knowledge
of God and knowing God
and that’s the most important thing,” Asberg said. “I figured it was well worth my time to take an hour and half to spend time with people who can help me with that and with material that can guide me through that process.”
Junior Celina McGowan took American Heritage with Gamble and after enjoying his teaching style joined the discussion group.
“He was an excellent teacher…He’s really good about being a good arbiter of discussion,” McGowan said. “The subject matter is really important. I went to a Christian high school so I learned a lot about what St. Gregory of Nazianzus said, but I never actually read what he said.”
In the first campus discussion, the group focused on Oration 27 of St. Gregory’s work and Asberg found that subject matter manifested in the group itself.
“He talks a lot about discussing theology and how it should only be undertaken with caution,” Asberg said. “There was a lot of love for Christ and love for each other as well as an appropriate air of humility.”