Leaving home: A pedagogy for
theological education
Dr Dan Fleming
Dean of Studies,
Lecturer Theology and Ethics
The Broken Bay Institute
Dr Peter Mudge
Lecturer Religious Education and Spirituality
The Broken Bay Institute
Both: Conjoint Lecturers, School of Humanities &
Social Science
The University of Newcastle
SCD Conference – Ryde, 2013
“Leaving home: A pedagogy for
theological education”
Beyond security to
engagement and
imagination through
displacement and
Dr Dan Fleming
Dr Peter Mudge
Catalysts for research
 Ongoing reflection on theological
 Experience of discomfort in personal
theological education/witnessing the
same in students’ theological education
(cf. Ball, 2012)
 Research into conflict and pedagogical
interventions informed by
neuro/cognitive science in theological
education (Fleming, ANZATS 2013 Auckland)
 Research into pedagogies of displacement
(Mudge, EARLI 2013 – Munich)
 Need for a normative framework
 This paper – a synthesis
Overview of paper
 “Leaving home” as central theme
 Journey of theological education takes us
beyond “four walls” of home into encounter
with Mystery and horizons unknown
 David F. Ford – “cultural ecology”
 Emmanuel Levinas – “staying home” too
much, leading to “totalization”
 Walter Brueggemann – “exile & return”,
disorientation, displacement, risk
 Question – “Do teachers and students stay
limited within the FOUR walls of their
[theological] home or do we ‘leave the safe
harbour’ to travel on the high seas of
openness to what is foreign or ‘other’, even
Part One – Home & Leaving Home
 Some normative reasons to
leave home…
 “in the terrific tale of the
Passion there is a distinct
emotional suggestion that the
author of all things (in some
unthinkable way) went not
only through agony, but
through doubt… (there is) only
one religion in which God
seemed for an instant to be an
 G. K. Chesteron, Orthodoxy,
Cultural and individual ecologies
The homes we build
 Cultural Ecology Ford (2007,
pp. 95; 118; 128-9)
 λόγος – meaning/idea; ôikos –
 Individual Ecology: beliefs and
intuitions about the physical
world; social life; ethical
responsibilities; religious and
spiritual practices; etc. (Hirsto,
2012, p. 135).
Levinas and “being at home with
Levinas (1969, 1998)
Consciousness – I am – to be
at home with one’s self
Obtaining and protecting
the “gear consisting of
things necessary” for the
preservation of the “I”
(Levinas, 1969, 152)
Auffassen – to grasp
“Leaving home” and the trap of
 The home is a condition for
consciousness, but it is not the
final word
 One day, we must leave home
 The problem of exalting
 Totalization as violence – forcing
an Other into the four walls of a
home which cannot contain them
Security of the four walls versus Openness to
what is foreign or “other”
 The problem of idolatry –
my image of God is
equivalent to God (Ford,
2000, pp. 77-80)
 The brain and pattern
creation – we are ‘wired’
to build up the home
 The challenge for
theological education
where ‘business as usual’
involves grappling with
Leaving home – exile & displacement
 To follow in the footsteps of
Abraham instead of Ulysses
In theological education we ask
our students to leave the
comforts of their homes for a
journey into the wilderness, and
we are the guides.
So what might facilitate this
leaving home?
Part Two – Biblical and pedagogical perspectives on
“leaving home”, “exile” and “threshold”
 “The Greek term theorin: a
practice of travel and
observation, a [person] sent by
the polis to another city to
witness a religious ceremony.
“Theory” is a product of
displacement, comprising a
certain distance. To theorize,
one leaves home”
 (James Clifford, “Notes on Travel and
Theory”, cited in Tweed, Crossing and
Dwelling, 2006, page 1)
Some Australian perspectives on
“being at home” and “leaving home”
 Australians are among the most
travelled, furthest travelled
and highest-spending travellers
on the planet (CNN, 2013)
 “Les [Murray] pausing and
beholding the scene before
him…with a calm and
completely satisfied smile upon
his face…appeared to be in a
state of homecoming and in a
state of being welcomed home
[wherever he was and
wherever he was travelling]
(Leunig, 2008, p. 69)
Leaving home, exile, Brueggemann’s
three movements and pedagogy
 Br’s 3 movements = from secure
orientation to disturbing
disorientation towards surprising
reorientation (2002)
 MINOR = feeling of dis-ease, anxiety,
harsh word from another, etc
 MAJOR = bereavement, loss of job,
cancer, natural disaster, divorce
 Life OR Theological education =
departing from security & “settled
ways”, leaving home, exile, world is
fractured, incoherence, confusion,
disarray, waiting upon “what comes
next”, loss of balance (Br, 2002)
Brueggemann once
described his personal
metaphor as “exile” (Br with
Sharp, 2012, p. 34)
Links between “leaving home”, exile
and return, and theological students?
 Biblical cycle of “exile & return”
 “Exile” characterised by anxiety of
deported people; loss of structure
and reliability; loss of tried and true
answers; one’s most treasured
symbols are mocked, trivialised or
dismissed (Br, 1997, p. 2)
 “Exile is not primarily geographical,
but it is social, moral and cultural”
(Ibid, p. 2)
 Exile did NOT lead the Jewish
people to despair or privatistic
religion – BUT to their most daring
theological articulation in the entire
Jewish Scriptures (Br, 1997, p. 3)
Brueggemann (1987) on the “deeper
significance of exile” (cf. theology)
 Exiles must grieve their loss and
express sadness for what will
never be again
 Exiles will feel forgotten and
forsaken, like abandoned orphans
 The greatest threat to exiles is the
power of despair
 Exile as experience of “profaned
absence” – the glory is departed
 Exile, deportation and leaving
home can be summed up by the
ONE word “danger” = dangerous
memories, criticism, promises,
songs, bread, departures and
Some pedagogical perspectives on “exile”
among theological students
 “Exile” as “standing at the gap”, or
“on the threshold” (Wolfteich, 2010;
de Waal, 2011)
 “The Wall” = in between ‘the journey
inward’ and ‘the journey outward’
(Hagberg & Guelich, 1995) cf H Potter
 Fowler (1995) and transitional
experience of “universalising faith” =
those who are emancipated and in
turn create zones of liberation and
send shock waves to rattle the cages
[cf. HOUSES] that we allow to
constrict human futurity (1995, p.
Brief excursus – recent international research on
“threshold concepts & problematic knowledge”
 To be on the “threshold” is to be on the cusp
of departure into the new or alien, the strange;
a liminal experience, in transition; part of
leaving home!! TCs, TEs, and TPs!!
 Threshold Concepts (TCs) are, in each
discipline, 'conceptual gateways' or 'portals'
that must be negotiated to arrive at important
new understandings. In crossing the portal,
transformation occurs, both in knowledge and
subjectivity (e.g. religion, theology,
engineering, biology, design, economics)
(Meyer & Land, 2003).
 Threshold Experiences (TEs) in religious
education might include moving from: nounto verb based pedagogical cycles; lower to
higher level questioning; information to
wisdom and praxis; simple programming to
approaches based on neuroscience; from
simple description to critique, analysis,
synthesis (Journey into desert of “exile”)
EIGHT Characteristics of a “Threshold Concept” as
problematic/ troublesome knowledge
1. Transformative – beyond
“informative” or “formative”
2. Troublesome – counter-intuitive,
alien or seemingly incoherent
3. Irreversible – difficult to “unlearn”
4. Integrated – cf. synthesising concepts
and “connected knowing”
5. Bounded – delineates & captures
6. Discursive – dialogical & “stretching”
7. Reconstitutive – shift in learner
subjectivity over time
8. Liminal – messy back & forth journeys
over threshold or “difficult concept”
[References: Land, Meyer & Smith, 2008; Meyer,
Land & Baillie, 2010]
Threshold concepts & troublesome
knowledge – theology, RE & spirituality
Moving from faith as
certainty to include
faith as “dark night
of soul” (Theology)
Moving from knowledge
as information to kn as
practical wisdom and a
flourishing life (Rel Edn)
Moving from spirituality as
solely kataphatic to include
its apophatic dimensions
Crosses threshold
and “leaves home”
Did not
Did not
Ivan Navarro, “Threshold”, 53rd Venice Biennale, Chilean Pavilion, 2009
Experiences of theological students
“leaving home”, “in exile”, theorising??
 Peter = Questioning and confusion about
theological concepts, “truth”?; exile as social,
moral or cultural experience?; trouble
connecting theory and praxis?; unable to
consider new theories, threshold concepts, or
troublesome knowledge?; lacking skills in
dialogue, interfaith, interbelief?; sense of
“lostness” or being “orphaned”?; even a crisis
of faith, vocation, purpose, meaning;
 Dan = Security mindsets in operation when
feeling threatened; distance and online
complexities; Habermas’ taxonomies of
learning – theology necessarily involves
higher-order skills
Are the foregoing incidents, examples of
“blurred encounters”??
 Blurred encounters = “A blurred
encounter is a pastoral situation in which
boundaries are likely to be crossed and
where the [believer] will need to make a
judgement as to the appropriate course of
 Other complications might include =
“possibility of compromise of one’s faith
position, the need to cross a boundary of
some sort (geographical, cultural,
ideological); taking of risks; knowing that
some may be opposed to or offended by
any decision taken”
 Cameron, Reader, Slater with Rowland, 2012,
Theological reflection for human flourishing,
London: SCM Press, pp. 17-18.
© 2013 ff Dr Peter Mudge, BBI Pennant
Suggested 5-stage pedagogy of “leaving
home” to “exile” and “re-finding home”
1. Subsisting with "business
as usual" - security,
homebound - not willing to
shift out of secure
orientation; 'being stuck' or
5. Being called to
transformation and
transform-mission returning home and
knowing it for the first time
- being willing to repeat this
journey many times
A 5 stage
pedagogy of
'leaving home'
moving through
'exile' and
'finding home'
4. Being surprisingly
reoriented via awe,
wonder and Imagination turning homewards with
hope and poetic sensibility
2. Encountering the
'other' and 'Other' leaving home willingly or
3. Experiencing
Displacement, Dissonance
& Dialogue - exiled from
home and one's comfort
zones, vulnerable
Discussion and future directions Suggestions
1. “Leaving home” – in theory and
practice, experience of students?
2. Levinas, moving beyond the four
walls, and “totalisation”
3. Biblical exile and disorientation
4. Leaving home and exile as positive
and generative
5. Threshold concepts and problematic
knowledge as part of “leaving home”
6. Towards a pedagogical cycle that
includes leaving home, exile,
returning, etc?
Thank You

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