In August this year Professor Christine Helmer visited Pilgrim Theological College as a Northey Lecturer. Professor Helmer is an expert in the theologies of Martin Luther, Friedrich Schleiermacher, ecclesiologies of resistance, and the meaning and function of Christian doctrine. She teaches at Northwestern University in Illinois. Her 2014 book, Theology and the End of Doctrine, has made a significant contribution to the contemporary discussions of the role of doctrine in the church. She is concerned that the church’s doctrinal work has developed in ways that isolated the church’s intellectual work from other academic disciplines. Yet, she also argues, that the discussion about doctrine has never been as lively as it has been in the last several decades. In one passage from Theology and the End of Doctrine she writes:
Doctrine … has to do with the living reality of God…. Spiritual discernment is required to see and to understand the relations that God creates and transforms in different yet often hidden ways. God cannot be domesticated by doctrine…. The deepest ground of doctrine’s epistemic humility is the recognition that the theologian stands before a divine realty that is capable of rejecting human efforts and of shattering human expectations with novelty.
As well as giving a public lecture on the theme of “Ecclesiologies of Resistance” (tbc), she participated (with Rev Dr Geoff Thompson) in the teaching of the Pilgrim unit, ‘Doctrine Truth and Pluralism’ – a unit that takes students in to the lively discussion about doctrine and its various critical and constructive functions in the church. With its emphasis on the relationship between doctrine and truth, this unit is an opportunity to explore these questions in a context which is both post-truth and pluralist.