The Voice of Theology: Rethinking the Personal and the Objective in Christian Pedagogy

Webb, Stephen. “The Voice of Theology: Rethinking the Personal and the Objective in Christian Pedagogy,” Journal of the Academy of American Religion 65, no.4 (Winter 1997): 763-781.

Stephen Webb relates a model of personalized pedagogy, often employed in feminist studies, to the study of religion. He notes that most educational theories consider the role of the theologian as teacher to be problematic because they posit a disconnect between teaching objectively and the subjective nature of religion. Webb sees this division as unreasonable because every teacher is, in effect, embodying “the particularity of faith.” Most faculty have been taught to put their personal agendas aside. But Webb argues that pedagogically professors would do better to publicly acknowledge their religious commitments and agendas. There are, of course, inherent problems with the personalized teaching of religion. Webb notes that it has the potential to be just as oppressive as more authoritarian styles of teaching. It can also place too much emphasis on the technical aspects of pedagogy thereby actually increasing the teacher’s role in the classroom and hindering students’ participation. However, personalized teaching can also encourage a type of rhetoric that can open up creative and innovative communication. Webb sees teachers as impersonators who pose in their classes and can take on any relevant role. Webb particularly stresses the role of teachers as learners. This allows for more communication among participants, which in turn can lead to improved learning. As Webb notes, “ideas must be lived with to be taught well.” (KH)