Willis Lecture welcomes Dr. Theodore W. Jennings as speaker

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Bethany Schram

Assistant News Editor

 

Florida Southern College welcomed Dr. Theodore W. Jennings, Jr. to the Hollis Seminar Room March 21 for the annual Warren W. Willis Lecture in Religion.

Jennings is a professor of Biblical and constructive theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary School.

His lecture, “Paul’s Politics of Salvation,” covered topics based on his projects of social and political awareness, as well as the Apostle Paul’s messianic ideals.

According to the evening’s pamphlet, the lectureship was endowed in honor of the Rev. Dr. Warren W. Willis, a 1938 alumnus of FSC and member of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The lecture honors his special contributions to the ministry of the church in the area of youth ministry and camping.

Paige Bach, freshman and a participant in one of Willis’ youth camps, attended the lecture.

“I’m a youth ministry major, so I would have gone even if I wasn’t receiving extra credit. I think it’s very interesting to hear the different speakers we have come in and speak,” Bach said. “I don’t always understand everything they are talking about, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to go and listen.”

The speaker’s main purpose of the lecture was explaining views regarding the Apostle Paul’s messianic politics.

Jennings said the topic was a part of a project he has been researching for some time, inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theorist and supporter for social and political awareness.

“Bonhoeffer called for a way of living and thinking faith outside the confines of religious practices and institutions, out in a world that no longer needed religion of any kind,” said Jennings.

Bonhoeffer’s views caused Jennings to research more on his ideals, finding that many Marxist and atheists found help and understanding in the world through Paul’s writings in the Bible.

“Philosophers, including atheist ones, have in the past found certain resonance in the writings of Paul,” Jennings said. “Existentialist philosophers like Heidegger found in Paul resources for trying to think of the themes of resolute being unto death.”

Jennings’ overall message regarded Paul as not just a man of Christ and faith, but of political understanding, wanting to form governments in order to create a stable foundation within the Church and combat patterns of discord.

“Paul is concerned to form small-scale societies of perhaps 10 to 20 members each… I think it’s fair to say that, you may dispute this, Paul is or appears to be, entirely uninterested in the question of the individual,” Jennings said. “He doesn’t care about the individuals. Paul cares about the social, that is, the formation of messianic, cells, groups, or communes.”

Jennings said that Paul’s messianic ideals remain to be intertwined with politics. According to Jennings, Paul thought this because of his emphasis of shared responsibilities within communities to complete tasks within the Church.

The night ended with an open discussion of Jennings’ lecture. Community members, as well as students in attendance, asked Jennings to elaborate more on his views.

The lectureship is made possible by gifts from the IBM Corporation and FSC alumni such as Mr. Larry and Prof. Diane Willis, who established the program in 1984 in appreciation of Rev. Dr. Willis’ many works. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of the lecture.

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