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“Constructive” Theology

Princeton Seminary Class Reads Barth and Builds Houses with Habitat for Humanity
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Students in Dr. Mark Edwards’ Class, Building with Barth: A Theology of the Creature, share reflections on why it’s important to step out of the classroom, and what it means to care for our neighbors.

The class spent the January term reading and discussing Karl Barth’s theological anthropology from Church Dogmatics III/2 in the mornings, and in the afternoons they headed to Habitat for Humanity in Trenton, New Jersey, to do something tangible—help build a house for our neighbors. Challenged by a complex theologian, a construction site, power tools, and the winter elements, the students set out to answer the question, “What does it mean to be human?”

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In Their Own Words

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“I feel more connected to God, my classmates, the instructor, and the rest of humanity through this course.”

“This course has woven two deeply connected ideas into one. It has provided an avenue of connection between theological theory and theological praxis that is unmatched in other courses. One of the most important aspects of this course has been the unity which arose between my classmates and I as we read, discussed, and worked alongside one another. I feel more connected to God, my classmates, the instructor, and the rest of humanity through this course.”
—Brandon

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“This experiential, active learning is energizing, challenging, and incredibly rewarding.”

“Building houses in the middle of a New Jersey winter isn’t comfortable. My toes tingled from the freezing temperatures, my wrist ached from the kickback of the nail gun, and I was totally out of my element at the construction site. When I learned how to measure and cut a 2-inch by 4-inch piece of wood measured to the 1/8-inch, and I handed it to my classmates who were measuring and nailing boards down, I felt like a valuable part of a team. As a graduate student studying theology, I spend many hours reading, writing, and discussing theology. It is an entirely different experience to be outside, using tools, learning new things, and working with others toward a shared goal. This experiential, active learning is energizing, challenging, and incredibly rewarding. I am thankful for the opportunity to take this course because I have been physically challenged with cold weather and power tools, as well as mentally challenged by a complex theologian I never thought I’d understand. I leave Building with Barth as a stronger, tougher, and more gracious human…still discerning what that true human being is….”
—Jordan

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“The ‘far country’ as Barth put it, is not that far away, it’s in our backyard, and we reside there too.”

“A ten-minute drive from Princeton Seminary lands you in a much different world—a world where buildings are crumbling from abandonment, where land is poisoned by chemicals left behind by industry, and where basic amenities needed for living are often scarce or in-flux. In a post-industrial age, we see as such, a judgment laid bare upon our communities. The ‘far country’ as Barth put it, is not that far away, it’s in our backyard, and we reside there too. This class has been rigorous and demanding in many ways, but Professor Edwards’ enthusiasm for teaching (and doing) has carried us along in the tasks of deep theological reflection and caring for our fellow humanity.”
—Anonymous

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“Experiencing these two aspects together brought lessons of what it means to be human, while also serving, listening to, and knowing other humans.”

“In the mornings, Barth taught me that Jesus is ultimately the Word of God to humanity and humanity’s primary responsibility is to listen. In the afternoons, Habitat for Humanity gave me the space, tools, and construction site to learn how to listen both for instruction on how to frame a kitchen, bathroom, and pantry, but also on how to know and be known by my fellow humans. Experiencing these two aspects together brought lessons of what it means to be human, while also serving, listening to, and knowing other humans.”
—Adam

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“This course was a wonderful way to move away from all of our deconstructive thinking and do something ‘constructive’.”

“I was overjoyed to take this course, which took us out of the purely theoretical classroom and into Trenton to do something tangible. This course was a wonderful way to move away from all of our deconstructive thinking and do something ‘constructive’.”
—Joel

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“Barth taught us that part of being human means to be given space.”

“Barth taught us that part of being human means to be given space. The universe, the world, and our bodies are spaces God created for us. Still, our bodies need other spaces and habitats where they can dwell, and unfortunately our neighbors in Trenton, New Jersey, have not been allocated the resources necessary for spaces suitable for human bodies. It’s been fun to mimic God’s act as we create space for our neighbors to live in the world. Who knew a house contained the little world of theological anthropology?”
—Garrett

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Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Faculty at Evangelical Theological Seminary, Cairo, Egypt

Samy Estafanos, Class of 2015

“Princeton Seminary shaped and equipped me for the teaching ministry that I am practicing now. I was shaped spiritually, mentally, and socially by all means.”