Kristine Culp

Research Project Title: Glorious Life?

Associate Professor of Theology, Dean of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago, The Divinity School

Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Contact Kristine Culp

Academic Biography

Kristine A. Culp teaches at the University of Chicago where she is Associate Professor of Theology in the Divinity School and also serves as a faculty member of the Fundamentals: Texts and Issues program in the College. She has been Dean of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago, one of the University’s oldest affiliates, since 1991. She is the author of Vulnerability and Glory: A Theological Account (Westminster John Knox, 2010), one of the first theological works to connect multidisciplinary analyses of vulnerability and risk with theological anthropology and sociality. She is the editor of The Responsibility of the Church for Society and Other Essays by H. Richard Niebuhr (2008), which collected Niebuhr’s various writings on ecclesiology and Christian community for the first time. Her essays have addressed protest and resistance as theological themes, the use of fiction in theological thinking, feminist and womanist theologies, and the appeal to “experience” in contemporary theology. An avid traveler and photographer, she has also written about pilgrimage, and her photographs have been published on several websites. She is a PhD graduate of the Divinity School, an alumna of the Disciples Divinity House, and an MDiv graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. She serves on numerous boards and advisory panels, and she currently represents the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.

Executive Summary

This researc project explores glory as a theological resource for the enhancement of vulnerable life.

Its thesis, most broadly formulated, is that “glory,” when construed in relation to an account of vulnerability as susceptibility to devastation and to transformation, can inform the enhancement of life by shifting and expanding the narrative field in which vulnerable life is interpreted.

In its depiction of “vulnerable life,” the project intends to gesture particularly to human creatures, cultures, and societies, but without excluding other creatures, biological life, or, for that matter, landscapes and other fields that are created and/or altered by human power. Global susceptibility to endangerment and enhancement is the situation to which an interpretation of glory must relate and respond, as well as the situation in which glory may become manifest. An adequate consideration of glory should illumine and be illumined by vulnerable life rather than obscure or divert attention from it.

Without negating the importance of resilience in the face of global endangerments, glory points beyond resilience to the full capacity and integrity of vulnerable life. In contrast to flourishing, which can also suggest vulnerable life at the height of its powers, glory can simultaneously convey a background sense of ongoing susceptibility to damage. (For instance, a pear tastes “glorious” partly because its ripeness is fleeting.) Glory thus expands the narrative field in which vulnerable life is interpreted not only by signaling transformation, but also by keeping perishability and endangerment in view.