Varieties of Personal Theology : Charting the Beliefs and Values of American Young Adults book cover
1st Edition

Varieties of Personal Theology
Charting the Beliefs and Values of American Young Adults

ISBN 9781138277199
Published November 28, 2016 by Routledge
360 Pages

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Book Description

Varieties of Personal Theology starts from the premise that all human beings are folk theologians, active not only in constructing selves but also in constructing worlds and guiding philosophies of life.Through fascinating indepth interviews and surveys, David Gortner looks specifically at 'emerging adults' (aged 18-25) as young theologians who, regardless of religious background, wrestle with fundamental questions of place, purpose, ultimate cause, and ultimate aims in life. This book charts the subtle and significant influences of social class, family, school, work, peer relationships, religion, and intrinsic attitudes and dispositions on young adults' personal theologies, and traces the ways their personal theologies connect with choices they make in their daily lives - in education, jobs, leisure, and relationships. Intentionally crossing boundaries between religious and social science fields, Gortner combines perspectives from both to demonstrate how theological diversity persists in America despite some clear culturally dominant trends. This book reveals how American young adults are active theologians forging diverse ways of seeing and being in the world - shaped by their experiences and in turn continuing to shape their choices in life.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Mapping personal theologies; Methods for uncovering personal theologies; Interlude: an interview with Rebecca; Worldview: the troubles and wonders of the world; Theodicy: making sense of tragedies and traumas; Life purpose: belonging, place, and impact in the world; Ultimate values - to be what kind of person?; Developmental and social influences on young adult personal theologies; Interlude: young adults’ personal theologies and their everyday lives; Conclusions and implications; Appendices; Index.

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The Revd Dr David Gortner is the Director of the Doctor of Ministry programs at Virginia Theological Seminary and Professor of Evangelism and Congregational Studies. As a developmental and organizational psychologist, he has led interdisciplinary research projects in studies of young adult social development, new young adult religious movements, clergy and leadership effectiveness and religious community development at the University of Chicago and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. As a lay pastor and priest in the Episcopal Church,, he has served in churches, hospitals, and hospice and college settings, with a particular focus on early adulthood. He has served as professor of pastoral theology at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He is the author of Transforming Evangelism (Church Publishing 2007), Around One Table (CREDO Institute, 2009: web publication), and a series of articles on clergy leadership development.


’David Gortner provides us with a rare and valuable insight into the ways that young adults understand the world around them and their own place in it. Using qualitative and quantitative data he opens up a fascinating and complex subject in new ways, and creates a compelling argument for the importance of listening to the voices of the young adults themselves. An important book for those working with young adults in and outside the Church.’ Ellen Clark-King, Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, Canada ’This is a work of sociology, but much more. Gortner brings not only his expertise as a social scientist to his research, but his compassion and sensitivity as a priest and theologian. By the end of the book the young adults interviewed have come alive in your imagination. This is a must read for youth ministers and others who work with young adults, especially in this time of new evangelization.’ Stephen Bevans, SVD, Catholic Theological Union, USA '... a stimulating read with exciting ideas about the development of internal theologies for young adults. Professors of undergraduates, ministers, social scientists of religion, and all professionals who work with young adults would do well to familiarize themselves with the content of this text.' Religious Education ’...there is a great deal in these data and their interpretation that is extremely illuminating, and often surprising.’ Theology '... I now know better what to listen for when I encounter a young adult patient.' Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling 'I would expect to see Gortner referenced and in the bibliography of dissertations of students writing on the topic. It is an important book of scholastic research for students ...' Evangelical Quarterly Varieties of Personal Theologies offers one of the most complex and careful treatments of the beliefs and values of emergent adults. It integrates well an array of voices in theology and social sciences. Gortner complements the narratives of