Help us to meet the Challenge

Upcoming Events

Image for Super JSOR in Auburn
Click for Upcoming JSORs


Photo of Martin Luther the Man
Painting of Apollo and Daphne by Andrea Schiavone


New Executive Assistant

Alexis Waggoner hired as new Westar Executive Assistant for marketing and events

Photo of Alexis WaggonerWestar Institute is pleased to announce the successful conclusion of its recent hiring process. Alexis Waggoner has been hired as the Westar Executive Assistant with special emphasis on marketing and events management. Alexis holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. She brings to Westar a strong background in Marketing and Television production, and experience as a minister of religious education and adjunct religion professor. Her job will include working closely with Westar’s new Marketing Committee both in an advisory and leadership role. She will work closely with Westar’s Executive Director to advance the presence and value of Westar in our culture through the effective use of social media and the use of media in public education.

Fall National Meeting

November 17-21, 2017
Boston, Massachusetts

Westar’s Fall 2017 national meeting will take place in Boston, Massachusetts, in conjunction with the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). This is the largest event of the year in the fields of biblical studies and theology, with over 1,200 sessions and workshops and one of the world’s largest exhibits of books and digital resources for religious studies.

The Fall 2017 national meeting will be organized differently this year. Westar’s two academic seminars will meet concurrently on the day before, that is, on Friday, November 17th. Westar will also host several community events. Learn more

For more information on the AAR/SBL annual meeting, please click here
To register with the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), please click here

Donor Gift for Video Projects

Westar is pleased to announce that it has received an anonymous gift of more than $300,000 designated for a series of professionally made videos to promote its mission. The project, which is already begun and is slated for completion in mid-2017, will include a 15-minute video to introduce Westar to new audiences, as well as a 12-part series of brief clips for sharing on social media. Together they will tell the human story of why religious literacy matters and explore Westar’s role—past, present, and future—in that story. Westar will shortly begin leveraging this exciting gift into a challenge campaign to raise funds for operating expenses.

The videos are being produced by Butlerfilms, a documentary and multimedia production company that has successfully developed and produced factual entertainment on a wide array of topics from historical to current events. These include Journey of the Universe, a PBS film produced for the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, that was shown at the Westar 2016 Spring meeting. The total cost for Westar’s video project will be covered entirely by the donor.

As Westar expands its programs and reach, delving into new subjects and reaching new communities, its staff and operating budget are under pressure. We will soon be reaching out to members to increase giving over the coming year to enhance our use of this tremendous gift. You will hear more from us soon, and thank you in advance for your support.


Rethinking Martyrdom

By Carly Daniel-Hughes

In the spring of 2015, the Christianity Seminar turned its attention to martyrdom. The Seminar’s goal is to reimagine the history of the first two centuries of Christ groups in order to do justice to the complexity and diversity of our sources. We aim to complicate the notion of a transcendent (already present, even if faintly) Christian orthodoxy in these earliest centuries. It is critical, for instance, that the architects of orthodoxy, like Eusebius of Caesarea, had much at stake in representing the church as a community of martyrs whose suffering...  Continue reading

The Fourth R Magazine

The Church’s Gospel and the Idiom of Jesus

By Charles W. Hedrick

The popular assumption is that the faith and teaching of the church are rooted in the faith and teaching of Jesus. This idea, however, proves completely unfounded when one checks the data. The truth is that there is a dichotomy between Jesus and the church. While the church may name Jesus as its founder, what it preaches and what Jesus had to say are very different. According to Günther Bornkamm, a student of Rudolf Bultmann, an ugly gap exists between Jesus of Nazareth and the church founded in his name. Continue reading

A Venerable New Church

By Lloyd Geering

How the world has changed in 175 years! For our forebears in 1840, the Christian view of the world and of human history seemed wholly assured. ... All Christians shared this conviction and it gave them the confidence to launch out upon the greatest century of Christian expansion, for it was around 1800 that the great missionary societies were founded. They were so energetic that by 1900 they had adopted as their slogan, "The evangelisation of the world in this generation." This in turn gave rise after 1940 to the Ecumenical movement. Many of us then hoped it would not be long before there was one great global church.

How different it all is today!  Continue reading

The Story of Thecla

By Perry V. Kea

The Acts of Paul and Thecla is a mid-to late-second century document. Set in the first century CE and connected to Paul, it tells the story of Thecla, a young woman engaged to be married who becomes one of Paul’s disciples. In order to be a true disciple, Thecla chooses a life of celibacy, a choice that puts her life at risk. However, whenever her life is threatened, God protects her, and she thus survives two attempts on her life. At the end of the story, Thecla becomes an evangelist. This story of Thecla provides a fascinating glimpse into an early Christian tradition that elevated the virtue of celibacy and honored female leadership.  Continue reading

Did Martin Luther Get It All Wrong about Faith in Christ?

By William O. Walker, Jr.

The debate hinges upon the translation of a simple two-word Greek phrase: pistis Christou. In short, if the Christou in pistis Christou is an objective genitive (“faith in Christ”), then Luther was right and Protestant theology since Luther has generally been on the right track so far as this issue is concerned. If, however, the Christou in pistis Christou is a subjective genitive (“the faith/faithfulness of Christ”), then Luther got it all wrong, and Protestant theology since Luther has generally been on the wrong track.  Continue reading

Gladiators and Martyrs

By Susan M. Elliott

How did prisoners who were publicly executed in horrifying and degrading ways become icons of Christian heroism, “The Martyrs” celebrated in song and story? While Christian culture now takes the martyrs’ heroic status for granted, the process by which they were transformed from objects of derision to icons of Christian heroism remains a paradox. To understand this paradox, we need to understand how another despised figure in the Roman arena became an emblem of Roman heroism: the gladiator. Continue reading

Active Seminars

Christianity Seminar

Begun in 2013, the Christianity Seminar aims to rewrite the history of early Christianity. The scholars of the seminar have broken through to new understandings of many disparate movements in the first four centuries of the Common Era. As the Seminar enters the second half of its first decade, these historians of religion are poised to write their first major book for the public on the first two centuries.

Seminar on God and the Human Future

The academic Seminar on God and the Human Future began its work in 2013. Inspired by the pioneering research and public notice of the Jesus Seminar, it has sought to attract a new generation of scholars to the mission and ongoing work of the Westar Institute. In a short time it has attracted over thirty participating Research Fellows who together are exploring new ways and new images for thinking about God in a post-theistic context.

Polebridge Press

Cover photo of Spring 2017 Catalog for Polebridge Press
Book cover for Some Surprises from the Apostle Paul

“Anyone interested in Paul will profit by the author’s carefully crafted and well-written exploration of Paul’s letters…”
—David E. Aune, University of Notre Dame

“A thoughtfully and beautifully laid out volume...”
—Dennis R. MacDonald, Claremont School of Theology

“This ground-breaking study of Paul’s polemics cannot be overlooked...”
—Magnus Zetterholm, Lund University

“... My ‘must have book’ for 2016.”
—Rex A. E. Hunt, Common Dreams Australia

Book Cover for Gods Human Future by David Galston

“This is a wise book, don’t pass it up.”
—John D. Caputo, Syracuse University

Spring Meeting Resources

CD cover for Lecture about The Rape of Eve
CD cover for lecture about Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy
CD cover for Lecture of Luther for the Future
CD cover for Reformation Panel discussion