The Spring 2016 Meeting has now concluded. Thank you to all who participated in person and online. Free resources from the event are listed below, and more will be added as they become available.

29-3 Christianity Seminar

29-3 Seminar on God

From Independence to Interdependence
Mary Evelyn Tucker | Journey of the Universe

The Radical Call of the Kingdom of God
John D. Caputo | Does the Kingdom of God Need God?

Out-Homering Homer
Dennis R. MacDonald | Mythologizing Jesus

Theology Glossary

2016 APRL Award Recipients

Richard Kearney: A Healthy Atheist Moment

Program Overview

Public Lectures

Mary Evelyn Tucker

The Emerging Alliance of Religion and Ecology

We have discovered the ways in which galaxies and stars, planets and living organisms emerged within the vast drama of the universe. We’ve learned that the survival of species and entire ecosystems depend upon choices humans make. Against this backdrop, Mary Evelyn Tucker notes the promise of religion for ethical and spiritual transformation regarding ecological attitudes and practices. She calls for the world’s religious communities to recognize the implications of the growing ecological crisis. As part of her presentation, she will show and discuss the Emmy award-winning film, Journey of the Universe.

Journey of the Universe

The story begins at dawn on the historically rich Greek island of Samos. It takes viewers on an exhilarating trek through time and space and ends at the toll of midnight. Drawing on scientific discoveries—in astronomy, geology, biology, ecology, and biodiversity—to tell the epic story of human, cosmic, and Earth transformation, this hour-long award-winning film instills its audience with a sense of wonder at the mystery, complexity and connectivity that permeates the Earth and the universe.

Mary Evelyn Tucker (Ph.D., Columbia University), writer (with Brian Swimme) and executive producer (with John Grim) of the Emmy Award-winning documentary Journey of the Universe (2011), is co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University where she teaches in the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Divinity School. The organizer, with John Grim, of a series of conferences on World Religions and Ecology at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard, she is author of Worldly Wonder (2003), co-author of Ecology and Religion (2014), and editor of many more books on religion and ecology.
Wednesday, 9 am–3:30 pm

John D. Caputo

Does the Kingdom of God Need God?

The name of God is not that of a supreme being. It is instead the name of something unconditional without power, of a powerless power—a weak force with no army to back it up, like a kiss of peace rather than a sword. The kingdom of God is a kingdom without a royal monarch. Thus, the image of the Son of Man coming to judge the nations is, in theologian Paul Tillich’s words, half-blasphemous. The kingdom of God does not need God, but, according to Jack Caputo, this theological atheism does not spell the end of God’s kingdom; rather it dispels the misunderstanding of the gospel and preserves what is good about the good news. It opens the door to understanding the coming of the kingdom of God in terms other than power, and to understanding power—God’s power or anyone else’s—differently.

Photo of John D. Caputo

John D. Caputo (Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College) is the Watson Professor of Religion Emeritus at Syracuse University and the Cook Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Villanova University. A hybrid philosopher/ theologian who works in the area of radical theology, Caputo has spearheaded a notion he calls “weak theology,” which is set forth in his The Insistence of God (2013) and The Weakness of God (2006), winner of the American Academy of Religion award for excellence in constructive theology. He has recently published The Folly of God (Polebridge, 2015) and Hoping Against Hope (Fortress, 2015) and is currently working on A Pelican Guide to Hermeneutics for Penguin Press.

Thursday, 9–11:30 am

Dennis R. MacDonald

Mythologizing Jesus

The Case of the Anointing Woman

Scholars long have recognized that New Testament depictions of Jesus witness to a creative explosion of stories about him. Few interpreters, however, have recognized that many, if not most, of these stories have analogies in classical Greek literature, especially in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The story of the woman who anointed Jesus at Bethany, for example, imitates book 19 of the Odyssey. According to Dennis MacDonald, the implications are profound. First, Mark apparently did not inherit the anointing tale from tradition but created it to rival Homer. Second, parallels to the story in Luke and John do not represent an independent tradition. Third and most significantly, this analysis suggests that the evangelist expected his readers to be sufficiently familiar with the Odyssey to detect the imitation.

Dennis R. MacDonald (Ph.D., Harvard University) retired as John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Claremont School of Theology where he now serves as a Research Professor. The former director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at Claremont Graduate University, he also served as visiting scholar at Harvard Divinity School and at Union Theological Seminary. MacDonald has appeared on A&E, PBS and the History Channel. He is the author of many books, including The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (2000), The Gospels and Homer (2014), Mythologizing Jesus (2015), and How Did Mark Know about Jesus? (forthcoming).

Thursday, 1–3:30 pm

An Interview with Burton Mack

A charter member of the Jesus Seminar and mentor of many Westar Fellows and Society of Biblical Literature leaders, Burton Mack is widely recognized for his work on Christian origins. His concept of myth-making, for instance, re-invigorated critical thinking about the gospels and Paul. His idea of “social experimentation” broke open first-century texts as products of societal imagination, rather than historical record. Mack’s innovative scholarship profoundly influenced the thinking of the Jesus Seminar during its early years.

Known for his thoughtful conversational style and acerbic wit, Burton Mack promises a warm chuckle, a fearless search for insight, and equal parts suspicion and fascination with first-century literature. Since his retirement, he has focused on how the Christian myth is re-enacted in contemporary American nationhood. Ever wary of the mix, his latest books explore ways beyond this poisonous combination.

Burton Mack (Ph.D., University of Göttingen) is John Wesley Professor emeritus in early Christianity at the Claremont School of Theology. He is the author of eleven books, including A Myth of Innocence (1988), The Lost Gospel (1993), Who Wrote the New Testament (1996), Christian Mentality (2014), and Myth and the Christian Nation (2014).

Friday, 7:30–9 pm

Academic Seminars

Christianity Seminar

Cultural Construction and Reconfiguration of Family

Culture wars are not a modern phenomenon. They are attested throughout history. At Westar’s Spring 2016 meeting, Fellows of the Christianity Seminar will explore creative, contentious, and regressive first- and second-century clashes over the meaning of family, including:

  • Jesus’ attack on family bonding
    e.g., Mark 3:35—“The ones who do the will of God are my brother and sister and mother.”
  • post-Pauline support for patriarchal family codes
    e.g., Eph 5:23—“The husband is the head of the wife …”
  • fictive families of so-called house churches
    e.g., Acts 2:44, 46— “They held all things in common … and broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.”
  • women leading all kinds of supper clubs
    e.g., 1 Cor 1:11—“It has been reported to me by Chloe’s group …”
  • audacious men and women leaping into celibacy
    e.g., Acts of Paul & Thecla 5:2—“Blessed are those who observe purity in the flesh, for they will become a temple of God.”

2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
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Christianity Seminar

Presiders: Philip Harland and Hal Taussig

Hal Taussig
Union Theological Seminary
Introduction to Constructions of Family Topic
Lillian Larsen
University of Redlands
Re-defining Monastic ‘Solitude’: Fictive (and/or Factual) Family?
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
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Christianity Seminar (continued)

Presiders: Jason BeDuhn and Chris Shea

Dennis E. Smith
Phillips Theological Seminary
In the Beginning Was the House

The Promise of Paul after the Death of God

Today’s Radical Theology movement owes a debt to the 1960s Death of God movement, which both liberated theology from narrow-minded debates about the literal existence of a supernatural being and bridged the traditionally theist-atheist divide between theologians and philosophers. What may be surprising to many, however, is that the themes and concerns that arose after the death of God share common elements with themes and concerns of the Apostle Paul—not the Paul of traditional church lore but a new Paul who is emerging in light of recent scholarship. In ancient times, Paul heard the call of a God that was bigger than he had ever imagined. In modern times, following the disappearance of the God made small in light of science, only the God who persists can promise a meaningful future. At its Spring 2016 session, with the help of guest scholars Bernard Brandon Scott of Phillips Theological Seminary and Richard Kearney of Boston University, the Seminar on God and the Human Future will explore the new possibilities raised by this exciting connection.

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM
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God and the Human Future

Presiders: John D. Caputo and Jeffrey Robbins

Discussion of Richard Kearney
Boston College
The Question of God
Respondent: Namsoon Kang
Brite Divinity School
Sarah Morice Brubaker
Phillips Theological Seminary
Paul, Augustine, and the Problem of Overconfidence
11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
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God and the Human Future (continued)

Presiders: John D. Caputo and Jeffrey Robbins

Discussion of Richard Kearney
Boston College
Anatheism and the Re-imagined Sacred
Respondent I: Jeffrey Robbins
Lebanon Valley College
Respondent II: Bernard Brandon Scott
Phillips Theological Seminary

Seminar Papers

The Seminar Papers, which will become available in March, are the basis for the discussions in the Friday and Saturday sessions. They will not be presented orally at the event. Persons wishing to follow the discussions should read the papers in advance.

Electronic copies of the Seminar Papers are available to the public and will be posted when they come available, usually 2 to 3 weeks prior to the event. Hard copies of the papers will be available at a cost of $25 each.

Read online
Order hard copies of seminar papers

Polebridge Authors & Books

New and recent Polebridge authors will appear at these free afternoon book talks. Presenters and books TBA. Includes book signing.

Thursday, 4–5 pm
Free event

Young Leaders in Religion

Helping clergy and other leaders ages 20 to 45 to translate and transform religion scholarship into meaningful forms for their communities

Westar Institute is forming a new Young Leaders in Religion Forum. If you are between the ages of 20 and 45, and are a trained religious leader in church, arts, chaplaincy, non-profit, social advocacy, new faith community or social service work, we invite you to join this new solidarity network, which launched at Westar’s national meeting in Santa Rosa, March 18–21, 2015. At that time participants came together to raise and address issues, challenges, and goals, and to identify leaders to help shape the future of Young Leaders in Religion at Westar. The Spring 2016 Meeting will continue that important work.

Westar is actively seeking interested members for this new forum. If you feel you or someone you know would be a good candidate for this program, please contact academic director David Galston for more information: [email protected]

Young Leaders in Religion should not use the regular registration form to sign up for the Spring 2016 forum. Please await instructions from the Young Leaders in Religion program committee.


8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
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Alexander Room

Registration and Exhibits

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
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Presider: Jarmo Tarkki

Mary Evelyn Tucker
Yale University
The Emerging Alliance of Religion and Ecology
Film Screening
Journey of the Universe
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
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Garden Room

Young Leaders in Religion

Visioning Session I

Presider: Stephen Tickner

Registration & Fees

Lectures and seminars take place in the Flamingo Ballroom. Westar Institute registration and the Polebridge Press bookstore will be located in the Alexander Room, across the lobby from the hotel registration desk.

Not a Westar member? You can add a Westar membership ($50) to your registration and register at the member price. Westar members receive a subscription to The Fourth R magazine (6 issues annually), discounts on national meeting registration, and 20% off Polebridge books & media. Learn more.

Option 1—Bundled Sessions
Includes reception, banquet & electronic seminar papers*

Wednesday – Saturday Registration Options            MembersNon-members
Registration (after Feb 17, members save $50)$340$370
Thursday evening – Saturday Registration OptionsMembersNon-members
Registration (after Feb 17, members save $35)$225$245

Option 2—Single Sessions

Wednesday session with Tucker$65$70
Wednesday authors & booksFreeFree
Thursday sessions with Caputo and MacDonald$65$70
Thursday morning session with Caputo only$35$40
Thursday afternoon session with MacDonald only$35$40
Thursday authors & booksFreeFree
Thursday reception ticket$40$40
Friday academic seminars$65$70
Friday evening interview with Burton Mack$20$20
Saturday academic seminars$65$70
Saturday banquet ticket$55$55
Hardcopy of seminar papers$25$25

Refunds are available if requested in writing by March 2 minus a $40 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.

Seminar Papers, which will become available in March, are the basis for the discussions in the Friday and Saturday sessions. They will not be presented orally at the event. Persons wishing to follow the discussions should read the papers in advance. Electronic copies of the Seminar Papers are included with registration. Hard copies of the papers will be available at a cost of $25 each.

Order hard copies of seminar papers

Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available on request. Attendance at Westar events qualifies for CEUs for clergy and other educators. Full attendance at Westar’s national meetings earns 2 CEUs (.5 per day). Please notify us of your interest when you register, or fill out the CEU request form. During the event, applicants will be asked to check in with a Westar staff member each day on arrival and departure. A certificate will be sent immediately following the event. Please call (651) 200-2372 with any questions.


Polebridge Press Bookstore
Polebridge Press, the publishing imprint of Westar Institute, publishes up-to-date reference works for biblical scholars, primarily in support of research on the origins of Christianity and the historical Jesus; scholarly books produced by Westar seminars, research projects, and by individual scholars; and books and periodicals that disseminate the results of critical scholarship on religion to the public. The national meeting bookstore offers Polebridge books and books by featured speakers at a 20% discount to attendees.

The bookstore is open every day of the conference before, during and following sessions.

Westar national meetings are more than the sessions themselves; Westar is a community of people who enjoy candid, intellectually honest conversations about religion in general and Christianity in particular. The Garden Room is made available each day for casual conversation with other attendees over complimentary drinks and snacks. Usually the Garden Room is available between sessions and hospitality is offered after sessions.

Local Restaurants & Sightseeing
Santa Rosa is a blend of wine country, farms, redwood forests and ocean views. Local museums and features include the Charles Schulz Museum,Safari West wildlife park, and Pacific Coast Air Museum. The 800-acre Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is located 45 minutes outside Santa Rosa. Visitors interested in ocean views, seafood, and coastal hikes can drive to Jenner or Bodega Bay in approximately 40–45 minutes.

No visit to Santa Rosa is complete without enjoying local award-winning wines. Visit the Santa Rosa Convention & Visitors Bureau restaurants page and Taste Santa Rosa for more information on local dining options.

Hotel & Travel Information

All events will take place at:

The Flamingo Resort Hotel
2777 Fourth Street
Santa Rosa, California 95405

Lectures and seminars take place in the Flamingo Ballroom. Westar Institute registration and the Polebridge Press bookstore will be located in the Alexander Room, across the lobby from the hotel registration desk.

The convention room rate at the Flamingo is $129 single or double occupancy, plus tax. For reservations, call 800-848-8300/707-545-8530 or visit the Flamingo website. A block of rooms will be held until February 15 at which time they will be released for sale to the general public. Book early to ensure a room. Reservations will be on a space available basis at the group rate. To reserve rooms at the convention room rate beyond the meeting dates (3/15/2016 to 3/20/2016), call the hotel directly rather than using the online link.


By air

Alaska Airlines provides nonstop service to the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa (STS) from Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Santa Rosa is also served by San Francisco (SFO) and Oakland (OAK) airports.

The Airport Express provides service from SFO and OAK to Santa Rosa. Travel time is about two hours. The fare is currently $34 one-way with a $2 discount for seniors (62+), military, and students. The new Santa Rosa drop-off point is located 1.8 miles from the Flamingo at the Veterans Memorial building. From there you must get a cab.

Currently buses depart San Francisco airport every hour, on the half-hour, from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Airport buses pick up on the Lower Level (outside Baggage Claim area) in the center island at the pillars marked “Airporters.”

Buses depart Oakland airport every two hours, on the half hour, from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Buses pick up out- side the Baggage Claim area, at the Ground Transportation Center platform marked “4D Scheduled Buses.”

Airport bus schedules change frequently. To be sure of up-to-date schedules and fares, for maps, and to get online discounts, visit or call toll free at 800-327-2024.

By car

The Flamingo Hotel is located at the corner of 4th Street and Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa, approximately 55 miles north of San Francisco.

Take Hwy 101 North to Santa Rosa
Exit Hwy 12 (East toward Sonoma)
Stay on Hwy 12 (which joins Farmers Lane) to 4th Street