Faculty: In Their Own Words - Dr. Karl Koop
Dr. Karl Koop, Professor of History and Theology and Director of the Graduate School of Theology and Ministry, has taught at CMU full-time since 2002.
What do you love about your work here?
Having great colleagues who you can connect with, learn from, challenge, and even disagree with is what you want at a university. I didn't choose the people I work with, but I get to work with great people at CMU. Of course, at the center of the university are the students, who energize and even teach us, the faculty. The classroom is a place where all receive an education. Students inspire me and contribute ideas that I wouldn't think of on my own—their perspectives are life-giving. The kind of students we have at CMU are a privilege and blessing to work with, to mentor, and with whom to develop friendships.
What are you teaching right now that you're most excited about?
My favorite course to teach is Systematic Theology. I've taught this graduate course for many years, but it always has a different class dynamic. We discuss basic issues around faith and Christianity from sin and salvation, to teachings and understandings of the Trinity, to Christianity and its relationship to other world religions. This current group is particularly dynamic, diverse, and interesting—the students are learning as much from each other as they are learning from me. The classroom conversations are always very fruitful.
What are you researching and writing?
I have a big passion for Dutch Anabaptism. I recently read an essay titled The Way to the City of Peace written in 1625. The essay was written by a Mennonite during a time of great conflict, specifically the 30 Years War. I describe the essay as a "breath of fresh air" because somebody, for once, is writing about toleration, the way to the city of peace and what it means to be a Christian. This is also a very overlooked essay that doesn't get a lot of attention. Yet, this nearly 400-year-old essay is relevant to our time, in that politicians are not talking positively about each other and there is still conflict going on.
What are you reading for enjoyment?
I read all kinds of stuff during the summer, but right now I haven't been reading a lot for fun. Most recently, however, I read a biography of Menno Simons that's written in Dutch and reading it is helping me learn the language—I guess you could say I have a passion for Dutch Anabaptism and for learning the language, too! The essay I'm reading now on was also originally written in Dutch, so it's helping me through the Menno Simons biography.
What saying or motto inspires you?
I don't think I have one motto, but there are a few that I think of at different points of reflection. "Tenacity is the key" is a phrase that was written into a book I received from my director after graduating with my PhD. This was my director's motto and I have since taken it on. As I get older, I also find it's important to "take time to smell the flowers" and get some perspective on life—it's not all about running hard, but slowing down to connect with others and celebrate experiences and accomplishments.