Socratic Seminars

Sit around a table (or a Zoom call) and discuss fun, important texts

We employ a method of close-reading & discussion that has been used for centuries.

A Socratic Seminar is an intellectual discussion and a foretaste of college life. A facilitator guides the discussion without lecturing. Participants test and refine their ideas. Everyone is on a level playing field, engaging and deepening one another’s insights.

Socratic Seminars last between sixty and ninety minutes  and are held both online and in-person. The Newman Forum is happy to bring a Socratic Seminar to your youth group or classroom.  The Newman Forum will provide the curriculum and facilitate the discussion. Registration for online sessions will open soon, and are made available to students all around the world.

If you’re a teacher, youth minister, or other professional who works with high schoolers looking for a way to facilitate conversation among your teens using one of the below curriculum, email us at

Seminar Curriculum:

How NOT to Get Away with Murder

Are you tired of being quarantined in your house? Feel a little bit like you might kill your siblings? 

The book of Genesis is one of the most interesting and difficult books of the Bible. And there is so much more to it than meets the eye. How was a snake able to trick Eve? Why do Adam and Eve respond to God so suspiciously? And then there’s the Cain and Abel story…why on Earth does Cain jump to murdering his brother? What are we supposed to learn from this Scripture?

This seminar investigates these passages in the 3rd and 4th chapters of Genesis.  By reading the text closely and paying attention to what is and isn’t there, we will discover a whole new complexity to the relationship between God, the first four humans, and the snake.  Not only is God imminently just and merciful, but also as a very acute observer of human psychology!

Another Unexpected Journey with J.R.R. Tolkien

Hobbits and elves, humans and dwarves, trees with personality and the most famous ring of all time…. JRR Tolkien has taken generation after generation on countless fantastical journeys to far-off places, full of magic and mystery. What’s more, Tolkien has imbued his stories with the beauty of the Christian faith, through careful allegory and metaphor. 

In this seminar, we read and discuss one of Tolkien’s lesser-known stories, “Leaf by Niggle.” Like all of his works, Tolkien guides us into the mysteries of Christian faith through allegory and imagistic suggestion. These are the most enjoyable of stories, the ones that surprise us and leave us asking “what could that symbol mean?” During our time together, we unpack the layers of symbols in this short little story and wade into the picture of Christian faith Tolkien paints for us: How are we to spend our lives? How are we to treat our neighbors? What does it mean to prepare for a journey?

Answering Your Atheist Philosophy Professor

Could God make something that He couldn’t move? If God is perfect, why are humanity and the world so imperfect? 

In March of 2019, a San Diego State University professor of philosophy submitted an Opinion piece to the New York Times in which he claimed that God is an incoherent concept. The above are just some of the questions you will undoubtedly hear when you go off to college and encounter passionate, atheist philosophy professors like him for the first time. In fact, you might hear these questions already from peers or family members! What do we do about these arguments that seem so insurmountable?

The way to counter these arguments is much easier than you think. During this seminar, we read together the NYT article and discover how, just using our own common sense and the powers of close reading, what seem to be complex, undeniable proofs for the absurdity of God’s existence are actually easily toppled through the logic they themselves utilize. You don’t need a Bible, you don’t need a philosophy textbook, you don’t need a college degree: You just need the mind you already have

Is Hell Real? Is it Crowded?

Is Hitler in Hell? Is Judas? Is everyone saved? Why would a merciful God allow humans to suffer eternal damnation? 

In this seminar, we lean on the wisdom of one of our favorites: Bishop Robert Barron. Relying on his piece, “Is Hell Crowded or Empty?” we’ll come together to discuss the three accounts of Hell that he traces through history, as well as other common representations of Hell in literature. From Augustine and Aquinas, to Barth and Balthasar, the reality of Hell is rooted in Scripture and the words of Christ Himself, and yet is still hotly debated (pun intended). By the end of our time together, students will be able to respond to the most common dialogues around what Hell is like, and have a working familiarity with the most salient representations of Hell in the media we consume. 

With more to come: We’re adding new curriculum all the time. Check back soon for more!

Have an idea for a seminar? Want to host a group? Tell us below:


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Jane Done

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Jane Doe