Fall 2014 Course Descriptions

RELI 110 Hebrew Bible (Dr. Starbuck)

A study of the key theological claims of the Hebrew Bible, especially as they intersect and inform relational, ethical, psychological, and theological issues of modern life.  Students intelligently read the texts of the Hebrew Bible with a view to the wider comparative cultural context of the ancient Near East in which they were composed and critically engage the texts as interpretive partners searching out the deeper issues of human existence, power, hope, and purpose.


RELI 120 New Testament (Dr. McCruden)

The canonical New Testament comprises an anthology of early Christian literature composed over roughly a seventy-year time period (50-120 CE).  This stage in formative Christianity witnessed the transformation of the early Jesus groups from a Jewish reform movement centered in ancient Palestine to a predominantly Gentile movement spread throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.  Our goal in this course will be to examine and interpret a representative selection of texts from the New Testament in a manner that does justice both to the world behind the text (the social/historical dimension) and the world in front of the text (the theological dimension). 


RELI 120 New Testament (Prof. V. Mudd)

This course is an introduction to the Gospels and selected epistles of the New Testament through exploration of the authors, their religious and philosophical traditions as well as their socio-political contexts.  Our investigation will be guided by the following questions: Where/when did these writings
come from?
  Who wrote them and why?  What messages are conveyed? How do the writings
mutually inform each other?  

Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to:  (1) demonstrate a basic knowledge of
the discrete contents of the New Testament; (2) employ biblical critical skills through exegetical
essay writing; (3) participate in a respectful and informed dialogue about Christian sacred texts
and the origins of Christianity in Judaism.


Religion 120 New Testament (Prof. V. Thompson)

In order to occasion fruitful engagement with the text and discourse among readers, this course is designed to uncover the religious power of the New Testament as the Word of God. The aim of the course is served by cultivating an understanding of, as well as the facility to navigate, the literary, rhetorical, theological, and historical dimensions of the New Testament materials. 

From the standpoint of the various critical perspectives the course will examine selected readings, representative of the various materials that comprise the collection. Our purpose is twofold: 1) Methodologically our aim is (a) to familiarize students with the various materials which comprise the New Testament and (b) to cultivate more knowledgeable and sophisticated readers and discourse partners. 2) Substantively our aim is to expand student understanding and engagement with the New Testament treatment of two crucial theological questions: (a) What does it mean to be human? (b) Who is God and how does God interact with creation, and to what end? 


RELI 124 Life & Teachings of Jesus: Synoptic Gospels (Dr. Bartholomew)

Images of Jesus have played a significant role in American culture over the course of our short history. A stream of books by scholars reflects the search for a meaningful Jesus. How do we read the New Testament Gospels themselves for the images of Jesus that emerge there? What is the nature and character of those narratives? What must we know about the cultural context of the Evangelists to hear them as their original audiences may have? How can academic study of the Gospels equip us to be participants in the ongoing question for a meaningful Jesus in our own culture?


RELI 200 Religion and Human Experience (Dr. J. K. Downey)

We will explore some of the basic experiences, concepts, and challenges involved in being religious. But the course is not a catalogue of answers or a list of musty generalizations. It is an honest intellectual inquiry into the possibility of being intelligent and religious. This course is an introduction to the limits, rules, and standards of evidence particular to the community of academic inquirers. The course proceeds by taking seriously some of the various intellectual and experiential crises confronting the religious person.  Many of the examples will come from the Christian religion, but issues are selected so as to be applicable to several of the world’s religions. Areas examined include the interplay of religion and culture, religion and the intellectual life, the conflict of literary-historical criticism and biblical authority, religion and science, human suffering, gender, and the new political theology. The point of this course is not to agree with each of the theologians we study but by entering their scholarly discussions to develop an intellectual pattern for judging religious claims ourselves. Students are encouraged to become comfortable thinking about religion.


RELI 210 Christian Doctrine (Dr. J. Mudd)

Christian doctrines propose answers to fundamental questions raised by the Christian story, questions like:  Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is sin? What is grace? What is the Holy Spirit? What is the church? Answering these questions raises further questions like: How do Christians make sense of faith in various historical and cultural contexts?  Do beliefs change over time? What is the relationship between faith and reason? Does modern science contradict faith? What is the purpose of believing today? This course engages these questions by introducing students to the sources and methods Christians use to answer fundamental questions. Perhaps most importantly, the course encourages students to attend to their own questions about the meaning and purpose of life as they learn how Christians ask and answer similar questions. This course, therefore, offers an introduction to the academic discipline of Christian theology and the way in which the Christian community makes believing possible and meaningful for contemporary people of faith.


RELI 215 Christian Diversity (Dr. Milos)

This course introduces students to the diversity of beliefs, spiritualities, practices and histories of selected Christian traditions. We explore the following branches of Christianity: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Reformation, Evangelical and Free churches. After an initial introduction to some foundational concepts and background, we will approach the traditions from the following perspectives: history and development; significant doctrinal emphases; key elements of their spirituality and worship. We will then examine two major cultural expressions of Christianity in the United States: the Black Church and the Hispanic Christianity in the U.S. The final segment of the course will examine the development and impact of the ecumenical movement as it has affected relations among Christian churches during the past century.


RELI 220 Catholicism (Dr. K. Heller)

This course introduces students to Catholoicism by providing an overview of its basic content and an understanding of its central message. Consideration is given to its origins, historical context, and central themes such as nature, doctrine and life of the Church. This course is taught from an ecumenical perspective. Catholicism and the Roman Catholic Church are deeply connected, but do not necessarily overlap. The course explores these subtle relationships.


RELI 221 African Catholicism (Dr. Baraza)

Africa is a diverse and large continent with different regions, mottled histories and cultures. The African Catholicism course will provide an introduction to the history and ethnography of pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial African societies. The course will then highlight the varied nature of the Catholic tradition as it takes shape within particular cultural and historical contexts. “Ubuntu”, an African philosophy which holds that a person is a person because of other persons will be highlighted. The course will then conclude by reflecting upon whether Catholicism can be understood cross-culturally as a tradition of religious practice and inquiry by various cultures.


RELI 332 Christian Marriage (Prof. K. Finley)

In Christian Marriage we explore what skills are needed for a successful marriage, including a healthy sense of self-esteem, an understanding of what love and intimacy is and isn't, clarity about what maturity and qualities are needed for marriage, an appreciation of one's family background, the ability to communicate effectively, an awareness of gender roles, a comfort level with one's own sexuality and communicating about it, the ability to handle money issues well, an appreciation of one's own spirituality, being open to having children, and appreciating marriage as a process and a commitment to grow and change.  We also explore marriage and scripture, the history of the church's attitudes toward marriage and the importance of the family seen as the domestic church, the beginnings of the experience of faith.

Upon completing this course, students should be able to understand the implications of marriage understood as a process rather than as a static reality, reflect on various areas within the theology and spirituality of marriage, such as intimacy, sexuality and fidelity and to critique current portrayals of these topics in the media, to explain why the Catholic traditions considers marriage a sacrament and to comment on the evolution of the Church's understanding of marriage.  They also should be able to explain the idea of the family as the domestic church and some of its implications.


RELI 343 Christian Leadership (Dr. McKenzie)
What does it mean to be a Christian or moral leader in today’s world?  This course will introduce students to the foundations of Christian leadership through study and reflection on current leadership theory, scripture, and tradition.  Informed by lectures, contemporary literature, media and art, students will participate in a Socratic seminar classroom process-- a collaborative intellectual dialogue on the texts and topics.   Through exploration of the moral dimensions of leadership and the Christian understanding of leadership, students will develop a personal definition of leadership in a Christian/moral context.


RELI 350 Interreligious Dialogue (Dr. Dunn)

This course investigates the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism around the globe. We will use materials ranging from autobiography, fiction, speeches and essays, film, and sociological analysis in order to trace patterns among Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim communities. We will examine issues of moral responsibility involving not only religious violence and conflict, but also some of the ongoing moral problems created by Western imperialism and exploitative capitalism.


RELI 350 Interreligious Dialogue (Dr. Sheveland)

In this age of religious encounter, can religious traditions function as sources of peacemaking and solidarity even as they frequently contribute to violence? This course focuses attention on (1) the significance and challenge of religious diversity, (2) the challenge posed to all by fundamentalist and militant believers across a variety of traditions, and (3) whether select Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Buddhist resources offer alternative paths beyond violence toward solidarity and conflict prevention. The course stresses the role of students in reasoning their way toward a determination on this question.

RELI 354 Islamic Civilization (Dr. Patrick Baraza)

At a time when Islam has a bad press among outsiders and is the subject of considerable contention among its adherents, this course seeks to provide an “empathetic” introduction to the tradition as a whole, balancing the insiders’ and outsiders’ views, the diversity and the unity of the tradition, the historical and the contemporary, and the political/social and the more strictly religious. At all points, though, an effort is made to indicate the current relevance of the material.


RELI 361 Liturgy (Dr. J. Mudd)

Contemporary people have many questions about the meaning and purpose of Christian ritual: Why go to church? What is the purpose of sacraments? What happens at worship? Isn’t this just a bunch of ‘hocus pocus’? Public Christian worship, or liturgy, retells the Christian story in rituals and symbols: words, gestures, songs of praise, and a shared meal. For many the liturgy, connects the contemporary Christian community to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in such a way that Christ is really present, especially in the shared meal, or Eucharist. This course explores the ritual life of the Christian tradition, including the roots and contemporary manifestations of celebration, ritual, and symbol.  We examine the various symbols, art, architecture, and music that shape the experience of worship in different historical periods and across different cultures, as well as theologies of liturgy.


RELI 390.01 Francis of Assisi: Story and Memory (Dr. J. K. Downey)

In this course I want to investigate the challenge of Francis of Assisi. Francis of Assisi (born in 1181) was a critic of his society and his religion. He was searching for values and meaning in a time when people were confused about how to deal with money, tired of violent conflict, and unsure of their shifting personal identity. We’ll find the real Francis in the oldest texts and art and then ask what he might say to us today.


RELI 390.02 Religion and Violence (Dr. John Sheveland)

This course investigates various forms of violence and consults multiple religious traditions and sacred texts as resources for diagnosing human weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as for carving out alternative, salutary prescriptions of life with others. The course stresses the role of students’ own critical thinking and in coming to their own determination on controversial questions concerning religious militancy, the so-called new atheism, sexual and domestic violence, and the value of a comparative religious and interdisciplinary approach to these questions.


RELI 390.03 Spirituality of Paul (Dr. McCruden)

As the self-designated Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul of Tarsus played a critical role in translating for a predominantly non-Jewish audience the early Christian proclamation concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus.  What motivated Paul to engage in such a mission?  And what were the defining characteristics of the message that Paul brought to the communities that he founded in the major cities of the ancient Mediterranean world?  Possible answers to these and other questions will be sought through an investigation of the spirituality of Paul.  By Paul’s spirituality we refer essentially to two things: 1) the root religious sensibilities of Paul that were dramatically shaped both by his Jewish heritage and faith experience in the risen Jesus; and 2) Paul’s experience of the cosmic significance of the Christ event and the concrete ways in which he envisioned this experience to be embodied in actual living practice.


492A Judiasm Religion (Dr. Goldstein)

Judaism is as much related to the concepts of “peoplehood” and cultural expression as it is related to a religion.  To fully understand this set of ideas, we have to explore lived Jewish experience in history, and the ways in which Jews live today.  In this course, we will combine a study of the fundamentals of Jewish religion, its concepts, laws, liturgical expressions, and sacred texts, with a study of the multiple ways Jewish people express their identities.


RELI 496A Classical Hebrew 1 (Dr. Goldstein)

Lost in Translation? Learn the fundamentals of Biblical Hebrew and acquire the skills to read and translate the Hebrew Bible, in part, before the end of one semester.