Spring 2014 Course Descriptions
RELI 110.03, 110.04, 110.05, 110.06
The Hebrew Bible
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.
Religion 120.03, 120.04, 120.07, 120.08
Introduction to the 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 120.11, 120.12
Introduction to the 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.
RELI 124.01, 124.02
Life and Teachings of Jesus: Synoptic Gospels
Who was/is Jesus? The myriad answers to this question are diverse and wide ranging. Was he a religious reformer? Political revolutionary? Mystic? Prophet? Messiah? Wise sage? Miracle worker? God’s son? Like a Rorschach test, such answers often reveal as much (or more) about the person giving them as they do about Jesus. The quest to understand Jesus has persisted for 2,000 years, and has found expression in faith communities, academic circles, and art (painting, music, literature, and film). Who was/is Jesus? What are the implications of Jesus' life and teachings for our contemporary world? This course explores these questions by examining, in an academic context, the life, activity, and teachings of Jesus as presented in the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in the New Testament.
RELI 200.01, 200.02
Religion and Human Experience
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 205.02, 205.03, 205.05
History and Teachings of Christianity
This course is designed to give students of all religious backgrounds (or none) an introductory knowledge of how Christianity has grown from its beginnings to the present day. Two-thousand years of the history of an extroverted movement that has penetrated every inhabited continent and claims billions of adherents is a tough thing to cover in a bare sixteen weeks, so our survey will be focused. We will accomplish that focus by exploring a working definition for Christianity: that it is a movement for translating the claims of the Church about Jesus across cultural lines, looking especially at its "Western" cultural trajectory as a case study.
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. Wel approach the traditions from the following perspectives: history and development; significant doctrinal emphases; key elements of their spirituality and worship. We also examine two major cultural expressions of Christianity in the United States: the Black Church and Hispanic Christianity in the U.S . The final segment of the course examines the development and impact of the ecumenical movement as it has affected relations among Christian churches during the past century.
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.
Bible and Film in Dialogue
Jean Epstein’s description of film as “profane revelation” invites reflection upon the religious and theological functions of film, and the various ways in which film, religion, and theology might intersect. In what ways can films be understood as religious or theological texts? How can films function as sacred texts? How are films theological or religious? This course explores different ways in which religion (and theology) and film can be placed into mutually critical conversation. How can biblical texts provide new lenses for our viewing of films? In what ways can films enrich our understanding and interpretation of biblical texts? Specific attention will be given to constructing mutually enriching dialogues between recent films (1999 – present) and specific biblical texts. Films to be viewed include The Matrix, Smoke Signals, Run Lola Run, Fight Club, American Beauty, About Schmidt, Magnolia, The Last Temptation of Christ, Donnie Darko, Dogville, Pan’s Labyrinth, Moulin Rouge!, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Tree of Life.
RELI 330.03, 330.04
Principals of Christian Ethics
After an introduction to the nature of Christian ethics, the course uses t he paradigm of vision, norm, and choice in presenting the essentials of the course, with a feminisht thrust. The premise of the course is that we do not simply live by rules and principals; we are first directed and moved by moral vision. The section on vision develops the topics: Jesus Christ and Christian ethics and Scripture and moral vision. The section on norm presents the nature and functions of norm, and develops the ethical methodologies for moral dilemmas: formal/material cooperation, double effect, and proportionate reasoning. The section on choice introduces the students to Ignatian discernment. Through group research, the students are exercised in the actual use of the vision, norm, and choice paradigm, in addressing moral dilemmas in the areas of war and violence, economic justice, biomedical ethics, sexuality, and environmental ethics.
Christian Medical Ethics
Using ethical and theological sources from the Christian/Catholic tradition, and introducing the students to the deontological and teleological ethical methodologies for conflict situations, the course addreses the moral dilemmas of abortion, reproductive technologies, genetic technologies, organ transplantation and issues of death and dying. The U.S. health care reform is presented in terms of its vision and aspects, the issues that surround it, and the myths and facts about it. The course ends with global and intercultural issues that grapple with massive inequity in the acces to health care in the world, and in which are in significant instances, gender-specific.
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.
After initial exploration of the concept of "spirituality,” we will examine a variety of Christian spiritual traditions as they have been embodied in significant individuals and movements. We will focus on recurring themes, how the cultural context influences a lived Christian spirituality, as well as unique contributions made in living out a gospel commitment. We will also focus on more contemporaryapproaches to understanding and living a Christian spirituality, with special emphasis on the relationship between spirituality and social justice.
Dangerous Memories: Religion and Society
Today religion is often viewed as a trivial Gnosticism or a political tool for the sacralization of exploitative structures. It is excoriated as a relic of the past and a drug for the simple. Such suspicions are not naïve. Yet there is more. The history of Christianity is also a history of liberation and critique, of critical conversation that helps remember human dignity and resist cultural amnesia.
Theology is a culture of questions and in this course I want to want to direct those questions by reading the political theology of Johann Baptist Metz. He surfaces cultural, economic, and power vectors and centers on human praxis not mere theory. His new “political theology” seeks to recalibrate the relationship between religion and society through a dangerous memory of others’ suffering. The course will be organized as a small seminar discussing the readings with written reflections, a couple of exams, and a final paper addressing a current issue.
Spirituality of Paul
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.
Religions of Asia
What opportunities do Asian religions and peoples pose in a religiously diverse world? In Spring 2014, this course surveys the religions of South Asia (India) – especially Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Islamic – and poses questions about their origins, sacred texts, pluralism internal to each, resources for solidarity and non-violence, and classic and contemporary understandings of sex and gender. Throughout all of these discussions we will invite the possibility of interreligious learning between and across traditions. We pursue these questions through lecture, primary texts, small group discussion, multiple films, and a yoga practicum.