academics

Religion

Professors: R. Bowman, M. Haar (chair), A. Pederson, R. Swanson
Assistant Professors: C. Croghan, L. Jungling

 

The Religion major urges students to study and wrestle with the diversity and richness of texts, ideas and communities within Christianity and within other religious traditions. The major has two tracks: a Religion track and a Religion/Philosophy track. The major is intended to give students a broad introduction to critical theological reflection, to relate that reflection to the students’ total educational experience, and to respond creatively to the world in which they live in terms of their own religious and theological heritage. The major aims to broaden students’ moral responsibility, to develop their critical thinking, speaking, and writing skills while encouraging them to consider faith and ethical commitments as preparation for a life of responsible service in church and society. Most importantly, the Religion major encourages students to engage enduring questions about the meaning of life in a context of liberal arts learning. The Religion track is designed to acquaint students with the discipline of theology in both its historic and contemporary expressions and to see the connection between theology and various religious and philosophical traditions. The Religion/Philosophy track is designed to explore how the methods and concepts of philosophy can assist us in the examination and clarification of theological ideas.

Students may choose a Religion major as a viable liberal arts major which encourages them to think more clearly, critically, and comprehensively about questions that matter. It is also a major that may be chosen as preparation for seminary and graduate study and church-oriented vocations. As a reflection of the holistic and integrative orientation of a liberal education, courses are offered in the areas of Text and Context, Tradition and Culture, Contemporary Issues, and Seminar and Thesis Courses.

Text and Context:
Courses in this area stress the interpretation and analysis of primary texts as they evolved in their own historical and cultural context and as they are interpreted and appropriated in other cultural and historical contexts.

Tradition and Culture:
Courses in this area discuss and analyze theological traditions as they developed within their own historical culture and as they evolved in response to historical and cultural changes.

Contemporary Issues:
Courses in this area discuss and analyze topical issues from biblical, theological, or ethical perspectives.

Seminar and Thesis:
Courses in this area offer advanced work for Religion majors and other students interested in more in depth discussions of selected topics within the theological and textual traditions.

Religion Major:

27 credit hours
Required Courses: 30 credit hours
RELI 110 — Exploring the Christian Faith (3 cr)
RELI 330 — Exploring Judaism  (3 cr)
–or– RELI 341 — World Religions: Hinduism and Buddhism
RELI 320 — Seminar in Biblical Studies (3 cr)
RELI 332 — Seminar in Contemporary Theology (3 cr)
RELI 400 — Senior Thesis (3 cr)

One Text and Context course: (3 cr)
RELI 211 — Story and Theology
RELI 212 — Lessons in Living: Biblical and Contemporary Reflections on Wisdom
RELI 213 — Power, Politics, and the Biblical Prophets
RELI 214 — Gospels and the Drama of Human Life
RELI 215 — Paul and Christian Origins
RELI 218 — Hope and the Future
RELI 229 — Reading for Meaning and Truth
RELI 247 — From Plato to Genesis to Job: The Question of Justice One

Tradition and Culture course: (3 cr)
RELI 200 — Reason, Faith and the Search for Meaning
RELI 210 — Ethical Perspectives
RELI 216 — God: The Problem and the Promise
RELI 224 — The Lutheran Reformation
RELI 232 — Christian Ethics
RELI 241 — Theology and Philosophy in Dialog
RELI 244 — Christology
RELI 245 — After Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Christian Faith
RELI 251 — Judaism, Islam and the Christian Faith
RELI 255 — Religion, Politics and Violence
RELI 310 — Death, Dying, and Beyond

One Contemporary Issues course: (3 cr)
RELI 219 — God, Suffering, and Evil
RELI 235 — Issues in Theology and Ethics
RELI 236 — Theology, Community, and Discernment
RELI 242 — Liberation Thought
RELI 243 — Creation and Cosmology
RELI 253 — Theology, Praxis, and Ministry
RELI 254 — Theology, Medicine, and Ethics
RELI 257 — Composing Worlds, Composing Lives
RELI 305 — Bioethics

One additional course from one of the above areas: (3 cr)

Additional courses in Philosophy, History, and Foreign Languages are highly recommended. The department especially recommends study of Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Religion Minor:

18 credit hours
RELI 110 — Exploring the Christian Faith (3 cr)
RELI 330 — Exploring Judaism  (3 cr)
–or– RELI 341 — World Religions: Hinduism and Buddhism
RELI 320 — Seminar in Biblical Studies (3 cr)
-or- RELI 332 — Seminar in Contemporary Theology (3 cr)

One Text and Context course (3 cr)
One Tradition and Culture course (3 cr)
One Contemporary Issues course (3 cr)

Religion/Philosophy Major

Coordinator: M. Haar
30 credit hours
PHIL 110 — Dimensions of the Self (3 cr)
PHIL/RELI 200 — Reason, Faith and the Search for Meaning (3 cr)
PHIL/RELI 241 — Theology and Philosophy in Dialog (3 cr)
PHIL 220 — Our Philosophical Heritage I (3 cr)
PHIL 230 — Our Philosophical Heritage II (3 cr)
PHIL/RELI 400 — Senior Thesis (3 cr)
Four of the following courses: (12 cr)
PHIL/RELI 210 — Ethical Perspectives
RELI 211 — Story and Theology
RELI 216 — God: The Problem and the Promise
RELI 219 — God, Suffering, and Evil
RELI 229 — Reading for Meaning and Truth
RELI 232 — Christian Ethics
RELI 235 — Issues in Theological Ethics
PHIL/RELI 242 — Feminist/Womanist Thought
PHIL/RELI 243 — Creation and Cosmology:
RELI 244 — Christology
PHIL 300 — Contemporary Moral Issues
PHIL/RELI 305 — Bioethics
PHIL/RELI 310 — Death, Dying, and Beyond
PHIL 332 — Seminar
RELI 332 — Seminar in Contemporary Theology

Religion Courses:

RELI 110 is a pre-requisite for all 200, 300 and 400-level courses.

RELI 101 — Beginning Hebrew I (Area 3.4) (3 credits)
Students will improve their general reading knowledge of Biblical Hebrew with a more detailed study of Hebrew grammar, the further development of basic Hebrew vocabulary, and an introduction to the syntax of Hebrew prose. Course also introduces students to a number of textual matters pertaining to the critical study of the Hebrew Bible. Cross listed with CLAS 101. Offered Most Fall Semesters.

RELI 102 — Beginning Hebrew II (Area 3.4) (3 credits)
This course introduces the Hebrew alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar in a systematic manner using textbook and workbook assignments, text readings from the Hebrew Bible and weekly quizzes. Students will gain the skills necessary for reading and translating the Hebrew Bible and begin to develop exegetical competence. Cross listed with CLAS 102. Prerequisite: RELI 101; Offered Most Spring Semesters.

RELI 110 — Exploring the Christian Faith (Area 4.1) (3 credits)
An introduction to the academic study of the Judeo-Christian tradition which acquaints the student with scholarly methods of study as well as central biblical/theological concepts and vocabulary as they relate to, and are in dialogue with, philosophical, historical and theological questions of value and commitment. Offered Every Semester.

RELI 200 — Reason, Faith and the Search for Meaning (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
A study of those issues which are of common concern to philosophy and religion. Topics focused upon include: the nature and function of religion; the existence and attributes of God; the claims of reason and the claims of faith; God and the problem of evil; the meaning of religious statements; religious experience and the inexpressible; religion and morality; human freedom and the meaning of life. Cross-Listed with RELI 200; Prerequisite RELI 110; Offered Most Semesters. Tradition and Culture Course.

RELI 210 — Ethical Perspectives (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
An introductory exploration of basic ethical issues from different philosophical perspectives as well as from the vantage point of the Christian faith. This course is designed to encourage a thoughtful appraisal of the deep questions of life within the broadest possible context. Cross-Listed with PHIL 210; Prerequisite RELI 110; Offered Most Semesters. Tradition and Culture Course.

RELI 211 — Story and Theology (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
An exploration of biblical and secular narrative with particular attention to their compositional conventions, theological convictions, and literary connections. Text and Context Course; Offered Every Year.

RELI 212 — Lessons in Living: Biblical and Contemporary Reflections on Wisdom (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
An exploration of the biblical wisdom books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Songs in conjunction with contemporary reflections on wisdom. Text and Context Course; Offered Every Other Interim.

RELI 213 — Power, Politics and the Biblical Prophets (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
An exploration of the prophetic biblical literature with particular attention to the historical situation of the prophets as well as the contemporary relevance and importance of their message. Text and Context Course; Offered Every Other Interim.

RELI 214 — Gospels and the Drama of Human Life (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
The stories of the Christ are painted out of the events of the life of Jesus. In this course we will explore the ways this single human life was (and is) told and understood as a drama of cosmic transformation. Text and Context Course; Offered Every Fall Semester.

RELI 215 — Paul and Christian Origins: Torah, Messiah and Empire (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
Paul was an observant Jew who came to understand Jesus as God’s messiah. As a consequence, he corresponded with messianic communities all around the Mediterranean basin. His letters became Scripture for Christians (a development that would have amazed Paul) and shaped the developing Christian movement. In this course we will explore Paul’s role in the origins of Christianity, and consider how this movement developed in the context of Jewish faith and Roman imperial power. Text and Context Course; Offered Every Other Spring Semester.

RELI 216 — God: The Problem and the Promise (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
An exploration of various biblical and theological, historical and contemporary images used to portray and characterize God, including a discussion of the advantages and limitations of these conceptions for an intelligible and credible understanding of God. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Other Spring Semester.

RELI 218 — Hope and the Future (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
Does the future hold the good that has not happened yet or the bad? This course studies the ways Jewish and Christian scripture uses the future as a threat and as a hopeful sign. Close attention will be paid to the literary shape and function of resurrection narratives, especially as they draw on apocalyptic and eschatological texts. Text and Context Course; Offered Every Other Spring Semester.

RELI 219 — God, Suffering and Evil (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course will analyze various theological and Biblical texts which seek to reconcile a suffering world to a moral God. The course will also examine the traditional problem of evil. Contemporary Issues Course; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 223 — Religion and American Culture (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course examines the intersection of religion and culture in American society and how that intersection has influenced both religion and the culture. Attention will be given to questions of how culture and religion have influenced each other throughout American history as well as how religion and culture intersect in today’s America. This intersection will be viewed through a variety of mediums including film, music, television, internet, and literature among others. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 224 — The Lutheran Reformation (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
A study of the Lutheran Church as an historical entity with reference to doctrine, organization, practice, location, and ecumenical context. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Fall Semester.

RELI 225 — The Church in Global Perspective (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course aims at introducing the student to Christian theology as it is being developed in a global context in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. This will be done through readings in theology, videos, guest appearances and individual and group activities. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 229 — Reading for Meaning and Truth with Hermes, God of Thieves and Interpreters (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
Do readers find truth or steal it? Create it or deconstruct it? This course explores how interpreters and texts dance with each other to discover and create meaning and truth. Interpretive theories will be explored, and literary, philosophical, and theological implications will be examined. Text and Context Course; Offered Some Interims.

RELI 232 — Christian Ethics (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course is an exploration of what it means to live a Christian way of life in the contemporary world. Attention will be given to the central methods and sources of Christian ethics and their theoretical and practical use in understanding how the Christian faith has historically structured the lives of its followers and how that faith ought (or ought not) guide how Christians and non-Christians live in their communities today. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Spring Semester.

RELI 235 — Issues in Theology and Ethics (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course will examine central theological and practical issues in Christian ethics that influence the church and the world today. The focus will be on one or more primary issues of theological ethics (e.g., justice, sexuality, love, economics, gender, etc.) which will be examined in their historical, theological, social, and philosophical contexts. Attention will be given to the practice of constructing helpful approaches to difficult contemporary ethical dilemmas. Contemporary Issues Course; Offered Infrequently.

RELI 236 — Life Together: The Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
In Christian theological ethics, Christians are continuously asking how they ought to live.  Drawing on the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and/or other 20th and 21st century thinkers, this course will take up the ethical question with particular attention to the relationship of the community and the individual in Christian discernment.  Contemporary Issues Course; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 241 — Theology and Philosophy in Dialog (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course is a survey of Western philosophical thought with the purpose of introducing students of theology to the philosophical ideas which have had a significant influence on the development of Christian theology. Tradition and Culture Course; Cross-Listed With PHIL241; Offered Most Semesters.

RELI 242 — Liberation Thought (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course is devoted to concentrated study in liberation theologies and philosophies. Specific attention will be given to understanding the differences between a variety of schools of liberation thought. Contemporary Issues Course; Cross-Listed With PHIL 242; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 243 — Creation and Cosmology: Conversations Between Science and Religion (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course will develop the theological implications of the Christian doctrine of creation in light of current conversations between religion and science. The major topics of the course are: 1) a survey of the doctrine of creation, 2) theories, models, metaphors, and paradigms, 3) epistemological issues, and 4) spiritual dimensions of the doctrine of creation. Contemporary Issues Course; Cross-Listed with PHIL 243; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 244 — Christology (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course examines how the Christian movements witness of faith has understood the person of Jesus the Christ from both his relationship to God and how his person is expressed as fully human. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Spring Semester.

RELI 245 — After Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Christian Faith (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
The word “Shoah” means desolation of cosmic proportions. Auschwitz and the killing of six million Jews from 1939-1945 was a “Shoah.” This course examines how the “holocaust” has and should affect Christian faith and life. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Other Fall Semester.

RELI 247 — From Plato to Genesis to Job: The Question of Justice (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course addresses the great issues of justice, both human and divine. What is justice? Does God act Justly? Can human beings act justly? This course will focus on a close and careful reading of three important primary texts: the Republic of Plato, the book of Genesis, and the book of Job. Each text provides a different perspective on the problems of justice and its relevance for forgiveness, community, religion, punishment, and natural inquiry. Text and Context Course; Offered Every Other Year.

RELI 251 — Judaism, Islam and the Christian Faith (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course examines the similarities and differences between Judaism, Islam and Christianity. We will analyze the beliefs, scriptures, rituals, history and cultural contexts of each tradition. We will also discuss the risks, dangers, and benefits of studying somebody else's religious tradition. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Fall Semester.

RELI 253 — Theology, Praxis and Ministry (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
Through examination of actual situations of explicit Christian ministry, both in the church and beyond the church, students will evaluate the degree to which theology is made manifest in actual human experience. Contemporary Issues Course; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 254 — Theology, Medicine, and Ethics (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course is a study of theological perspectives on issues in contemporary medicine. Rigorous intellectual attention will be given to the ways in which religious practices, beliefs, and institutions form and are formed by experiences of illness, heath, and medical sciences. Contemporary Issues Course; Offered Every Other Spring Semester.

RELI 255 — Religion, Politics and Violence (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course examines the relationship between religion, violence and the Christian Faith. From the pacifism of Jesus and the early Christians to scriptural stories about God commanding violence to the Crusades to the Just War Theory, and to contemporary discussions about religion and violence, we will wrestle with why certain religious believers feel compelled to use violence. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Year.

RELI 257 — The Incarnation of Creation: Composing Worlds, Composing Lives (Area 4.2) (3 credits)
This course introduces students to constructive theology by utilizing the metaphor of the arts to interpret the practice and formation of the Christian faith. Offered Every Fall Semester.

RELI 305 — Bioethics (3 credits)
This course will study the ethical implications of contemporary developments in the medical treatment of human life. The course will seek to develop a philosophical and theological perspective on decision-making as it relates to such issues as human experimentation, abortion, euthanasia, genetics and the control of human development, and the availability of medical care. Cross-Listed with RELI 305; Contemporary Issues Course; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 310 — Death, Dying and Beyond (Area 1.2) (3 credits)
This course will focus on such topics as: dealing with one’s own death; biblical, theological, and philosophical perspectives relating to death, suffering, self, and afterlife; care of the dying person, components of grief and loss, funerals, wills, suicide, and euthanasia. Cross-Listed with PHIL 310; Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Occasionally.

RELI 320 — Seminar in Biblical Studies (Area 2.1B) (3 credits)
A concentrated study of a particular topic in biblical studies. Possible topics include studies in: the Pentateuch; the Dead Sea Scrolls; the Fourth Gospel; and Apocalyptic writings. Prerequisite: RELI 110 and one 200-level RELI Course; Offered Every Spring Semester.

RELI 330 — Exploring Judaism  (Area 2.1B) (3 credits)
This course will seek to understand and examine the religion of Judaism and the history of the Jewish people. The history of Judaism will be given major emphasis along with the basic beliefs and rituals. The Jewish philosophical and mystical traditions will be discussed. Judaism in America and the State of Israel will be a central concern. Attention will also be given to why so much hatred has been directed historically toward the Jewish people. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Other Spring Semester.

RELI 332 — Seminar in Contemporary Theology (3 credits)
A seminar devoted to reading 20th Century theologians. Prerequisite: RELI 110 and one 200-level RELI Course; Offered Every Fall Semester.

RELI 335 — Confessing Like a Lutheran (3 credits)
What did it mean to say you were a “Lutheran” during Luther’s time? What does it mean today? Are they the same? What Lutherans have understood as normative for Lutheran teachings was not static from the outset. “Confessing Like a Lutheran” traces the historical development and content of the Lutheran Confessions through a thorough analysis of the agreements, disagreements and settlements that shaped Lutheranism for generations to come. Offered Infrequently

RELI 341 — World Religions: Hinduism and Buddhism (Area 3.6) (3 credits)
This course examines and works to understand the scriptures, philosophical /mystical traditions, rituals, holy days and holy places that are central to the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. We will also explore the historical and geographical diversity of each tradition. A significant part of the course will be an examination of the many ways the two traditions have interacted with each other. Throughout the course students will explore how Hinduism and Buddhism differ from the monotheistic religions. Tradition and Culture Course; Offered Every Other Spring Semester.

RELI 395 — Internship (3 credits)
An internship provides work experience under an ordained supervisor with a department member as advisor. Limited to students who are pre-seminary or considering seminary.

RELI 197, 297, 397 — Topics in Religion (3 credits)

RELI 199, 299, 399 — Independent Study (3 credits)
Research in a special area, supervised by an instructor. Prerequisite: Consent of the Department Chair

RELI 400 — Senior Thesis (3 credits)
In consultation with a faculty member, a second semester senior will select a research topic. With supervision from the faculty member, the student will research and write a paper during the semester. At a final senior thesis forum, the student will present his/her paper to fellow seniors as well as the faculty of the Religion and Philosophy Department. Prerequisite: RELI 300, RELI 320, RELI 332 and Senior Status; Offered Every Spring Semester.