/ Religion Department

Courses

Our classes help you understand the Christian faith and the role of religion in human society.

Religion department courses are an integral part of the college curriculum. Six credits in religion are required for graduation: a two-credit basic Studies in Religion course (REL 100) and one four-credit course (REL 220s, 240s, 260s or 280s).

Our majors and minors have a wide range of introductory and advanced courses from which to choose, from courses on the Pentateuch to world religions, from Christian ethics to the Gospels.

View full course descriptions in the catalog 

Special Topics (REL 100)

Catalog course REL 100 consists of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions are listed below. To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please see the Registrar’s course schedule.

Religion section descriptions — Spring 2020

100.01 Many Faces of Christianity
This course will examine the ways different denominations and cultural traditions interpret Christianity in their worship and teaching. Students will attend and report on worship services at a variety of Holland area churches.

100.02 Religion and Atrocity
At times, religion has been a causative factor in the perpetration of violence – or has failed to marshal resistance against it. The perceived connection between religion and atrocity, or religion’s apparent impotence to do anything about it, has led some to denounce religion. Whether we renounce it or not, it is important to ask: “Why does religion sometimes function to fuel and justify atrocity?” How do the resources of religion – especially Judaism and Christianity – enable people to cope with the suffering that is caused by personal atrocities or tragedies they suffer?

100.03 Which Jesus?
Everyone seems to have a different opinion about Jesus. Where did these ideas about Jesus come from? Which one is the “real” Jesus? What do those around me and in society believe about Jesus? These are the questions we will address as we explore Jesus through the centuries and search for The Historical Jesus.

100.04 Earth and Ethics
Global warming, holes in the ozone layer, toxic wastes, oil spills, acid rain, drinking water contamination, overflowing landfills, topsoil erosion, species extinction, smog. The earth and its many inhabitants are in trouble, claim numerous professional earth-watchers. In this course we will ask these and other crucial questions. And we will learn how religious folk — Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists — answer such questions. This course, in short, is an inquiry concerning earth and ethics.

100.05 Mystery of the Incarnation
This course is an introduction to Christology; it is a study of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. Our starting point and norm of reasoning will be the New Testament, but we will also be guided by the conciliar teachings of the undivided Church (especially the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon) as well as representative early, medieval and modern accounts of the mystery of Jesus Christ. By reflecting on Scripture and Tradition, we will attempt to answer Christ’s ever-relevant question to us, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).

100.06 The Bible in the Real World
This course will examine how the Bible is interpreted and used in various historical and contemporary issues such as slavery, human rights and sexuality.

100.08 Faith and Food
Food is basic to human life. It therefore comes as no surprise that food is also deeply intertwined with religious belief and practice. In fact, one of the most central Christian practices, the Eucharist (or the Lord’s Supper or Communion) involves eating. But although food is basic, decisions surrounding food in 21st century are not simple. Food is caught up in the most pressing moral issues of our time, including our environmental crises, globalization and poverty. This course will bring together the study of food in the Christian tradition with consideration of these and other ethical issues. We will probe the meaning of food in Christian thought and practice and ask about the implications of this tradition for socially concerned eaters today.

Special Topics (Upper-Level Courses)

Several upper-level religion courses consist of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions are listed below.

This is not a complete list of available religion classes. For a complete list of upcoming classes or to see course details, including dates, times and professors, please see the Registrar’s course schedule.

RELIGION UPPER-LEVEL SECTION DESCRIPTIONS — Spring 2020

221.01 & 02 Introduction to Biblical Literature
In this course we will review the history of the church in overview, not primarily to memorize all of the details and people, but to think through how Christian doctrines developed and how church structures and denominations came into being. We will focus on “choices” that were made in times of doctrinal controversies, and “changes” that emerged from new opportunities or emphases that presented themselves.

221.03 & 04 Introduction to Biblical Literature
This courses aim is to study the Bible, which includes the Old Testament, New Testament and what Protestant Christians call the Apocrypha. Questions like, “What is the Bible?” “What kinds of books are in the Bible?” and “What do these books teach?” will be answered in the context of the academic study of the Bible.

389.01 Business and Religion Seminar
We will study the role of religion in shaping business strategy, products and culture. Using studies on corporate strategy, public leadership, company culture, global business and social responsibility, this course will explore theories and practices at the intersection of business and religion. We will discuss reflections on business from a variety of religions. This course will prepare students for careers in nonprofit and for-profit sectors.

460.01 Augustine’s City of God
A close reading of St. Augustine’s City of God with attention to the structure and coherence of the whole while also exploring the following topics as they arise in the work: suffering and suicide, civic religion and empire, virtue and vice, angels and demons, true and false worship, the nature of God and creation, the meaning of history, fall and redemption, sex and the body, happiness and peace, and the “last things” (heaven, hell, judgment). The course is structured to help students do high-level research by learning to ask questions and investigate them systematically.