/ Religion Department


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 — Fall 2018

100.01 Religion and Atrocity
In this course we will examine the relationship between 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?

100.02 From Rabbi to God
This is an introductory course about the origin and spread of Christianity. It begins with Jesus of Nazareth and continues through the fourth century CE when Christianity became the only legal religion of the Roman Empire. We will learn by means of a careful examination of primary texts (Jewish, Christian and Greco-Roman writings) and a secondary text.

100.03 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.

100.04 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. 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 religion (focusing primarily on 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.

100.05/06 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.

100.07 Fierce and Faithful Bible Women
Women in the Bible are often thought to be either "bad girls" (Eve, Delilah, Jezebel) or desperate to have children (Sarah, Rachel, Leah). There are many other biblical women that you never learned about in Sunday school. Some are victims of sexual violence. Some are warriors. Others are strong, courageous, compassionate and wise. This class will explore the "texts of terror," the "bad girls of the Bible" and the many other women who are both fierce and faithful.

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. To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please see the Registrar’s course schedule.


295.01 Theology of the Human Person
This course, which serves as a gateway to the series of courses on the theme of disability in the Mellon Grand Challenges Initiative, is a theological exploration of what it means to be human. It begins from the conviction that we can only understand who we are in the light of Christ, true God and true man. By close study of Scripture and certain strands of the theological tradition, we will sketch a deeply Christian vision of the human person with which we will engage ancient and contemporary heresies and challenges. We will devote particular attention to the challenge of disability, especially profound intellectual disability, in order to deepen our understanding of the Christian vision of being human.

329.01 Bible and Science
This course will focus study on a collection of biblical texts that stand at the meeting place of Christian faith and modern science, including cosmic creation, emergence of human life, the flood of Noah’s time, the development of morality and law, ecology and earth-keeping, health and wellness, and more. We will develop skills in reading the Bible contextually and we will relate the text to contemporary scientific and intellectual frameworks in such a way that thinking students of all persuasions will find their views challenged, and all will become equipped to articulate their views with confidence and integrity.

This is a special topics course in the category “Studies in Scripture.” Although it is a 300-level biblical studies course, it fulfills the RL2 general education Religion 200 slot.

389.01 Law and Religion
This course will explore the intersection of law and religion. How does law understand religion? How do courts identify and adjudicate religious rights? These are some of the questions we will address. Through select court rulings and legal scholarship from India and the United States, we will study the form and treatment of religion in law and the courts.

440.01 Preach It: A History of Sermons
This seminar explores the 2,000-year history of preaching in the Christian faith. We will read sermons from early Christianity through the 20th century and will explore how they approach the Bible, shape a message and address key issues in faith and life. We will also engage local preachers and hear about their approach to sermons. We will be enriched in particular by one of our local scholars of preaching — our very own dean of the chapel, Trygve Johnson