/ 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 2018

100.01/02 Which Jesus?
“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.

100.03 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.

100.04 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.

100.05 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.

100.06 The 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).

100.07 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.

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.

RELIGION UPPER-LEVEL SECTION DESCRIPTIONS — Spring 2018

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.

349.01 Faith of the Early Church
The faith of the early church is a common source of wisdom and guidance for all Christians. In this course, students will meet Ignatius, Augustine, Perpetua and Felicity, Origen, the Desert Fathers and others who are our mothers and fathers in the faith. They will encounter firsthand the beliefs, controversies and personalities of the earliest Christians, including those who knew the apostles, those who died because of their love of Christ and those who articulated the faith which we hold today. Through a careful study of the major saints and theologians of the first five centuries, students will be introduced to the pattern of early Christian thought on topics such as the Trinity and Incarnation, the authority and nature of the church, worship, prayer, marriage and family, social justice and the mystical life.

389.01 Becoming Good
In popular imagination, Christian salvation is often associated with eternal life and heaven. Throughout the Christian tradition, however, salvation has primarily been about the rescue and restoration of the human person from sin. This restoration includes not only forgiveness of sin, but also the transformation of the person. She or he must become someone who no longer sins. But how does such a transformation occur? How do we become good? In this course, we will explore various Christian understandings of personal transformation that is the result of God’s gracious action in Christ and the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to say that good human action is the result of grace, a gift of God? How might such a gift relate to ordinary human processes of formation and transformation that seem common to all people, regardless of religion or faith?

480.01 Theology: Hindu and Christian
This course will introduce students to a comparative study of theologies in the Hindu and Christian religious traditions. A close reading of key texts will help students develop a rich understanding of theological topics like God, humans, incarnation, revelation and grace. How might comparative study shape our understanding of theology? Such questions will guide discussions throughout the course and offer students the chance to develop constructive theologies after studying these two religious traditions.