/ 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 — Fall 2020

100.01 Christ and Ceasar
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.

100.02 Religions of India
This course introduces the major religious traditions of India in light of their histories, practices and ongoing life. Through a careful study of credible sources and recognizable claims, the course offers an opportunity to understand religions in India as internally diverse and alive.

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 God and Humanity
This course will trace the Christian understanding of the unfolding relationship between God and humanity as narrated in the Christian Bible. The course will explore questions such as: What does the Bible say about who God is? What does it say about who we are as human beings? What is the Christian articulation of the meaning and purpose of human life? We will explore these questions in relation to three concepts in particular: vocation, transformation and destiny. Students will be encouraged to reflect on and develop a clear articulation of their own spiritual convictions in dialogue with classic scriptural and religious texts.

100.07 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.

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 2021

221.01 & 02 Introduction to Biblical Literature
This course 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.

329.01 The Hebrew Prophets
Warriors and revolutionaries, statesmen and women, political advisors and counselors, priests and clerics, fierce social critics and public intellectuals: these are just a few of the roles that the Hebrew prophets occupied in their tumultuous times. This course provides a critical introduction to the prophets of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, with a particular focus on their specific messages in their historical and social context, and how their contributions helped to shape the history of Judaism and Christianity. We will consider questions such as: what is a “prophet,” and what does the Bible mean when someone is called a “prophet”? What is a prophetic book? How and when were these books written, and how have they come down to us today? The main focus of the course will be on academic investigation of the biblical texts; however, there will be opportunities for theological reflection on the message of the prophets, including discussions of their importance and influence in the monotheistic tradition and in contemporary culture.

369-01 – Theology of St. Augustine
This course will be a high level introduction to the thought of St. Augustine through the careful study of the Confessions.

440-01 –Piety and Politics
This seminar will explore some of the ways that religious people have tried to shape the world around them. The Puritans established the "city on a hill." Evangelicals in the 19th century developed societies for moral improvement. Walter Raushenbusch developed the Social Gospel. The African American churches in the South fought against segregation. The religious right has had a significant impact on American politics. Students will evaluate these and other strategies and develop their own ideas about how religion can and should shape the culture around it.