/ 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 2022

100.01 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.

100.02 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.

100.03 Christ and Caesar
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 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.

100.05 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 Christianity and Other Religions
In order to introduce students to the academic study of religion, and to help equip them for leadership and service in a global society, this course surveys some of the ways the Christian tradition has thought about other religions, and some of the practices Christians have adopted toward religious others throughout history. Students will be encouraged to critically assess various approaches and thus to grow in their ability to think theologically, in this case, about religious diversity or pluralism – that is, the fact that there have always been “many gods and many lords” (I Cor. 8:5), and thus many “religions.” Our task in this course necessarily entails an attempt to understand several non-Christian religions. Along the way, we will also be exposed to some of the ways other religions have responded to Christianity.

100.07 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.

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 the semester. 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 2022

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 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.

295.01 & 02 Grace
Christians are accustomed to speaking of salvation as a work of God’s grace, with a particular emphasis on forgiveness of sins. What is less commonly recognized, however, is that the theme of grace, or divine gift, permeates the whole of Christian theology. In this course, we will look at core Christian beliefs, from creation and salvation to Christian sacraments and ethics, and we will consider how the idea of God’s radical self-gift is at the heart of the Christian story. We will think together about the mystery and gift of existence (our own and the world as a whole), about the nature of God as the infinite source of this gift, and the kind of lives we might live in the face of it.

440.01 Monks, Mystics and Pandemics
This course explores the dynamic spirituality of early Christianity and the Middle Ages. Early monastic literature will introduce us to those who sought in word, deed and lifestyle to live the most intensive Christian life some early Christians could imagine. We will then turn to the first great age of women’s literature and the works of mystics who sought to capture their encounters with the divine in writing. Finally, we will arrive at the most famous of all pandemics — the Black Death of the mid-1300s; here we will explore how a great range of people tried to make sense of and cope with the dramatic suffering and death facing them. Films, literature and scholarship will also help us explore these voices of the past and move us to reflect on our own spirituality and worldviews.