Skip to main content


Course Descriptions

Religion Courses:

REL 101 Understanding the Bible (4 SH). A historical and critical survey of the content and major themes of the Bible as a foundational source of Western traditions. It will cover methods of interpretation and aim for understanding of the intersection of religion, faith, and history as expressed in the Bible.

REL 102 Understanding Christianity (4 SH). A study of the ways Christians have expressed and explained the Christian faith in various periods of history and in various situations. The relationships among the various denominations and their ways of expressing the faith will be examined.

REL 103 Understanding Theology (4 SH). This course will examine the theological themes of God, Creation, Sin, Redemption, and Sanctification in light of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant beliefs. Each theme first will be examined in light of biblical theology. The creeds, rituals, and documents of the three major branches of Christianity will be examined as the basis for discussion of the development of these themes within Christian faith and practice.

REL 106 Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (4 SH). This course provides a survey of the content and major themes of the books accepted as canon in the Jewish and Christian traditions. It will cover methods of interpretation and aim for an understanding of the intersection of religion, faith, and history expressed in these writings. It will also explore the various ways in which Jews and Christians approach and appropriate the texts. It is highly recommended that students majoring in Christian Education or the Christian Traditions concentration take this required course before taking REL 107. Offered Fall Semester.

REL 107 New Testament (4 SH). A survey of the content and major themes of the New Testament. It will cover methods of interpretation and aim for an understanding of the intersection of religion, faith, and history as expressed in these early Christian texts. It will explore the relationship between Christianity and its Jewish roots, as well as theological, ethical, and institutional developments reflected in the New Testament. It is highly recommended that students majoring in Christian Education or the Christian Traditions concentration take REL 106 before taking this course. Offered Spring Semester.

REL 111 Understanding Religious Experience and Expression (4 SH). A cross-cultural study of religious life as a global phenomenon. The course examines the narratives, rituals, symbols, beliefs, forms of salvation, and moralities of the world’s religious communities. Particular attention is given to concepts and tools for analyzing and understanding these expressions and dimensions of human experience.

REL 116 Religions from the Middle East (4 SH). A study of the histories, narratives, rituals, and scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with special attention to Judaism and Islam in the 20th century.

REL 117 Religions from India (4 SH). A study of the histories, narratives, rituals, scriptures, and meditative practices that have historically made up the major religious traditions of India, with special attention given to Hinduism in its modern Indian and Western forms.

REL 118 Religions from China (4 SH). A historical, social, and philosophical study of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism, as these three broad traditions developed and interacted in China from the 6th century B.C. down to the modern era, with specific consideration given to the modern period.

REL 119 Religion in America (4 SH). A study of the many religions which constitute America’s religious mosaic. Attention is given to American religious history from 1600 to the present and to the ways in which religious pluralism relates to America’s commitment to religious freedom and to America’s ongoing quest for unity amid this diversity. This course includes an emphasis on pacifist religious movements and may be counted toward a minor in peace studies.

REL 121 Gender and Religion (4 SH). This course is designed to lead the student in the study of the role of gender in the major Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This study will focus on the religious texts that have been interpreted to define gender roles in these religious traditions. The influence of these religions on the perception of the roles of men and women in culture and society will be examined. The feminist approach to the issues of authority and power in these Western religious traditions will also be addressed.

REL 122 Religion and the Arts (4 SH). A study of the relation of religion and the arts. The focus may be on one or more of the following categories: drama, music, art, literature, and/or cinema. (Also listed as MUS 173.)

REL 131 Early Christianity: Christ and Caesar (4 SH). An examination of the history of the Christian Church within the environment of the Roman Empire during the first five centuries of existence, and of the interaction of the Church with that environment in its political, socioeconomic, religious, and cultural aspects. (Also listed as HIS 234.)

REL 201 God and Moses in Torah (4 SH). The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, the Torah (or Pentateuch), are foundational texts for both the religions of Judaism and Christianity and for understanding the foundations upon which western civilization developed. These texts establish the nature of the relationship between God, creation, and God’s people. This course will explore the narratives, laws, and theological themes of this first part of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, using a variety of interpretative approaches.

REL 202 Prophetic Literature (4 SH). This course provides an overview of the history, genres and theology of the Hebrew prophets. Students will develop skills for the interpretation of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. Topics include the nature of and audience for Old Testament prophecy as well as its relationship to apocalyptic literature and the New Testament.

REL 205 Apocalyptic Literature of the Bible (4 SH). An introduction to the origins, forms, and theology of Apocalypticism, as manifested particularly in Daniel, Mark 13, II Thessalonians 2, and the Revelation. These books are studied against the background of Jewish intertestamental apocalyptic literature.

REL 206 Jesus (4 SH). (or: All You Ever Wanted to Know about Jesus, but Were Too Afraid to Ask). A survey of research on Jesus of Nazareth, focusing on the accounts of the Gospels and of other early Christian writings, and on methods of interpretation. The course will explore the complexities of research on the historical Jesus and also the intersection of faith and history in the Christian traditions.

REL 207 The Synoptic Gospels (4 SH). A study of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), with an emphasis on their historical context and literary content, as well as on their relevance to contemporary life and theological issues.

REL 208 The Gospel of John (4 SH). A study of the Gospel according to John, with an emphasis on its historical context and literary content, as well as on its relevance to contemporary life and theological issues.

REL 209 Paul and His Letters (4 SH). A study of selected letters of Paul, focusing on his experience of Christ as expressed in his writings. It will explore Paul the person, his Jewish and Greco-Roman environment, his convictions about the Jew-Gentile relationship in the light of his experience of Christ, and the relevance of his letters for Christianity today.

REL 211 Eastern Orthodox Christianity (4 SH). An introduction to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, with particular attention to how it evolved and was celebrated in Russia. Students will explore the dogmas, liturgy, iconography, and history of the Orthodox Church; and attention will be given to the relationship between the Church and the State, particularly under communism. Students will also be asked to compare Orthodoxy with Western Christian traditions and with their own notions of worship and religious expression. (Also listed as HIS 153.)

REL 212 Reformed/Presbyterian Theology and Worship (4 SH). What is the Reformed tradition, or Presbyterianism? What beliefs and practices distinguish the Reformed tradition from other Christian traditions? What do Presbyterians believe about the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper)? What about predestination? How does the U.S. government reflect Presbyterian polity? This course will explore these and many other issues that help us understand the hallmarks of the Reformed tradition. Through understanding Reformed theology, we will also examine Reformed worship. Readings from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, the classic text for the Reformed tradition, will be an important part of the course.

REL 216 Celtic Spirituality (4 SH). Using an historical and theological approach, this course explores both the pre-Christian religion and practices of the people known as the Celts and the development of the Celtic Christian tradition. The particular characteristics of Celtic Christianity will be examined in relation to the emphases found in the Roman Catholic tradition. The class will also look at modern communities that are building on the foundations of Celtic spirituality.

REL 217 The Theology of C.S. Lewis (4 SH). This class explores the religion and spirituality of C.S. Lewis by looking at his theological works and his fiction. Students will become familiar with the main events in Lewis’ life, they will gain an understanding of his view of the Christian faith as it is set in its historical context, and they will learn to explain the religious themes in several of Lewis’ works of fiction.

REL 221 Religion and Society (4 SH). A study of religious belief systems, organizations, and movements as they derive from and influence a social context. Attention is given to the debate about secularization and to the increased importance of evangelical Christianity and new religious movements. Prerequisite: One lower-level sociology course or permission of instructor. (Also listed as SOC 303.)

REL 222 Philosophy of Religion (4 SH). Traditionally, philosophy of religion has focused on arguments for and challenges to the existence of God in the Christian traditions. This course will attempt a broader application of philosophy to the phenomenon of religion. What is religion, and what are the meanings of terms associated with it: belief, faith, truth, the sacred, transcendence, mysticism, and good and evil? What is the relationship between religion and science? What do the data of religion as a global historical phenomenon imply about our understanding of the world and of ourselves?

REL 301 Applied Biblical Interpretation (4 SH). A survey of various methods of interpretation and their application to selected biblical texts. It will explore the possibilities of meanings suggested by the texts and their practical application in contemporary contexts (e.g., church education, ethics, mission, preaching, theology).

REL 302 Biblical Theology (4 SH). An exploration of important issues in biblical interpretation and application, beginning with an investigation of the task and method of biblical theology, as distinguished from systematic theology. It will cover the history of biblical interpretation and consider the relationship between biblical ideas and modern thought. Prerequisite: at least one of the following: REL 101, 102, 106, 107, or 209.

REL 311 Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (4 SH). How should we go about the study of religion? Various disciplines (psychology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy of religion) have provided their own approaches, and these methods will be considered briefly. They do not, however, deal with the initial attitude that is adopted toward the phenomenon of religion. A frank admission of our own lack of knowledge, putting our own beliefs to one side, and imaginative reexperiencing, as well as Christian theological attitudes towards other religions, will be considered as possible methodological principles, as will the results of adopting these attitudes.

REL 312 Text and Meaning (4 SH). Hermeneutics is an interdisciplinary study of the methodological principles of interpretation. It examines how human beings experience the world and life as intelligible. We will ask fundamental questions regarding such intelligibility: What is a text? What is a context? What is language? What is meaning? Can everything we perceive be considered texts, including people and the world itself? What are the principles and methods of understanding the world of human “objects”—i.e., forms of human expression such as paintings, laws, literature, music, and religions? Prerequisite: Junior or senior status or permission of the instructor.

REL 590-594 Field Experience/Internship (1-4 SH). An opportunity for students to work under guidance in a church or other agency during the Fall or Spring semesters or in the summer. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor and the department chair.

REL 601 Religion Capstone (4 SH). This course is required of senior majors in religion and Christian education who are not doing an Honors project in religion.

REL 620-624 Independent Study (1-4 SH). Individual study in a specific academic area under the guidance of a selected faculty member. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor and the department chair.


What can you do with a Religion degree?

Imagine yourself an international business executive, a counselor, a lawyer, journalist, teacher, social worker, Peace Corps volunteer, or pastor.