Religion

Sean Burke (department head)

How can people on both sides of a conflict claim that God is on their side? Why do some faith communities affirm women in leadership positions while others do not? How can someone claim faith in a particular religious tradition while also valuing the traditions of another? Through questions like these, courses in the study of religion prepare students for lives of deep reflection and civic engagement by inviting them to think critically about the role that religious ideas, literatures, rituals, institutions, and values play in shaping individuals and societies both historically and in the contemporary world.

The study of religion at Luther College seeks to be interdisciplinary, intercultural, and transformative. It is interdisciplinary in that religion courses draw on a wide array of perspectives from fields such as history, literature, the social sciences, and philosophy to make sense of the role religion plays in the world, helping students to integrate and synthesize learning from their other courses. It is intercultural in that students engage religious faith and practice in a global context, empowering them to move beyond a concern for immediate interests into a greater awareness of their place in a complex and ever-changing world. It is transformative by raising critical questions about fundamental aspects of religious faith and practice in order to expand students' understandings of both self and others, leading to a life of purposeful service in the world.

The study of religion provides a strong complement to programs of study in business, international studies, law, library science, literature, medicine, music, political science, and psychology, while also forming a foundation for careers in ordained and lay ministry, social service, volunteer service, and social advocacy. Many of our majors and minors pursue graduate study in theology and religious studies.

Because the academic study of religion provides a strong foundation for the liberal arts, all Luther students take two religion courses as part of the common ground experience of the general education program. The first of these is a course in biblical literature, where students develop the skills of close reading, analysis, and critical inquiry necessary for further study in religion and the liberal arts. The second course may be drawn from the full array of religion course offerings. Course offerings at the 200 level provide students broad surveys of religious traditions and topics. Courses at the 300 level (excluding REL 380 and 381) provide students the opportunity to study particular religious traditions and topics in greater depth and require more intensive writing and research.

The requirements for the religion major and minor are listed below. Students planning to major or minor in religion should consult with faculty in the department; preseminary students should also consult with campus pastors.

Required for a major: Nine 4-credit courses, distributed as follows: one introductory course (REL 101, 111, 112); two core courses from the Christian tradition (REL 221, 232, 241); two core courses from at least one additional religious tradition (REL 251, 256, 257, 261, 262, 263); one seminar (REL 485); and three electives from departmental offerings in religion, two of which must be courses numbered between 300 and 374 or 485. One of the three electives may be chosen from biblical languages (GRK 201, 375; HEB 101, 102, 201) and one may consist of a 4-credit REL 395. Writing requirement completed with REL 485.

Ethical perspective: Because ethics is an important sub-discipline in the study of religion, religion majors will engage in the study of ethical perspectives in most of their courses. Religion majors, therefore, will fulfill this general education requirement by completing the major. Students interested in a special focus on ethics are encouraged to take one or more of the following courses: REL 233, 241, 242, 243.

Writing: Because critical thinking and communication depend on this skill, most religion courses require writing. Departmental offerings in religion numbered 300 and higher (excluding REL 380 and 381) involve intensive writing. Religion majors, therefore, will fulfill this general requirement by completing the major.

Required for a minor: Five 4-credit courses, distributed as follows: one introductory course (REL 101, 111, 112); one core course from the Christian tradition (REL 221, 232, 241); one core course from at least one additional religious tradition (REL 251, 256, 257, 261, 262, 263); one seminar (REL 485); and one elective course numbered between 300 and 374 or 485 from departmental offerings in religion.

Note: Each student must take one introductory course (REL 101, 111, or 112) as a prerequisite to all other religion courses and as partial fulfillment of the general graduation requirements. These courses focus on the academic study of biblical literature and may be taken during the first or second year.