Religion Courses

REL 101 Introduction to Biblical Studies

4 hours

An introduction to the academic study of biblical literature with an emphasis on selected writings, themes, and methods of interpretation. Students will also become familiar with extra-biblical sources (textual and archaeological) which contribute to understanding the Bible in its historical, socio-economic, theological, and literary contexts. Students who earn credit for REL 101 may not earn credit for REL 111 or REL 112. (BL, Rel)

REL 111 Introduction to Hebrew Bible Studies

4 hours

An introduction to the academic study of the literature of the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha/Deutero-canon with an emphasis on selected writings, themes, and methods of interpretation. Students will also become familiar with extra-biblical sources (textual and archaeological) which contribute to understanding the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha/Deutero-canon in their historical, socio-economic, theological, and literary contexts. Students who earn credit for REL 111 may earn credit for REL 112 but not for REL 101. (BL, Rel)

REL 112 Introduction to New Testament Studies

4 hours

An introduction to the academic study of the literature of the New Testament with an emphasis on selected writings, themes, and methods of interpretation. Students will also become familiar with extra-biblical sources (textual and archaeological) which contribute to understanding the New Testament in its historical, socio-economic, theological, and literary contexts. Students who earn credit for REL 112 may earn credit for REL 111 but not for REL 101. (BL, Rel)

REL 139, 239, 339, 439 Special Topics

Credit arr.

REL 185 First-Year Seminar

4 hours

A variety of seminars for first-year students offered each January Term.

REL 211 Bible and Christian Faith

4 hours

The Bible, commonly called the "Word of God," has always been more than "a book" for Christians. Contemporary forms of biblical criticism, however, have posed challenges for many Christians who look to the Bible as a resource for Christian faith and practice. In general, this course will wrestle with two fundamental questions: 1) What is the Bible? and 2) What is faith? In particular, it will examine possible relationships between the Bible and Christian faith. Attention will be given to the "battle for the Bible" between so-called "conservatives" and "liberals." The issues considered in this course will be analyzed within the context of examining the ways in which the relationship between the Bible and one's faith influences how one thinks about and lives in the world and with others. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT)

REL 212 Sex in Religious Texts

4 hours

This course will explore constructions of gender and sexuality in the texts of two or more religious traditions. Students will be introduced to contemporary theories of gender and sexuality that they will use to analyze primary texts in relation to their sociopolitical and religious contexts. Specific topics may include competing representations of men and women, different constructions of marriage, the use of marriage as a metaphor, the role of sexuality in mystical traditions and spiritual manuals, and representations of homoeroticism and bisexuality in religious texts. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Same as WGST 212) (Rel, HEPT)

REL 213 Archaeology and the Bible

4 hours

This course will explore the role of archaeology in biblical studies as well as studies of the history of ancient Israel. The course will consist of an examination of the methods and techniques used in Palestinian archaeology; an overview of the role that archaeology has played in biblical studies from the nineteenth century to the present; and an examination of specific archaeological sites and artifacts and their relation to biblical texts. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. Offered alternate years. (Rel, Hist)

REL 214 Lost Scriptures

4 hours

This course will examine writings which were considered sacred by some Jewish and Christian groups but which were not included in the orthodox canons of the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament. Students will analyze selected texts in their social, historical, ideological, and religious contexts, and they will use these texts to identify and to analyze diverse ancient forms of Judaism and Christianity. The sources of texts include the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament Apocrypha, and the Nag Hammadi Library. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT)

REL 221 History of Christian Thought

4 hours

A survey of central events, ideas, and figures in the history of Christianity from the early church to the present. The course will focus on primary texts, and attention will be given to the ways that Christian theology has developed over the centuries within a variety of cultures. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Hist)

REL 222 Religion in America

4 hours

A historical survey of the role of religion in American life, focusing on the interaction between religion and culture in the United States. The course will examine the development of religious pluralism in the U.S. and explore selected issues that have arisen and continue to affect American culture, such as religious liberty, revivalism, utopianism, immigration and ethnicity, slavery, fundamentalism, and the contributions of women and minorities. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HB, Hist)

REL 223 Christianity and Its Modern Critics

4 hours

A survey of the more prominent critics and criticisms of Western Christianity from the Enlightenment to the present. Students will engage critics from a variety of spheres, including philosophy, theology, politics, science, literature, journalism, and popular culture. Criticisms of traditional Christian beliefs in the existence of God, the afterlife, and the possibility of miracles, among others, will be addressed, as will accusations of Christianity's detrimental influence on constructions of race, gender, and sexuality. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Hist)

REL 227 Luther and Lutheranism

4 hours

This course closely examines the life and thought of Martin Luther, provides an overview of the development of Lutheran Churches from the Reformation to the present, and explores some of the issues debated in Lutheran Churches today. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Hist)

REL 230 Philosophy of Religion

4 hours

A study of attempts to bring rational justification and clarification to religious beliefs and practice, focusing primarily on the concepts of Christian theology. Topics will include: the existence and attributes of God, faith and reason, death and immortality, miracles and revelation, the problem of evil, and religious pluralism. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Same as PHIL 130) (Rel, HEPT)

REL 231 Psychology and Religion

4 hours

This course explores the intersections between psychology and religion. It examines how psychological theories can illuminate religious practices and rituals and what religious texts and beliefs can contribute to the understanding of the human mind. In particular, the course focuses on similarities between the trajectory of spiritual progress as proposed in selected religious texts and Analytical Psychology, the use of meditation techniques and rituals in therapy, and the recent dialogue between Buddhist psychology and Cognitive Science. In its analysis of religious rituals, texts, and practices, the course focuses predominantly on spiritual guides, ritual manuals, and meditation theory from Buddhism, Christianity, and Daoism. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HE)

REL 232 Christian Theology

4 hours

A study of teachings basic to the Christian faith using classical and contemporary sources from both the Protestant and Catholic traditions, such as those about God, relations among religions, Jesus, the Church, and creation and its interpretations for today in light of their biblical and historical foundations. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Intcl)

REL 233 God and Gender

4 hours

An investigation of how our understanding and experience of gender are connected to our views of God, human beings, and the natural world. The course explores the works of a variety of thinkers and pays special attention to issues raised by feminist theologians who stand both inside and outside the Christian tradition. Possible topics include: language about God, human sexuality, views of women in the Bible, the nature of biblical authority, the feminist movement, the men's movement, images of nature in Western religious thought, and the ordination of women. Offered alternate years. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Same as WGST 337) (Rel, HE, Intcl)

REL 235 Science and Religion

4 hours

Ever since the rise of modern science in the 17th century, a lively debate has ensued in the West centered on supposed conflicts between the methods and content of science and those of religion. Can the universe be explained by appeal to natural processes alone or is it necessary to posit the reality of a non-material (or spiritual) dimension? Where can traditional religious understandings fit into a world dominated by scientific truth? This course will explore these questions through an exploration of the creation/evolution debate, theories of emergence and mind, and modern cosmological theories, considering in each case the implications of how we answer these questions for the building of a sustainable future. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel)

REL 241 Christian Ethics

4 hours

An introduction to the biblical and theological sources of Christian ethics, types of moral theories, and methods of moral deliberation. Students develop a moral framework for a response to a variety of issues related to human sexuality, ecology, business, medicine, and war. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT)

REL 242 Dietrich Bonhoeffer

4 hours

An introduction to the life and thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian executed for his participation in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. His theological ethics are examined in their historical context through three major primary texts: The Cost of Discipleship, Ethics, and Letters and Papers from Prison. Attention is given to the significance of Bonhoeffer's work for today. Offered alternate years. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT)

REL 243 Environmental Ethics

4 hours

A critical examination of issues in environmental ethics from diverse Christian perspectives. The course examines root causes of environmental problems, philosophical and theological assumptions about nature, and resources for response in Christian traditions. Particular attention is given to demographic and economic factors at the global level as well as personal consumption decisions at the local level. Case studies ground reflection in concrete situation. Typically offered during alternate years at Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. Offered alternate years. (Rel, HEPT)

REL 250 Living Religions

4 hours

This course explores the ways religion constitutes a vital force in the 21st century. It explores questions such as: what is religion, how can we study religion, why does religion appeal to people in an age of science, and how does religion facilitate personal and social transformation? The course integrates field trips, critical analysis, literature and films, the study of religious art, and theoretical reflection in order examine the role religion plays in today's world. Particular emphasis will be given to religious worldviews, practices, art, and ethics. While the course focuses on the phenomenon of religion in general rather than individual religious traditions, the course addresses religious diversity worldwide as well as in the Midwest. Prerequisite: one of Rel 101, 111 or 112. (Rel, Intcl, HE)

REL 251 Judaism

4 hours

The course will provide a basic introduction to the development of Judaism as a religious culture from its beginnings to the present day. By reading primary texts from the biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern periods, students will examine religious experiences, worldviews, beliefs, behaviors, and symbols of the Jewish tradition, and the historical forces—cultural, political, social, and economic—that have shaped Judaism. Throughout the course we will address issues raised by the history of Judaism that are particularly relevant today—imperialism, genocide, post-Holocaust theology, the State of Israel, gender, and so on. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Hist, Intcl)

REL 256 Islam

4 hours

This course will introduce students to the history, development, and theological traditions of Islam. Special attention will be given to Muhammad and the founding of the Muslim community; the Quran and Sunnah (the way of the Prophet) and their roles as sources for Muslim religious traditions; and the various expressions of Islam in the contemporary world, especially revivalism and modernism. The relationship between Islam and Christianity will also be a topic of consideration. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Intcl)

REL 257 Contemporary Islamic Movements

4 hours

This course explores the development and influence of a variety of Islamic movements that are growing in the contemporary world. After an overview of the basic structure of Islamic thought and of the Islamic Revivalist and Modernist movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, attention will be given to contemporary expressions of these larger trends such as Islamic Democracy, Islamic Economics, Islamic Feminism, and Progressive Islam. Special attention will be given to the role of Islamic thought in the post-9/11 world. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Intcl)

REL 261 Religions of South Asia

4 hours

This course will introduce the religious and philosophical traditions of South Asia. Particularly, it will focus on the historical, textual, and doctrinal foundations of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. It will analyze excerpts of their sacred scriptures, survey their beliefs, study their practices, and explore their ethical systems. Additional consideration will be given to contemporary issues facing these traditions. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Intcl)

REL 262 Religions of East Asia

4 hours

This course will introduce the religious and philosophical traditions of China, Korea, and Japan. Particularly, it will focus on the historical, textual, and doctrinal foundations of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintoism. It will analyze excerpts of their sacred scriptures, survey their beliefs, study their practices, and explore their ethical systems. Additional consideration will be given to contemporary issues facing these traditions. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Intcl)

REL 263 Experiencing Mahayana Buddhism

4 hours

This course introduces students to Mahayana Buddhism. It explores the development of Mahayana Buddhism, its relationship with other religious traditions, and its influence on culture. The primary teaching method is experiential. Students will visit temples in China and/or Japan, have instructions by an abbot, participate in the monastic life, will meet scholars of Buddhism, visit holy sites, and participate in Buddhist worship. The students will spend three days in a temple, joining the monks in meditation and religious practice. In addition to this experiential dimension, the course will familiarize students with the history, scriptures, and beliefs of Mahayana Buddhism through readings from primary texts, lectures, videos, and class discussions. It will further analyze the Buddhist response to general topics and problems, such as the absolute, the notion of self, the problem of human existence, as well as soteriological and ethical issues. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (HEPT, Rel, Intcl)

REL 270 Religious Identity and Interfaith Engagement

4 hours

This course explores issues of religious identity and interfaith engagement in a pluralistic world. Through a variety of methods, including textual study, theoretical reflection and a case study approach, we will discuss questions such as: what is religious identity, is it possible to identify with more than one religious tradition, can one remain committed to a single religious tradition in a pluralistic world, and how can people of different faiths build relationships with each other and work together for the common good? In addition, this course will examine interreligious encounters in a variety of contexts (in the United States and globally), and analyze responses to religious pluralism from a number of different religious perspectives. Prerequisite: Rel 101, 111 or 112. (Rel, HE, Intcl)

REL 285/295 Directed Study

2, 4 hours

An opportunity to pursue individualized or experiential learning with a faculty member, at the sophomore level or above, either within or outside the major. REL 285 can be taken only during January term, REL 295 can be taken during the fall, spring, or summer terms.

REL 312 The World of the Bible

4 hours

Using archaeological, literary, and artistic sources together with the Bible, this course examines the environment within which the biblical books were written. Both Old and New Testaments are examined in the light of outside sources. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel)

REL 314 Teaching the Bible

4 hours

In this course, students will apply interpretive methods to biblical texts in order to develop an understanding of the context and significance of these texts, then develop educational programs for use in a congregational setting that reflect this analysis. The entirety of the course will consist of collaborative work in groups. Class time will consist of four weekdays and Sunday mornings; a significant amount of the course will consist of group work outside of class. In groups of 4–5 people, students will choose a text appropriate for a specific age group, apply interpretive methods to that text, and develop a Sunday School lesson for that age group. Groups will rotate to different Sunday School classes each week. In addition, students will develop an outline for an adult education series, and assess existing curricular materials after the experience of developing their own programming. Prerequisite: Rel 101, 111 or 112. (Rel)

REL 316 Jesus and the Gospels

4 hours

An examination of the different ways in which the Jesus tradition was assimilated in the first two centuries of the common era. The course centers its attention on the four New Testament portraits of Jesus because they became the accepted interpretation of Jesus. Those portraits will be compared and contrasted with other ancient options available from recent discoveries. Topics studied will include: the canonical Gospels and the Synoptic problem, several noncanonical Gospels (including especially the Gospel according to Thomas), and the quest for the historical Jesus. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT)

REL 332 Human Nature and Religion

4 hours

All religious traditions are in some measure shaped by their conceptions of human nature. Academic theories of religion, too, are shaped by conceptions of human nature. Human self-understanding is therefore central both to the believer's search for religious meaning and to the scholar's search for the meaning of religion. This course will examine the roles played by conceptions of human nature in various religious traditions and in various theories of religion. The course will also assess whether and how contemporary scientific accounts of human nature challenge traditional belief systems. Offered alternate years. Prerequisite: REL 101, 111 or 112. (Rel, HEPT, HB)

REL 364 Topics In Asian Religions

4 hours

This course will explore one particular topic in the field of Asian religions. Likely topics include meditation theory, nationalism and religion, and theories of justice. This course is designed for students with a particular interest in Asian studies, religious studies, or philosophy. Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. Offered alternate years. (Rel)

REL 370 Theology and Religious Diversity

4 hours

Religious diversity is a reality that we can no longer avoid. It challenges us to take seriously the spiritual and religious commitments of others and to reflect more critically on our own questions about and commitments to religion. This course will introduce students to the larger theological issues involved in interreligious dialogue and learning, a field known as comparative theology. Incorporating thinkers from at least three religious traditions and putting them into conversation with one another, the course will explore the following questions from a theological perspective: How does globalism and the fact of religious diversity influence my beliefs? What are various ways of thinking about god, the world, and our place in it? What is the significance of my neighbor's faith for my own? How might an engagement with other religious traditions shape and transform my own religious identity? Prerequisite: one of REL 101, 111, or 112. (Rel, HEPT, Intcl)

REL 380 Internship

1, 2, or 4 hours

A supervised internship program integrating study and practical experience. Internships may be designed to fit with a student's particular interests in the field of religion. Sites are chosen and programs are approved in consultation with the religion department's internship coordinator and career center. Credit is granted on a credit/no credit basis for participation in assigned activities and the writing of a reflection journal. Prerequisite: religion major or minor and completion of the religion general education requirement.

REL 381 Internship

1, 2, or 4 hours

A more extensive internship program integrating study and practical experience. Internships may be designed to fit with a student's particular interests in the field of religion. Sites are chosen and programs are approved in consultation with the religion department's internship coordinator and career center. A letter grade (A–F) is awarded based on participation in assigned activities, the writing of a reflection journal, and completion of additional academic activities such as reading and writing assignments developed in consultation with the religion department internship coordinator. Prerequisite: religion major or minor, junior standing, GPA of at least 3.0 in the major.

REL 395 Independent Study

1, 2, or 4 hours

REL 485 Seminar

4 hours

Prerequisite: three courses in religion, or consent of instructor. (W)

REL 490 Senior Project

1–2 hours

REL 493 Senior Honors Project

4 hours

A yearlong independent research project. Applications are completed on the Honors Program form available at the registrar's office, requiring the signatures of a faculty supervisor, the department head, the honors program director, and the registrar. Interdisciplinary projects require the signatures of two faculty supervisors. The project must be completed by the due date for senior projects. The completed project is evaluated by a review committee consisting of the faculty supervisor, another faculty member from the major department, and a faculty member from outside the major department. All projects must be presented publicly. Only projects awarded an "A-" or "A" qualify for "department honors" designation. The honors project fulfills the all-college senior project requirement.