Course Offerings | Religion

Division of Social Studies

Beth Glazier-McDonald (chair), Richard Axtell, Ruben Dupertuis, David Hall, Thomas McCollough, Milton Scarborough; students: Kyle Galbraith, Jacob Martin, Annie Murphy

Through a wide variety of course offerings and assistance with internships, the Religion Program seeks to fulfill several goals. The first is to acquaint students with the interpretations of religious belief and practice offered by the world’s major religious traditions, especially the Judaic and Christian traditions. A second goal is to develop students’ ability to reflect critically and independently on these traditions, to gather and interpret research materials, and to articulate their ideas well. A third goal is to encourage students to contribute to society after graduation through participation and leadership in professional, religious, and civic organizations. A final aim is to prepare religion majors for graduate and professional programs in religious studies or theology if their career goals require additional study.

Graduates who majored in religion at Centre have proved themselves to be well prepared for graduate and professional study in religion. They have acquitted themselves well in the nation’s best divinity schools and graduate departments of religion. Most of the majors, however, go in other directions. They have found the major to be strong general preparation for careers in banking, counseling, law, medicine, theater management, writing, and various organizations in the private and public sectors.

Majors acquire general knowledge in the discipline through survey courses in biblical history and ideas, history of Christian thought, and world religions. They then enjoy unrestricted choice of six upper-level electives. Finally they take the senior seminar. This experience involves them in discussion with the entire religion faculty, and often with visiting scholars, of important current works in the discipline; in the preparation of critical responses to these readings; and ultimately in the production and presentation of a major research paper.

Requirements for the Major

REL 110, 120, 130, and six Religion courses numbered 300 or above, including REL 500.

Requirements for the Minor

110, 130 and five additional religion courses, including at least three courses numbered 300 or above.

Religion Courses

REL 110 Biblical History and Ideas
A study of the historical setting and development of the Israelite and early Christian communities, their literatures, and their thought, as reflected in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.

REL 112, 312 Biblical Archaeology
Biblical archaeology examines the archaeological records of the ancient Near East and the ancient Mediterranean as one means of shedding light on the Bible. This course introduces archaeological field methods and surveys a number of archaeological sites and discoveries (e.g., Ugarit, Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Qumran) that have some bearing on the reading and interpretation of the Bible. Prerequisite: REL 110.

REL 113, 313 The Bible in Context
A course spread over two terms that combines an off-campus experience with a follow-up course. The course introduces students to the ancient context (historical/archaeological and literary) out of which the Bible arose and utilizes that context as a means of critiquing the text. Students are also introduced to the contemporary context of the Middle East wherein the Bible plays a critical role in defining not only religious convictions but also social, moral, and political convictions and realities. These experiences are then used to discuss the ongoing interpretation and use of this ancient text.

REL 120 History of Christian Thought
An introductory study of Christian thought in relation to its intellectual and societal context from its beginnings in the Apostolic Period to the present day, with an emphasis on certain individuals and movements in the ancient church, the Middle Ages, the reformations of the 16th century, and the Enlightenment, and with an assessment of their contributions to the present positions of Christian thought.

REL 130 World Religions
A study of the beliefs and cultural significance of the major world religions, with special emphasis on the Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, and other Far-Eastern and Near-Eastern faiths.

REL 132, 332 Islam
An exploration of the beliefs, practices, institutions, and history of Islam from the inside – as its adherents see them. Particular attention is given to the current revival of Islam.

REL 140 Philosophy of Religion
A critical examination of traditional and recent theories concerning such issues in the philosophy of religion as the existence of God, the nature of ultimate reality, the nature and destiny of human beings, and the validity of claims to religious knowledge. (Also listed as PHI 170.)

REL 160 Biblical Hebrew (four credit hours)
An introductory course in reading, vocabulary, and grammar skills.

REL 314 Literature of the Hebrew Bible
A study of the origins and development of the literature of the Hebrew Bible, with special attention to historical situations and theological implications. Prerequisite: REL 110.

REL 315 New Testament Literature
A study of the origins and development of the literature of the New Testament. Prerequisite: REL 110.

REL 320 Early Christianity
A study of the development of the institutions, doctrines, and rituals of the early church from the end of the first century to the coming of the barbarians in the West and the reign of Theodosius I in the East.

REL 322 Medieval Civilization
A survey of the emergence and development of European civilization from the decline of the Roman Empire to the 14th century. (Also listed as HIS 303.)

REL 324 Reformation
The course focuses on European history from the mid-15th to the mid-16th century. Locating the origins of the Reformation in the late Middle Ages, the course focuses on the theological, philosophical, and historical forces at work that culminated in the reform movements in Germany, Switzerland, and England. While Martin Luther is the central figure studied, attention is also given to Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin as well as several figures from the Radical Reformation. (Also listed as HIS 305.)

REL 327 The Church and Social Change in Latin America
An examination of the role of religion in Latin American society with special emphasis on a particular country (or countries) on site (Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico). Students study religion from historical, sociological, and anthropological perspectives, examining pre-Columbian Mesoamerican religions, the mission of colonizers, syncretistic responses to conquest and evangelization, the relationship between church and state, the challenge of liberation theology, and the rise of Protestantism.

REL 338 Buddhist Thought
A critical examination of the major schools of thought in the development of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Some attention is given to meditation and to the application of Zen to the arts. (Also listed as PHI 360.)

REL 340 Poverty and Homelessness
A study of poverty and homelessness in the United States in light of major theological and philosophical approaches to economic justice. Students compare alternative perspectives on root causes of American poverty and evaluate competing public policy proposals. The course is designed to create an enlightening encounter with "the other America" through readings, movies, discussions with poor and homeless persons, interviews with service providers and activists, site visits, and experiential learning.

REL 341 Current Trends in Religious Thought
An exploration of new directions in contemporary theology, primarily Christian. Major approaches of the recent past are considered, as well as writings that represent the present theological situation. Prerequisite: REL 110 or 120.

REL 342 Religion and Contemporary Literature
An examination of selected contemporary novels and short stories with attention to the perspectives offered by the works on dimensions of the human condition that are also the perennial concerns of religion. Different approaches to the study of the relationship between religion and literature are introduced.

REL 344 Religion and Violence
An analysis of the major approaches to issues of violence, war, and peace in religious ethical teaching. The course examines the roots of Christian pacifism, Just War theory and Holy War as well as alternative theories on the origins of conflict. Students work to develop positive, practical strategies for conflict resolution informed by the rich resources available in biblical teaching, theological ethics, and Gandhian philosophy.

REL 345 Christian Ethics and Public Issues
A consideration of the ethical dimensions of contemporary problems of institutional life and social policy in theological perspective. Poverty and economic justice; criminal justice; eco-justice; institutional racism and sexism; and international conflict and peace are among the topics considered.

REL 347 Liberation Theologies in Historical and Political Context
A study of liberation theologies with emphasis on the integrative analysis upon which their theological method depends. The course examines the socio-economic and historical situations out of which Latin American, African American, womanist, feminist, and gay/lesbian theologies of liberation have arisen; the social analysis they employ; and the reconstruction of Christian theology that results.

REL 349 Sociology of Religion
A study of the major theoretical approaches to religion used in sociology. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or ANT 110 or REL 110 or REL 120 or permission of the instructor. (Also listed as SOC 340.)

REL 350 The Holocaust
This course examines the event of the Holocaust by exploring its history and background, its impact on the Jewish community in Europe and worldwide, the responses to the event, and its consequences. The course deals with a variety of disciplinary frameworks, including history, theology, literary studies, and political science.

REL 457 Civil Society and Sustainable Development
A study of alternative theories of social and economic development in the current Latin American context (e.g., Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba). Briefings with officials, interviews with religious and social activists, and visits to rural and urban civil society groups engaged in creative community development alternatives provide concrete case studies for understanding the interrelationship between social, political, economic, environmental, religious, and ethical aspects of a country's development process. Offered in Mexico.

REL 360 Advanced Topics in Hebrew (four credit hours)
Selected prose readings from both the Hebrew Bible and modern Israeli writers. Continued emphasis on grammar skills and vocabulary acquisition. May be repeated. Prerequisite: REL 160. Note: May be applied toward major requirements only twice and minor requirements only once.

REL 440 Issues in Science and Religion
An inquiry into the ways in which scientific views of biological evolution and the big bang, for example, conflict or are consonant with theological views of God, human beings, and nature. In addition, the course includes a critical examination of scientific and theological methodologies.

REL 451 Business, Society, and Ethics
An examination of the nature of the modern corporation and the moral problems that arise as it deals with the several constituencies that are affected by its actions and influence. Considerable use is made of case studies. Among the issues treated are the values that inform various corporate cultures, competing views of social justice, environmental protection, affirmative action, working conditions, privacy and employee rights, relocation decisions, employee responsibilities, and consumer protection.

REL 452 Religion, Feminism and the Family
A seminar study of the effects of feminism on religion and the family in historical and contemporary perspective. Topics include competing understandings of the family and of feminism, current debates about family values and the decline of civil society, the competing claims of family and the workplace, and conflicts over parental and children’s rights. Prerequisite: REL 110 or 120 or 130.

REL 453 World Hunger and Ecology
An analysis of the world hunger and ecological crises and of competing diagnoses of root causes. The course 1) examines alternative economic theories and related theories of development on issues of poverty and ecology, 2) compares underlying theological and ideological presuppositions that shape perception of causes and ethical judgements about effective solutions and 3) develops theological resources for practical, responsible, and compassionate actions in the midst of widespread hunger and ecological degradation.

REL 470 Archaeology: The Rabbis and Early Christianity (four credit hours)
A study of the formative period of Christianity and classical Judaism. The class employs archaeological and literary evidence to explore the evolution of doctrine, worship, and authority. Along with the field work done in conjunction with the excavations at Sepphoris, the class includes visits to the archaeological remains at Beth She’arim, Caesarea, Jerusalem, and Capernaum. (Conducted in Israel.)

REL 500 Senior Seminar