Course Offerings | Religion

Division of Social Studies

Tom McCollough (chair), Richard Axtell, Beth Glazier-McDonald, Ravi Gupta, David Hall, Tim Noel; students: Ben Durham, Sarah Langford, Alex Riffee

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, 499, 500 and five additional Religion courses numbered 300 or higher.

Requirements for the Minor

REL 110, 130 and five additional religion courses, including at least three courses numbered 300 or above, excluding REL 499.

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 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 131/331Judaism
An examination of Judaism in the modern era from mid-18th century to the present. Particular attention is given to the problem of definition, to the varieties of Jewish belief and behavior, and to Judaism's celebration of life.

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 165 New Testament Greek (four credit hours)
After a review of grammar, this course studies passages from the Greek New Testament (the Gospels, Acts, Revelation), leading to possible further course work in Greek epic, tragedy, or philosophy. Prerequisite: CLA 111 or permission of the instructor.

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 316 The Other Christian Literature
A survey of some of the early Christian texts not in the canon, emphasizing the social and historical contexts of the various expressions of early Christianity. Includes a study of the process of canonization as it occurred in the first four centuries CE. Prerequisite: REL 110.

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 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 343 Theories of Religion
An exploration of the manner in which religion is theorized and studied in a number of different disciplines including, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. Focus is on theories that have arisen in the 20th century and remain influential. Prerequisite: REL 110 or 120 or 130.

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 346 Theology of Creation
An exploration of the idea of creation through the analysis of creation narrative and the formation of doctrine. The course concludes by addressing contemporary appropriations including creation science and ecological theology. Prerequisite: REL 110 or 120.

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. The class will take an overnight trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the Holocaust Museum. (Also listed as HIS 322.)

REL 352 Sociology of American Religion
A survey of the main religions and denominations found in the United States . The course examines the competition of denominations and religions in the “religious marketplace.” It further examine how a generalized Judeo-Christian or Biblical religious tradition, as well as the idea of the competition of all the “disestablished” religious institutions itself, becomes part of a broad American civil religion. Prerequisite: SOC 110 or ANT 110 or REL 120 or permission of the instructor.

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 372 Theological Existentialism
Focusing on thinkers like Soren Kierkegaard, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Gabriel Marcel, this course addresses theological currents within philosophical existentialism. These philosophers and theologians follow the principle existentialist thinkers—Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus—in asserting that existence precedes essence, but argue that this assertion does not rule out the possibility of the existence of God. Prerequisite:
One introductory course in religion or philosophy or permission of the instructor.

REL 374 Basketball as Religion
A study of the various social/communal activities people adopt as surrogate religions. Examples include sports (college and professional), clubs (the Masons, Elks, fraternities and sororities), political affiliations, etc. (Part of the course requirements include physical activity; students need not be skilled but should be willing to participate.) Prerequisite: One 100-level religion course or permission of the instructor.

REL 453 World Hunger and
the Environment
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 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 499 Senior Seminar Research
(one credit hour)
A course intended to oversee and guide research for the major paper to be presented in the senior seminar. Senior religion majors only.

REL 500 Senior Seminar

Special Topics in Religion Offered 200

REL 351 Religion and Film
Has going to movies replaced going to church? Do films shape or reflect cultural values? Can violence in film possibly have a positive function? This course will introduce a few of the many issues relating to the study of religion and film, focusing on the possible religious function of film. We will use contemporary theories of religion, myth, and ritual to understand the role of film in contemporary American society. While not our exclusive focus, many of the films will be drawn from the genre of Science Fiction. Possible films include: Star Wars, Blade Runner, Alien, Die Hard, Thelma and Louise, Independence Day, Twelve Monkeys,  and The Matrix. Prerequisite: One 100 or 200 level religion course or permission of the instructor.

REL 414 The Life and Letters of Paul
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the figure of Paul in the development of early Christianity and the collection of texts that came to be known as the New Testament. Paul is also controversial. Depending on who you talk to, he was either a brilliant theologian who founded Christianity or a misogynistic maverick who willfully misinterpreted the Jewish Scriptures for personal benefit. In this course we will study the writings attributed to Paul in the New Testament, seeking to understand them in their historical and cultural contexts. We will also examine traditions about Paul as they appear in the Acts of the Apostles and later early Christian writings. Prerequisite: REL 110.

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