Course Offerings | Religion

Division of Social Studies

Thomas McCollough (chair), Richard Axtell, Beth Glazier-McDonald, David Hall, Lee Jefferson, Kori Mendoza-Forrest; students: Hannah Brooks, Brian Heyburn



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 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 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 317 Illness, Healing and Miracles
This course examines the large role healing and miracles played in the lives of people living in the first millennium of the common era. By exploring how healing and miracles related to religion in this time frame, some comparisons can be realized in how religion is continually related to healing in the contemporary era. Primary and secondary texts are examined as well as archaeology and visual art, incorporating several different genres to illuminate the subject of illness and healing in the Late Antique and Early Medieval worlds and its continuing relevance in contemporary life. By looking to the past and considering questions of what “Christian” healing actually looked like and why miracles proliferated at this time, students can begin to explain why miracles, particularly healing miracles, continually appear in religious contexts today. Prerequisite: none; REL 110 or 120 recommended.

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 323 The Ottoman Empire
A study of the rise and fall of the vast and complex Ottoman Empire. The course examines the evolution of central instituitons and leadership, foreign relations, and social and economic change. The course also surveys the development of the beautiful and distincitive forms of Ottoman art and arechitecture. As the head of the Ottoman Empire was also the leader of Islam, the course also affords the opportunity to explore the development of Islam with particular attention given to Sufism. (Also listed as HIS 338.)

REL 336 Reading and Ritual in Hinduism
An exploration of Hindu sacred texts with special attention to their use in ritual, music, film, and festival. Prerequisite: REL 130 or permission of the instructor.

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 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
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 348 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 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 371 Feminist Theologies
A survey of major feminist perspectives in Jewish and Christian theology. The course looks at Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant feminist theologies as well as more radical feminist religious perspectives. Prerequisite: One 100-level REL course.

REL 373 Readings in the Philosophy of Religion
This course is an indepth engagement with primary texts in the philosophy of religion. The course covers topics such as the nature and existence of God, the rationality of religious belief, and the question of multiple religious faiths. Prerequisite: One introductory philosophy or religion course. (Also listed as PHI 335.)

REL 454 Religion and Human Rights in a Global Society
An examination of the religious and secular origins of human rights conceptions. Study of primary declarations and documents and comparison of alternative notions of human rights and their theoretical foundations sets the stage for application of key concepts in current debates about genocide and humanitarian intervention, the International Criminal Court, the economic policies of international financial institutions, and the rise of religious fundamentalism.

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


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