Course Offerings - Catalog 2013-14

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Division of Social Studies

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 Western religions. 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 Eastern religious traditions. 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.


David Hall (chair), Richard Axtell, Beth Glazier-McDonald, Christian Haskett, Lee Jefferson, Thomas McCollough, Matthew Pierce


Requirements for the Major

REL 110, 120, 130, 499, 500;
Five additional religion courses numbered 300 or higher

Requirements for the Minor

REL 110, 130;
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 Eastern Religious Traditions
A survey of religious traditions of South and East Asia. Focus will be given to the beliefs, practices, historical interaction, and cultural significance of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Daoism, Confucianism, and other Asian religions.

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 150 Western Religious Traditions
An introduction to the major religious traditions of the Western world. Focused attention is given to the historical interactions between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as their main thinkers, texts, beliefs, and practices.

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 310  The Art of Pilgrimage
This course is intended to immerse the student into the tradition, theology, culture, and environment of pilgrimage.  Specifically, this course will allow the student to explore the significance of pilgrimage by perfoming the actions of a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  For over 1000 years, people of faith have traveled to the burial site of St. James in Santiago.  The routes to reach Santiago flourished in the medieval era, paths that were walked by princes, kings, and ordinary peasants.  As a result each town along the way to Santiago bears vivid material evidence through ecclesial art and architecture that speaks to the popularity of this practice.  Students will walk in their footsteps upon these well-trod routes, specifically focusing on the route in northern Spain.  By delving into this practice, students are expected to gain a deeper knowledge of the role of ritual practice in religion as well as an understanding of the continued significance of physical ritual in the contemporary world.

REL 311 The Holy Land: Historical and Theological Studies of Israel
Judaism, Christianity and Islam claim the land of Israel as sacred space. This course studies the ways in which this has evolved and been expressed in the history, theology and architecture of these religious movements.

REL 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 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 318 Christology and Images of Jesus
This course explores the theological conception of Christ in word and image. Both theologians and artists have depicted Jesus in multifaceted ways from the first centuries to the contemporary period. This course intends to examine the early Christological controversies on the divinity of Christ and explore cognate artistic “portraits” that express doctrinal Christological impressions as well as reveal more popular and accessible conceptions of Christ. By examining the conciliar Christological debates alongside visual representations of Christ, a greater understanding of resonant religious, historical, and art historical movements can be achieved. The course involves the study of scripture and theological writings, and the investigation of artistic “portraits” of Christ. These “portraits” include artistic evidence from the third century to the present (including film), and students are expected to compare textual renderings of Christ to artistic portrayals of Christ with the goal of realizing the long tradition and prescient impact these examples continually embody. Prerequisite: REL 110 or 120.

REL 319 Christian Art in Context

This course examines the genre of Christian art from its inception through several prominent periods in history. The goal is to analyze the development of Christian art amidst the contextual background of history. With this methodology, one can visually realize and recognize important historical and theological shifts that are underway in the immediate context of the work of art under discussion. Moreover, it is equally critical to examine these works of art in situ to realize the dimensions, the depth of artistic professionalism and gravitas that they exhibit. This course intends to impart the importance of witnessing works of art “face to face” as well as to understand the context in which they were born. This class will examine the rise of Christian art into the Byzantine era, the shifts in representation in the Renaissance and Reformation eras, and how Christian art is expressed today. This course will take field trips to Louisville and Chicago to see works of art examined in class. Students choose a specific work of art to study and analyze on a deeper level for a class project.

REL 321 The Writings and Reception of Paul

The writings of the first-century apostle Paul were arguably the most important component of creating the early Christian church. Paul's letters richly informed Christian theology, and they also attract criticism due to the controversial language and approach the apostle utilizes in his writings. This course will examine the letters undoubtedly authored by Paul as well as the book of Acts' treatment of the missionary journey of the apostle. This course will examine the historical context of the Pauline letters and Acts, and also assess the early Christian reception and incorporation of Paul. Finally this course will treat later and more contemporary
assessments of Pauline thought and its impact on the Christian tradition. Students will leave this course with a deeper appreciation of the historical, literary, and social dimensions that informed Paul's writings, as well as become adept into rhetorical methodology and the art of persuasion. Finally, students will leave this course with a deeper sensitivity to the moral and ethical issues that the Pauline legacy raises. Prerequisite: REL 110.

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 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 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 333 Concepts of the Qur'an
An examination of social and theological issues in the Qur'an, with an emphasis on modern situations. Issues relating to the application of Islamic law, particularly family law are central. The consequences of Islamic law for women and minorities are examined in detail. Prerequisite: REL 130 or 132 or 332 or permission of the instructor.

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 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 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 375 The Life and Thought of Augustine
This course explores the development of Augustine’s thought in its historical context. Through reading Augustine’s works with a keen eye towards philosophical influences, political and social movements, biblical interpretation, and major controversies, a broader understanding of the impact of Augustinian thought can be achieved. Students read the seminal works of Augustine in English translation, as well as secondary biographical works on Augustine’s life in order to place his thought in its North African context as well as address its role in the broader milieu of Christian thought. Prerequisite: REL 120 and junior or senior standing, or permission of the instructor.

REL 380 Women, Gender, and Islam
This course examines the diverse ways gender and sexuality has been constructed in Muslim societies historically and today. We will begin with an analysis of gender roles found in early Arab Muslim communities and will look at how specific assumptions about gender have become embedded in important Islamic texts and rituals. Attention will be drawn to the lives of some (often overlooked) influential Muslim women of history. The course will conclude with a careful look at how contemporary Muslims justify and/or challenge traditional gender roles within society today. Prerequisite: Students should have either taken a course which has introduced them to Islam or a course which has critically engaged gender theory: REL 150 or GNS 210 or permission from instructor.

REL 430 Introduction to World Buddhism
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to Buddhism as a world religion. It will allow students to follow this fascinating religion from its place of origin in India, to the Far East, where it develops into a rich synthesis of folk and philosophical elements. We will consider the basic doctrines, practices, lay spirituality, polemics, and folk practices of Buddhism. We will also consider the contributions of Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto to the development of various forms of Buddhism. Prerequisite: REL 130 or permission of the instructor.

REL 453 World Hunger and the Environment
An analysis of the world hunger and environmental 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 the environment, 2) compares underlying theological and ideological presuppositions that shape perception of causes and ethical judgments about effective solutions and 3) develops theological resources for practical, responsible, and compassionate actions in the midst of widespread hunger and environmental degradation.

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