Religion Courses

Religion Courses

The study of religion employs the methods and perspectives of philosophy, comparative literature, history and the social sciences to illuminate the beliefs and practices — myths, symbols, doctrines, rituals, morals, values — used by cultures to explain the ultimate nature of existence.

The discipline, therefore, requires students to apply diverse methods of analysis and interpretation and teaches skills related to thinking, reading, and writing that are applicable to a variety of issues and tasks. A major or minor in religion enhances a student's ability to study all subjects in the humanities and social sciences, including language, literature, cultural studies, and law. A major also prepares a student to pursue graduate or professional studies in religion.

Religion major (32 hours): Since there are a variety of courses offered in this discipline, students are encouraged to choose classes that best suit their interests, from the investigation of world religions to an emphasis on biblical studies. Majors are required to complete at least two 4-credit-hour courses at the 200 level and at least five courses at the 300 level or higher. The latter must include one course from the biblical field (REL 320 through REL 339), one from the historical field (REL 340 through REL 369), one from the theological field (REL 371 through REL 389), and one course in a non-Christian religious tradition (REL 293, 296, 309, 343, 354, 368, 393, 395, 396, or another course approved by the religion faculty). In addition to a minimum of eight courses, a non-credit senior project and presentation is also required. Supporting courses in philosophy, psychology, history and art are cross-listed with their respective departments providing a variety of options for personalized research. Prospective seminary students are advised concerning courses that will best prepare them for study at the professional level.

Religion minor (20 hours): Minors are required to complete at least one four-credit-hour course at the 200 level, and at least three courses at the 300 level. Five courses will complete the minor requirements.

Christian Ministry Minor (24 hours): The centerpiece of the Christian Ministry Program is the Christian Ministry minor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy. Five courses have been added to the Hastings College catalog that are specific to this program: Church Leadership: Preaching, Worship, Polity and Program; Christian Education and Youth Ministry; A Survey of Sacred Music-Music of the Christian Church from Medieval to Contemporary; Student Ministry Practicum; and Seminar on the Nature of Christian Ministry Four emphases are offered. Required core courses include Religion 225, 235, 405, 450, 480, and one of the following: 245, 385, 387, or another theology class approved by the religion faculty. An additional course in one of four concentrations – Christian Education and Youth Ministry, Pastoral Care, Sacred Music, or Mission and Social Justice – is required for the minor.   

Religion Major with an emphasis in Christian Ministry (36 hours): Students must complete all the requirements for the Christian Ministry Minor, plus three additional 300 level classes, including one course from the biblical field (REL 320 through REL 339), one from the historical field (REL 340 through REL 369), and one from the theological field (REL 371 through REL 389). In addition, a non-credit senior project is also required.

REL 203  Religion, Peace, and Non-Violent Alternatives – 1 hour
In this course students use the disciplinary tools of religion to explore and meaningfully construct theories of religious approaches to non-violence in communities. Course must be taken in conjunction with SOC203. Counts toward LAP religion requirement.

REL 225 Hebrew Bible — 4 hours
A survey of the literature of the Hebrew Bible from the perspective of contemporary biblical scholarship: its genres, its sources, and its importance as reflecting the history and developing beliefs of ancient Israel. Every fall.

REL 235 New Testament — 4 hours
A survey of New Testament literature from the perspective of contemporary biblical scholarship: its genres, its sources and authors, its importance as reflecting the history and beliefs of early Christian faith. Every spring.

REL 245 Introduction to the Christian Tradition — 4 hours
An analysis of Christian faith through an historical overview of theological developments in the Christian encounter with the world, this course looks at critical "turning points" in the Christian tradition from the spread of Christianity after the 1st century destruction of the Jerusalem temple, through early debates about the nature of the trinity, the 16th century Protestant Reformations, to 20th century developments such as Vatican II and the rise of feminist theology. Every year.

REL 274 Philosophy of Religion — 4 hours (Also PHL 274)
An analysis of arguments for and against traditional Jewish or Christian beliefs, such as those relating to immortality, the existence of God, miracles, and the validity of faith; also, a consideration of non-Western religious beliefs and philosophical methods. Every year.

REL 293/393 Introduction to Judaism — 4 hours
This course explores the theological and historical development of Rabbinic Judaism from the fall of the Second Temple in 70CE to the present. Such issues as Jewish belief and ritual, mysticism, Jewish literature, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be covered. Students taking the course at the 393 level will be expected to write a research paper. Alternate years.

REL 296/396 Introduction to World Religions: The East — 4 hours
A survey of the beliefs and rituals, as well as the historical and cultural contexts, of the major religious/philosophical traditions of the East: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Reflection on how these religions differ from, or are similar to, the Judeo-Christian tradition will also be central to the course. Students taking the course at the 396 level will be expected to write a research paper. Alternate years.

REL 309 Death and Dying — 4 hours
This class uses novels, field trips, videos, interviews, and readings to survey world religious perspectives on death and dying, including aspects of care for the dying, grief and bereavement, and funeral services. Every fall.

REL 311 The Bible as Literature — 4 hours (Also ENG311)
A close reading of the major books of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament with special attention paid to both their literary qualities and theological content. Alternate years.

REL 315 Psychology of Religion — 4 hours (Also PSY 315)
A course on the exploration of the interaction of psychological dynamics and religious behavior. This includes the study of the biological foundations of religion, behavior change, religious orientation, belief systems, faith, locus of control, lifestyles and personality. Every year.

REL 325 Hebrew Prophets Then and Now — 4 hours
An examination of the message and impact of the minor and major Hebrew prophets, with particular attention paid to the socio-political issues with which they were concerned. The course concludes with a consideration of some of the men and women who have kept the Hebrew prophetic tradition alive in the 20th and 21st centuries. Suggested prerequisite: REL 225. Alternate years.

REL 335 Jesus in History and Tradition — 4 hours
A study of the figure of Jesus in the literature of the New Testament, in historical research of 1st-century Judaism and Hellenism, and in the theological and cultural traditions of Christianity. Alternate years.

REL 336 The Apostle Paul — 4 hours
A consideration of the life, conversion, mission and theology of the Apostle Paul with particular attention paid to the effect that his Epistle to the Romans had on the Fathers of the early church. Suggested prerequisite: REL 235. Alternate years.

REL 343 Islamic World — 4 hours (Also HIS 243/343)
A survey of the development of the Islamic faith, its spread to the people of the Arabian peninsula, North Africa, Spain, Central Asia, Asia, and of Islam’s subsequent relationship with the West. As permitted. Does not fulfill Religion LAP requirement.

REL 345 Women and Religion — 4 hours
Using autobiographies, films, first-hand accounts, and secondary sources by and about women, this course uses comparative sociological and historical approaches to study the many and varied roles of women in religion, including the practices, experiences, leadership, and participation of women in religion. We will consider the role of women in religion cross-culturally as well as in American culture. Alternate years.

REL 349 Apocalyptic Then and Now — 4 hours
This course uses videos, novels, biblical texts, and secondary sources to survey the themes of apocalyptic thought, from the roots of apocalypticism in classical Hebrew prophecy, through New Testament apocalypses, to medieval examples of millennialism, to contemporary understandings of the "end times." Suggested prerequisite: REL 225 or REL 235. As permitted.

REL 354 Religion in Culture and Society — 4 hours
This course addresses the relationships between religion and society. We will examine how religion is defined across many different cultures. The course also considers the roles of myths, rituals, symbols, and religious experiences as they are expressed in different societies. What role does religion play in replicating social norms and what role does it play in bringing about social change? We will look at large scale religious belief systems such as Buddhism and Christianity as well as small-scale societies where shamans are the traditional religious leaders. We also examine the development of global movements toward secularization and fundamentalism. As permitted.

REL 357 Medieval Christianity — 4 hours (Also HIS 357)
A history of Christianity from its development during the Roman Empire to the eve of the Reformation, emphasizing spiritual, intellectual, and institutional aspects of the Christian experience in the Middle Ages.  Spring, alternate years.

REL 365 Religion in America — 4 hours (Also HIS 265/365)
An historical analysis of the role played by religion in the United States, especially by the major Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish denominations and movements, as well as by Native American traditions. Alternate years.

REL 366 Religion and the "Culture Wars" — 4 hours
Using the framework of sociologist James Davison Hunter's Culture Wars, this class seeks to understand how Christians differ on a broad range of issues, including family, education, arts, law and politics. Alternate years.

REL 368 Alternative Religions in America — 4 hours
Through films, firsthand accounts, and secondary sources, this course surveys some of America's "alternative" versions of Christianity and other religions, including such movements as the Shakers, Mormons, and the Branch Davidians of Waco. Throughout the semester, we will consider sociological theories of New Religious Movements. Students will visit and report on local meetings of alternative religions. As permitted.

REL 375 Theology and the Arts — 4 hours (Also AHT 375)
An examination of artistic expression as a form of religious self-transcendence and the role that theology has played in this expression throughout the centuries. Particular attention will be paid to theological themes in Western art, from frescoes in the second-century catacombs to examples of the avant-garde in the twentieth century. Music and the performing arts will also be considered. Alternate years.

REL 384 Theological Seminar — 4 hours
A focused study of one aspect of biblical theology (such as the family, sacrifice, death and the afterlife), of systematic theology (such as the nature of revelation, God and angels, sin and salvation, eschatology), of historical theology (such as the thought of a major theologian), or of contemporary theology (such as the dialogue between science and religion). Prerequisite: REL 235 or REL 245. As permitted.

REL 385 Contemporary Christian Theology — 4 hours
A study of major theological movements in the 20th century, such as liberal Protestantism, neo-orthodoxy, process theology, the various liberation theologies, and their representative thinkers. Suggested prerequisite: REL 245. Alternate years.

REL 386 Christianity and Social Justice — 4 hours
A study of the use of biblical and theological arguments to construct ethical standards of personal and social behavior. Particular attention is paid to examining the Christian's role in addressing such contemporary social problems as sexism, ecological destruction, globalization, and government sanctioned violence.    Suggested prerequisite: REL 235 or REL 245. Alternate years.

REL 387 The Roman Catholic Tradition — 4 hours
An investigation of the current doctrines and practices of Roman Catholicism in the context of its theological and philosophical heritage. The course will focus on careful readings of foundational thinkers such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas in order to understand contemporary positions of the Roman Catholic Church. Alternate years.

REL 395  Native American Religious Traditions – 4 hours
This course explores the Native American religious traditions of North America, covering issues such as the definition of religion in non-Western traditions and how religion can be seen as a part of one’s identity. Comparisons are made between American Indian religions and other cultural traditions in the global context. Ethnographic descriptions focus on specific groups such as the Lakota (Sioux); the Apache; the Native American Church; and the Anishinabe (or Objiway/Chippewa) with a focus on Plains groups. Alternate years.

REL 400 Growth and Learning: Faith Development — 1 hour
Students examine concepts and issues regarding development and learning for P-12 children and youth. Instruction and related field activities assist candidates to connect concepts and theories to teaching practice. This course requires participation in field activities and helps to prepare candidates for methods courses, and Clinical and Candidate Teaching. Must be taken in conjunction with EDU 300; students taking this class will be expected to do extra work in faith development. Prerequisite: sophomore level status, ED 100/140, one 200 level Religion course, and permission of the instructor. Every year.

REL 403 Counseling Theories and Process — 1 hour
A course designed to acquaint the student with the major counseling theories, their theoretical roots and application. Emphasis is placed on the use of these strategies and techniques in the clinical setting. Taken in conjunction with PSY 333; students taking this class will be expected to do extra work in pastoral counseling. Prerequisites: One 200 level Religion course and permission of the instructor. Offered each Spring semester.

REL 405 Church Leadership: Preaching, Worship, Polity and Program — 4 hours
A study of preaching, worship, lectionary use, hymnody, polity/church government, and interpersonal and organizational skills. The polity segment will be taught ecumenically and comparatively, incorporating special projects so students can develop an understanding of their particular denomination. Prerequisites: One 200 level Religion course and permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

REL 406 Christian Education and Youth Ministry — 4 hours
An introductory course in the theologies, methods, and models of Christian Education in faith communities. Particular attention will be paid to issues of gender, race, and class in ministry to youth. Prerequisites: One 200 level Religion course and permission of the instructor. Alternate years.

REL 407 Social Justice, Mission, and Ministry — 1 hour
A reflective study of the theories and practice of social justice and mission work in the context of lay and ordained ministry. Must be taken following HUM 392. Offered every spring semester.

REL 450 Student Ministry Practicum — 3 hours
A ministry practicum in an approved church or Christian organization for 10 to 12 hours per week during the fall or spring semester, or 20 hours per week for eight weeks in the summer, preferably during the junior or senior year. Students will be required to attend a seminar every other week to discuss and reflect on their service. The practicum will focus on church leadership in pastoral ministry, Christian education, music ministry, mission, or another area of religious service. Students will receive a stipend. May not count towards a Religion Major or Religion Minor. Prerequisites: permission of the instructor. Every year.

REL 480 Seminar on the Nature of Christian Ministry — 1 hour
A capstone course, to be taken in the junior or senior year, that involves written and oral reflection on the nature of Christian Ministry, as well as an assessment component to help us evaluate our overall program. Intended for students who minor in Christian Ministry. May not count towards a Religion Major or Minor. Prerequisites: permission of the instructor. Every year.

Interim Courses

REL 284/384 Transpersonal Psychology — 3 hours (Also PSY 284/484)
A course that focuses on the personal and the transpersonal (beyond self), the ordinary and non-ordinary states of consciousness, the meeting of psychology and spirituality, spiritual development as a movement toward wholeness, wisdom traditions, and mental health and suffering. The primary focus is on the spirit and healing.

REL 402 A Survey of Sacred Music — 3 hours
An exploration of the musical history of hymnody and its relationship to the history of the church. Students will explore the role of music in worship with emphasis on developing and planning music programs in worship services and in Christian Education. The course will include field trips, guest lectures, and participation in church music programs. Cross-listed with the Music Department (MUS 402). As permitted. To meet requirements for the Christian Ministry minor, students must complete an additional one-hour course as approved by the Director of the Vocation and Values Program.