Carthage offers students academic study in world religions, church history, theology, the Bible, and religion in society. Scroll down to read descriptions of the religion courses offered at Carthage, or click on the following links for additional resources.
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- Course schedules for all terms
- Current final exam schedule
- Major/minor requirements
Understandings of Religion (REL) (RP)
REL 1000 / 4 credits
A study of the religious dimension in the lives of individuals, communities, and cultures. Students will explore understandings of religion and roles of religion, along with commonalities and differences in expression of religion. This will be accomplished by examining topics such as God, scripture, ritual, values, ethical issues, and cosmology, as expressed within several specific religious traditions, including Judaism and Christianity.
History of Christian Thought (REL) (CL)
REL 2000 / 4 credits
Students will concentrate on major Christian issues, such as dogma, canon, creed, Christology, justification, salvation, word and sacraments, and church unity, from a historical and ecumenical point of view. Special attention will be given to the ways history and cultures have influenced and shaped Christian thought.
Jewish Bible-Old Testament (REL) (CL)
REL 2010 / 4 credits
Concentrating on a representative sampling of texts from the Torah (Law), Prophets, and Writings, students will be introduced to the current methods of biblical studies. Attention will be directed to the historical periods in which this literature developed and to the basic theological concepts in the literature. Students will also become acquainted with the history of Israel, prominent Hebrew leaders, covenants, laws, and worship practices of Hebrew life.
The Gospels (REL) (CL)
REL 2020 / 4 credits
Concentrating on the New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), students will be introduced to the basic methods of biblical studies. Specifically, students will examine the particular historical, theological, and literary emphasis of each biblical author in light of modern biblical research.
The Letters of the New Testament (REL) (CL)
REL 2030 / 4 credits
Concentrating on the letters of the New Testament (e.g., Romans, Galatians, Ephesians), students will be introduced to the basic methods of biblical studies to examine the theological, historical, and literary questions raised by each letter. Careful attention will be given to matters of structure and authorship, as well as to the information contained in these letters about the early Christian communities.
Christian Spirituality (REL) (CL)
REL 2040 / 4 credits
An in-depth exploration of Christian spirituality, or how ardent Christians throughout history have variously understood and sought a relationship with their God. Inquiry into the writings and activities of the earliest desert-dwelling monastic is followed by readings from such great mystics of the Middle Ages as Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, and John of the Cross. These are supplemented by the works of contemporary advocates of the inner life, including Thomas Greene, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton. Literature study is balanced by practical exploration of Christian and other forms of prayer and meditation, and with dialogue in religious communities with monks and nuns who have elected a contemplative lifestyle.
Shamanism (REL) (CL)
REL 2050 / 4 credits
This course will examine the variety of religious experiences, rituals, and belief systems commonly referred to as shamanism. The course will look at these phenomena across history and geographic boundaries. Close attention will be paid to the particular historical and political contexts within which these various experiences have developed.
Understandings of Love (REL) (SI)
REL 2070 / 4 credits
The course is a study of understandings of love, expressions of love, and failures to love in the light of biblical, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, and in the light of contemporary experience. Special attention is given to exploring the dynamics of liking, romantically loving, romance, sexuality, intimacy, and mature, disciplined love. The course aims at opening participants to the many rewards awaiting persons, couples, families, and communities that cultivate an understanding and observance of the distinction between love as romance and love as disciplined intervention to foster the welfare of another. This is achieved through reading, analysis, and debate of several case studies using a collection of diverse interpretive models.
Faith, Love, and Ethics (REL) (DIV) (CL)
REL 2200 / 4 credits
Students will concentrate on the nature and bases of ethics and morality as informed by the Bible, Christian theology, and tradition. Special attention will be given to specific issues such as human sexuality, divorce, war and peace, personal and corporate responsibility, poverty, and world hunger.
Christianities in the Global South (REL) (CL) (ITL)
REL 2210 / 4 credits
An overview of the expansion of Christianity especially in the global South where the majority of the world’s Christians now live. The course examines the processes through which the Christian faith is communicated, received, and lived. Special attention is paid to theologies developed in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and the factors that inform the theological process.
Prerequisite: REL 1000
Jesus Beyond Christianity (REL)
REL 2220 / 4 credits
This course explores the figure of Jesus on the frontier between Christianity and other world religions. It pursues this topic comparatively examining the images of Jesus (Christologies) of both Christians and non-Christians, particularly the views of Jesus in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.
Prerequisite: REL 1000
Issues in Living and Dying (REL) (SI) (IDP) (WEL)
REL 2300 / 4 credits
Students will concentrate on concepts and issues related to illness, dying, death, and grief. Special attention will be given to issues such as definitions of death, attitudes toward death, rights, and wishes of the dying, forms of euthanasia, views of suffering and death, funeral packages, and the grief process. A particular effort will be made to enable students to see the issues in the light of Christian understanding and to help students arrive at their own positions.
Research Methods Experience
REL 2700 / 1 credit
An intensified research experience to be carried out in conjunction with one of the major’s core area classes, under the supervision of that course’s primary instructor. This will focus on learning to distinguish and evaluate primary and secondary sources, and on learning and using appropriate theoretical methods for that particular topic.
Prerequisite: REL 1000
Post-Exilic Judaism (REL) (CL)
REL 3010 / 4 credits
Concentrating on the period from the end of the Babylonian exile to the first century of the Common Era (c. 500 BCE-100 CE), students will explore the various ways Judaism evolved into its present “rabbinic” form, and simultaneously unfolded in other diverse ways. Students will explore such topics as Messianic expectations, apocalyptic Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, the expansion of the law, and the emergence of Christianity. This range of issues will focus students on that period of Israel’s life not specifically covered by study of the biblical texts.
Women and the Bible (REL) (DIV) (CL)
REL 3020 / 4 credits
This course is an opportunity to study the situation of women at the time of the biblical writings, to investigate evidence for how women were treated in the earliest Christian churches, and to take seriously the impact that the interpretation of biblical texts has had on women’s social roles throughout history and in our own day.
Creation and Apocalypse: Explorations in Religion and Science (REL) (CL) (IDP)
REL 3030 / 4 credits
This course will look at themes of human origin and destruction as articulated in the Bible and related Jewish and Christian material. We will also consider how different views on creation and the end of the world have influenced theological beliefs, social issues, and scientific investigation throughout Western history, and in contemporary U.S. culture. Students will have the opportunity to analyze modern-day debates about creation, evolution, and the end of the world based on their interaction with these ancient texts and ideas.
Church History (REL) (CL)
REL 3040 / 4 credits
A study of the Christian church from apostolic times to the present with special attention to the sociological, economic, psychological, and doctrinal factors in its development. While primary emphasis is placed on the Western European tradition, consideration is given to the worldwide development of Christianity. A background of world history or religion is beneficial.
Luther and the Reformation (REL) (CL)
REL 3060 / 4 credits
Students will concentrate on the Reformation era and give special attention to the life and thought of Martin Luther and other reformers. Specific attention will be given to the Protestant and Roman Catholic Reformation and to the religious, political, intellectual, cultural, social, and economic influences and issues of the 16th century.
Religion in America (REL) (CL)
REL 3070 / 4 credits
From the earliest explorers to the latest modern “cult,” this course will consider the impact that religion has had on the United States and the impact that the United States has had on religion. The focus in this historical survey will be on both large-scale movements or denominations and the personal experience of small groups and individual believers.
Practicum in Religion
REL 3080 / 4 credits
The student is assigned to a congregational or other religiously affiliated service agency in order to practice leadership in several self-chosen areas of religious ministry. Students will meet regularly with their placement supervisor and will participate in classroom conferences with the professor and other students. Each student will submit complete reports of plans, activities, and complete supplemental readings.
Prerequisite: REL 1000
Judaism (REL) (CL)
REL 3100 / 4 credits
This course is an introduction to the self-definition of Judaism. It will analyze Judaism by examining such central concepts as God, Torah, and Israel. This central self-definition will then be tested by means of close readings of representative texts, and by investigating the range of Jewish history. The course will also examine significant events that shaped 20th century Judaism, including the creation of the State of Israel, the Holocaust, and modern American Jewish movements.
Hinduism (REL) (DIV)
REL 3110 / 4 credits
This course will provide an in-depth introduction to those social, philosophical, and religious phenomena that western observers have called Hinduism. The first part of the course will focus on religious texts, as we explore the roots of the tradition and the flowering of the devotional movement. The latter part of the course will focus more on modern Hindu life in an attempt to give some appreciation of its religious quality. This process will provide some opportunity to reflect on the nature and meaning of religious life, and to consider the ways in which the faith of these men and women can inform our own lives.
REL 3120 / 4 credits
This course will provide an in-depth introduction to the world of Islam, the most recent of the great faiths tracing its descent from the prophet Abraham. The beginning of the course will examine the roots and development of Islam, and the gradual growth of Islamic institutions. The latter part of the course will focus on modern Muslim life, partly on its individual dimensions, in an effort to convey some appreciation for its religious quality, and to consider the ways in which the faith of these men and women can inform our own lives; but more pointedly on the political influence of Islam, and the ways in which growth of Islamic revivalism has shaped and continues to shape the world in which we live.
Buddhism (REL) (DIV) (CL) (WEL)
REL 3130 / 4 credits
An intensive look at the world’s oldest missionary religion, from its origin in the Ganges basin in 500 BCE to its contemporary manifestations. The course’s primary emphasis will be on the historical development of the tradition, and the ways that its message has been transformed through the influence of different cultures, including the United States. An important part of this will be closely examining the Buddhist way of life throughout the centuries, and the ways in which this ancient message is still relevant in the modern world.
East Asian Religions (REL) (CL)
REL 3140 / 4 credits
An intensive look at religion in East Asia, focusing both on the region’s indigenous religious traditions - Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto - as well as Buddhism, its best-known and most successful transplant. The primary emphasis will be on the historical development of these traditions, their mutual influence on one another, and the way that their values have shaped and continue to shape the cultures in which they appear. This process will provide some opportunity to reflect on the nature and meaning of religious life, and to consider the ways in which the faith of these men and women can inform our own lives.
The Sikhs (REL)
REL 3150 / 4 credits
This course will trace the history and development of the Sikh religious community. The early part of the course will focus on its origins in the Punjab; the social, political, and religious forces shaping its development in the milieu; and the community’s evolution over time. The course will then examine 19th and 20th century Sikh efforts to stress their identity as a distinct religious community, both inside and outside of India. Finally, the course will look at contemporary Sikh piety and practice in an effort to convey some appreciation for its religious message, and to consider the ways in which Sihk faith and concerns can illuminate and inform our own.
Field Archaeology (REL) (TRIP) (CL) (IDP)
REL 3250 / 4 credits
Students gain archaeological experience in the field with an orientation that focuses on the period(s) of the site, its history, its ancient context, and so forth.
Prerequisite: Instructor permission
Religion and Politics in the United States (REL) (DIV) (SI)
REL 3270 / 4 credits
This course examines legal, political, historical, and theoretical aspects of the relationship between religion and politics in the United States. Works of political and social theory and important constitutional law cases will be used to explore the liberal, democratic understanding of religion’s place in politics. The American approach will be compared with that found in several other countries. Specific topics covered include the secularization thesis (and its critics), the role of the religious right, the adoption of civil rights/anti-discrimination tactics by religious groups, and controversies over gay rights.
Prerequisite: REL 1000
Theologies of Liberation (REL) (CL) (IDP)
REL 3300 / 4 credits
Exploration of the historical roots, characteristics, methods, central themes, and current expressions of liberation theology. After an initial consideration of the origins and development of liberation theology in Latin America and the second half of the 20th century, the course will turn to the various currents of liberation theology that have emerged in different contexts across the globe, particularly how representatives of those theologies use Christian (and other) traditions to understand and respond to historical contexts and experiences of oppression.
Prerequisite: REL 1000
Greek Religions (REL) (CL) (IDP)
REL 3310 / 4 credits
Like most ancient peoples, the Greeks believed that a pantheon of heavenly, sublunar, and subterranean divinities controlled or supervised every detail of life on earth, and they often went to great extremes to appease certain of these gods and goddesses. In this course, we will consider the history and practice of Greek religions in the public sphere and the relationship between religious practices, rites, and beliefs, as well as the rich body of Greek myth.
Prerequisite: REL 1000 or consent of instructor
Roman Religions (REL)
REL 3320 / 4 credits
Like most ancient peoples, the Romans believed that a pantheon of heavenly, sublunar, and subterranean divinities controlled every detail of life on earth, and they often went to great extremes to appease certain of these gods and goddesses. In this course we will consider the history and practice of Roman religion in both the public and private spheres, including Roman mystery religions. We also will discuss how Romans, particularly the elite, reacted to new and different religious cults and how they wove religious practices into every aspect of ancient Roman life.
Prerequisite: REL 1000 or consent of instructor
Religion and Society (REL) (SI)
REL 3350 / 4 credits
Students will examine various perspectives on the relationship between religion and society. This study will encourage students to explore such diverse themes as the relationship of religion and the state, national, and global economic structures; ethics; countercultural religious movements; and the religious principles that may undergird a social matrix. Students will write a series of analytical essays, applying some of the religious principles encountered to the analysis of political, social, or economic issues.
Religion and Society in Modern India (REL)
REL 3360 / 4 credits
Selected topics illustrating the mutual involvement of religion and society in India since the 16th century. Major themes will include Hindu devotional movements, the rise and development of the Sikhs, Hindu reform movements, Islamic self-definition, the rise of nationalistic (or independence) movements in each of these three groups, and responses to the pressures of globalization.
Biblical Images of Christ (REL) (CL)
REL 3400 / 4 credits
The Christologies of the New Testament will be examined both by investigating their background in the history of religions and by analyzing the images of Christ presented in various documents of the New Testament (e.g., Mark, John, Paul, Hebrews). Specific attention will be given to Christological titles and to the pre-Christian figures with whom Jesus is identified.
Shared Sages in Sacred Scriptures: An Interreligious Exploration (REL)
REL 3500 / 4 credits
The traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share accounts about prominent figures and have significantly different interpretations of what they share. This course will examine the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sacred scriptures through a comparative reading of shared key personalities. Similarities and differences of interpretation will be analyzed with reference to historical and modern forms of analysis of texts, special emphasis being on developing mutual understanding and cooperation between the religious traditions. The shared key persons include but will not necessarily be limited to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Solomon, Mary, and Jesus.
Prerequisite: REL 1000
Christians and Muslims: Conflict vs. Dialogue (REL) (SI) (ITL)
REL 3510 / 4 credits
Christians and Muslims have been living together, and actively engaged with each other, for over 1400 years. Despite sharing common beliefs such as faith in one Creator, Jesus as the Messiah, and the Day of Judgment, relations between these two communities have often (though not always) been marked by conflict and confrontation. The course examines this often-troubled history of Christian-Muslim dialogue to illuminate the two communities’ current relationship.
Prerequisite: REL 1000
The Dead Sea Scrolls (REL)
REL 3700 / 4 credits
Through a careful examination of some of the texts discovered at Qumran on the Dead Sea, students will investigate the history and theology of the Jewish sect known as the Essenes. This investigation will include an examination of the archaeological evidence uncovered at the site as well as an analysis of the relationship of this community with other contemporary Jewish sects (the Pharisees and the Sadducees). In addition, students will examine possible points of contact between the Essenes and early Christian communities.
Senior Seminar in Religion
REL 4000 / 4 credits
The Senior Seminar is taught and directed by one member of the department with the assistance and participation of other members. The seminar will lead the student toward the completion of the Senior Project, which will be determined by the student and the directing professor.