Religion (REL)

Academic Catalog: 2014–2015

  • Mary Solberg, Chairperson
  • Marcia J. Bunge
  • John Cha
  • Thia Cooper
  • Blake Couey
  • Casey Elledge
  • Mary Gaebler (On leave, Spring 2015)
  • Deborah Goodwin
  • Fuad Naeem
  • Sarah Ruble

The Department educates students in Religious Studies and Theology.

Why Study Religion? The study of religion provides students with critical insights into the values and viewpoints of diverse peoples and cultures, as well as their own convictions and commitments. Religion is, and has been, a factor in the lives of billions of people throughout the world. Today, more than 80 percent of people worldwide identify with a religious group. Religions continue to play a significant role in the social, political, economic, ethical life of communities. About one-third of the world’s population identifies with Christianity. . One particular branch of Christianity, Lutheranism, has shaped the history and values of Gustavus Adolphus College and is embraced by communities of faith around the world. Given the significance of religions worldwide and the college’s history and mission, the Religion department works to help all students, regardless of their backgrounds

  • to develop a critical appreciation of religion as a basic aspect of human experience
  • to cultivate a mature understanding of Christianity
  • to understand the significance of other religious traditions, and
  • to explore their own spiritual and religious commitments.

Why Study Religion at Gustavus? The Department of Religion offers a variety of courses involving major religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism. The Department also offers courses that fulfill the college’s graduation requirement (THEOL). These courses introduce students to the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity, Christianity’s complex history, the theologies of its various forms, and its relationship with other religions. Since religious experience is expressed in many ways and is studied from many different perspectives, students who take religion courses may explore connections with art, music, literature, languages, history, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Studying religion at Gustavus, in other words, provides essential tools for reflecting thoughtfully on a range of religious, ethical, and global concerns.

Why Major or Minor in Religion? A major or minor in religion provides a foundation for entering a wide variety of professions and graduate programs, not only religion and theology, but also medicine law, psychology, economics, Asian studies, and American studies. It prepares students to engage in various forms of ministry or assume leadership roles in faith-based organizations. By fostering cross-cultural understanding and a critical appreciation of religious traditions, the study of religion helps us to work toward building a more just and peaceful world.

The Religion Department enthusiastically supports students who want to deepen their understanding of religious experience through off-campus study, either overseas or within the United States. Two Gustavus-sponsored study-away programs include courses that count toward the Religion major: Malaysia and India.

Major: The major is nine courses selected in consultation with an advisor, including REL-299 and REL-399. No more than two Level I courses may be counted toward the major (REL-130 is not included in this limit). At least two Level III courses must be taken in addition to REL-399. Each of the four departmental areas must be represented among the courses chosen. Students considering seminary or graduate study in religion are strongly urged to study at least one modern research language, such as French or German, and/or a primary language (Hebrew, Greek, Latin), depending on the area chosen for study.

Minor: The minor is five courses selected from at least three areas of the department. No more than two Level I courses may be counted toward the minor, and at least one Level III course must be taken.

Biblical Studies

The canonical texts of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, interpreted through the various theological, textual, literary, historical-critical, and philological approaches. The religion of Israel and the Christian Church as manifested in these texts.

110 The Bible (1 course) An introduction to the study of religion through an exploration of the Bible, both in its original setting and as a continuing standard for the worshiping communities which revere it. The class will become acquainted with the Near-Eastern and Greco-Roman cultures that formed its historical context, the oral and literary processes that underlay its present text, and the fundamental problems of meaning and value to which it offers symbolic, mythic, and theological response. Lectures, discussions of shared readings, and examinations will be the central elements of course procedure. THEOL, Fall and Spring semesters.

120 Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (1 course) An introduction to biblical Hebrew grammar and the reading of selected texts from the Hebrew scriptures. The focus will be on elementary grammar and on readings from prose texts. The student will begin to attain basic knowledge of Hebrew grammar and be able to read non-complex prose and poetic passages in the Hebrew Bible. Offered occasionally.

130 Biblical Hebrew Grammar and Exegesis (1 course) The course allows students to develop their knowledge of Hebrew grammar and reading skills. Students will complete an overview of biblical Hebrew grammar and gain proficiency in reading and interpreting prose and poetic Hebrew texts. The course will also introduce the concept of Hebrew exegesis and the use of lexical and grammatical research tools for critical and theological readings of the Hebrew Bible. Prerequisite: REL-120. Fulfills LAP Non-English Language requirement. Spring semester, even years.

GRE-202 The Greek New Testament (1 course) The complete course description can be found in the Classics listings.

240 Prophets (1 course) This course examines the writings and roles of the biblical prophets within an extended context that includes prophecy in the ancient Near East, New Testament and Islamic views of prophecy, and modern adaptations of the prophetic role as agent of social, religious, and political change. Resources will be drawn from sociology, feminist, Jewish, literary, and African American studies. LARS, Fall semester.

250 Women and The Bible (1 course) Several aspects of feminist biblical scholarship will be studied in biblical texts and secondary readings: 1) methods and issues in biblical history and interpretation; 2) depictions of women in the Bible; and 3) kinds of imagery used to symbolize the divine and the continuing influence of such symbols upon religious and social institutions. This course counts toward the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies major/minor. Spring semester, even years.

280 Paul and His Letters (1 course) An investigation of the letters and theology of the first-century apostle whose insights have at once richly informed subsequent Christian theology and attracted a broad range of critical assessment. The class will read and discuss Paul’s letters, with emphasis upon their literary features, original historical setting, and theological tendencies. Special concern will also be devoted to major theological interpreters of Paul (such as Augustine, Luther, Schweitzer, and Bultmann) and to more contemporary critical assessments. Students will leave the course with a fundamentally strong grasp of Pauline literature and theology, and the most important critical models for understanding the apostle today. LARS, Fall semester, even years.

290 Jesus in Tradition and History (1 course) An investigation of the life and mission of Jesus in the historical context of first-century Palestine. Extensive consideration will be devoted to the life of Jesus as portrayed in the New Testament Gospels and other ancient writings, and to the modern critical quest(s) of the historical Jesus from their origins to more present controversies in Jesus research. Special topics will also include: Jesus within early Judaism, Jesus and the politics of his day, the theology and ethics of Jesus, Jesus and his contemporaries, Christology, Jesus in the religions of the world, and related topics. HIPHI, Spring semester, even years.

350 Apocalypse (1 course) An examination of the early Jewish and Christian apocalypses, including Daniel, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, Revelation, the Apocalypse of Peter, and other ancient writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Specific attention is also invested in the consideration of Jesus, Paul, and the early church through the lens of ancient apocalypticism. The course concludes with a study of some more recent expressions of the apocalyptic tradition, its ongoing contributions to Christian theology, as well as comparisons with the “eschatologies” of world religions. Prerequisites: One course in Religion, WRITD, Fall semester, odd years.

Theological Studies

The cognitive dimensions, and philosophical questions implicit in, and posed by, religious experience, particularly as considered in historical and contemporary Christian thought.

112 Studies in Religion (1 course) Investigations into the nature and function of religious faith and activity. The course asks: What is a religious claim? On what should it be based? How should it be evaluated? What does it mean to those who accept it? The focus is on the Christian heritage and its interaction with religious alternatives and secular culture. Lectures, readings, a writing component, and discussions will revolve around the underlying issues. THEOL, Fall and Spring semesters.

122 Introduction to Global Christianity (1 course) A survey of central events, beliefs,, and practices in the history of Christianity from the early church to the present. The course will focus on primary texts, and attention will be given to ways that Christianity has developed within a variety of historical and cultural contexts. The significance of historical developments for the worldwide church today will be examined throughout the course, and selected contemporary issues debated within the church will be discussed. THEOL, Fall and Spring semesters.

222 Catholic Lives (1 course) A survey of central Catholic teachings, distinctive religious practices, and the history of the church through the eyes of representative figures. Uniquely Catholic contributions to Christian spirituality, via sacramentality, prayer, meditation, and “contemplation in action,” will be emphasized as we explore the question, “Why do Catholics do that?” The course also examines the rich tradition of Catholic dissent and reform, illustrated in the lives and work of Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila, Dorothy Day, and others. Fall semester, even years.

233 Christian Social Ethics (1 course) An investigation into the basic issues, perspectives, and types of historical and contemporary Christian ethics, in connection with social and political analysis of several contemporary social issues. Such issues may include sexual and family ethics, gender issues in the Church, contemporary bioethics, including genetic engineering and “genomics”, the use of force by Christians, including theories of war and peace and capital punishment, and a selection of topics related to the increasing degradation of our global environment. This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. HIPHI, Spring semester, even years.

262 God and Gender (1 course) An examination of how one’s understanding and experience of gender are connected to one’s views of God and the natural world. The course explores the works of a variety of thinkers both inside and outside the Christian tradition, paying special attention to issues raised by feminist theologians. Possible topics include: language about God, human sexuality, the nature of biblical authority, images of nature in Western religious thought, views of Jesus, the feminist movement, the men’s movement, and the ordination of women. This course counts toward fulfillment of the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies minor. Prerequisite: any course in religion. Fall semester, even years.

272 Luther and Today’s Global Church (1 course) This course will focus on the life, work, and legacy of Martin Luther. Luther will be studied not only as a leader of the Protestant Reformation and a Renaissance figure but also as one whose legacy may be seen in contemporary Christianity. Participants in the course will closely read and analyze various primary texts by Luther and selected Lutheran theologians and explore diverse forms of Lutheranism worldwide. HIPHI, WRITI, Fall semester.

282 Perspectives on Evil, Sin, and Suffering (1 course) “If God is good, where does evil come from? If there is no God, where does goodness come from?” These questions form the basis of this course, which examines how theologians have grappled with the tension between God’s goodness and the presence of evil and suffering in the world. Students will scrutinize “classic” responses to the problem of evil from the viewpoint of their most serious contemporary challengers: feminist theologians from both developed and “Two-Thirds World” countries, and post-Holocaust Jewish theologians. Prerequisite: One course in religion. WRITI, Spring semester, odd years.

322 Foundations of Modern Theology and Atheism (1 course) The period between the American and French Revolutions and World War I was a time of enormous ferment and originality in religious thought as well as the birth of modern atheism. This course will cover the chief figures in theology and atheism during this period. Primary emphasis will be on the movement leading from Kant and Schleiermacher to Troeltsch, and its antithesis in the classic atheism of Feuerbach and Nietzsche. Prerequisite: one course in religion or philosophy. HIPHI, WRITD, Fall semester, even years.

332 Theologies for the 21st Century (1 course) Where shall we look for guidance as we move further into the 21st century? In the face of ongoing global challenges—war, genocide, climate change, economic inequality, and religious pluralism—the question is, How to talk about God at all. Christian theology is as much about the purpose and meaning of our lives as humans as it is about “God-talk.” This course examines contemporary theological issues through the work of some of Christian theology’s most thoughtful, provocative practitioners. At the same time, the course aims to develop greater self-consciousness and articulateness about our own situated theologies: how they are shaped by the world we live in and respond to; how they in turn shape and direct our attention to that world and to God. Prerequisite: one course in religion. HIPHI, Spring semester, odd years.

355 Buddhist Philosophy (1 course) This course will examine writings of three of the most influential religious philosophers in 20th century Japan: Nishida, Tanabe, and Nishitani. We will focus on how these authors employed Western and Buddhist philosophies to construct a “uniquely Japanese” subjectivity in response to “Westernization.” The guiding theme in this study will be the tension between traditional religious values and the social/cultural changes brought on by modernization. The course will examine the attempts by these thinkers to construct a philosophy that would seriously and effectively address the problems of the modern world and also disclose a uniquely Japanese cultural/religious identity. HIPHI, WRITD, Fall semester.

Religion, Culture, and Society

The interface between religion, culture, and society, where the primary focus is on how culture (art, science, learning, etc.) and social institutions (government, economics, medicine, etc.) interact with religion.

113 Religion in America (1 course) This course surveys and analyzes the interaction between religion, particularly Christianity, and American culture from the 16th to the 21st centuries. The study emphasizes the influence of church/state debates, immigration, slavery, wars, science, civil rights, and late 20th and early 21st century political realignments upon the religious life and attitudes of the American people. Particular attention will be given to the various ways Americans have negotiated the reality of religious diversity and the desire for cultural unity. THEOL, offered annually.

123 Faith, Religion, and Culture (1 course) What is faith? What is religion? Are they optional or necessary in human existence? Who, or what, is God, and what does it mean to have a god? How does religion interact with culture? This course addresses these and other basic issues in theology and religion, with primary emphasis on the Christian tradition in the past, present, and future, and with special attention to the role of symbol, myth, scripture, and ritual in religious teachings and institutions. THEOL, offered annually.

132 Religion and Ecology (1 course) This course focuses on the role played by religion, especially Christianity, in shaping our perspectives on the natural world and our place in it. As environmental crises multiply and their effects are felt across the planet, often by its most vulnerable Inhabitants, students in this course will Investigate whether religious beliefs are part of the problem, part of the solution, or both. The course will include studies of classic and contemporary texts, classroom, discussions, out-of-class investigation (field work), community-based learning opportunities. THEOL, offered annually.

223 Christ, Culture, and Nature (1 course) Who or what is God, and what does it mean to have a God? What is the relationship of Christ to culture? Of God to nature? Of the Big Bang and evolution to creation? How do Christian claims relate to Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist claims? This course is designed as an introduction to theology for students who have a working knowledge of the Christian faith and are interested in a systematic and critical approach to meeting the THEOL requirement. THEOL, offered occasionally.

ART-239 Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Art: CE 0-1400 (1 course) The complete course description can be found in the Art and Art History listings.

243 Ethics and Medicine (1 course) An introduction to the study of ethical problems in the context of health care and the practice of medicine. Issues studied will include the problems that arise at the beginning and end of life, the duties of professionals and the rights of patients, the meaning of “health” and “disease,” the social causes of illness, medical research, and the adequacy of health care delivery. The inquiry will be informed by the perspectives of contemporary Western moral philosophy, historic and contemporary Christian ethics, and social theory. Prerequisite: any Level I course in religion. SOSCI, Fall semester, odd years.

253 Science and Religion (1 course) The 400-year-old debate between science and religion seems poised for a fundamental change. Until recently it has presupposed a dualism between fact-based science and faith-based religion. This course will examine contemporary efforts to replace that dualism with dialogue. Sciences covered will include evolutionary biology, genetics, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics. Religious questions covered will include God, creation, sin, human nature, consciousness, and eschatology, in both Christianity and Buddhism. Prerequisite: one course in religion and one course in a laboratory science. HIPHI, WRITD, Fall semester, odd years.

S/A-259 The Anthropology of Religion (1 course) The complete course description can be found In the Sociology/Anthropology listings.

273 Religion and Politics in Latin America (1 course) Religion and politics have been interwoven in the Americas since the rise of indigenous American cultures. This course will analyze the interaction of religion and politics through time, including struggles for independence, continuing political upheavals, resistance movements, and theologies of liberation and revolution. It asks why so many Latin Americans choose to be Christian. Theological investigations include the role of the poor, conflicts over land, and current popular movements such as Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement. This course counts toward the LALACS major/minor and the Peace Studies minor. GLOBL, HIPHI, Spring semester, odd years.

283 Insiders and Outsiders in American Religion (1 course) Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Amish, Black Muslims, Zen Buddhists—just a few of the thousands of different religious groups in America. But who’s “in” and who’s “out” when it comes to American religious groups? This course will examine the world of American religion by exploring the tensions between “insider” and “outsider” religious groups, how these distinctions are drawn, and whether the distinctions make sense. The course will focus on Christian groups as well as world religions that have found a home in America. We will also explore issues of race and gender as they affect these distinctions. HIPHI, WRITD, Spring semester, even years.

293 Religion and Globalization (1 course) We live in an era of globalization, but what does this mean? As boundaries of religion and culture blur, are humans moving closer together? Does globalization describe economic and political changes? And what does religion have say to this? This course examines how people of faith around the world define globalization and respond to its various ethical and theological challenges. These challenges include responses to capitalism, democracy, debt, poverty, the environment, and the power of corporations. The course aims to discover and assess the beliefs and values underlying globalization, and in turn our beliefs and values. This course counts toward the LALACS major/minor. Fall semester, odd years.

325 Religion and Politics in America (1 course) This course is the same as POL-325. The complete course description can be found in the Political Science listings.

373 The Holocaust: Then & Now (1 course) The Holocaust—the planned and systematic destruction of Jews, Gypsies, and other civilian groups by the Nazis during the 1940s—involved millions of people all over Europe: victims and perpetrators, bystanders and beneficiaries, rescuers and survivors. Its legacy and lessons often elude us; the questions it raises continue to haunt us. Through written materials and films, the course examines the intellectual background of the Holocaust, as well as the historical events themselves. Most important, the course challenges us to wrestle with the moral and theological implications of the Holocaust for today, especially to examine our own moral priorities and choices and to look critically at the foundations of our contemporary ethical and theological commitments. Prerequisite: one religion course. This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. HIPHI, WRITD, Spring semester, odd years.

383 Liberation Struggles (1 course) This course explores contemporary struggles for justice in the face of both globalized and local oppression. Faith-based liberation movements continue to thrive in Latin America, Southern Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and among native North American peoples. Focusing on the issues these people of faith are wrestling with--including race, gender, class, land, and the environment--the course will examine how and why they seek to transform their daily realities and the larger systems behind them, as well as their visions for the future. This course counts toward the LALACS major/minor and the Peace Studies minor. GLOBL, WRITD, Spring semester, even years.

History of Religions

The great religious traditions of the human race, understood through their sacred texts and practices, historical development, and philosophical and religious thought. Contemporary prospects for interreligious dialogue and conflict.

115 World Religions (1 course) An introduction to the major non-Christian world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Islam. The course will focus on the formative periods and historical developments of the great religions, including their contemporary practice and significance, and on the differing ways in which they answer the fundamental religious questions. A combination of lectures, discussions, media, and religious biographies will be used to enrich an understanding of these living traditions. This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. GLOBL, HIPHI, Fall and Spring semesters.

235 Zen and Japanese Culture (1 course) A study of Zen Buddhism, both as a religious movement and as a window on East Asian culture. The course will trace the peculiar methods and teachings of Zen, from its origins in Indian Buddhism and Chinese Taoism, to its Chinese and Japanese developments. Corresponding attention will be given to the cultural expressions of Zen, particularly in Japan. In these artistic forms a unique blend of religious and aesthetic principles will be explored. HIPHI, Spring semester.

245 Religions of India (1 course) An introduction to the religions and philosophies of the Indian subcontinent, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikhism, and Buddhist and Vedanta philosophies. Readings and topics will include primary texts, myth, ritual, doctrines, history, philosophy, and religious art and architecture. The interaction of religion, society, and politics will be important considerations at all times. All time periods, including the prehistoric, traditional, colonial and modern eras, will be covered. HIPHI, Spring semester, odd years.

255 Islam (1 course) This course is an introduction to the foundations and diverse expressions of the religion and cultures of Islam. The course will examine the central sources of the Islamic tradition, the Qur’an and the life and legacy of Muhammad, and trace the development of Islamic law, theology, mysticism, philosophy, literature, art and fundamental institutions. It will survey the spread of Islam from its early beginnings to its multiple expressions in differing cultural and temporal contexts to its encounters with modernity. Historic and contemporary relations between Islam and the West, and Islam and other religious traditions, particularly Christianity, will be studied from a variety of perspectives. HIPHI, Fall semester.

265 World Religions in America (1 course) America is a religiously pluralistic country, and almost all the religions of the world can be found here. Some of these world religions are well established while others are new arrivals, but all share the struggles of adapting to the new and distinct religious world of the United States. This course will focus on the non-Christian religions that have found a home in America, about their struggles to adapt and flourish, and the strategies they have employed to become a permanent force in modern America. HIPHI, Spring semester, odd years.

312 Jewish-Christian Encounter (1 course) Christianity emerged from Judaism, yet until recent decades, the relationship between the two faiths often has been hostile, with tragic results for the Jews of Europe. This course will examine the historical and theological aspects of that relationship: the context out of which Christianity emerged, its eventual separation from its “parent” faith, and its ultimate repudiation of Judaism. The course also considers the theology of Jewish-Christian relations, past and present. How does either faith maintain its claims in the face of the other? In what ways are the two religions linked even while they are in conflict? Prerequisite: one course in religion. WRITD, Fall semester, odd years.

Special Courses

244, 344 Special Topics in Religion (1 course, 1 course) These courses, offered occasionally, provide an opportunity to investigate in depth a selected topic in religion that is not the primary subject of any of the regular catalog courses. Prerequisite: for REL-244, one course in religion; for REL-344, two courses in religion or permission of instructor.

299 Sources and Methods in Theology and Religion (1 course) This course will explore diverse understandings of religion and the methods employed in the academic study of theology and religion. It will analyze and assess how evidence is presented and arguments constructed. Students will examine how scholars in the field identify a problem, review and evaluate the relevant literature, formulate a proposal regarding that problem, and provide credible reasons for the proposal. They will learn how to take these steps themselves. Attention will be given to the purpose(s) of an investigation and the audience(s) to whom the results are addressed. Prerequisite: one course in religion. WRITD, Fall and Spring semesters.

268, 368 Career Exploration, Internship (Course value to be determined) Off-campus employment experience related to the student’s major. See description of the Internship Program. Prerequisite: junior or senior status. Fall and Spring semesters and January Interim.

291, 391 Independent Study (Course value to be determined) Fall and Spring semesters and January Interim.

399 Senior Thesis Seminar (1 course) The senior seminar provides an opportunity for the major to explore in depth an issue of special interest in religious studies. The thesis will be associated with one of the four departmental areas, and will reflect careful consideration of relevant methodological problems. The thesis will be written under the direction of the seminar instructor, critiqued by seminar students, and defended before three members of the department. Prerequisite: prior to registration there must be approval of a thesis proposal by the seminar instructor and successful completion of REL-299. Fall and Spring semester.