Courses

Our classes help you understand the Christian faith and the role of religion in human society.

Religion department courses are an integral part of the college curriculum. Six credits in religion are required for graduation: a two-credit basic Studies in Religion course (REL 100) and one four-credit course (REL 220s, 240s, 260s or 280s).

Our majors and minors have a wide range of introductory and advanced courses from which to choose, from courses on the Pentateuch to world religions, from Christian ethics to the Gospels.

View full course descriptions in the catalog

Special Topics (rel 100)

Catalog course REL 100 consists of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions are listed below. To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the Registrar’s course scheduler.

Religion section descriptions — Fall 2017

100.01 Religion and Atrocity
In this course we will examine the relationship between religion and atrocity. At times, religion has been a causative factor in the perpetration of violence – or has failed to marshal resistance against it. The perceived connection between religion and atrocity or religion’s apparent impotence to do anything about it has led some to denounce religion. Whether we renounce it or not, it is important to ask: “Why does religion sometimes function to fuel and justify atrocity?” How do the resources of religion — especially Judaism and Christianity — enable people to cope with the suffering that is caused by personal atrocities or tragedies they suffer?

100.02 From Rabbi to God
This is an introductory course about the origin and spread of Christianity. It begins with Jesus of Nazareth and continues through the fourth century CE when Christianity became the only legal religion of the Roman Empire. We will learn by means of a careful examination of primary texts (Jewish, Christian and Greco-Roman writings) and a secondary text.

100.03 The Mystery of the Incarnation
This course is an introduction to Christology; it is a study of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. Our starting point and norm of reasoning will be the New Testament, but we will also be guided by the conciliar teachings of the undivided church (especially the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon) as well as representative early, medieval and modern accounts of the mystery of Jesus Christ. By reflecting on scripture and tradition, we will attempt to answer Christ’s ever-relevant question to us, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).

100.04 Earth and Ethics
Global warming, holes in the ozone layer, toxic wastes, oil spills, acid rain, drinking water contamination, overflowing landfills, topsoil erosion, species extinction, smog. The earth and its many inhabitants are in trouble, claim numerous professional earth-watchers. In this course we will ask these and other crucial questions. And we will learn how religious folk — Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists — answer such questions. This course, in short, is an inquiry concerning earth and ethics.

100.05, 06 Many Faces of Christianity
This course will examine the ways different denominations and cultural traditions interpret Christianity in their worship and teaching. Students will attend and report on worship services at a variety of Holland area churches.

100.07 Fierce and Faithful Bible Women
Women in the Bible are often thought to be either “bad girls” (Eve, Delilah, Jezebel) or desperate to have children (Sarah, Rachel, Leah). There are many other biblical women that you never learned about in Sunday school. Some are victims of sexual violence. Some are warriors. Others are strong, courageous, compassionate and wise. This class will explore the “texts of terror,” the “bad girls of the Bible” and the many other women who are both fierce and faithful.

 

Special Topics (Upper-Level Courses)

Several upper-level religion courses consist of multiple topics of focus that vary each semester. Current and/or forthcoming descriptions are listed below. To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the Registrar’s course scheduler.

RELIGION UPPER-LEVEL SECTION DESCRIPTIONS — Fall 2017

329.01 Bible and Science: Friends or Foes?
This course will focus study on a collection of biblical texts that stand at the meeting place of Christian faith and modern science, including cosmic creation, emergence of human life, the flood of Noah’s time, the development of morality and law, ecology and earth-keeping, health and wellness, and more. We will develop skills in reading the Bible contextually and we will relate the text to contemporary scientific and intellectual frameworks in such a way that thinking students of all persuasions will find their views challenged, and all will become equipped to articulate their views with confidence and integrity.

This is a special topics course in the category “Studies in Scripture.” Although it is a 300-level biblical studies course, it fulfills the RL2 general education Religion 200 slot.

349.01 Martin Luther and the Reformation
500 years ago Martin Luther posted his ideas in public and ignited a protest and revival that reshaped Christianity. We will explore his stunning impact on Christian beliefs, the church, women and society. We will measure how he harnessed new media and considered Islam. We will listen to some of Luther’s contemporaries, including John Calvin. Throughout the course we will consider where Christianity stands today. Did Luther do the right thing? Is Luther’s work done? Or is a new Reformation required?

389.01 Gandhi & Gandhian Ideas Today
During the course, we will closely study Gandhi’s thoughts and actions in their time and place with special attention to Gandhian ideas like satyagraha (truth-force), non-violence, civil disobedience and non-cooperation. During the latter part of the course, we will also explore some of the people and movements that have borrowed from or have been inspired by Gandhian ideas and practices like the Chipko environmental movement in India, the civil rights movement in America, Arab Spring, Palestinian peace-builders and the movement for Burmese democracy. The course will use two sets of sources. First, we will study the writings of Gandhi, who was a prolific author. Second, we will study some of the many works written about Gandhi, like those by Yogesh Chadha (a biographer), Margaret Chatterjee (a philosopher), and Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph (political scientists).

460.01 Christianity and the Quest for Peace
In the Bible the Kingdom of God is sometimes referred to as the Peaceable Kingdom, and in the history of Christianity members of the Peace Churches, such as Mennonites, advocate pacifism. Yet violence seems to be sanctioned in scripture and the theory of the just war was developed and is supported by many within the Christian tradition. So how is it that Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, and yet those who claim to follow Jesus advocate war? Why did the early church embrace pacifism and the medieval church authorize crusades? In sum, what does it mean for a Christian to be a peacemaker? These (and other) important and timely questions will be explored in this seminar in theology and ethics. We will read and discuss classic texts on violence, war, peace and peacemaking, especially in light of recent events in the world.